The Hill and the City – Creating GH Readers


The Hill and the City – Creating GH Readers

Speech delivered at Reading Spots Conference

Techiman, Ghana

10 August 2018


The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after an era of darkness new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead. ~ Clarence Day


In this era of information explosion, it is a real tragedy if the Scripture ‘…my people perish for lack of knowledge’ should apply to anyone. My friend Geoff Anno asserts that ‘If six months from now, you do not know twice what you know now, you will be left behind.’ And I agree with him. There are a great many people today who stopped learning the moment they finished ‘school’: University, Polytechnic, secondary School, vocational school, et cetera. They just stopped learning.

Learning is acquiring knowledge or developing the ability to perform new behaviours. It is common to think of learning as something that takes place in school, but much of human learning occurs outside the classroom, and people continue to learn throughout their lives. The best and longest lasting school is the school of life, the Self-Tuition school.

Continuous learning, sadly, has ceased to be a national character. Knowledge is power, it is said, and this power must be searched for daily, a truly continuous process.

There are four common methods of learning continuously, as follows: by experience, by observation, by listening and by reading.

Today, we want to talk about reading. How do we build citizens who learn continuously, through reading? How do we ensure that the wisdom in the hills of knowledge around us trickles to the city? How do we create a reading nation, knowing that a reading nation is a thinking nation and a thinking nation will evolve into one with citizens who are forward-looking, not mediocre, anchored to the rock yet geared to the times, not gullible?

The great men of our world have been readers; they have been learners. Jesus read, and it showed in His sermons. Paul was well read. Nkrumah read. Martin Luther King Jnr read. Abraham Lincoln didn’t have what you would call a formal education, but he taught himself through reading. He actually studied law books he found at the base of items he had bought at an auction, and he became a great and effective lawyer and President of the United States of America. Lincoln talked of his love of books: ‘The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.’ One of the all-time great Presidents of America, Theodore Roosevelt, read. He was reported to have died with a book under his pillow.

In February 2016, my business partner and friend Kofi Akpabli and I treated an audience to a book reading event at the SyTris Bookshop near the A&C Mall. The event was organised by Writers’ Project of Ghana. As I entered the venue with my family, my children exclaimed, “Wow! So many books to choose from, we don’t know which one to choose!” Each of them picked books, with Nana Kwame picking a condensed edition of a book series he had been borrowing from his friend next door.

They set me back by some good Ghana cedis when we left after the event, but my heart was warm, knowing that my wife and I had succeeded in making our children excited about books and reading. So how did we get onto this path of making readers out of my children? I said ‘path’, because I don’t consider that my wife and I have reached yet – it is a journey.

The answer to that question, for me, goes way back to my upbringing, to Kotobabi. Maybe, even before that. Even before I was born.

My father was educated only to Middle School Leaving Certificate Level. My mum just about the same.

But both of them were great believers in the power of education. In my mum’s tribute at my dad’s funeral in 2006, she recalled that my father always insisted that his kids were his houses. On many occasions, he told us that education is everything, and sought to encourage us to go the farthest in our pursuit of knowledge. He said that if he had used the money he spent on our education on houses, he would have had many houses!! My dad taught himself further after school, in the Army and through books. He read a lot and passed on his love of books to me as well. Anytime I went to visit him in the village, I was certain to send magazines (Time magazine, BBC Focus on Africa) to him. At the time of his funeral, I still had the order form I had filled to subscribe BBC Focus on Africa magazine for him. In the village, he subscribed to the Daily Graphic, Mirror and Graphic Sports. And he had lots of books that I devoured.

My parents read. My father nurtured in me the love of magazines, newspapers and books. I got from him the practice of walking to buy The Mirror every weekend and we would spend time reading it together. I caught him reading and caught the bug while at that. When my mum visits us today in Tema, I walk into her room to greet her every morning and to ask how she is doing. I always find her reading her Bible. My parents taught me to read and inspired in me the desire to be more learned than they ever were. I caught the reading bug from my parents. And from my teachers such as Mr Edem, who we call Brother. Today, this man still buys books from my bookstore Right from Aflao, so I dispatch to him by bus. The man is still influencing me over 30 years since I left his hands.

Today, you complain that Ghanaians don’t read. Are you reading yourself? Do your children catch you reading? When was the last time you read any book apart from the Bible you read weekly in church or daily during your devotion?

Today, how many children see their parents reading anything apart from their text messages, WhatsApp and Facebook messages? How do we expect to raise reading children when parents don’t read?

So In 2015, Kofi Akpabli and I came together and gave ourselves two targets: do regular (preferably quarterly) public book readings and extend the reading sessions beyond Accra.  Our first collaboration, however, was in 2011 when we had a joint book signing event at Sytris Bookshop, Osu, Accra. Our first public reading was in January 2015 when we read at a venue called Totally Youth, owned by the late Eva Lokko, which she gave out for free for such events. We read from 10 am till 5pm and had about 4 reading sessions – hence the name ReadAThon: A Reading Marathon. So far, we have done multiple readings in Accra and Tema, and gone to Ho, Tarkwa, Takoradi and Kumasi with the Readathon. Last year, we were in Lagos, Nigeria and Monrovia, Liberia.

With eleven (11) books between us including popular titles Tickling the Ghanaian, I Speak of Ghana, Romancing Ghanaland and Sebitically Speaking, we set on this mission to make reading hip again, and to take writing and reading to the level of pop culture.  Elsewhere, public readings and book signing are top-notch events that receive distinguished patronage. As society is pushing for the consumption of made-in-Ghana goods, we believe that we should not forget about made-in-Ghana books. It is our belief that this is a great vehicle of change, to help to literally fuel the literary drive across Ghana.

Our main focus: to make reading for pleasure hip again. Not only for the classroom.

