By Frederick Mordi
Last Sunday, former football superstar, George Weah, won a landslide in Liberia’s senate elections, inching nearer to his long-standing ambition of becoming president of the West African country.
Weah, who joins other renowned footballers such as Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine and Romario of Brazil that have hanged up their boots to play politics, has always expressed his desire to rule Liberia, just like he ruled the field in his heyday in football.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time, Weah, a highly prolific striker, was in 1995, named FIFA World Player of the Year—the first and only African footballer to have won the trophy so far. He also won African Footballer of the Year on three occasions (1989, 1994 and 1995), and was included in the FIFA 100 List of the World’s Greatest Living Players, in 2004. He was equally voted the African Player of the Century by sport journalists from all around the world, winning the award alongside Pelé (South American Player of the Century) and Johan Cruyff (European Player of the Century).
Weah, who spent his professional football career playing for clubs in France, Italy, and England, was reportedly discovered by Arsenal Coach, Arsène Wenger. His only regret would likely be his inability to win African Cup of Nations for Liberia, or to take the country to a FIFA World Cup. But his financial and moral contributions to the team have been quite enormous.
Apparently determined to replicate his roaring success in football, in politics, in 2005, he decided to run in Liberia’s presidential election. But his journey to political stardom has not been as striking as his exploits on the football field. Even though he was hugely popular in Liberia, his lack of formal education proved to be his Achilles’ heel. He was easily beaten by the more politically experienced, Harvard-educated incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. This made him go back to school where he picked a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and later a Master of Public Administration degree, both from DeVry University in Miami, Florida, United States.
“We all often strive to have college degrees,” he said in an interview with the Voice of America. “Some did, some never had the opportunity and some waited until the appropriate time was afforded. So, in my case, it is something I have always strived for, but I never had the opportunity because of my [football] career. And so, what I did, I did online courses. But, after my career, I decided to go back to class because it is the right thing to do, and I am very glad, and I made my parents and even my critics proud.”
Weah, who currently leads the largest opposition party in the country, the Congress for Democratic Change, is expected to stand again for the presidential election in 2017. His senate win will certainly help prepare the ground for him. Interestingly, he beat Robert Sirleaf, the President’s son, to win the senatorial election.
Wenger sums up his impressions of his former player in the following words, in an interview obtained from Arsenal’s website: “I could not imagine that the shy boy walking up on his first day at Monaco, completely lost, who nobody knew, could one day challenge to become president of Liberia. First of all it shows the amazing strength of character this boy has. Secondly it shows how magical sport can be to get a guy who starts with nothing yet can suddenly become president of his country. It’s a fantastic promotion of what football can be. It shows what kind of sense of mission, responsibility and love Weah has always shown for his country.”
By Frederick Mordi
It has been 25 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the English computer scientist invented the World Wide Web. The invention, which was a solution to a problem that he noticed when he was working at the Switzerland-based CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, has since revolutionised communication in the world.
As a child, it is said that Berners-Lee loved fiddling with electronics. He picked interest in computers as he grew up, no doubt influenced by his parents, who worked on the first commercially-built computer in the world, called the Ferranti Mark 1. It is therefore not surprising that Berners-Lee would become a genius.
After graduating with a first-class degree in physics from the University of Oxford, Berners-Lee got a job at a telecommunications company. He later moved to CERN. It was while at CERN that he came up with the idea of the World Wide Web to help fellow scientists that came from different parts of the world, to exchange data and results, after they must have returned to their own countries. In 1989, he submitted a proposal to his management, which specified new kind of technologies that would make the Internet accessible to people. But his proposal, as is often the case with new ideas, was not enthusiastically received at first. He did not give up until it gained acceptance.
“Creating the web was really an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult when I was working at CERN,” he once said in an interview. “Most of the technology involved in the web, like the hypertext, like the Internet, multifont text objects, had all been designed already. I just had to put them together. It was a step of generalising, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems out there as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system.”
CERN later made the World Wide Web technology available for global use, having realised the importance of the invention. This has undoubtedly changed the world today in terms of how people source for news, transact business, and even engage in relationships. Interestingly, since the Web first opened to new users in 1991, Berners-Lee has ensured that it is free to use for everyone, even though he would have made a fortune by commercialising it. Such is the magnanimity of the man who invented the Web.
Though his motive for inventing the Web was altruistic, current realities seem to be threatening its use. Berners-Lee is using the 25th anniversary of the Web to promote net neutrality, which is a belief that customers’ browsing activities constitute basic human right and as such should neither be controlled nor monitored, without their expressed consent. He is also an ardent promoter of greater openness, accountability and transparency in government.
