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Kenute Hare: Teacher, leader and mentor

Published:Sunday | June 23, 2019 | 12:00 AMNatalia Oh - Contributor
Kenute Hare
Kenute Hare
Kenute Hare
Kenute Hare

The name Kenute Hare has become inextricably linked to the issue of road safety. He was the man who taught many of us the importance of a seatbelt, why we should be mindful of the condition of our tyres, and it is often his voice that lingers in our heads when we make those driving mistakes that, admittedly, everyone does at some point.

However, very few know the story behind the man or the force that powers his unwavering determination to save lives every day on the streets of Jamaica.

Most people only know Hare as the director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining, but there is so much more to this enigmatic man. Mentor, teacher, farmer and conscientious thinker are just a few of the many things that come to mind when trying to describe his multifaceted persona; and even these do not do him true justice.

Hare is a born leader and yet he never stops others from shining; he is incredibly wise and yet humble; and he is a walking repository of knowledge, but still never arrogant or condescending.

A Challenging Childhood

Hare was born and raised in New Haven, St Andrew. His mother was an accountant, while his father was a prominent contractor and entrepreneur, responsible for building thousands of the structures that still stand around Jamaica. However, not unlike so many other Jamaicans, his childhood was that of the ‘outside child’. He and his two siblings accounted for only three of the 14 children his father sired. As one of the outside children, Kenute never enjoyed the comfort or warmth of sharing a home with his father and instead, lived with his mother until her untimely death when he was 13. Despite the physical absence of his father in the home, Hare insists, “We never went hungry and we always went to school. My father always made sure of that.”

Although a city boy who attended Duhaney Park Primary, Lannaman’s Prep and eventually Kingston College, Hare and his siblings spent much of their childhood in the hills of Mount Friendship, on his father’s farm, picking coffee and banana and communing with nature. It is where he first developed a passion for working with the soil and an interest in the healing power of plants.

Growing Up Too Soon

One of the things Hare notes about his childhood was that, in hindsight, it was far too short.

“After my mother died, I basically became the man of the house. I cooked, cleaned, and took care of my siblings. My father ensured that we had money to eat and could go to school, but I was the one who managed the home.”

This experience would leave a lasting impact on Kenute, and help shape his own opinions on life, marriage and parenthood.

“Based on how I grew up, I decided never to have a child out of wedlock.”

Even though he is not yet a father, Hare is adamant that he will break the cycle that he witnessed with both his grandfather and father of having outside children who were then robbed of a quality upbringing with both parents in the home.

“That kind of childhood causes certain traumas and deficiencies; I don’t want to bring that into future generations of my bloodline.”

In his own mentorship of young men, Hare drives home the importance of not becoming a ‘womaniser’, but instead to respect and honour the sanctity of the family.

A Complex Relationship

Perhaps the strongest influence on Hare’s life has been the complicated relationship with his father. Although they never shared a home, his father’s influence was always present, impacting everything, from how his life was structured to many of the opinions he holds to this day. A few of the things he remembers distinctly about his father, Kenute Hare Sr, include the value he placed on education, his tendency towards candidness, and his strong work ethic. Kenute Sr, taught his children how to pray, insisted they always speak the truth, and always reminded them that it was God who would always be there to help take them through life.

Kenute Sr remained adamant that his children would gain knowledge so that no one could ever take advantage of them.

“My father insisted that none of his children would ever end up as dunces.”

To this end, his father ensured that he could go on to university where he ultimately studied international relations and political science and honed his deep interest in international affairs.

Hare is known for being a forthright man, never afraid to communicate his thoughts honestly, regardless of the consequences; yet another trait he credits his father for.

“When my dad visited us on Sundays, he would ask me and my siblings to honestly tell him the things we didn’t like about him. He would try to rectify these issues and never used it against us. This is something I remain grateful for, because he taught us to be honest, and never fearful, even if it means dying for what you believe in.”

Even though his physical presence in Hare’s life was woefully lacking, Kenute senior’s teachings and advice remain at the forefront of his son’s mind and can be clearly seen in his mannerisms, beliefs and decisions.

Living to Serve Others

Decades later, sitting at the helm of the Road Safety Unit, Hare continues on that same path, dedicating his life towards making a difference in society.

“To be honest, this was not at all what I dreamed of doing. However, if I wasn’t happily playing this role, I would have abandoned it. I view it as a privilege to assist humanity, to address an issue that kills millions globally. I am proud to be a part of a cadre of people trying to save lives.”

It is for this reason that in his leadership of the unit, Hare focuses on a philosophy of educating others so that they can help themselves and those around them. He believes that in order to really influence the behaviour of drivers, you have to do more than just make laws; instead, you have to connect with their subconscious and change the way in which they view the act of driving.

“Growing up, my father would say he didn’t ever want to die in a car crash and leave his children. So when he got behind the wheel, his thoughts were on the greater consequences of getting in an accident.”

This advice, coupled with his knowledge of the pain of losing a parent early, is what drives his safety philosophy.

The streets are not by any means the only place where Hare serves. The love for the earth that he developed as a child on his father’s farm over the years, developed into an interest in alternative medicine, using nature’s bounty to heal. For many years, Kenute has studied the medicinal properties of plants and has developed quite a reputation among family and friends for whom he routinely creates natural concoctions to address a range of ailments.

Speaking about his passion, Hare reveals, “Both my parents died after going into the hospital. My mother underwent a mastectomy before she died. Because of this, I hate hospitals and never want to go under the knife, so I use nature as my remedy to heal myself and others, and I am careful of what I put in my body.”

Inspirational Leadership

Hare has no doubt faced his fair share of challenges, but instead of allowing them to break him, he has developed into a truly admirable individual. A teacher, mentor and guide, Hare has selflessly committed himself and his life’s work towards the upliftment of others. Despite the obstacles that have crossed his path, he remains positive in his outlook: “Life has its ups and downs, but we have to persevere through the storms and remain focused.”

Even though he has achieved plenty, Hare never discounts the importance of continued learning and advocates for people to utilise the wealth of information available at our fingertips to better themselves and expand their thinking. Second to the Holy Bible, he personally credits the book Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey with changing his entire outlook, as it taught him self – empowerment and determination – traits he believes all people should develop.

Hare has admirably embraced the lofty task of protecting the millions of Jamaican lives on our roads every day and he has done so without hesitation. As he and the Road Safety Unit ramp up their educational efforts to curb fatalities as part of Road Safety Month, he notes, “I see this as my destiny at this point and I can’t, and I don’t want to, run from it.”