Up in the Air

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So I’m up in the air again, I’ve been traveling rather a lot lately, which gives ample time for thought and reflection. And today I am thinking about the elections in Kenya. I’m also thinking about my baby Sunday Live, a show I envisioned for a long time and finally got the chance to create with the amazing and dynamic team at Citizen TV four years ago.

I wanted to do something different. Sunday Live was different. We had just come out of the post election violence of 2008 and I, like many Kenyans, was traumatized. But perhaps my trauma was, well,  different. As part of the media fraternity I felt a great sense of responsibility towards the country. We had urged people to take their vote seriously and exercise it.

Through civic education we taught them that our rights are important…

Well, the vote became as serious as life or death, and haki yetu became a clarion call for violating the rights of others.

I started a process of self analysis and asked myself a lot of questions about the role of the media. I asked myself about my role, my responsibility, my legacy. I embarked on my journey in studying leadership and society with the Africa Leadership Initiative, and was haunted by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where an enlightened individual returns to his original condition to enlighten those who were left behind but as a result suffers a tragic fate at the hands of those he sought to ‘save’.

Indeed as one becomes enlightened they have a responsibility and an innate need to enlighten others, however if a society is not ready for knowledge, they will sacrifice the messenger. It has happened time and time again – the Mahatma, Martin Luther King Jr and the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace Jesus Christ all met with this fate.

So what do you do? Do you communicate the message anyway? How do you communicate it? At this critical point in 2009 I had the opportunity to conceptualize Fist to Five for Change, a talk show focused on reconciliation, and this show taught me some serious lessons about being a change agent for the good society. The most powerful of those lessons was this…

I may believe my truth and my perspective is an absolute truth, however everyone has a truth they believe in -  and to each of us that truth is absolute. In a multicultural society, that makes for many, many different ‘absolute truths’. It is only in a civil, respectful and dignified exchange of ideas that one can truly hear and understand the others’ truth and respond to it accordingly.

Sadly, in Kenya, what we have been doing is trying to see who can shout the loudest. We embrace the notion that he who shouts the loudest is the one who stands with the truth. What is the result of that? Extreme voices tend to speak out and get louder and more extreme while moderates who are calm and tempered keep silent, or are silenced. The media then picks up on extreme voices and creates the false impression that we are all extreme.

The wellbeing of the moderate majority is caught in the grips of the extreme minority – frightened and unsure of how to respond. All can be lost so easily.

Therefore even as the political mood and discourse in the country gets increasingly heated, we must strive to keep the waters calm as opposed to stoking the flame.

To illustrate this point just look at all the heat surrounding the issue of polls… And if you don’t believe in polls just gather a roomful of diverse Kenyans together and try to get them to agree on a candidate. In most instances individuals will have a varied opinions, and they are entitled to them. That is why we vote. We accept that we all have a view, as an adult citizen we are entitled to choose our leaders based on our views – the leader selected by the majority will win. So back to the roomful of Kenyans, when the debate starts on the candidates those with extreme positions will get loud, louder, and more obstinate, possibly even abusive.

The moderates will talk less and less, eventually their voices will not even be heard. If this happens to Kenya, we will all be up in the air…

And so, even as there is no doubt that Kenyans will have different views and opinions, millions in fact – that is fine. You are entitled to your truth and the ultimate decision you make based on your information and your value systems and will inform your vote at the poll. If you choose to vote at all… And that too is your prerogative.

If we seek a dignified society, we must embody that dignity and grant the same to others. Au sio?

God bless you and God bless Kenya.

Afro-optimist * Wife * Mother * Child of God TV Host * Writer * Producer * Entrepreneur * Philanthropist

53 Comments on "Up in the Air"

  1. Nginda says:

    It’s so loud Inside my head
    With words that I should have said!
    As I drown in my regrets
    I can’t take back the words I never said
    I can’t take back the words I never said

  2. @KahigaStone says:

    Good Job Jules. God Bless You.

  3. Such an inspiration INDEED! Your Peace Journalism is amazing, and a blessing to a peace building proffessional like me….keep it up!

  4. raphael says:

    i do smtyms wonder whether God could have ever created a JULIE that is any better than you are- your words are so strong and powerful!

    A woman who not only loves all that she does… but also does them perfectly.

    You have proved to be the most powerful woman so far in Citizen (though this doesnt mean that others r not powerful)- your Sunday LIVE is not only live but also LOVELY-

    Who else can manage to do what you do in interviews?? Maybe he/she has not yet come to Citizen!

