Yesterday afternoon as I walked around reviewing the Science Museum project site in Arat Kilo, passing by the dome theater covered in silver aluminum, a feeling of awe swept upon me. In my imagination, I had fast forwarded to a time post completion at which point the theatre was filled with people, young and old, walking up the stairs and into the halls, filling the empty seats and getting ready to watch a performance or a film.
Half an hour later as I was walking through the flower gardens, a mini-soccer field and a children’s play area of the Phase 2 part of the Sheger project site, a thought that I have never experienced in my entire life crept upon me. As rain droplets lightly fell upon my face from the pregnant sky, I wished for the first time that I could be 20 again and relive you – Ethiopia – from this moment of awe and wonder. For the potential you have and the place you are slowly becoming is something I want to savor in my youth. This awe is not limited to these sites. A few weeks ago, visiting and exploring the security sector reforms and related developments struck within me unbridled hope!
I have known you all my life. Yet I have not known you as intimately as I have over the past four years. I traveled your many corners, valleys and highlands. Laughed and cried with you through triumphs and upheavals, and experienced you on the ground and witnessed your vastness from above.
Your diversity in flora and fauna is as mesmerizing as the diversity of your children and their talents as well as aspirations. From top to bottom and across your width and breadth, you are blessed with bounty, which your children are yet to fully recognize how immensely lucky we all are.
I have seen your friends become your foes. And those who were once considered your foes stand by you in your time of need. Your hidden natural attributes have been revealed in as much as your children’s potential and imagination for productivity is being unleashed. What was once impossible to ideate and bring to life is now becoming probable through those who choose to toil and labor.
I have encountered those who wakeup in the dark, in the early hours of the morning and sweat to bring to light your bounty. I have also lain many a night gripped in sadness puzzled by the actions of those compelled to turn to ash what they have not labored for.
See, the act and ache of labor is one that only a few can understand. It is those that know and have experienced the struggle of putting forth into this world an idea and carrying it to its fruition that understand the cost of protecting it. And so, Ethiopia, be proud of your many children that quietly toil away, while some who glide through life on the backs of others bark away. It is not he or she that barks the loudest that gathers the harvest, but those who, despite the flame of the sun scorching their faces and the thorns of the rosebush scraping their palms, continue to persevere. For you, Ethiopia is worth it! Your children today and those that come tomorrow are worth it.
Do you sometimes wonder though why some choose to ignore you? Why are we unwilling to recognize the massiveness of space you contain that is enough for all of us? And despite all the abundance, do you ask us why we rather choose to ignite friction on a scarcity mentality and along constructed lines of division?
Ethiopia – do you often look at your children and question why we sometimes forsake our common humanity; our shared responsibility and why we shed our unity over the trivial, when the dominion we have inherited from you on this earth is plentiful? Have you nurtured conscious and conscionable children who wake up each morning armed and ready to defend and develop you?
See the awe and wonder I experienced yesterday is not sourced in privilege. It is rooted in choice, the choice of hope. It does not deny the many challenges and problems that we face as a country or a global community. Yet cynicism has no transformational power.
I see what you have today alongside what some are taking away from you each day. I see your magnificence underneath the pile of hate and division that some attempt to lump on you. I see hope in a burgeoning tomorrow amidst a laborious and at times chaotic today. And I know the many that are quietly toiling away, do so seeing a vision of a better tomorrow that lie ahead.
Yes, there are many trials and tribulations that plague your children. But yet there are many of your privileged children who have the means and choice to be catalysts of positive deeds and change.
Ethiopia, as I close this letter, I only wish three things that, the children you’ve reared thus far have the courage to mend broken bridges and unite, forsaking external forces that vie to break us; that the children you’re grooming see hope and labor for your development, where others only see despair; that the children you’re birthing have the audacity to imagine and realize a prosperous Ethiopia enough for all.
To direct all fingers and lay all responsibility only on one individual or a group of people without acknowledging that as your children we are each endowed with the capacity to transform at the very least our own selves first, is to deny our agency. A transformed individual can positively impact his/her family, neighborhood, community, city and ultimately the nation.
Ethiopia, may your children have the courage to awaken!
(Billene Seyoum is the Press Secretariat of the Office of the Prime Minister)