The sad news last week of the passing of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul and Kofi Annan the statesman who spent his life dedicated to a fairer and more peaceful world, leaves two huge empty pairs of shoes for someone to step into. Their contributions to this world, their ability to touch the minds, hearts and souls of so many is true inspiration, and phenomenal leadership.
Annan set up the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 after stepping down from the role of Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006), to build a “Road to Peace” with the premise that “No long term peace is possible without development and no sustainable development is possible without peace. No society can remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights”.
One of Aretha’s most famous songs, “Respect” through the lyrics shouts loudly about the need to respect each and every person irrelevant of who they are – man, woman, black or white, old or young.
Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his unrelenting dedication to peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law. Aretha won many awards including the Grammy award for best R&B female vocals every year between 1968 and 1975. Both earned the respect and consequently honour of these awards by what they lived and contributed to this world every day of their lives.
Annan’s speech, on 20 July this year at the Citizen’s Manifesto Forum on the impending election vote, as Chairman of the Elders group, founded by Nelson Mandela, on “Time for Zimbabwe’s Third Wave” so succinctly points to the people. His words “If a leader fails to lead, the people can lead and make them follow, and that is what you are trying to do with this manifesto, whoever wins this election.“
Aretha Franklin and Kofi Annan had so much in common, neither waited for some one else to show the way or to create the road. They got out there and did it themselves by believing in, sharing and living their values, thus leading with determination, commitment and very often courage. Aretha through her lyrics, and heartfelt voice. Kofi Annan through his untiring dedication, love and respect of the human race.
Thank you is simply not enough.