So how do we get Ghana reading again? This has been a question on our minds as we continue our reading mission. I have asked this question a few times on my Facebook wall over the years and as I prepared for this conference, I asked again. A number of friends, some parents, shared their thoughts and I will be sharing some with you during the rest of this speech.

The question before us is simply this:

What are some of the ways and means we can use to get Ghana reading again?

I formed a Whatsapp group of parents who want to get their kids reading and we share ideas on there on this topic. Solely that, with strict rules about what to post and what not to post. Not your regular GH Whatsapp group where recycling is the rule. And we borrow books amongst ourselves, mostly for the children. On the bus to Techiman yesterday, one of our members – Abubakari Halidu, National Sales Director of AirtelTigo – shared a picture with these captions:

They asked her: “How did you persuade your child to read instead of playing with smart devices?”

 She said: “Children don’t hear us, they imitate us.”

But first of all, let me state it unequivocally. As a parent – Get caught reading! Children do what we do and not necessarily what we say.

What legacy of knowledge acquisition are we leaving our children? Cicero noted that ‘To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.’ I read somewhere that you can gauge how much a man loves knowledge by comparing the size of his library to the size of his television!

Over ten years ago, I saw a documentary on North Korea, which emphasised the life and role of the former Korean President, referred to as the ‘Great Leader’. One instruction the Great Leader gave to his country struck me, to wit: “A child should always have a book in his hands. He must read always. He should never be without a book, not even for a single day.” I agree with him.

We must get books into the hands of children. Start them early. Don’t be agree if they play with them and destroy them in the process – I have lots of books at home without their covers! With my children, I always had books around them. Of course, they saw us reading. Fortunately, they saw me writing too. And lately, as a bookseller, they see me selling books and they have greater choice! Downside being that they eat into my profits! During marriage counselling before marriage, our counsellors told us that we should always speak to them as adults, even when they were babies and not to use baby language, because children are smarter than we think. We took that to heart as parents. I took them to book launches and book readings. I took them to bookshops. Each time I travelled, I brought them books instead of sweets and candy and chocolate. These days, when I travel, they actually call me to remind me to bring them books. Airport bookshops always see me, and that is where I spend my per diem. We have enrolled them in a community library.

That has been my experience so far. Permit me to share with you now the thoughts of my friends on Facebook as they contributed to the question I posed. You will find that a number of them touched on what ReadingSpots is doing already – you are already contributing to the mission to get Ghana reading again!

Korklu Laryea, my big sister and friend, a librarian in Tarkwa actually called me and said: “Nana, tell them to start them early. Parents should read. They should read to the kids. They should not fight the technology (or challenge) that mobile phones and tablets bring. I download word games on my tablets and my nephews and nieces play with them, and learn more words. Parents should start reading to the children early.”

Kwame Owusu Nimako: Get them young. My first books at 6 years old turned me into a reader.

Efua Akwa-Yeboah: Charity begins at home. Parents investing in books…School libraries stocking relevant books. Local libraries…NGOs…local government involvement (Hello, ReadingSpots!)

Jennifer Nimako Boateng: Get them to develop an interest in reading from young age.

Emmanuel Asakinaba: For the teens who are yet to develop the habit, start with short colourful stories written in simple, not-too-literary language. We run a project in the Kassena-Nankana West District in the Upper East Region. We make available copies of the Junior Graphic and encourage them to read the short stories…We have seen considerable improvement in reading habits.

John Schaidler: Nana, I would love to discuss this further with you. Research suggests that one of the biggest factors that gets kids reading is choice. More books, more choice, more kids reading. Of course, great books that kids love make it easier, too. I also agree with Emmanuel above. Short, colorful, simple–engaging. As the saying goes, there are no reluctant readers, just kids that haven’t yet found the right books.

James Anquandah: We must establish community reading clubs in as many communities as possible (hello, ReadingSpots!), involve parents in these activities, encourage the production of more localized content to stock our libraries, schools and homes and make reading an activity and fun-based thing. If they enjoy the fun that comes with it, they will want to read more. If children have access to reading materials at home, in school and the library, we are assured that that generation will kickstart a reading revolution

Nana Esi Oppong-Boateng: Establishing community libraries.

Francis Appiah Acquaye: FreeBooks. I asked Francis, “Who pays for the production of the free books? Or the supply?” He responded by saying that “Government pays for production and pays for the supply.”

In response to Francis, James Anquandah wrote: Free books won’t solve the problem. Rather, let government commission local writers to produce content to stock all libraries. In this case, others get to read the same book and you promote a sort of communal reading culture. If you give them out, readers will stock them at home after reading when others may be disadvantaged. No writer, by the way, is willing to go through the tedious publishing process for free.

My comment on this was to refer to what the Canadian NGO CODE had done in Liberia where they commissioned local writers to write children’s books and distribute to schools.

Solomon Ofori-Atta: Start from the grass root…the children.

Jude Nii Otu Anim: Book Clubs!

Prince Alec Douglas Gaisie: When I was kid my father used to punish to go to my room and read and come out the next day. I was thinking he was punishing but by the I reached PRESEC form 1, I could read about three story books a day in addition to my learning. We must develop and motivate the children with different rewarding systems and they would catch up and they would never forget. We were having bed time story books.

Akosua Aboagyewaa Asiedu: We can do so by encouraging reading among the kids in preschools, by creating reading clubs (not those clubs that call themselves reading clubs but do everything else apart from reading) give the kids reading assignments which will in turn force the parents to help their kids to read(by so doing get themselves reading) and then give the deserving kids appropriate rewards so it becomes exciting. Starting with the kids can help.

