The man and his many manifestations
A review of Arnold Foote, The Making of a Global Visionary by Dr Angela Ramsay
Arnold Foote, the Making of a Global Visionary could easily be renamed Arnold Foote and His Many Lives, for Arnold emerges as a resilient figure who keeps reinventing himself throughout the decades.
The foreword by Sir Kenneth Hall, former governor general of Jamaica, and endorsements by heavyweights like Lord Lingfield and Professor Michael Nobel are enough to pull the curious inside the covers of the book.
With more than a dozen books to her credit, author Dr Angela Ramsay gives readers a peek into the world in which Arnold Foote was born and shares his personal journey, which began in rural Jamaica and continued in Kingston, touching nearly all the corners of the earth.
Dr Ramsay's narration links the reader to several incidents that are simultaneously historical, emotional, and political in a book that is studded with moments that will make readers say, "I didn't know that." Even those who are on familiar terms with Arnold and his family will learn something new from his biography.
For instance, who could imagine one as stately as the late Lady Bustamante perched atop an elephant? Yet, among the rich collection of photographs in the book is the arresting image of Lady Bustamante and members of the Foote family riding an elephant at the Miami zoo in Florida.
Dr Ramsay's authorised biography has captured the fascinating life of Arnold Foote, from his childhood in Westmoreland through his school years at Jamaica College, where he excelled as a sportsman, turning in scintillating performances in cricket and football, to his foray into business, the turbulent '70s and his virtual exile in Canada, his return home to resuscitate his business, and, more recently, his influence in the world of diplomacy, where he has been celebrated by royalty and prominent world leaders.
The author has done an admirable job of organising a wealth of information into an interesting narrative of six parts. She conducted some 60 face-to-face interviews with Arnold and his wife Patricia, other family members and friends over a 13-month period.
In the end, Dr Ramsay produced a comprehensive portrait of a colourful Jamaican, whose life-changing moments saw his fortunes rise and fall and rise again. It is the story of one who refused to allow his creativity to be stifled. Indeed, Arnold Foote is portrayed as an individual who is good at shaking up things, whether in the advertising business, the Consular Corps or the World Confederation of Consuls.
Dr Ramsay reveals a man with the supplest of business minds, whose success has been derived from practice, creativity, and innovation and not necessarily from textbooks.
Another prominent ingredient in the book is the strong bond between Arnold and his family. This closeness is not evidenced only by that fact that there are four generations of men named Arnold Foote, but throughout the book, there are examples of how the familial relationships helped to influence and shape his life.
The reader must be prepared to absorb some startling revelations about how Arnold Foote, then an up-and- coming businessman in 1974, was hounded by the police and locked up, and eventually fled overseas when he learnt that he was a targeted man. He was never criminally charged with any illegal act.
In making the decision to return home in 1979, he met with then Prime Minister Michael Manley and by letter asked the Government to issue a statement that he was never found to be involved in any criminal activities.
A copy of a letter written under confidential cover in July 1979 by Manley said, in part, "You are quite right that there is no outstanding charge against you. I can state this to you privately on the basis of an official reply to me from the minister." The rest of the letter holds some intrigue for the reader, who is left to draw his or her conclusion as to why no public declaration of innocence was ever made.
Given the current workings of the criminal justice system, which regularly treats citizens unjustly, the injustice meted out to Arnold Foote may be digested with considerably less alarm than expected. However, it is certain to provoke discussion about the arbitrary nature of the treatment of citizens by State actors.
Readers will learn how Arnold Foote, an institution builder, took over the leadership of the Advertising Association of Jamaica and expanded its footprint into the region by creating the Caribbean Council of Advertising Agencies. His leadership in the Consular Corps of Jamaica was also greatly expanded when he became president of the World Confederation of Consuls.
Turns out that Arnold Foote is much more than an advertising man or an honorary consul. In this biography, he is revealed as a man of many glorious parts.
This book is designed to appeal to the general public, students of history and politics, as well as those interested in diplomacy and international relations.