I wrote this back in August of 2010 and just never posted or sent it anywhere...
Wyclef Jean, Haiti’s much-loved son has declared his candidacy for President of Haiti. Let me say first that I am not a political scientist nor am I an economist. What I am however, is a Haitian-American who loves Haiti. The January 2010 earthquake that flattened much of Haiti, displaced millions, and killed countless people has been a source of great pain for all of us who are of Haitian decent.
The obvious question is what can Wyclef Jean actually DO for Haiti? I’m afraid that the answer is not very much. I am not questioning Mr. Jean’s intent, intellect or integrity. I am merely pointing what should have been obvious to Jean and his advisors.
He has no real solid significant business experience. Like say a Jay Z or P. Diddy. Both of whom run successful, profitable companies. What is it about Jean which makes him qualified for such an enormous undertaking? Nothing. Yele (Jean’s organization) has had run ins with IRS. Jean, personally, owes the IRS 2.1 million dollars. THIS is who should run Haiti? Someone who is unable to handle his personal finances? The finances of his non-profit organization? Why are the standards of Haiti so low? Does Haiti not deserve the very best? Finally? Wyclef is the BEST that we can do?
With all due respect to Mr. Jean, he is not fluent in the languages of Haiti. He does not speak, read or write in French and his Creole is rudimentary at best. How will he communicate with his cabinet? The situation in Haiti cannot wait to be dealt with while her leader participates in Rosetta Stone. Mr. Jean’s assertion that Haiti’s past President’s have been French speakers who have not accomplished much is well taken. Haiti has a long history of corrupt governments, taking advantage of their power and access. I also agree that Haitians should speak English. English is the official language of the world. However, and while it pains me to say this, Mr. Jean himself, is not articulate. Listening to him engage with CNN’s Wolf Blizter was, frankly, embarrassing.
Haiti’s problems are real. And they are serious. This goes way beyond, Haitian pride. Every single Haitian person felt a swell of pride when the Fugees won their first Grammy. It was empowering to see Wyclef accepting his award wrapped in the Haitian Flag. However, let me clear and say that in my opinion, running for, and becoming, President is not an extension of “repping” for Haiti.
Haiti is plagued with social, political, economical and environmental problems. If that was not bad enough, January’s earthquake has left the island crippled. What Haiti needs is someone with real experience. Someone well versed in economics, business or law. As important as music and art are to the identity of a country, music won’t get Haiti out of the mess that she is in. Mr. Jean’s popularity is not the answer.
While debating this very issue with a friend of mine, she pointed out that two recent US presidents have been an actor and a peanut farmer. Prior to becoming President, Jimmy Carter, served as a Georgia State Senator, and went on to serve as Governor of the same state. Prior to his presidency, Mr. Regan served as Vice-President and President of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He then went on to become Governor of California. It is suffice to say that these were not your ordinary peanut farmer and actor.
Haiti has seen its share of “traditional” politicians, which haven’t worked. The presidents of Haiti have had had various types backgrounds, from Agronomists to Economists from Doctors to Ne'er-do-wells.
This is it. This is Haiti’s chance to make a fresh start. This Haiti’s opportunity, to finally make her way to social and economical success. Though it might not appear to be so, there are rules to declaring ones candidacy in Haiti. You have to prove that you have been a resident of Haiti for at least five years. Has Jean been en residence? He has not. While I am sure he will have people to vouch for his residence, should we really start out Haiti’s new start on the wrong foot?
If Mr. Jean truly wants what is best for Haiti, if he will bow out gracefully and participate in the process at a respectable distance