President Obama breezed into Kingston, Jamaica last Wednesday/Thursday. Or as the Jamaica Gleaner put it “1313 minutes in Paradise“.
The hype over Obama’s trip was understandably on a scale not seen in Jamaica in my lifetime. The Jamaican government pulled out all the stops to beautify the possible routes in Kingston that Obama was likely to drive through. As one lady said on TVJ news outside Heroes Circle ” In 40 years I have never..never seen white lines on this road’.
In the end Obama flew via his official helicopter -Marine One- to and from the airport.
A town hall style event was hosted by Obama at the University of the West Indies (UWI) with the audience being drawn from Jamaica’s younger leaders. Obama gave one of his shortest speeches that I can recall before opening up a Q&A with the audience. I felt restricting the audience to the younger folks was just patronising and short sighted. Don’t forget the older generation. They need some inspiration too.
Given Obama’s love of the Wailers the audience should have included Bunny Wailer and the I Threes. Sometimes you get the feeling that Bunny Wailer is tactlessly erased out of Wailers’ history. Young and old should have been there.
Obama is in element in the townhall format. The questions from an enthusiastic audience covered topics such as China’s global economic influence, Cuba-US relations, marijuana laws and energy.
I just hope Jamaican politicians of all ages can learn from Obama on the art of effective political communications. Speak to engage all and not just your die hard supporters. e.g. No need for JLP leader Andrew Holiness to speak publicly without always having to wear green. Or orange in the case of the PNP.
The reason why Obama was in Kingston was for a CARICOM heads of government meeting. It would have been a nice gesture if he and the other heads of government had done a brief walkabout in front of some of the adoring crowds.
As Obama sounded the Chinese investment alarm bells I was surprised that he and CARICOM heads did not allow questions at a press conference. The Caribbean media deserved such a golden and unique opportunity.
It would have been a great kudos for Caribbean media if one of Jamaica’s many top TV journalists (e.g. Deon Jackson-Miller or Garfield Burford) had a 20 minute interview with the President. If Obama was too busy for such an interview then Congresswoman Yvette Clarke or Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, would have been perfect alternatives.
Then again there’s only so much one man can do in 1313 minutes in the paradise that is Jamaica. So Obama’s workload could have been shared amongst other leading members of his entourage.
Overall the visit was a wonderful occasion that many Jamaicans will never forget.
Please do come back soon Barack. With Michelle.