    Julie – you are an AUTHORITY in whatever you do. You portray what they ussually call – the STRENGTH OF A WOMAN.

  5. Terrylynn Wawy says:

    Hi Julie,

    First i would like to commend you for your neutral stand in politics and care for Kenyans and their welfare. I have read the article and just to comment on the Media responsibility towards peace stability in this country and especially on political grounds.

    On my view, media should be careful on what they bring on air for people to see, instead of dwelling so much on the politicians, i think the media should embark on civic education to inform and educate Kenyans on the need to elect leaders and not on ethnic grounds but on a person ability to lead.

    I feel and i have always felt that the entire media fraternity should organize civil education programs which should run at the same time (esp in the evening)in all stations (vernacular stations, Tv stations and other radio stations) this time when we need them the most.

    Why cant the media do this for us, they instead inform us of who politician went where, said what, who has many followers bla bla bla….) this is not want we want to see. The media need to take responsibility of being civil educators and since everybody listens to them, then they are the best media of communication to Kenyans.

    I wish to see you Julie introduce a programme for example ‘ Qualities of a good leader’ or ‘The leader’ or ‘I need a leader not an opportunist’, dwelling on what Kenyans should be looking for as they elect our leaders next election. I hope the media will play its role well in the coming elections.

    Thank you Julie, you are a woman of impact. Hope to meet you one day and get to talk to you face to face, you inspire me and i admire you greatly. God bless you.

    Thank you.

    Terrylynn
    from Nairobi

    • Thank you so much for this analysis. I do hope we get to meet. Thanks again and bless you!

      • Jacky says:

        Julie why is Royal Media Trying to sell bad policies to Kenyans, I guess you people should try and ensure that peace prevails. was ashamed to see cooked infotrak results being presented in the studios and you all knows the truth, but at last you admitted the data had a problem. THese infotrak and rest will cause bad things here. support whoever you needs it is everyones right but save our humble and poor souls from blood WE CANT AFFORD TO REPEAT 2007 DUE TO PERSONAL INTERESTS.

  6. Hillary Bett says:

    Despite the fact that we have diverse views,opinions,ideas,personalities and beliefs by first accepting this fact we learn to tolerate others whether they are silent or loudest,radicalist or conservatives and at this stage of history we become united in our diversity.

  7. Nathan says:

    Julie you just inspire us. Keep up the good job. Kenya is me and you.

  8. I always watch your show Julie and it’s a never miss. What you are doing is amazing for Kenya and I hope you can feature more of the Mkenya Daima campaign and the iBelieve.co.ke because these two campaigns are helping us heal, prepare the country for the next general elections and be proudly Kenyan.Coca-Cola’s Billion Reasons Campaign also has similar objectives.
    We have the power to change this country because by just using our voter’s card we can send home a few non-perfomers from the government. With the new constitution and the reforms in the judiciary corruption will soon decline.
    God bless you Julie.

  9. Wambui says:

    Julie,

    You are an inspiration to many of us young Kenyans who desire change but sometimes are lost at what to do. And to the enormous middle-income group who often look helpless as things go to the dogs. That we all can, in our own way; in our professions; in our families; in our places of worship; cause positive change is so true. Keep doing what you do and be blessed!

  10. Kojo says:

    Julie,
    Thanks for such an insightful read.It has been long overdue I must admit.
    Whatever is you talked about is the truth,the ultimate truth that many are uncomfortable with,but will never escape from.
    Desmond Tutu asked you a question “Why can’t we?” and its the same question Kenyans from all diverse regions should ask themselves .
    Why can’t we live in the unity?
    Why can’t we always be the light even in times of darkness?
    Why can’t as for once go back to the lines of our national anthem and ask ourselves if we have betrayed it?
    But thank for coming out and speaking it loud even when others think its not worth.
    Its people with your courage and vision that will give us back our country.

  11. Lynne Farrah says:

    I will never forget the real anguish in your voice during the PEV and I appreciate all the efforts you have taken and continue to take to ensure that we never make the same mistakes….kudos hon!!!! God bless you abundantly!

  12. meshach says:

    Hi julie, Am lost in word coz ur a wonderful woman.Thank u.

  13. Reesy says:

    Julie, there you go again!!! as always,your words have power! you are my role model

  14. Audrey says:

    Hi Julie
    I have a question that’s totally unrelated to this post. I’d really appreciate if you would answer me. I want to be a journalist. But I’m in law school. The dilemma is that I am in 2nd yr and if I quit law school I would have to start over. My parents also wouldnt let me. What would you do?

