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Bill Gates’ 2007 Harvard Commencement Speech Review – Part I

Photo courtesy of: University of Manitoba

Photo courtesy of: University of Manitoba


What I remember above all about Harvard was being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence. It could be exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging, but always challenging. It was an amazing privilege – and though I left early, I was transformed by my years at Harvard, the friendships I made, and the ideas I worked on.

But taking a serious look back … I do have one big regret.

I left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world – the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.

I learned a lot here at Harvard about new ideas in economics and politics. I got great exposure to the advances being made in the sciences.

But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries – but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity – reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.

William Henry (Bill) Gates III

Harvard Commencement Speech

I find the following points worth noting:

  1. How is it that a man at the “extreme wealth” end of the inequity scale finally has come to the conclusion that reducing inequity – of which he is to some a symbol – is the highest human achievement?

Must the rest of us wait to become as comparably wealthy to believe this?

  1. We should also learn that from the fact that a man who exemplifies technological advancement says that human discovery – of which technological advancement is a subset – is only important as it assists in the reduction of inequity. More on this later in the speech.
 
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Posted by on May 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

There is another Court

On New Year’s Day 2008, in the aftermath of a hotly-contested general election that pitted Raila Odinga against incumbent President Mwai Kibaki,  Kalenjin attackers bore down on the Kenya Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, where around 200 Kikuyus were sheltering from what they knew to be imminent attack. Inside the church people silently prayed, their fervent yet unspoken pleas in awful contrast to their attackers’ hostile war songs. The Guardian reported that paraffin-soaked mattresses were pushed through the windows and used to block the door, and then matches were thrown in.

30-50 Kenyans died in the fire that day, many of them children.

On 28th January 2008, in an appalling parallel, a group of Kikuyu attackers surrounded Bernard Ndege’s house in Naivasha. He too pleaded – with his attackers. But instead of a response he heard one of them ask another to bring a can of petrol, which they poured around his house. The same man then asked for a matchbox and set Bernard’s house on fire, killing Bernard’s two wives – one of whom was pregnant – his eight children, and 9 other people.

In total, around 1,200 Kenyans were murdered in the violence that followed the disputed 2007 elections. The violence led to the trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, and radio journalist Joshua Sang. Proceedings began on 10th September 2013, over 5 years after the violence occurred.

On 5th December 2014, prosecutors at the ICC withdrew charges of crimes against humanity against President Uhuru Kenyatta. Then two days ago, on 5th April 2016, the Trial Chamber of the ICC dismissed charges against William Ruto and Joshua Sang. Judge Eboe-Osuji wrote as part of his verdict: “The proceedings are declared a mis-trial due to a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling.”

Shall the mistrial at the ICC and the inability of that Court to successfully prosecute anybody be the end of the matter? Shall this violence go unpunished? Are the lives of 1,200 Kenyans as nothing? Is the agony and pain of the bereaved and of our IDP’s as nothing to God? Nay.

In I John 2:1, Scripture calls Christ our Advocate, promising that if we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father. In referring to Christ as our Advocate, the Bible implies that quite apart from our High Court, our Court of Appeal, or our the Supreme Court – courts that together comprise the corrupted justice system of our nation –quite apart from even the International Criminal Court, there is another Court. Further evidence of the existence of this Court is found in the Book of Hebrews, in which it is written that it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgement. Judgement implies the fair consideration of a person’s actions and intents. Judgement implies the presence of a Judge. And finally, judgement implies a verdict.

There is indeed another Court, and the presiding Judge of that Court cannot be met at a petrol station to be suborned with US dollars. This presiding Judge does not have a bank account. He cannot be offered a 10,000 acre farm, for heaven is His throne, the earth is His footstool. And who has instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and shewed to Him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. He is incorruptible, and He has said “My counsel shall stand, and I shall do all My pleasure.”

There is indeed another Court, and the presiding Judge of that Court is all-knowing. There is no creature that is not manifest in His sight, and all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

There is another Court, and before that Court all stand as equals. The witness will have his own case to answer. The compromised witness will have to answer for being compromised. The assassin will have to answer for the assassination of witnesses. The assassin’s sponsor will have to answer for the life of the assassinated. In that great Court witnesses cannot be compromised or assassinated. Assassinated witnesses are available to give testimony before the Judge. Compromised witnesses are available to give testimony also. No, in this Court, witnesses cannot be bribed or assassinated.