“Threats to the Internet, such as companies or governments that interfere with or snoop on Internet traffic, compromise basic human network rights,” he reportedly said in another interview. “Unless we have an open, neutral Internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture.”
Berners-Lee is working with a coalition of public and private organisations that includes Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, to increase accessibility to the Internet, particularly in developing countries, based on his belief that the invention should be for everyone’s use. He is using the Web’s 25th anniversary to champion the Internet bill of rights, to ensure greater privacy for users.
“If a company can control your access to the Internet,” Berners-Lee added at the ‘Web We Want’ festival on the future of the Internet in London, “if they can control which websites you go to, then they have tremendous control over your life. If a government can block you going to, for example, the opposition’s political pages, then they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power.”
Only a few days ago, precisely on December 11, 2014, during the public release of the 2014-15 edition of the annual Web Index, which measures the World Wide Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress in countries, he restated his call for the Internet to be recognised as a basic human right.
He currently holds the position of professor of engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; professor of Web and Internet Science, University of Southampton, United Kingdom; and founder and director of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a body that develops guidelines for the development of the Internet. In addition, he is founder and director of World Wide Web Foundation, which seeks to make the Web affordable and accessible.
For his pioneering work on the Web, Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. At the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, he was given due recognition as the ‘Inventor of the World Wide Web.’
Berners-Lee, who is 59 years old, is married with two children.
By Frederick Mordi
A wealthy white woman once wanted someone to chop wood for her and apparently having no one to do the job, she approached a man who was strolling by. She asked him if he would like to earn some money cutting wood for her.
The man smiled. Without a word, he rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to carry out the task. When he finished chopping the wood, he arranged them neatly. The lady thanked him profusely. As soon as he left, a servant girl whispered into her ear.
The next morning she was at his office, full of apologies.
“I didn’t know it was you I put to work,” she said, thoroughly embarrassed.
“It’s perfectly all right, madam,” the man famously replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labour. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.”
Soon after that incident, the appreciative woman reciprocated the kind gesture by persuading her rich friends to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the man that happened to be a prominent black educator named Booker T. Washington.
Washington, who later founded the renowned Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, was born a slave. But he rose above his circumstances and become famous. He was one of the most popular African-American leaders of his era, well-known for his political savvy and talent for fund-raising. He was also adviser to two American Presidents. A great man by any standard, Washington was nevertheless an epitome of humility as he demonstrated in the story.
He proved the truth in a quote attributed to Simone Weil, who once said: “A lever. We lower when we want to lift. In the same way, he who humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The second story below also illustrates the beauty of humility. As the story was told, a certain lady once entered an ice cream store in Kansas. After picking her cone, she looked up and found herself facing one of the most celebrated movie stars in America. She almost fell over. It is not every day one meets a popular Hollywood actor.
The handsome actor smiled sweetly at her and said hello.
But the clearly mesmerised woman could hardly speak. Her eyes grew round in surprise, while her heart hammered against her ribs. She hurriedly paid for her ice-cream and left the shop, only to realise that it was not in her possession. She went back to the shop and again ran into the actor, who was on his way out.
“Are you looking for your ice cream?” he asked kindly.
The lady nodded. She did not trust herself to speak.
“You put it in your purse with your change.”
Meeting celebrities often triggers this sort of reaction. However, only few celebrities would have had the time to talk to the lady in such a relaxed manner like Paul Newman did.
Apart from being a prolific actor, film director, entrepreneur, and racing driver, chalking up numerous awards including an Academy Award for best actor for his performance in the 1986 Martin Scorsese film The Color of Money, six Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, and an Emmy Award, Newman was known for his humility and philanthropy. Typical of Newman, when asked by a television interviewer how he felt winning an Oscar at 62, he quipped that it deprived him of his fantasy of picking the award in ripe old age.
Newman’s Own, a food company, which he co-founded, as a matter of policy, donates its post-tax profits and royalties to charity. As at last year, these donations had exceeded $380million. He was also one of the founders of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), a membership organisation of CEOs committed to raising the level and quality of global corporate philanthropy. Givingback.org named Newman the ‘Most Generous Celebrity of 2008.’
An Italian newspaper, which once commented on his philanthropy said “Newman was a generous heart, an actor of a dignity and style rare in Hollywood quarters.”
Washington and Newman have shown that one can be great and yet humble. John Ruskin appears to share this view when he said: “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility.”