Archibald Dadzie: It all down to parents to encourage their kids to develop the habit of reading. Read bedtime stories to your kids from birth and they will love story telling which will encourage them to read more. My son at age 10 read two books per week. Regulate the use of smart phones and tablets for playing games by kids and encourage them to read hard copies of story books

Pearl N Afua Acheampong: Organising periodic reading sessions at public spaces. Allowing young people share their stories and helping them refine their art. I would gladly be a volunteer.

Korklu Laryea: Parents reading to their children even before they start school makes a huge difference. A reading parent raises a reading family, I believe.

In response to Korklu, Ama Ewusiwaa wrote: Very true, did same with my daughter.

Great inputs, don’t you think? Not much to add except to say we must get serious with getting our public libraries operational and attractive. Many in my generation remember visiting public libraries as children. Many in our children’s generation haven’t been to any public library in their short lives. We have to remedy that. And quickly.

We are living in an era where everyone seems to have the urge, appetite and desire for fast things! Reading and appreciating what we read is fast becoming a practice of the past. And it is worrying. There is nothing that satisfies like a good book!

Allow me to end with this quote from Sir John Herschel: “Were I to pray for a taste which should stand me in good stead under every variety of circumstances and be a source of happiness and a cheerfulness to me during life and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading.”

May we all be committed to building a Reading Ghana. Ghana must read again. And here, I salute what you are doing in Reading Spots and I wish you greater success! A special salute to the co-founders Cat Davison and Francis Yeboah – you guys have inspired me so much!

Let’s get caught reading and get our children reading. Ghana must read again. Ghana will read again. And we shall have the city coming to the wisdom hill, each with his or her container. For knowledge is free at the hill. Just bring your container.

Nana Awere Damoah


Schooled, Educated or Learned?

Speech delivered at Mini Explo, Joyful Way Incorporated Phase 2, Cape Coast

Venue: Wesley Girls High Schools

A few weeks ago, I was going to a meeting early in the morning at Ofankor, near Pokuase in Accra. I boarded a trotro from my house at Lashibi and alighted at T-Junction, near Trade Fair. When I am going to Labone or Cantonments areas, that is what I usually do, and from there I pick an Uber to my final destination. On this particular day, I reasoned that there would be traffic on the way to Achimota Mall, where I was to meet my business partner and my regular book designer who was to meet me there with a dummy of a new book we are working on, titled Highlife Time 3. With traffic, I envisaged that the surge at that time of the day would take my final Uber cost up through the roof. So, I did something different. I opened my Uber app, indicated my pickup location and destination, got the estimated fare and hailed a regular taxi, negotiating like a boss. I got about GHS 5 savings on the estimated Uber fare, and also, with the regular taxi, without any associated surge increases.

There are many people who like to argue that what they learn in school is not relevant for the real world out there. Such people say that because they don’t know the power of application. We go to school to learn how to learn. And learning is a lifelong process.

At about the age of ten, my Dad gave his first prophecy about my future career: his son will be an Electrical Engineer. He gave the prediction after observing me move a light fly with a piece of wire! When I was ready to enter the Secondary school, he changed his mind with the aid of my teacher: a Medical Doctor I will be. My headmistress insisted I studied Biology in sixth form due to excellent grade in Biology. I read Mathematics. I wanted to study Computer Science in the University; my Mathematics tutor changed that! Finally, I decided on a course that could give me the opportunity to satisfy all these myriad desires, prophecies and talents, which could challenge me, and open doors to a thousand careers. So I studied Chemical Engineering – at both bachelor and master’s levels.

I love Chemical Engineering. One of my favourite courses was Thermodynamics, taught by the funky Dr George Afrane. Thermodynamics is full of chemistry and calculations. One of the tools of problem solving I learnt during this cause is iteration, as part of optimisation. Iteration is defined as “repetition of a mathematical or computational procedure applied to the result of a previous application, typically as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem.” Iteration involves starting with what one has and then you improve the solution, by looping, by repetition, by trial and error, step by step to the enhancement of the solution.

What I had done with the Uber experience on my way to the Achimota Mall was pure iteration. A week later, I took it further when I downloaded the Taxify app and used it to compare the Uber rates. With these two sources of data, I was able to better negotiate with a regular taxi just last week when I went to Tema Community 7 from my home. I got three variables to choose from, to maximise my choices and to get the best use of my resources.

I had applied my learning from over 20 years ago.

The real world beckons, my dear brothers and sisters. You are a sum total of all the experiences you have had up to this day. How will you apply what you have learnt here? And will you be one seen as just schooled or one who has been educated? And will your education end once you leave school or you will be a continuously-learning person so you can move from being called educated to being referred to as learned?

One of my pastimes is watching old movies set in Ghana and these days you can get some of them on YouTube. Films like I Told You So, Heritage Africa. No one can miss movies by Kwaw Ansah in such an exercise. So a few years ago, I watched Love Brewed in an African Pot, Heritage Africa and Kukurantumi: Road to Accra again.

In Heritage Africa, the main character, who wanted to appear and act more British than the Queen, had changed his name Kwesi Atta Bosomefi to Quincy Arthur Bosomfield and had risen to become the District Commissioner of Accra in His Majesty’s Gold Coast. One aspect of the film stayed with me. His mother, played by the legendary Alexandria Duah, gave him a family heirloom which had been passed on from generation to generation, amongst the male heads of the family. It was believed to carry “the soul and pride” of the Abusua; his late uncle had been the previous custodian and now it was Kwesi Atta’s turn to hold it in safe custody, to be his source of strength and pride, to be held in trust and passed on to the next generation. As soon as his mum left, Kwesi took this family treasure to his office and showed it to his British boss, who expressed his admiration of the artifact. Kwesi asked his boss to keep it as a gift from him.

