“Fear, is like fire. If you make it work for you, then it can cook your food, keep you warm and give you light in the dark. But if you let it go out of control, it can burn your house down.” Cus D’Amato.
When Naomi Osaka beat Serena Williams in the US Open 2018, The Guardian used the above quote of Cus D’Amato, a boxing trainer, as an opening for one of their articles describing what was an epic finale to the Women’s US Tennis Open 2018. Serena Williams was expected to make the biggest comeback in women tennis. Her progress to the finals was unstoppable. Her prowess undeniable.
At the final she not only faced Naomi Osaka she also faced the future. Naomi Osaka displayed superiority of technique, speed, and and mental fortitude. On display, in the finals, was not just another match of tennis, but a generational change.
Serena Williams, who was fighting to stage a successful comeback from motherhood, passed up a once in a life opportunity to gracefully hand over the baton of tennis greats to the next generation. Naomi Osaka snatched the baton from her, and in denial, Serena not only lost the match, but did so in a dramatic meltdown that will remain for a long time a topic of conversation of that match.
Serena William’s tennis legacy would have been cemented on that day with a graceful and gracious concession to Naomi Osaka’s win and her potential as one of future greats in women’s tennis.
Stayed past his peak
In football, Arsene Wenger stayed in Arsenal long beyond his time. Though he drove the team from success after another in his prime, past his prime he became the butt of all jokes football.
He is likely to be remembered for how long he stayed past his peak in Arsenal, than for his successes. The new manager of Arsenal, represents not only a change of baton, but also a generational change.
When is the right time to let go, and hand over the baton to the next generation? This is a question that not only plagues sports, it also plagues political leadership globally, regionally in Africa, and locally in Kenya. The United States of America has just come from its mid-term elections.
One of the striking features of the mid-term elections was the comeback of President Obama into active politics. He endorsed and campaigned for Democratic candidates. He campaigned actively against Republican candidates. He singled out his successor, President Donald Trump, for indirect attacks. It is rare for former Presidents of the United States America to do so. For one reason or other, President Obama has refused to let go, to hand over the baton, and allow for the generational change that accompanies every human endeavor.
It is contrary to human nature, particularly the gene for survival, to concede that there are others who are better than us today, or who could grow to be better than us in future. Unfortunately, this does not make the saying that the beautiful ones are not yet born any less true. Africa, and Kenya in particular, would benefit from seeding a culture that nurtures the next generation in all walks of life, including politics. The baton, if not passed down gracefully, is taken away by the force of time nature.
Who will tell President Obama that he’s sending the wrong signal to present and future leaders, particularly those from his continent of origin? Who will tell him that he has played his part and he need not be in fear because there are others more than capable and who will take over from where he left?
Kethi D Kilonzo is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]