After the first recorded murder in human history that Court sat. And the Judge said to Cain “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.” Does the blood of the 1,200 slain after in 2007-8 lie silent in the dust? Nay, for the immutability of the Judge teaches us that He yet hears the anguished cries of innocent blood. And He will certainly demand a hearing.

There is another Court.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Christian, Politics, Uncategorized

 

To Mum

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
St. John 15:13

 

It took me a while – too long – to realize this, but love is not so much said, as it is done. Love is action, not words. Greater love hath no man than this, not that he says that he will lay down his life for his friends, but that a man lay down his life for his friends. On the eve of my Mum’s 51st birthday, in trying to summarize her life, the best way (not the only way) that I can say it is that it has been a life laid down for her family.

Let me begin with her cooking. I remember that every Sunday Mum would make French toast for breakfast, and I used to have four slices of the stuff and a sweet mug of Milo, and my Sunday morning would be made. I have yet to taste a French toast like Mum’s. Then in the afternoon, after church, she’d make, yes make us a pizza, and bake a dessert of some glorious thing called “Apple Shortcake”. Now, I don’t know whether or not you know what Apple Shortcake is friend, but if you don’t you’d do well to find out. I can feel that sugary upper crust crumble in my mouth right now. Christmas was baked potatoes and chicken, and Kentucky Fried has nothing on Mummy’s oven-made chicken. For one, it had this glorious golden-brown skin… I’d gorge myself silly, almost. To this day, her chapatis are famous. I remember I’d hold one up by one side, and it’d tear apart, it was so soft. People struggle to finish one or two. The best compliment I ever gave them was the time I ate eight of them at a go. Sadly, these days I only average three. I hope I compliment her cooking in this manner for a long while to come.

There was a time when the family did not have as much as it has now, and things were really tight. Of course, this would not really filter down to us as kids, but now that I look back, it’s easier to understand. Mum was always finding new ways of bringing money into the home. She ran a garden around the house that was simply amazing. I can remember that she’d be watering her garden up to 2 o’clock at night (yes, that’s 2 am) to make sure that there was a little extra cash. Nor was that money for herself, no, no, no! There exists that kind of woman that will keep every penny she earns for dressing and manicures. Thank God, my Mum is not like that. It used to do things like pay my Dining Hall fees. Yes, me! Or it would go towards some other family expense.

I also remember the time when Dad was studying, and so Mum had to work. She’d spend a whole week at a time away from home, teaching, to give the family some income. One of my fondest childhood memories is of when Mum would come in at the door of a Friday evening and Dad would dry his hands from doing the dishes or some other kitchen-work, and give Mum a hug. Then she would greet us kids, too, and Mum would be home. There was a time she even used to drive I think either a total of 100 km per day or 100 km to work every day and 100 km back, every single week-day to earn a living.

My Mum was and is very concerned about our education. I remember when we were out of school for some time, because we’d been out of the country, and when we came back we had to find a way of joining school. As Mum and Dad looked for a school, Mum spent quality, quantity time at home with us, teaching us Maths and English. Certainly it paid off, for when we finally went to do interviews, I remember I did the Standard 5 interview for Maths and scored 90% in the school’s end of year exam for Standard 5 on the back of Mum’s tutelage. It was felt that another year in Standard 5 would be a waste of time for me. Nor was I an isolated case. My brother and sister too, were each pushed ahead a year. We’ve all been a year ahead, in our primary and secondary education as a result.

She’s a godly woman, Mum is. One of my earliest memories is of the time we went to hospital to visit an aging Christian lady who was lying in hospital on what was quite clearly her deathbed. I could have been 7 at the time, or 8 at the very outside. Anyway, there she lay, poor woman, the picture of frailty, thin, and with grey hair framing her face. Then Mum picked up a hymnbook and sang “Peace in the Valley” to a dying Christian. I tell you, the song has never been quite the same to me since. I shall never forget it. In that small hospital room, with the early evening sunshine streaming in through the window, and the words and the melody of that song floating softly on the quiet air, it was like we were – ever so briefly – shrouded inside a drop of golden Eternity. There’s a Heaven somewhere, friends. Some day the lion will lay down by the lamb. I have often tried to re-live that moment and apprehend, or trap some of the Atmosphere that was there in that room in my adult-life, but the moment has gone. It was like a brief parting of the clouds, and now the clouds have closed again. I’m sure I’ll meet It again, some day.