    • Hi Audrey, please do not even think of quitting Law. I studied Law and then did an MBA with a focus on International Business and World Trade Law… I believe that the skills I acquired from LLB Law have been far more invaluable than any communications degree I could have done. You can certainly get a law degree and opt to be a journalist, you might even find it gives you an advantage over others because you have specialized. Blessings!

  15. Odipo Otieno says:

    Awesomely Inspiring. Keep up the good work. GOD BLESS.

  16. wanja says:

    Thanks Julie for this article. Keep them coming. We should strive to maintain unity and do what it takes to live in a united Community/Kenya. We should seriously be Kenyans

  17. Peter Kojo says:

    Thanks for such inspiring thoughts. So morally thoughtful without being verbally forceful. I have to admit it’s difficult to comprehend what this election will bring us citizens. There’s a flood of possibilities but we just have to pray that this come 2013, we won’t be struggling to emerge again from the another pogrom.
    Sometimes one cannot help but feel that Kenyans and Africans at large are never really ready for freedom or democracy. They want it with their mouths but thrash it with their actions. In the end they suffer but never learn. So they repeat the same mistake and suffer more. There will always be someone trying to make a difference (like you and your shows) but that person has to overcome layers of historical challenges. Talk of illiteracy, ignorance, endemic poverty, diseases, horrible leadership, corruption among others. With all these problems encumbering the average Kenyan, trying to access their sense and reason is like accessing the first layer of an onion. You will have to do a lot of peeling layers of negative ethnicity, historical stereotypes, ignorance and so many others. And in the process you will shed a tear or two (you know how onions are).
    But we cannot afford to give up because of the loud extreme minority. After Fist to five and Sunday Live we continue. This is our ONLY country after all. It does not just behove you alone but all Kenyans. We must get engaged in our politics, especially women. Despite the fact that they are the most affected by politics, they continue to disengage themselves. They seldom watch political programs and would rarely participate in a by-election to elect a local councilor. They rather watch soaps than watch fist to five, agenda Kenya or any other political show. The young women write on their facebook profiles that they careless about politics. Yet politics is everything. There are politics of the workplace, politics of the bedroom, business politics, family politics e.t.c politics is inextricably intertwined with our lifestyle.
    That is why Julie among other plans you must urge young women to care about politics because it affects them so much. It dictates the price of that wedding gown they all want to wear, politics dictates the price of food and where you can build that dream home. I admire what you do very much and i always try to do my bit. we must encourage all other Kenyans to do their bit. You talk of a legacy. My definition of a legacy would be if i did something that had a great impact in someone’s life. That to me is legacy enough. The more people i impact the better. You can imagine if we all did something that had a positive impact in someone’s life. Those would be many legacies and the sum of the impacts would cause a great change in humanity. The people we impact must always not be family, friends and neighbors but anyone.
    I get carried away but i appreciate what you do so much and wish you the best. If we can get several Julies everyday then we would ALL move this country to the Canaan we all dream of.

    Keep that spirit!

  18. One very sure thing is that your SOFT voice of moderation and sombreity has been dispersed in a field full of LOUD noises! Just look at the media today, the headlines, the breaking news, the bulk of the news is all political noise! Sometimes i just wonder why we even try to be democratic and civilized….it ends up in the gallows! Washed away by idiotic, narrow-minded stands we take to back our celebrated brothers in the August house! We always forget and forgive where we shouldn’t! We fall back the same murky paddles we failed to cover up when we barely survived out of!
    It’s like an undying wound, drying slightly and coming live sooner afterwards! I have doom prophecy, but i also dread foolish faith! Kenya needs more Julie’s, More sombre voices, more individuals seeing beyond a fat salary and big overlapping high riders!
    We need to “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery” that only big bellies can fit the parliament doors!
    We need to believe in bouncing, well fed, fully covered children at the furthest end of this motherland. We need to believe in ourselves, me and you…..but far more important, we need to see us, Kenyans, as one people with one goal! Building a better, more habitable and more embraceable Kenya. We need to SCREAM ABOVE these noises, Soar our believes UP IN THE AIR!

  19. Robert Kariuki says:

    Am inspired. I choose to respect the other person and to accept the fact that my truth and perspective are not superior to those of another. Thanks

  20. Kojo says:

    so the underlying issue here is the media.Its true that we have media houses which are not reporting at interests of the citizenry,instead they are pawns for the politicians.
    The rot has eaten into even the most respected journalists,who are now using their experience to advance the goals of their masters.What this all breeds is a very misinformed population.
    The freedom and impartiality of the media houses can never be guaranteed when 80% of them are owned by politicians.

