Official statistics can paint either a glowing or less than flattering picture of a country.
That sketch can range from how many people have found jobs in a given period; the pace of housing construction; the use of technology; the success or failure of achieving educational targets; and the march to greater longevity; to how a peaceful a country can endure in challenging of times.
What they usually can’t tell you are the full extent of the natural beauty; the determination of a country to push ahead with further development at a time of difficulties challenges; and the commitment of a leader to improve the lot of all of his or her citizens.
Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica’s new Prime Minister can write chapter and verse about all of those images. For she has served in different cabinet positions, in local government, on the opposition benches in parliament, all the while keeping her fingers on the pulse of Jamaica. She can also tell you about putting people to work; using the labor laws to protect their rights; tourist arrivals and what it means to the average Jamaica, not to mention the billions of dollars nationals abroad remit to relatives at home to keep roofs over their heads, help put food on the table, and to upgrade their overall standard of living.
It is that multi-faceted woman and immensely popular politician and leader, the first female Prime Minister in Jamaica’s who has been accorded the 2012 accolade as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. It’s a designation given by Time Magazine and one that has been earned.
For “Sister P,” as she is more widely called by friend and critic, has by the sheer force of her personality and ability to put the people’s interest ahead of her own risen to the top of her birthplace’s ladder while never losing the common touch. She is easily one of the most recognizable public figures across the entire Caribbean, be it in the English, French, Spanish or Dutch-speaking parts of the region.
In explaining why Time goes to great lengths every year to choose political leaders, academics, entertainers, sport figures, economists, clothing designers, architects, attorneys, you name them for its list, Richard Stengel, the magazines Managing Editor, explained it that it tried to select people “whose influence is long lasting” and that’s where Simpson-Miller comes in. And she finds herself in excellent company, including U.S. President and commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, Nigeria’s head of government Goodluck Jonathan, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund; Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia President; and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and the Catholic Church’s evangelist.
There is little doubt that Simpson-Miller passed Time Magazine’s rigorous test for inclusion with flying colors.
For as U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat of Jamaican parents and the holder of the historic 11th Congressional District correctly explained, Simpson Miller “is the embodiment of perseverance and strength.” Just as important, the Prime Minister is going to have a “profound impact” on the country as she “tries to be a transforming figure in Jamaica.”
Sister P possesses an admirable quality: despite her humble beginning in a poor family, she has climbs the rungs of the ladder, reaching the pinnacle of power without forgetting her roots and who put her in such a powerful position. While some leaders in different parts of the world have acquired snobbish attributes and often use convoluted language that most people don’t really understand, Simpson-Miller remains simple but dignified and keeps in lockstep with the thinking of working class and middle income Jamaicans who see her as their standard-bearer for economic and social justice, a political leader who protects the civil liberties and political rights of every Jamaican.
Six years ago, she became the country’s first woman Prime Minister, no small feat in nation whose voters and political parties seem to prefer men to guide their affairs. Not long after that she was defeated at the polls and after spending the next four years as Opposition Leader, she came roaring back in December last year, leading the People’s National Party to a resounding victory.
Sadie Campbell, a long-standing New York admirer and political ally of the Prime Minister, hailed her selection to the Time 100 list and said that like the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and other Western Hemisphere nations, “far too many women in Jamaica are reluctant to think of women as leaders.” Happily, that attitude is changing and would continue to do so.”
The world-famous publication stated that its selection process is used to single out individuals who could “start a chain reaction of virtue, shaping events in ways that can become viral and enduring.”
The Jamaica leader is one such individual. For what she has done by her presence on the political and parliamentary stages during the many decades in public life is to be a strong trailblazer who is driven by such qualities as fairness, commonsense and an ability to confront hurdles and transform them into success stories that improve people’s lives. You can’t wish for a better person of influence than Simpson-Miller.