Alagi Yorro Jallow
Nine U.S.High Rankings Presidents Without College Degrees:
Africa’s most outstanding leader Captain Thomas Sankara & President Paul Kagame Without College Degrees:
Fatoumatta: Since the Gambian constitution prescribed the qualification to become President of the Republic of the Gambia, I want to remind President Essa Mbye Faal and his colleagues that advancing university degree holder only makes an excellent leader or competent President is farfetched that history has proved that a president does not require a university degree to be able to address the needs and aspiration of the people.
Education is essential: Leaders make people believe. It is down to biology. We do not identify with the frontal cortex of our brain; we identify with the limbic part of the brain, where “gut” decisions come from. You will often hear people say that they can feel a person not necessarily from the logical force of their argument but from a deeper intuitive place that resonates with them. (Read from Simon Sinek on inspiration and leadership).
Nine of the most notable American presidents and State governors with a track record of success in leadership and governance which did not go to college are President George Washington (1st), President Andrew Jackson (17th), President Martin Van Buren (8th), Zachary Taylor(12th), Millard Fillmore (13th), Abraham Lincoln(16th), Andrew Johnson(7th), Grover Cleveland(22nd), and Harry Truman (33rd). Finally, I tried to reason the constitutional provision on the constitution’s qualification for President of the Republic of the Gambia. I believed that no person might be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Gambia, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 30 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Gambia for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.
Fatoumatta: I noticed that the qualification for President is not the same as the qualification for Supreme Court Judge or President of a University. For example, a Supreme Court Judge or a University President must be proven competence, integrity, purity, and independence. It seems that anybody can be President, but not anybody can be a Supreme Court Judge or President of a University. A senior secondary school graduate can be President, but to be or Supreme Court Judge, a person, or President of a University, one must have high moral and academic qualifications.
I realize that we do not need a highly educated person to provide us with roads, bridges, school buildings, health care, affordable price, and excellent resorts. However, still, we need a person with a high level of education, cognitive skills, moral standards to decide who goes to jail or not. Indeed, different jobs need different qualifications, but sitting beside the Kings of kings and the Lord of lords in his glory requires faith, not work.
Fatoumatta: I will limit my argument to two of Africa’s great statesmen who did not have college degrees, only secondary school certificates and military pieces of training. Nevertheless, Captain Thomas Sankara and President Paul Kagame have shown the world that leadership is a choice. It is independent of position; it is an inside job. It is earned by action. It is transferable, and it is scalable. As Amilcar Cabral said – to put the interests of the masses first.
I discovered nine United States presidents without college degrees who never attended college or completed a degree. So how did they make it to the White House? Two things—literacy and a healthy dose of curiosity.
Each of these presidents knew their education had been limited—some of them had as little as one year of formal schooling! So each of them decided to own their education and take it beyond the classroom. They filled their libraries with great books. When they wanted to know something, they would go to an expert source. They knew education could be gained without years in school. They studied law without going to law school. They had tutors and mentors—men that they trusted for information. In time, they became the experts.
Our modern, information-saturated society, unfortunately, believes education must take place in the traditional classroom setting. Having a college degree makes presidential candidates attractive. It makes anyone attractive. It is essential.
However, here is the rub. You do not even have to step inside a lecture hall to be educated, no matter what the college admissions officer tells you. It is not daily attendance to lectures that make someone great. It is the desire to learn. The curiosity that propels you to study, to know a subject deeply.
Fatoumatta: When you combine that curiosity with practical life experience, you have the raw potential for greatness on your hands. You can study like the presidents and still get your degree. That is one of the main appeals of Unbound. Unbound students are gaining real-life experience while earning college degrees outside of the traditional classroom. For them, it is not an either-or situation. They do both, and so can you.
Nine U.S. presidents have proven that it takes more than just a college degree to achieve greatness. So what can you be doing in addition to earning your degree that will set you apart?
How extraordinary that we live in a time when education, critical thinking skills, knowledge of history, and intelligence are not virtues but the mark of the elite. I reject the idea that “good old common sense” with a dollop of superstition makes one suitable for leadership.
Perhaps if we had a more educated electorate, have better leadership in the country. Education, by whatever means, is not a negative. However, just because a leader does not have a college degree does not mean that leader is a bumpkin only fit for a minimum wage job.
Unfortunately, getting a college degree does not mean that someone is more competent or qualified to lead. You can be a book smart and life or street stupid. However, no number of degrees will make someone ready for the real world when they enter politics. The nine presidents who did not go to college are George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman. Nevertheless, they were influential leaders, unlike president Woodrow Wilson, the only U.S. president with a doctoral degree described as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.
Fatoumatta: In Africa, Presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe are bulimic educated elites with the highest level of education, hoard their countries little national wealth that is still available to shamelessly enrich themselves, accumulate stolen capital in tax havens, sending their children to get a university education in Western countries before they return to perpetuate the system that oppresses the people, in complete collaboration with the Western powers which continue to pillage the continent in total impunity. The example of bad leadership on record as the worst educated leaders in Africa with extraordinary academic accomplishments.
Captain Thomas Sankara and Paul Kagame who does not have a college education but have projects that reshaped the living conditions of their people in a meaningful way. They impacted people’s consciousness, changing people’s attitudes, which were formed by beliefs dating from feudal and archaic times.
Sankara and Kagame, without college degrees, achieved what no African head of states has managed to be accomplished to leaders who boast of paper credentials: To give back to their people the dignity they had lost through centuries of humiliation and exploitation by colonialism and the elites of the post-independence era.
The improvements in the living conditions of the people of Burkina Faso and Rwanda is the result of the excellent leadership from the Sankara and Kagame, from the construction across of many mega infrastructures to allow rural populations to cultivate many crops during the year, increasing their sources of income, to the complete transformation and the accomplishment of ambitious programs to clean up ghettos.
I read somewhere that leadership can motivate and inspire others to take positive and sustainable action. This principle is not pegged to the number of followers. It can just as easily apply to a household or a relationship.
Fatoumatta: The underlying objective is not merely to lead but how well we show that counts. At the most basic level, a true leader must live by example. All talk and no action will not cut it. I will not emphasize this enough, and we are all capable of being great leaders. We are already leaders in some way, shape, or form and within certain circles. We can all provide leadership from close relationships to groups to the community to country, continent, and the planet.
Alagi Yorro Jallow