  21. George Gitonga says:

    Thanx Julie. U r really a gift from God to our beloved country! There’s a lot of work to b done but thank God u’ve started. Keep it up. God abundantly bless u. Keep those musings coming. Beta still add me into ur email mailing list plse.

  22. fredrick obwanda says:

    ..wow, great article…julie has been at it for a while now..doing something,question is,what are we doing?

  23. If we all read this article with an open mind, there’s much that can happen to us that we will decide to choose wisely come election time. We may all have our rightful ‘absolute’ leaders, but the majority of those who choose their ONE should be allowed their fteedom of choice in the end by the minority whose leader never won. Democracy will only reign the day when we as Kenyans will willingly accept a chosen leader (if no fraudlance was involved, and thereof minus violence) and choose to work with the other reigning ‘absolutes’ to better our nation. It should not be autocratic but rather unifying and inclusive. Anyway, that was a nice writing. Keep up the good work.

  24. c says:

    one word, splendid

  25. Haven says:

    Enlightment works well with Inspiration but how many inspire.
    You’re an inspiration.

  26. Qnet Life says:

    I am very proud of you Julie, keep up the good work of inspiring Kenyans to unity and peace!

  27. Ngotho Ndung'u says:

    Thanks Julie for that amaizing piece .Watching you every Sunday on Sunday Live with the memories of Fist To Five and your undisputable passion for conflict sensitive journalism,partriotism and social conscience leaves me greatly impressed and motivated .
    You are one of your own kind ,a master piece and we love and appreciate consuming what you are doing for the betterment of this nation .The Kenya we want will not be achieved by “siasa ya pesa nane” and ignorance .It will take the Julies and Ngothos and Awinos; young and old to transform the Kenya we have and make those potential dreams and aspirations in a paper called vision 2030 a reality . It does not matter whether we are only doing small things but atleast we do something with the interests of the nation at heart and do it to the best of our ability .I thank God that am a media student which provides me a wider avenue to carry on the mantle ,given a chance .
    God bless you !

  28. Moxley says:

    Hi Jullie, you such an amazing woman (100% Real).

  29. munene wa munene says:

    wow. you write from the heart, very noble . great choice of words.very neutral. you are a great inspiration to many of us up and coming journalist. God bless you God bless Kenya

  30. The tragedy in our country is that the proverbial tale of lions and foxes well fits what can be used to define us;classes. Members in each group try to exert dominance over the others and ultimately the other aggregates. That aside. Peaceful coexistence and harmony do not happen without a cost. And that painstakingly is the shedding more our percieved truths,beliefs and perceptions while accommodating others’ for a better society. If we are not ready to surrender some of our world views to give room to those of others,integration will forever remain a far-away cry.

  31. You can be certain about just one thing. That Sunday Live has always rocked! I want to believe that you did not have extra dreams about the program beyond what it has achieved since to me,it has bagged all there is to bag. It is exlusive,exhaustive,in-depth,satisfying. Your performance can be summarised in one word:stellar! Congratulations Julie! We students of media have much to emulate and learn from you. You surely has hit great heights!

  32. christine says:

    Thanks for the insight.
    The media is the 4th arm of the gov, and can sure make a change in how people think, and act.
    I see documentaries every day on HIV, ALCOHOL e.t.c why cant we have your journalist piecing up together acchievements and downfalls of these politicians and give an insight to the people of kenya.I love watching cheche coz uduak and mutegi grills them completely.
    Growing up in the east side of Nairobi, i dint know the difference between kamau, mutua, onyango, cheptoo e.t.c. i only knew that we were kids with a common intrest-having fun as kids and playing till we were exhausted.we wouild play kalongo where obiri was the father and njeri was the mother and nobody so any big deal.
    Growing up we have seen the hatred in our home with politicians being the parents.unless we are educated that kenya is our home and charity will always begin at home, then we will never live like brothers and sisters.

    My suggestion, media especially TV, stop airing so many entertainment programs ,air the ones that can educate even the househelps at home know how to make informed decisions.Use programs like mwala, tahidi high etc to sensitize pple on the elections.
    Also there r so many outdoor adverts e.g royal media na safaricom,use these avenue to reach to these people because for real even me who is a little bit educated cant understand the different seats and their roles.if elections were to be held today 95% of kenyans would be blind folded.

