The Gift of Family

by Christopher Kabamba
(Lusaka, Zambia)

'Barack likes to tell a story about the two of us standing backstage before his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

The way he tells it, he was too busy in the days before the convention to feel any pressure -- but about an hour before the speech, I could tell he was getting a little nervous.

To break the tension, right before he went out on stage I leaned in close and said, "Just don't screw it up, buddy." We laughed.

And then Barack brought the house down.'

Those are words of Michelle Obama, in an email sent to supporters of Barack Obama during the run-up to the 2008 US Presidential Elections. The email was sent a few days before Obama was to deliver the Democratic presidential candidate nomination acceptance speech at the 2008 DNC. The email offers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes moments before Obama delivered a keynote speech at the 2004 DNC (Democratic National Convention), 4 years earlier.

Many reckon that the resulting publicity and fame of his keynote speech at the 2004 DNC is what catapulted Obama to become the first African-American President of the United States.

I decided to fish this email out from my inbox and share a few thoughts on it because of what has been happening to me in the last few days.

I recently joined a Toastmasters club and my ice-breaker speech comes up in a week's time; as odd as it sounds, I am new to speaking in front of a group of people. I am a software engineer by profession and most of my time is spent in front of the screen developing systems for the organization I work for. Writing is also something that is new to me. At the time of writing this article I have been writing articles on personal growth and development for a period not exceeding 6 months. I have a lot to learn.

Apart from writing, public speaking is another new zone I am entering. So I am having to prepare myself a little more that I would normally do if public speaking was a norm to me. And guess where I have turned to help me practice - my family.

I was in one of those speech practice sessions with my young brother when I realized how much of a blessing family can be. Your family can be your partner in helping you realize your vision.

One of the things I have appreciated is their willingness to listen; to give me all the attention. Raw and uninspiring as a novice can sometimes sound, they will still listen to you; they will give you a platform to sharpen your trade before they send you to all the earth. Before the world begins to heap praise on you, your family would have seen you grow.

I do realize also that we come from different families and therefore we have different connotation to the word. For most, the hearing of this word sparks thoughts of abuse and betrayal. It is a regrettable thing to be hurt by the people who are supposed to embrace you. Otherwise families are supposed to be seedbeds where we can sprout before we share our fruit with the rest of the world.

Hate him or love him; Barack Obama is one of the most inspiring orators of our time; many have heaped praise on him for his oratory skills and rightly so, but beyond what this great man can do; is the support of those that love him.

At the height of his journey to the White House, on that memorable night of November 4th 2008, he roared and we saw his humanity; "I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure."

Robin Sharma, author "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" is one of the leading experts on leadership and personal development. He tells a story in one of his leadership podcasts; 33 people attended his first speech presentation and 21 of those where family members.Thank God for the gift of family.

As much as it depends on you, value and celebrate this gift. As Anthony Brandt contends, "Other things may change us, but we start and end with family." The love of a family is life's greatest blessing.

Christopher Kabamba

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