A few days later, Kwesi visited his mum in the village and the old lady’s first question to him was whether he was keeping the heirloom safe. When Kwesi told her he had given it out to his boss, the mum wailed loudly and exclaimed: “Ebei Kwesi Atta Bosomefi! Sukoo pii yi a ekɔɔ yɛ yi, ɛnsua nyansa kakra enfiri mu a?” meaning “after all your long years of schooling, did you not learn or gather any wisdom?” The film editor translated the question as “What happened to all the classroom education?”

In my holy village of Wasa Akropong, we say that there is a difference between home sense and school sense. Indeed, my Wofa Kapokyikyi would say that adwen nko, na nyansa nko, which literally means that not all who have brains have wisdom. It also means that knowledge must be applied with wisdom. For instance, a wise man knows when to open his mouth and when to close it, when to talk and when to hold back; wisdom is the right application of knowledge.

David was an applications person. He did horizontal application. When he was to face Goliath, King Saul asked him if he had fought such a battle before. You remember what he said? He referred to his time fighting the wild animals who came after his sheep when he was a shepherd. I Samuel 17:33-37 has the story:

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

On my way to Cape Coast yesterday, on the bus, I was reading an ebook titled ‘One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of’, written by Richard L. Brandt. You see, I am now a bookseller, among other things, having taken a break from over 16 years of working in factories, to build a few businesses based on my passion; so I am learning a lot from the life of Jeff Bezos. In the summer after high school, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and his friend decided to create a summer school to teach fifth graders for two weeks. They taught them ‘about fossil fuels and fission, interstellar travel and the prospect of space colonies, black holes and electric currents’ etc. The author of the book quotes the two young teachers as saying that ‘we don’t just teach them something; we ask them to apply it’.

Be like David, be like the kids that Jeff and his friend Uschi taught. Be people who apply what you are taught, not in a vertical way but horizontally. Not in the silos of the fields you were taught in, but lateral or horizontal applicators, across fields.

Be lifelong learners. Geoff Anno, a former Music & Productions Director of Joyful Way Incorporated, Ghana, said that ‘If six months from now, you do not know twice what you know now, you will be left behind.’ And I agree with him. The world and information is moving so fast that if you don’t keep abreast and updated, you will become ‘colo’. A waterbody that is not refreshed with fresh supply of water smells. There are a great many people today who stopped learning the moment they finished ‘school’: University, Polytechnic, secondary School, vocational school, et cetera. They just stopped learning. Don’t be like them. Continuous learning will make you a better and well-informed person each day. Continuous learning will improve your marketability each day, and make you more productive for your employer. Continuous learning will guarantee that six months from now, you will not be an ignoramus.

Learning is acquiring knowledge or developing the ability to perform new behaviours. It is common to think of learning as something that takes place in school, but much of human learning occurs outside the classroom, and people continue to learn throughout their lives. The best and longest lasting school is the school of life, the Self-Tuition school. Four common methods of learning continuously are: by experience, by observation, by listening and by reading.

There is a lot you can learn each day by observing those who are better in various fields than you are. Observe your boss as she conducts her day-to-day work, and learn. Observe your subordinates or juniors as they work and ask questions when you don’t understand anything. Anyone who is afraid or shy to ask questions never learns, never grows. There is a lot to learn from our experiences; every experience is an instruction, a chapter in our life, and you should continuously summarise key lessons from it. By listening, one can learn a lot. Listen to what people say, take notes of insights that come your way.

And when you have learnt, apply. Don’t be a sponge that only absorbs. Note that a sponge worthy of its name works. It scrubs. A soaked sponge should be put to work. So apply what you learn for it is by practice that one perfects. Remember my Uber example. Apply your knowledge to Ghana’s problems; it is in solving those problems that your education can be useful to the society. I read once that knowledge is not power; it is the right application of knowledge that is power. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many powerless knowledgeable people in this world.

And then learn again. And apply. And learn some more. To apply. Always focus on planning, doing, checking or reviewing, and then acting to finetune. And then starting the loop again. It is a powerful tool for continuous improvement introduced by a man called William Edwards Deming, whose support and expertise helped Japan become what it is today in world class manufacturing, after the second World War. It is PDCA, the Deming Cycle. Plan-Do-Check-Act. Did you realise I just applied a principle I learnt as a quality assurance professional laterally to life in general?

Today, what I do is far from what I learnt in school or even learnt in industry, working in corporate life. My activities now as a book publisher, bookseller, writer and author are quite different from my mainstream training as an engineer. Or are they? In some ways there are different, but that is only if you think in the silo mode. Because I see myself as an applied engineer, utilising my skills across these varied fields.

In 2005, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, gave a commencement speech at Stanford University. I wish to end with the concluding part of that speech, quoting verbatim:

“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

“Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s…On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’”

I wish to say same to you: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. That is the only way you can be on the path of continuous learning and application, iterating, optimising, creating solutions, making mistakes, learning, questioning, implementing, solving and making a mark on your society.

Then, we can say, in the end, that you are not just schooled or educated, but as a learned person, or more aptly a learning person, you are affecting lives.

God bless you.

Nana Awere Damoah

19 May 2018

Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast

27 January 2018

Speech delivered at Adonten SHS, Aburi
Joyful Way Incorporated Speaker Series/Outreach to schools

How many sing in the bathhouse?
How many of us won’t sing outside the bathhouse?
How many of us dream when we sleep?
How many of us forget what the dream was about as soon as we wake up?

(Raise up your hands please)

We all get ideas in the shower. Don’t you? Well, I do. Even without singing in my gravelly, guttural voice! But what differentiates successful people from the others, what sets apart those who make a difference on their generation from dreamers, what makes distinguished persons achievers, is that these people get out the shower, dry themselves and do something about the ideas.

Thomas Robert Gaines said “It is good to dream but it is better to dream and work. Faith is mighty but action with faith is mightier. Desiring is helpful, but work and desire are invincible.”

