Chasing Dreams: A Champion

By Rebecca Njeri, Kenya

Think like a child but act like an adult
คิดเหมือนเด็ก ทำเหมือนผู้ใหญ่ (kid muen dek tam muen phu yai)~ Thai saying

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly ~ Langston Hughes

This is a journal about a champion in your life. Someone who stands tall in the arena holding a huge banner that declares “My Rebecca is a winner!!”  A mentor; someone who will see the potential within you and guide you towards achieving your full potential. A critic- someone who will keep you grounded.

In this first video, Franklin Kipruto who turned 12 years old on the 14th of February 2012 shares his dream to be the  Chief Justice with all of Kenya. I am immediately struck by Franklin’s story because he is able to do something a lot of people forget to do- he has the audacity to dream. He reminds me of my experience as a reading programme volunteer at a community library. Every time we read with the kids you could see how much they wanted to succeed; to do something for themselves and  for their families. The kids would say “I want to be a nurse, a teacher, a policeman” All these were people that had succeeded in their society, people who they knew and looked up to; people they could be like. And then I listened to Franklin’s mother describe how Franklin had always wanted to be a judge and how  his dream had even become more ambitious after he met Willy Mutunga; Kenya’s Chief Justice. It made me realise how I and a lot of other people older than 12, are probably no longer as impressionable and fickle as 12 year olds. We have learnt so much, but worse we have faced failure, discouragement and began to be  made aware of our limitations. We have started seeing that the numbers on our termly report cards mean that we are less talented and inclined to accomplish less in our futures.

At Alliance Girls High School, I had a Physics teacher who repeatedly told us a metaphor. “Imagine a students does well in their end of primary school examinations and are admitted to Alliance Girls High School. As they join the school , their dream is to be a neurosurgeon. Then they go through their first year here and they get a little discouraged, there is so much work and they discover that maybe they aren’t as talented as they thought. At the end of their first year, their dream has changed. Now they hope that one day they will be a doctor. The second year starts and things do not get any easier; there are more challenges to be overcome. By the end of it; the dream has been lowered once more, I want to be a nurse. What makes a person lose so much faith in themselves, what makes a  person lose the “audacity to dream?” I ask myself this so many times because I have tutored kids younger than me for such a long time and I want them to keep this faith; because you’ve got to know you can do it; want to do it; before you eventually do it.

Still I think I know a way to get around this. I listened to Franklin Kipruto’s mother describe the incredible faith she had in her son. She said “Hakuna kitu Franklin hawezi fanya,” “There is nothing that Franklin cannot do.” And Franklin heard her say that. I almost know she must have told him this over and over. telling him you will be the best judge there ever was. Or telling him that one day he will be Kenya’s Chief Justice driving a 4-wheel Rav 4 to visit her. And in my mind I see Franklin’s mom as a champion; holding a huge banner at the finishing line and saying “Franklin you can do this! Franklin you are talented and smart. Franklin this world is for your taking.” And then I watched a TED talk about Caroline Casey,who is legally blind, in which she  reveals that she had not been aware of her condition until she was 17. And all this time she had been seeing. As she says how much she had looked forward to learning how to drive; and she must have been carried in a car, I wonder at the folly of her dream; so beautifully borne out of her lack of knowledge. And I realise how much our faith in ourselves depends on the conditioning that we surround ourselves with.

My mum always tells me that she loves my writing. Truth be told, even if  I wasn’t a good writer, I would have kept writing. I would have improved. I would have mastered the art. Maybe I dream too much. And I have to, I have listened to one too many people tell me that I can do whatever I set my heart to.

Inspired by a speech given by Ndindi Nwunelo at the third annual Barnard’s Global Symposium in Johannesburg- South Africa

Rebecca Njeri is an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University where she is majoring in English and Economics. She loves writing and hopes to use her words; time and talent stimulate a revolution that will spark entrepreneurial ventures on the African continent.