By George Davis
The word 'legacy', from the Latin word legatia, was first used in the 14th century. Its original meaning was to describe a body of persons sent on a mission.
Less than a hundred years later, by the mid-15th century, the word appeared in Scottish and came to describe property or money left as inheritance.
It's such a powerful yet understated word, especially when applied to the careers of people in leadership.
In business, a leader's legacy is easily quantifiable by crucial numbers related to profit, loss, returns on investment, assets and liabilities. A business leader's legacy is less reliant on the tangential factor of how liked he or she was by staff, colleagues and shareholders. A popular business leader who doesn't produce good numbers is one who, after being sacked, will leave behind a legacy of failure.
It's a pity business isn't like politics. In our politics, platitudes, and not results; hyperbole, and not solid accomplishments, are what leaders and their puppets use to construct a legacy. It's laborious speeches about how many students in their constituency passed their exams that are used to mark out their legacies. Never mind that the majority of those students succeeded by dint of their own hard work and the toil of their unwavering parents or guardians.
It's how many 'dead-yards' to which they dispatched rum, curry goat, fish and bread, along with Heineken or Red Stripe, depending on the party, that are held up as solid achievements sufficient to be treated as part of their legacy.
It's about how many committees they sat on and not what such groups actually achieved or influenced that is held up as proof of legacy.
Our economy has perhaps never been worse, nor has confidence ever been lower about the prospects for growth and an attendant improvement in lives and livelihoods.
With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) self-inflicted upon us as a cure, for the second time in less than three years, our current crop of political leaders have a massive task on their hands. Theirs is the task of seeing us successfully through the pending IMF programme and bringing real growth back to a half-dead economy.
Theirs is the chance to leave a legacy; a robust, tall and 'traptin' legacy. This crisis gives them a chance to leave indelible marks on this country, like Edward Seaga did in building the Urban Development Corporation, Jamaica Stock Exchange, JAMPRO and Students' Loan Bureau. And like the man treated like a demigod by a generation of Jamaicans, Michael Manley, did in building the National Housing Trust, National Youth Service, and the G.C. Foster College.
I'm suggesting to our politicians that they can begin the process of emulating the good done by those two gentlemen by constantly asking and answering these simple questions as they get on with the business of managing the country's affairs.
WHAT'S THE POINT?
First, of what worth is a career spent in politics, leading constituents, communities and countries, when at the end of it all, there's no legacy? How is political success measured, if not by what one has conceptualised, built, helped to build, legislated for, or successfully lobbied against?
What will my contribution to Jamaica have been after I've left the political scene? What is more important: for most people to love me but feel indifferent about what I accomplished, or for most people to respect what I accomplished but feel indifferent about me?
Jamaica, in 2013, is a country desperately in need of heroes, heroines, patriots, problem solvers and people who know how to capitalise on their common sense. These times call for 63 MPs, 21 senators and close to 230 parish councillors who are obsessed with legacy building on an individual and collective basis. There's none among you who has made a name already and none too old, including 'Money Mike' Henry, to begin making that legacy.
Let the future generation write not only of the exploits of Manley, Seaga, et al, when talking about solid achievements in this country's history. Let them also talk about you. Let your name, by virtue of your legacy, be passed down to generations during debates in barber shops, rum bars or on verandahs.
Jamaica needs you. Right now.
George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.