This same notion was articulated by John Hancook Field when he stated that “all worthwhile men have good thoughts, good ideas and good intentions – but precious few of them ever translate those into action.”

It is the translation of ideas, the deployment of strategy into action and the movement of blueprints from the drawing boards into the performance sphere that matters.

“An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise.” William dean Howells

William J.H. Boetaker asserted that “the individual activity of one man with a backbone will do more than a thousand men with a mere wishbone”.

A number of posters had been displayed at vantage points in the Tema factory of Unilever Ghana where I used to work. One caught my attention once, and engaged my thoughts:

“Small deeds done are better than great ideas planned.”

James Rusell Lowell captured the same truism when he said that “all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action”.

A former boss of mine, then the Supply Chain Director of Unilever Ghana, Stephane Achio, once remarked that we are generally excellent at mapping up extensive and elaborate action plans. Very meticulous, comprehensive and thorough, with all the fanciful timings and meeting all the specifications of SMART – Specific, Measurable, Agreed/Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

The problem is that most of these plans become what Andrew Ogutu, a trainer with Accenture years ago, dubs SPOTS: strategic plans on top shelves – left to accumulate dust, yielding no results.

I believe in baby steps. Our second son, Nana Yaw Appiah, commenced walking in September 2008, just before his first birthday. I was absent during the walking trials of his elder brother Nana Kwame, due to my peregrinations in 2007 so it was a personal delight to observe Nana Yaw’s walking development. Nana Yaw turned expert and confident over time. He evolved from crawling on his stomach, through crawling on all fours to holding onto objects to rise –enhancement, progress, improvement each day.

Brick-by-brick, step-by-step, taking the journey to the top one stair at a time. No one strides by moving both feet at the same time. I returned home one evening from work to meet a thrilled house – Nana Yaw had taken four to five steps without holding onto any object! A month later now, he was even able to walk backwards, dancing in the process!

See, the baby is not afraid that someone will say he/she is taking baby steps and not walking in the right way. The baby is not bothered.

Don’t wait to become an expert before you attempt converting your thought into action, for as Art Buck said “though good may come of practice, this primal truth endures: the first time anything is done, it is done by amateurs”.

However, it is significant to clarify that I am not advocating for baby thoughts on issues, for according to Mary Beard, though study without action is futile, action without study is fatal. Study, thought, contemplation must go hand-in-hand with action. “Contemplation is necessary to generate an object, but action must propagate it,” so said Owen Feltham.

“Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.” Henri Bergson

When I sent text messages to my friends to notify them of the release of my first book ‘Excursions in my Mind’ and its impending launch, Sammy Owusu Asiedu, the brother of my close pal Eric Dapaa, called to congratulate me. He noted that he was even more impressed that I had gradually progressed from writing short stories for publication in the ‘Mirror’ to getting my book published. My first published story was in 1994, in the ‘Mirror’, titled ‘Showdown’, and my first book came out in 2008, fourteen years in-between.

This means that you should not despise small beginnings.

What do you have in your hands? That is the question God asked Moses, and that is the same I ask you: what are you doing today and yet despising? Take an inventory, and you will be amazed what future that holds, if only you will think what you can do with it.

I am known more as a writer and publisher now than even as a chemical engineer which is what I was trained in, or a manufacturing professional, which is how my career for the past 17 years has mostly been. But how did it start? It started about 40 years ago in a small school in Kotobabi.

Mr. Okpoti Manison of blessed memory had structured his school Providence Preparatory in Kotobabi, Accra, such that on the day before the vacation date, the ‘Our Day’, the entire school gathered for the entire day for plays, poems and dance. Each class had to perform a play, and parents and guardians were invited to watch. I loved the drama day. Knowing one’s parents were in the audience was always an added incentive to perform well. My earliest memories are of reciting a poem in my three-piece batakari, complete with a hat, the attire made from UAC cloth, where my dad worked as a driver distributing textiles all across the country. Small beginnings, appreciation of the arts, learning the rudiments of prose and poetry. Special tribute to Mr. Aidoo and Mr. Edem (we called him brother), two special teachers in Providence who affected my life for good. I remember being taught, in preparation for the Common Entrance, to answer the question: Write a story ending with ‘…and the boy learnt a lesson for life, that obedience is better than sacrifice.’ You ever wrote such a story? Small beginnings of creative writing.

At a point, especially around 2004, I felt and acknowledged that writing could be an important part of my life. The publishing dream can along later. But I started. Borrowing money to get my first book published and using all the annual work bonus to get my second book published. Big money. Did I get my money back? No, I didn’t. I tell myself that the £5600 (which will be GHS 36,000 or $8,000 today) was my diploma in publishing! Then, from 2008, I started actively telling people on social media about my writing and introducing my writing. I was also writing more and was quite clear in my mind that I had to write more books. I answered messages on Facebook. I engaged with people who read my works.

I had that big dream and I was working slowly and slowly. Today I have about 27,000 people reached by my single post on Facebook. I get people recognising my books, name and face.

After my first two books, I used the experience from my ‘diploma’ to self-publish my third book and to learn how to put the book on Amazon. As a hardcopy. I also researched on how to create ebooks on Amazon Kindle and iBooks. Last year, I tried audio books and spent a week or so learning about how to create CDs on Amazon. I learnt these from scratch, starting small.

Then I did my third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh books. Then I learnt some more and did even more. Learning and applying.

From last year, my friend Akpabli and I sent up a publishing company and started moving fast! I resigned from my job in Nigeria and came home to focus on building my dream. We produced five books last year, including one book by an 18 year old ex-Aburi Girls student who wrote her book whilst a student here in Aburi, on a campus close to yours, at the age of 16. One of our books is one of the fastest selling in Ghana now, even read by the President and the Vice President.