Mum also has an understanding of the Bible that is quite profound. There have been times she has said one statement about a Scripture that has hitherto seemed commonplace, and it will throw a whole new light on the matter. As I’d said about Dad, that might not mean much to you, but it means the world to me. I think this world could do with a lot more godly mothers like mine; too many mothers with the God-given responsibility to raise children right know more about Secreto di Amor than they do about God. It’s amazing how little time we devote to the things that really matter, friends.

And she’s a person of great faith, too – I admire how Mum prays. She used to start with “Lord Jesus” and when she said it, you got the impression that she was really talking to Someone, and that she knew Him from some previous encounter(s), and that they’d spoken before and were generally on speaking terms, and that she was entirely aware that she had His ear this time, too. That’s valuable, friends. My Mum is one of those people who when they pray, God moves. I remember one time she prayed to God to help her to stop driving too fast. By the way, my Mum was and probably still is the best driver I know, even though she was fast. Anyway, she wanted to be better. The very next day, as she was driving to work, the accelerator of our little Datsun stuck to the floor. So the little car accelerated to about 160 km/h and my poor Mum was driving grasping the steering wheel with her left hand, and looking at the road through the space between the wheel and the dashboard, because she was bending down trying to unstick the pedal from the floor with her right hand, to slow down, because a corner was approaching. Well, as I said, God moves when Mum prays. I have never seen her do a hair over 100 km/h since. Certainly, the opportunity has been there.

Aside: If you didn’t know that the smallest things that matter to you matter to God (like wanting to drive well) be informed that they do, especially if you’re a Christian.

I used to continually get ill with bronchial complications and chest problems and every doctor we went to would say that I have asthma. But there was one doctor who we’d gone to see early on in the issue and he said that I didn’t have asthma, but that I had complications that made it look like I had asthma. There are times in life that you have to choose who and what to believe. There’s a lot I could say here, but this is about Mum. She chose to believe the doctor who said I did not have asthma. I’d come home from seeing the doctor and I’d crawl into bed, miserable as could be and Mum would come in with a glass of hot lemon juice, or something and wake me up and say “Let’s pray.” And she’d lay her hand on me and ask God to heal me in perfect confidence that that was the end of the matter. I can still “feel” her hand on my head. Invariably I’d get better. I can’t remember exactly at what point those problems ceased, but certainly in my entire adult life I have never been to a doctor for any chest complications or “asthma”. Frankly, I hardly see a doctor these days, period.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: sometimes I think of the parenting I’ve received and think that I should be tons better than what I am. To take that thought in the other direction, I’d have been a real disaster, had not God seen it fit to give me the parents that he did.

So Mummy, I love you. Words are a mean vehicle with which to convey how I feel but they are all I have. Thanks, Mum. Truly. And Happy 51st birthday. May you have many, many many more.

Love,

Your first-born son.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2006 in Uncategorized

 

To Daddy

I write this on the eve of an important date: my Dad turns 52 tomorrow. I realise that time is marching on. In a very short while, I’ll be as old as he was when I was born. Can I be even half the Daddy to my family that he’s been to me? Am I even a third of what Daddy was then, now? It scares me. It shakes me to the roots.

Strong? My Daddy was strong. I remember the time an Uncle came to visit and the view of Mummy’s garden was so good that he wanted to sit by the window while having lunch. The only trouble was, the armchairs in the living room had their backs to the view. They had reckoned without my Daddy – he grabbed one by the arms, hoisted it aloft and set it down gently by the window. Uncle breathed, “You must be very strong!” My heart burst with pride. I was probably 16 or 17 at the time. In fact, I remember surreptitiously trying to repeat the feat when everyone had gone. The armchair barely left the ground.

Discipline? We never got a beating we didn’t deserve. Dad would sometimes even take the time to explain exactly why we were being beaten. I remember the time my brother tried to escape a deserved caning by seeking refuge beneath his blankets and hanging on for dear life. Daddy was having none of it. He lifted the sheets and up they came, brother and all, with just one arm. The other arm proceeded to dispense the necessary justice.

