Wyclef for President
Or maybe not. His recent decision to run for his native Haiti’s highest office was shut down by Haitian authorities. But it makes us wonder: Is a celebrity like Wyclef Jean equipped to lead a nation? Wyclef Jean is still trying to run for president of Haiti and it’s probably a bad idea. Despite confirmation that the Port-au-Prince born, Brooklyn-raised musician is ineligible, Jean remains optimistic he can appeal the decision and re-enter the election. Last week, Haiti’s Electoral Council officially removed Jean, as well as 14 others, from the list of candidates. Ravaged by a deadly earthquake and still deeply embroiled in the internal dissension born of years of political unrest, Haiti remains the poorest and least developed country in the Western hemisphere. For people of faith called to care for “the least of these,” the outcome of the November 28 election is important. Haiti needs a strong leader who can guide the country out of the muck and mire and into the process of rebuilding a nation. It remains to be seen whether or not that leader is Wyclef Jean. Since the artist first announced his candidacy, many have dismissed Jean for his lack of political experience, alleged mishandling of nearly $400,000 in funds donated to his Yele Haiti foundation, and his virtual absence in Haiti since January’s deadly earthquake. Most notably actor Sean Penn and former Fugee Pras Michel have openly shared their skepticism concerning his ability to run the fledgling country. And though there is sufficient reason to think Wyclef Jean may not be the next great president of Haiti, Christians should be careful of the kind of metrics they use to assess their political leaders. According to Lisa Sharon Harper, executive director of the New York Faith & Justice organization and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican … or Democrat, a sense of calling and character should be the primary benchmarks of one’s fitness to lead. A presidency isn’t just a professional milestone or an arc in someone’s career, she cautions. “[Haiti needs] someone for whom words really mean something. An honest candidate isn’t trying to just tickle someone’s ears.” In addition to integrity, says Harper, a candidate must have a deep commitment to meekness. It’s a trait she defines as “controlled power,” and a quality, she quips, the previous U.S. administration lacked. “The president must be someone who prefers humility over the exercise of power. Scripture says the meek will inherit the earth.” Judging by the solutions some candidates are positing to rebuild Haiti, it won’t be long before the president-elect will need to know how and when to exercise power. As a means of recovery, many have identified multinational corporations as the saving grace to help rebuild Haiti’s infrastructure. There is danger in this type of support and a very real threat of further incapacitating the country, Harper warns. “A corporation can be a blessing and a cursing on a nation. If the land itself is owned by a corporation, that means the people on that land are also owned by it, and the laws of the corporation become the laws of the land. They have to be wary of that kind of contract, where the country is owned very literally by a corporation.” Understanding the nuances of this type of international diplomacy and the new role Haiti will play in our global economy will be key, and that important fact would likely be lost on an inexperienced candidate. Jean, the son of a Nazarene pastor and nephew of a Haitian diplomat, will need to prove that the worldliness he’s gained from his artistic career has equipped him for this type of work. But whether or not Wyclef is capable to lead will be a moot point if we cannot determine whether or not he is eligible. Last Sunday he tweeted, “Tomorrow our Lawyers are appealing the decision of the CEP. We have met all the requirements set by the laws. And the law must be Respected.” It’s unknown exactly why Jean’s bid was rejected, though it’s likely due to his failure to meet residency requirements. In Haiti, a candidate must live in the country for five consecutive years prior to the election. According to a spokesman for the electoral board, the decision was unanimous. Photo of Wyclef Jean by Ali Dan-Bouzoua from Wikipedia.