Let me tell you about that 18-year old author. She is called Ashley Nadom Turkson, now a Communications Studies student at UCC. She always had a dream of being a writer and an author. She said the first six or so chapters that she wrote of Aseye’s Journey, her novel, got missing. She had to sit and rewrite. In September 2016, we had a book reading at JamRock Restaurant in East Legon. Her father brought her from school to listen to three authors and be inspired. Inspired she was and a few months later she submitted her manuscript to us. We used a year to finish the editing and publishing and in January 2018, we launched her book! Ashley says she is going to write more books! Her book is Amazon and her cousins abroad are reading her.

What do you have in your hands?

Proverbs 16:3 – Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

But you must have a plan. Dreams should lead to a plan of action. Analyse, think, reflect. Some of us don’t like to think. We only worry. So think and brainstorm and organise and prioritise the steps. Write them down. Then start small. But start.

Some of us dabble in analysis to paralysis. We will think saaa and talk saaa and do nothing. It is called NATO: No Action, Talk Only. Desist from NATO behaviour.

“To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can.” Sydney Smith

Prepare to start and learn. In engineering solutions, there is something called iteration. It’s a loop and the more you iterate, the closer you get towards a better solution to a problem. To your dreams.

We concur that Rome was not built in a day but in practice, we want to leap from lying in cots to walking in space. Orison S. Marden declared that “we live in an age of haste. Some people look at an egg and expect it to crow.”

Why do we despise the days of small beginnings? Why are we afraid to take infant steps? Why do we usually want to move from crawling to flying? I love a quote from Emmanuel Dei-Tumi’s book What I wish I knew before the age of twenty: ‘The elevator to success and wealth is always out of order and one has to use the stairs, one step at a time.’ A few friends have asked me how I got a publisher in the UK to publish my first book Excursions in my mind. My response? I sent a manuscript, responding to an advert in the Economist. Just that first step.

You have some grand ideas in your mental bank now – I can almost bet on that. So start now on the way to implementation. Take baby steps with the idea. “Think big, start small, move fast”, I discovered years ago.

In Scripture (Zechariah 4:10), the question is asked: “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Another version renders it thus: “Who despised the day when little things began to happen?” In some versions, it is the ‘day of small beginnings’. Many of us do, many of us despise such a day, many of us don’t give much thought to such a day.

Don’t despise the days of small beginnings, for they are many. I go through my old scripts and I get amazed about the stuff I wrote back then, not bad at all! Why did I not write more then, why did I not publish more often? What you are doing today with your talents, with your thoughts, with your ideas may look small, but every giant was once a sperm, an egg, microscopic. What we are and will be is and will be a totality of the experiences, lessons, failures, mistakes, flops we have; block upon block, piece by piece, small step after small step, for every man is built up “precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little; that they might go, and stumble, and be broken, and snared, and taken”, that is how we are built by the Word of God, that is how success is made of a man. Don’t underrate any step along the way, and be fortified by the thought of John Dryden that “mighty things from small beginnings grow”

When a review of your life is done by history, you will not be remembered by the immensity and plethora of ideas you had, but by those of that number you turned from idea into launch. Aristotle summed it up well when he said: “In the arena of human life, the honours and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”

Permit me to conclude by giving you homework. What I call Action exercises. Please write them down. Three of them:

1. List three top ideas you have for your life: career, personal development, studies…

2. Spend more time thinking of how to implement.

3. Decide today to start working on their translation into reality.

Many thanks for your attention and God bless you.

Nana Awere Damoah


Some More Quotes for reflection

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.” Bruce Barton

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Act quickly, think slowly.” Greek proverb

“Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.” William Hazlitt

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so inaction saps the rigours of the mind.” Leonardo Da Vinci

“Let deeds match words.” Plautus

“However brilliant an action may be, it ought not to pass for great when it is not the result of a great design.” Francois De La Rochefoucauld

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“What is done hastily cannot be done prudently.” Publilius Syrus

“Actions lie louder than words.” Carolyn Wells

“Thought and theory must precede all salutary action; yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.” William Wordsworth

“The beginning of all things are small.” Cicero

“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute. What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Begin it and the work will be completed.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Dare to be wise, begin! He who postpones the hour of living rightly is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.” Horace

“The beginnings of all things are weak and tender.” Michel de Montaigne

“The only joy in the world is to begin.” Cesare Pavese

“While we ponder when to begin, it becomes too late to do.” Quintilian

“The difference between getting somewhere and nowhere is the courage to make an early start. The fellow who sits still and does just what he is told will never be told to do big things.” Charles M. Schwab

“Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.” Anonymous

“Experience is the comb Nature gives us after we are bald.” Belgian proverb

“Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldous Huxley

Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast – A Speech



26 DECEMBER 2015

Good morning all. As I went through my old files to get a template for writing out my thoughts for today, I found the speech I delivered in this very auditorium and was amazed to realise, again, how fast the years roll by. I was here for the first time in August 2009, for Advantage 2009. The theme for that day was “Dealing with the Past and Opening Up a Great Future”. Pastor Raph (I call him Unco Raph) had sent me an invite on the 9th of July 2009 on Facebook and that is how we connected and that is how I started being involved with Advantage and ICGC, Dzorwulu. I thought I would share the invite Pastor sent on FB:

“Hi Nana, I am grateful to God for people like you, I just read your profile and am convinced of your capacity.

By way of introduction, I am an interior designer, a columnist and a pastor of the ICGC Assembly at Dzorwulu.

I am pastoring a handful of great potentials comprising of about 21 young people who are yet to grasp what they can be in life and society. My humble desire is to get some people to speak to them once in a while.