But Daddy is soft-hearted too. I remember one time I spilt my breakfast all over the table when he was trying to get everyone ready for school. Off came the belt and to the bedroom we went.
Dad asked “How many times have I told you not to spill your food on the table?”
“A thousand million billion times!”I yelled plaintively.
This exuberant penitence was too much for Daddy. Like the sun from behind the clouds, the stern look was replaced by a smile that grew and grew, and then there escaped from his lips a small chuckle. That was the end of that.

Loving? Where do I start? It used to amaze me just how patient Daddy was. I lived in a world of impatient people. But Daddy was never like that. Time after time he’d just tolerate our noise and rambunctiousness. While he was studying for his Ph.D, we used to run around the house yelling and falling and laughing and playing like we had it to ourselves. Never a word from Daddy, who just sat patiently studying.

Sacrifice? Because of the family situation, Daddy cooked, bathed us, washed the dishes, and even washed our clothes for years and years because Mum had to work, while he was studying, and she was away from home a lot. For a man whose generation largely believed that a man shouldn’t know which door led to the kitchen, this was (and is) amazing. One of my lasting memories is when we’d showered, eaten and were ready for bed, we’d line up in the kitchen and Daddy would be washing dishes after supper and we’d hug him. We would go from youngest to oldest, so I was always last. Daddy would hug us with one arm (actually the best part of an elbow) because his hands would be soapy, and then we’d say:

“Goodnight!” “Goodnight,” Daddy would reply, perhaps tiredly.
“God bless you!” “God bless you!”
“See you tomorrow!” “See you tomorrow!”

We’d rush off to bed and leave Daddy finishing the washing up. Oh, God. When I think how many Daddies never wait to see their kids to bed! How many Daddies are off carousing and making merry when their kiddies crave a bedtime hug! How many Daddies might be off running another family on the side at the same time! How many Daddies just can’t be bothered!

Once we were at our rural home and Daddy showed us the primary school where his education began. He pointed to the school and said “That’s where we went to school. And it wasn’t even built up then like it is now.” Frankly, it still wasn’t built up, period. Then he said “We used to write with our fingers in the dust, to prove that we could write. When the teacher was satisfied we could write, we’d be given a slate.” He writes better than me to this day. This man whose education began by writing in the dust made it to get a scholarship to do a Ph.D in the West… my own achievements pale by comparison.

Daddy spared no energy or expense in making sure his kids got the best education. I remember how he taught me Swahili in the 6-week December holiday between Standards 6 and 7. Everything! We’d been out of the country and couldn’t speak a word of it. I remember in the Standard 6 end of year exam I took my Insha paper to the teacher and said “I don’t know Kiswahili.” “Just sit down and write something,” she said. But I had nothing to write. By the first term of Standard 7 my teachers were asking me, who taught you Kiswahili? I got everything from the basics up to and including ngeli and minyambuliko ya vitenzi in that 6-week time. It wasn’t til secondary school that I used some of the knowledge, but that’s how thoroughly Daddy does things.

And godly. This is the best part, to me. Now, I understand that this world is full of things and its that purport to be Christianity, and they’re not. Kenya is called 80% Christian. Kenya is also one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. That’s not what the kind of Christianity I’m talking about. I’m talking about the kind that Daddy has. It’s the real thing. A lady classmate of mine met him once and said “Your Dad has such godly eyes!” To this day, if anyone says something I don’t understand, or something, it’s home I’ll go to check. And that includes Pastors. I am sure I’ll go home and something will be bothering me and Dad will remember a verse from the book of Haggai (if you can find that book without referring to the table of contents in under 30 seconds…) that just fits the bill. Now that might not mean much to many of you. But it means a lot to me. Sometimes I think of the parenting I’ve received and think that I should be tons better than what I am. To take that thought in the other direction, I’d have been a real disaster, had not God seen it fit to give me the parents that he did.

So Daddy, I love you. Words are a mean vehicle with which to convey how I feel but they are all I have. Thanks, Dad. Truly. And Happy 52nd birthday. May you have many, many, many more.

Love,
Your first-born son.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2006 in Uncategorized