Some lessons are spoken, some are written and some- like those from parents – are simply copied. Peter Muiruri had this in mind when he sat down with these high achieving Kenyans to glean valuable insights they picked up from when they were growing up.
The most powerful man on earth, US President Barack Obama wrote his memoirs, Dreams from My Father in 1995, just as he was launching his political career. Though they lived worlds apart, Obama Senior no doubt inculcated some lessons that shaped the younger Obama.
Most of us think of our fathers as the tough disciplinarians or people who can sort out the entire world’s problems. However, their role as mentors can be overlooked if viewed through societal stereotypes. Yet, many of us have learnt some of life’s best lessons through our fathers.
We hereby sample a few of these through the eyes of their progeny.
“He taught me to always stop and listen’- Captain Emma Mwangi, a pilot with Kenya Airways and daughter to Captain Paul Mwangi
Faith: My dad taught me that my circumstances do not determine my outcome. My absolute faith in God determines the outcome.
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He used Romans 8:28 to help me understand the true value of faith, or knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that no matter how impossible a situation seems, God will work that situation for your good.
Leadership: I should always acknowledge, respect and appreciate the role of the people in my team, no matter how ‘small’ their contribution seems.
I am to be humble, kind and considerate to the people that have been put under my leadership positions since a thriving work environment improves the overall outcome. Learning to submit to authority teaches one how to be a great leader when it’s your time to lead.
Stop and Listen: According to my dad, when someone comes to me with feedback, no matter their age or background, I should take a moment to stop and listen. I don’t have to agree with what they say nor necessarily follow what they say, but I should listen.
“Emma you have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice more than you speak,” he told me. These lessons have made me grow in my aviation career, just as water makes a plant flourish.
'He taught me to be hospitable'”
- Naisula Lesuuda, Nominated Senator
Growing up in the arid northern part of Kenya is not for the fainthearted. However, having a father who knew how to navigate the rough terrain made life bearable.
My father, Rt Rev Jacob Lesuuda has spent much of his life in the pastoral work and is currently the Anglican bishop of Samburu. As children, we had no option that walk in the straight and narrow path.
Be candid: Despite the religious upbringing, dad always taught us to air our opinions, speak out our minds without fear. In a patriarchal society where women and girls hardly spoke, this was almost going against the grain.
Be hospitable: One of the greatest lessons l learnt from my father was the need to be hospitable. Our home was almost a meeting point for many who needed to have audience with the man of the cloth. That means I had to learn how to relate with other people from a very early age, a quality that would come in handy later on as I joined public life. Being a good host was not an option.
In addition, the many travels he made together with my mother in the course of his work meant that, being the first born, I had to shoulder the responsibility of looking after my siblings.
Discipline: Like any parent, however, instilling discipline was one of his primary objectives. My dad was so keen on even the minute things that he would check out how you made your bed in the morning. When it came to education, the fact that he had some social clout did not exempt you from working hard in school. His mantra was: “You go where your marks take you.” That is how I ended up in a school in Iten when a girl of my stature would have preferred the more prestigious schools.
In school, he could not allow me to keep long hair that I would have a problem tending. According to him, I had to start earning my own money if I was going to have that long hair every girl wants. But then, that was what to expect of a former teacher.
Support: Joining politics may have caught him by surprise. He was shocked when I resigned from my job as a broadcaster. At first, I had thought of joining the diplomatic world but then the nomination for senator came through.
As supportive as he has been, he is sometimes distressed by the lies that are told concerning me. When that happens, I always retreat to prayer – one of the most important family traditions I learnt from him.
'He taught me to be independent' - Carol Radull, popular radio personality and football fanatic
Never be afraid to try something new and to be different. When my father’s colleagues were all becoming teachers, doctors and lawyers in the 1960’s, he took up mining and was one of the first fully qualified Kenyan mining engineers.
When I tackled a male dominated world in sports broadcasting more than a decade ago, he was there to cheer me up.
Independence: My father said it was important for women to have independence, at least when single. When I got married, he advised me to shed some of that independence to allow another person to share my life. Now my husband and I depend on each other and that’s how my father said it should be.
Prayer: He prayed every day of his life and as he put it, daily prayer was not an option. He said even when you didn’t think you had a need, it was important to just give thanks to God for life’s blessings. Today, as I talk, eat and sleep football, I thank my father for his words that I should never be afraid of being different from the rest.
“He taught me to listen to myself'”
- Cleopa Mailu-Cabinet Secretary for Health
I grew up in Makindu in a polygamous family. My father, Mzee Mailu Nduse, belonged to a bygone era. He lived in the age when formal clothing was yet to make inroads. He had little contact with formal education or modern ways of living.
He died at the age of 104. I was only 16 then and in Form Three. Even so, I learnt some of my life’s greatest lessons from him, lifelong ideals that I still hold dear.
Listen to yourself: Foremost among these was the need to always be guided by my conscience, that inner intuition that tells you when you are right and wrong even without any other law.
Up to today, I still make many important decisions based on my conscience, which is usually right on almost all occasions. These are the same parameters I use to judge others. To me, first impressions are also lasting impressions.
I can meet up with you and immediately decide you are a person I can do business with. “Trust your inner self,” he would always tell me.
My father shunned controversy and I live by the same ideals today in my line of work. Well, the only thing I never imitated from him was to be a polygamous man.