May I ask if you can honour an invitation like that? I will be putting together a seminar for them in the month of August probably the last Saturday or the one before. I may feature you on the seminar if you are okay with that and probably give you another weekday slot for an evening tete-a-tete with them for about one and a half hour.”

6 years have passed so fast!

I think I have been here again twice after that, and have always enjoyed it. I am honoured to be found worthy to speak to precious vessels such as you, redeemed by grace, justified by faith and fortified by the Holy Spirit to do great and mighty works, affecting our society for good.

The theme for this year’s reflection is “Implore, Improve & Impact”. I am told it also means “Prayer, Work & Results”. Pastor gave me the liberty to share on any of the dimensions. In my language, we say that if you are given the opportunity to be a chief and you deny it, even a palace messenger eludes you. So I take the liberties given to me!

In this vein, I have chosen to share with you one of my cardinal mottos in life, for my career, mission and passion: Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast. I will also share with you a chapter from my latest book, Sebitically Speaking. This chapter is entitled ‘The Power Behind the Platform Performance’.

I am a writer and I love to tell stories. Simple stories from everyday life and from what people share with me. So today, I will only tell stories. A couple of them.

Implore, Improve, Impact.

Implore: beg someone earnestly or desperately to do something.

Improve: make or become better; develop or increase in mental capacity by education or experience; achieve or produce something better than.

Impact: have a strong effect on someone or something.

John Maxwell speaks about three stages in a person’s career: learning, earning and giving phases. At the learning phase, the focus is not on money, but on getting depth and breadth of experience. On the average, this lasts for about ten years. Then one moves into the earning phase where you decide and choose which roles to take and make some money too. The final phase is where people like Carnegie, Rockefeller and now Gates got to, where you go chasing after legacy and giving to society.

Implore: thinking big, dreaming, praying…

Improving: learning, apprenticeship, failing, starting small, becoming better, developing, falling, rising, asking, practising, expanding, being off stage…

Impact: moving fast, earning, giving, affecting, achieving…being on the big stages of life.

Let me tell you about Nii Saka. As the youngest of his father’s children, Nii was a favourite of Ataa Saka Acquaye, what we also call in Ghana ‘pension baby’. Ataa Saka was well-to-do and gave his children the best of education. As a young boy, Nii dreamt of being an owner of a restaurant chain and he spent time watching his mum in the kitchen and watching programs on TV that featured cooks. One of his favourite programs was Asanka Delight. But tragedy was soon to hit the Acquaye house. Returning from a visit to Kumasi, both parents were involved in a fatal accident. Left an orphan at the age of 12, and with the family fighting over his parents’ property, Nii had his education cut short and he was sent to an auntie in Dodowa. The auntie couldn’t support him in school and also contracted him out to be a help in the chop bar of Auntie Atwei. After work in the chop bar, Nii would have to go to the house of Numo Namoale to clean and wash. However, Nii held on to his dream and did his work at both places diligently. He learnt about the chop bar business and also was so diligent that Numo took a great liking to him. With time, he convinced his auntie that he would want to take evening lessons, and so at the age of 20, Nii started adult classes and pushed himself, to educate himself.

Twelve years passed and one day, Numo, who was retiring and was hoping one of his sons would return from the States to take over his farm – where he grew vegetables and reared animals like goats, cattle and poultry – called Nii.

Numo told Nii that having worked with him for more than a decade and having observed his diligence to work, he wanted him to be a partner in his business and also shared with him his dream of extending the business into catering, to link with the backward integrated portion.

As I speak, five years after that discussion, Nii is the CEO of Namoale Ventures, with outlets in all the capital cities of Ghana, providing world-class food outlets, combining both continental and local dishes, known for top class customer service and even doing deliveries. The farms serve to provide the raw materials for the front end food joints.

Nii dreamt, he had to struggle through the imploring stage, but he learnt, he improved and now he is making an impact.

Where in the world do you think this story took place?

Well, let me tell you. Nii, in this story, is a man called Joseph. Nii’s story was enacted more than 2000 years ago. Joseph, son of Jacob, is one of such who implored, improved and impacted.

For both Nii and Joseph, when the door onto the big stage was opened, they were ready.

In mid-August 2012, I visited my old time friend Fafa Asiedu-Dartey. Amongst the many things we had to catch up on, we got to talking about the facilitation of a management retreat of a leading financial institution in Ghana that I had just done the previous day. I had actually travelled from Lagos to Accra for that and was returning to base that evening. It was the second such role I was playing for leading banks in Ghana in a matter of three months.

Fafa asked me when it all started, and how I had become such a resource. A pause, and I responded that it all started way back from the first major talk I gave in Ghana National, perhaps in 1993. Now I can’t remember which club, society or church group invited me, but I was in Upper Sixth and it took place in the Assembly Hall. I have always been a collector of quotations and anecdotes, and I recall that the speech was full of them. It turned out to be disjointed and I could feel that my audience didn’t relate to what I was sharing with them. As I delivered that speech, I realised I wasn’t sharing my experience, I was just reciting what others thought. I still have that picture in my mind. I am certain that it was that day I learnt that the best speech or sermon is one that infuses one’s own experiences.

Reflecting further after my chat with Fafa, I realised that actually I didn’t give her the right answer. The starting point was earlier.

I was a quiet and reserved guy right up to form five in secondary school. I loved to stay more in the background than in front. Though I had had some responsibilities as class prefect in preparatory school and as dormitory monitor during ‘O’ Levels, I remained mostly shy and afraid of speaking before large gatherings.