    THE AVENUES THE MEDIA CAN USE ARE SOOOO MANY.
    This is just my thinking

  33. harrison odhiambo says:

    Please submit this to the local print media editors for consideration. you need to share it with many more kenyans who have no access to internet but can acquire a newspaper.

  34. John Nasaye says:

    The media holds a great capacity to not only report, but to also influence. Because millions of people tune in everyday, the media holds the greatest capacity with which Kenya can be influenced for the better. I believe that every media station should be required [by law or otherwise] to give a portion of their airtime towards programs that are solely aimed at educating and imparting the right values. Rather than the fanatical pursuit of gaining viewership manifested in frantic [and sometimes] errant reporting, the media should be also have a social emphasis.

    I admire your work Julie, and my prayer is that there will be more journalists and TV personalities like yourself. Perhaps you can start to influence your peers in the industry through some kind of association. In the meantime, keep it up, even if you are he only one holding the torch. You will be surprised at the huge army of Kenyans behind you, relying on that seemingly little light.

    Bless you.

    God bless Kenya

  35. dr.jay says:

    I agree totally, but you mentioned something about the media having a some responsibility. You also mentioned something about the louder voices drowning the moderates & the silents.
    May i please ask why the media station you work in is in support of one political side. Am sure you know about this & there’s nothing you are doin. You preach peace yet your station is creating false perceptions that may trigger violence after march 4th. You started your baby sunday live meaning you hold some sought of position which can influence your higher authorities to shift from constructing a political war theatre yet all you do is post articles,tweet,read news without caring for the lives that will be taken after march 4th. Gud luck

  36. Very insighful. Thank you for the amazing job you’ve done so far,your contribution to making Kenya a better place is immense!

    Now if only you could join hands with other media houses and initiate civic education to especially guide Kenyans as they head towards elections and after. I guarantee you most of the population is in the dark concerning the role of the new elective posts-Senator,Governor etc. The media is a very powerful institution and very well placed to undertake this. Hope that you and other like minded individuals can make this a reality!

  37. grace senga says:

    one very important thing you have mentioned ”my truth may not be your truth and only in a situation where i get to hear yours and you hear my truth i will keep believing my truth is the same as wambui’s or anyango’s or abdi” hope Kenyans on social sites get to come across this article because in just a month from now the elections are with us and as the gubernatorial and other elective posts that were nominating their aspirants clearly it was not a pleasing sight my prayer is that this will not extend to the general elections and that we will uphold the lines in out national anthem of PEACE LOVE AND UNITY.
    God bless Kenya.

  38. Hellen says:

    You are a true definition of inspiration…May God truly bless you and May HE bless our beloved nation….Kenya…my home…my pride

  39. You are my hero Julie,I truly admire your patriotism towards our dear country..go on with the same spirit and you will save the future citizens like me who have truly lost hope in their country :-)

  40. Muhammad Sirlam says:

    Wow..What a breathtaking piece of article.?.Julie Gichuru you are one lady that this country needs so much,Keep the flame burning your are truly inspirational..Keep it up.

  41. Benjamin Mwatoo says:

    Thanks Julie,
    You are the Ann of today and God as placed u where you are at such a time for a reason,u have been very inspiring and non partial trying to bring a voice of reason to millions of Kenyans and world at large,we are at cross road and although we have travelled this road for long enough we seems to learn less.a time has come when we should see ourself as kenyans and refuse to devided by politicians on tribal lines.infact media should censure such politicians and never cover them so that they are forgotten for we cant allow ourselves to drift to where we were in 2008.
    Peace, peace is all what we are asking for.

    Regards
    Benjamin

  42. Jay says:

    Good piece right there gal. GBU!

  43. Rones. says:

    Indeed Julie this insight is worth of its time to pause and ask oneself of ma responsibility.Thanks for the antidote,someday i thought and asked if you take a chance to declare your candidature how will be response? i have been a good follower of your program-mes and i envy how you articulate issues.Greater are your heights-Hero in the making.
    We know that Kenya thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is a Kenyan, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. Good job Julie

  44. Kevin elimlim says:

    Hae julie gichuru…am kevin frm kakamega… Ive been following your great and inspirational stories.. And l must say, Continue with the same spirit! U really inspire so much and l wud like to ask u a question… I need your advice bcoz am so confused but l wud rather not ask you here… Pliz l wud like to communicate with u through mail… GUDBYE AND LORD,S PROTECTION

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