The 22-year-old behind Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech
Posted Saturday, March 16 2013 at 00:00
For the thumbs up that Kenya’s new president received for his unifying and hopeful victory speech, the credit should go to his speech writer, the 22-year-old Julie Wang’ombe.
In his victory speech, Kenya’s president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta managed to coin himself a first impression of a warm and all-embracing statesman. In only 19 minutes and 42 seconds, the son to Kenya’s founding father “delivered a speech that spoke volumes of unity, inspiration and a renewed hope for Kenyans” as Edwin Andole, a Kenyan voter posted online. The thumps up should be going to Juliet Wang’ombe, a 22-year-old woman who wrote the speech.
The speech is not as extra-ordinary as one would want to imagine. It is a simple, if not an every day, average speech though not simplistic. It is not an Obama or Milton Obote grand, crowd puller. It is written in plain English language laced with Kiswahili words like “asanteni.” It is not loaded with philosophical anecdotes, catchy phrases nor African proverbs. And neither cumbersome words that one would expect from a youthful mind. This serves to allay the doubts that it could have actually been, “scribbled by someone else and she is only taking pseudo credit” as one comment on social media skeptically pointed out.
So, how Uhuru Kenyatta invested his trust and confidence in a 22-year-old lass continues to stir ripples of both excitement and shock in more circles than one across the region.
“That little girl just did a copy and paste job from Obama’s speech. Where does today’s facebook youth get such wisdom?” an online reader of one Kenyan newspaper commented. However, a critical analysis of either speech proves the assertion is in bad taste. Wang’ombe’s speech has a fair share of originality.
One would comfortably say, without fear of contradiction, that thanks to Wang’ombe, Kenyatta has already scored political goals. A Daily Nation online reader described the speech as, “a good gift for Kenyans as it is unifying and inspiring, more so at a time when political emotions were tense.”
However, what won Kenyatta admiration was the strong message in the address that lit a candle of hope and a bright future ahead. Through wang’ombe’s pen, he came off as this president ready to sacrifice his energy and resources to better a country his father, Jomo Kenyatta, once led. Wang’ombe’s words cut an impression of a grateful father of the nation. Grateful to all and sundry. To the media for it’s, “professionalism and balance” in electoral coverage, to his arch-rival, Raila Odinga, for “a spirited campaign” and to his country men and women, for the “patience and unity.”
So, how was this girl, (it feels awkward calling the light skinned lass a woman) able to balance all this up? How did she manage to win the trust and confidence of the belligerent, if not arrogant, Kenyatta and his team? Was there any connection akin to lineage or extra-social relation?
“That is nonsense! Even if she was his daughter but could not write, then she would not be there. She has the brains and what it takes” Juma Omollo, a youth activist in Kenya told Full Woman. And he might be right. Wang’ombe has not just dropped from the clouds like manna. Even without as much as a firm foot print on the East African literary scene, observers say she has been around for some time.
A renown poet
Her poem for which she is most known in Kenya, “A Reintroduction to Africa” has earned her invites to prestigious global events like TED International Talent Search.
Again giving credence to the fact that Kenyatta reached out for her wit out of meritocracy and nothing more or less.
In Kenya, the soft spoken and apolitical lass is, “widely known for her talent in spoken word poetry, which she discovered in 2009 at the Slam Africa event in Westlands, Nairobi” one Kenyan newspaper wrote of her. She moved to the US in 2009 to attend Duke University after her high school education at Hillcrest High School in Kenya.
A focused girl
During her time at Duke, Wang’ombe did not lose focus or get entangled in the American dream that causes African ‘academic immigrants’ to stray away from their primary goal.
She met and networked with several other experienced and outstanding poets, one of them being Joshua Benne, who, “she admired and has continued to inspire her.”
She also worked with Residential Life and Housing Services, West Campus, Duke University and as an Events Manager in Durham, North Carolina from October 2010 to March 2011. On her passion for writing, all she says is, “I’m still trying to figure it out. I love words. I love writing. I write Spoken Word (Performance Poetry).”
However, the rise of her literary star to the level of writing a president’s speech could be the work of her ambitious spirit. She says on her facebook page, “I wanted to change the world at one point. May be I still do! I want to listen and learn and speak. I think I want to change the world with my pen.” Unforgettable also is the fact that Wang’ombe was invited to pray for Kenyatta after delivering his victory speech.