I continued to sixth form in Ghana College, and was active in the Scripture Union as I had been always. The time came for appointment of SU officers and our patron Mr. Gordon Egyir-Croffect called me to his office. The news he gave me surprised and frightened me: they wanted to appoint me as the Secretary and Financial Secretary for our SU. Me? Thinking back, I don’t know how Croffectus, as we affectionately called him, was able to convince me. One position was scary enough, and the most challenging was not the Financial Secretary role, which was a support, in-the-background sort of role. The Secretary was responsible for taking minutes when the Executive met (I honed my writing skills in this role) but that wasn’t the toughest part. The Secretary was also responsible for facilitating meetings and making announcements; meetings were held three times a week. The first time I addressed them in the theatre in the Red Block, I shook like one of those Ghana flags the boys sell in traffic, atop a moving car. I recall that I couldn’t remember what I actually said that evening. As I wrote in my book Excursions In My Mind, in the chapter entitled Shyness Is Not A Virtue, that day marked the break from my stage fright and shyness.

Small beginnings.

When I got the invitation to give a talk and organise a team- building activity for a bank in June 2012, at the forum of their top management including their Board (there were three speakers, I was the only Ghanaian), I was asked how much I would charge. I went blank! I responded that I had been doing it for free for churches, groups and para-Christian organisations. Those were the preparatory stages. After my facilitation of the second institution’s management retreat, their new HR manager asked me what other training modules my company gives! Company? I did it with my pal Kofi Akpabli.

Consider the life of Jesus. All he did, and is mostly captured in the gospels, happened over three and a half years, in his thirties. It took him thirty years of preparation off-stage before he got onto his platform. Churchill, Lincoln, Mandela: they all had baking time, time in the oven of hard preparation. Nkrumah not only spent years in prison but also in the trenches before becoming Prime Minister and President. Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison. He came out a transformed person, spent under ten years in executive leadership of his country but his influence transcended his Presidency and even his death.

President Mahama stepped in seemingly effortlessly into his new role when President Mills passed away. That achievement was, however, possible because when Egya Atta was alive, he gave a lot of room for Mahama to grow. Mahama took advantage of the opportunity given him and learnt.

One person whose life challenges me when I think of preparation time is Dr. Mohammed Ibn-Chambas. For ten years, he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and then he was appointed, again as Deputy Minister for Education for three years. In these supporting roles, he learnt. When the break came, first with ECOWAS as President and later with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States as Secretary General, he was ready. He is United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA).

The problem with most of us is that we don’t spend good and quality time in the learning phase and rush on to the next, half-baked. The quality of the performance one has on the big stages of life is usually determined by the quality and quantity of preparation time spent off stage. How are you using your time or chance off-stage? Will you be ready when the platform beckons?

In 2004, I started writing articles in a series I called ‘Empower Series’. I used to send them out by email to friends. Normal reflections on everyday life events, lessons from my Bible studies, nuggets from my book readings which I then ruminated on and wrote about. I took a decision then that since I loved writing, I would share original stuff instead of just forwarding emails – chain mails. The feedback from friends was good! I had people forwarding them all over the world and my distribution list grew. By 2005, when I was moving to the UK for my Master’s, I had quite a number of them. In December 2005, I told my friend Dr Moses Ademola, a Nigerian who had schooled in Ghana and spoke Twi with a better accent than I did, about my compilation and how I wished to publish someday. I sent him the compilation and on 22 December 2005, he responded to me via email:

“Like the Nigerian would say. Look at this man ooo, you no dey serious at all! You already have a book now! What’s left is just the binding, yea and the chief launcher. That’s so impressive. When we see, I think we would talk about how to print and sell it.”

That was the first time I had ever shared the manuscript and Moses’ mail never left my mind.

I continued to write and to dream of being a published author one day.

I returned to Ghana in October 2006 after my course and resumed working at Unilever. I kept on writing and compiling.

As Moses said, I had the book. What I needed was a publisher. As you know, publishers, real publishers who would take on a new/emerging writer and launch them, are as rare in Ghana as a week without dumsor!

But I continued to write, to hone my craft, to get feedback, to improve and to dream.

I was on a flight from Israel in November 2007. I was flying business class and by my seat, I found a copy of the Economist magazine. At the back of that magazine, I saw a small box advert for Athena Press, an author-funded publisher based in the UK, what is usually called ‘vanity press’. I thought to myself, in Ghana if you wish to get your book out, you usually paid a printer to do it and fund it yourself, so why not? When I got back to Ghana, I sent my manuscript, responding to the advert in the Economist. Just that first step. With that step, I moved from implore to improve.

I took a loan of 60 million cedis (GHC6000, which was the equivalent then of 2800 GBP) and paid for the publishing process of my first book, Excursions in My Mind. Through this process, I learnt about the various stages of editing, cover artwork design, cross-checking references, re-writing, how phrases could be understood only in Ghana and may not make sense globally, etc. We went through three stages of editing – manuscript, first proof, final proof – the entire works. That was part of my improving stage. On 18 December 2008, at the British Council Auditorium in Accra, my first book was launched. In 2010, I again paid Athena Press 2800 GBP to publish my second book – I used all my annual bonus from work. You know how much I received from Athena Press so far? Less than 50 GBP. Later they wrote to say they had been liquidated but I see they have transmogrified into another company and still selling my books on Amazon. I have written to Amazon and they have been removed as a prime supplier of my books.

With the investment of 5400 GBP into my publishing education, I have been able to self-publish my last three books and learnt so much to add to that foundation. I have written five (5) books so far – 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015. My books are listed on Amazon, iBooks, Kindle etc and I do it all myself.

This year has been phenomenal for me as a writer. My book has been featured a number of times on Newsfile, on Joy FM. As a writer, I guess I can say that I am beginning to make an impact. I just came here from Joy FM where we used a material I have been releasing at the end of each year since 2011, called Sikaman Awards.

Am I in the impact stage? I dunno. I am still improving, I am still learning.

Dream big – which I did. Start small – which I did. Move fast – well, I am still moving. But the most important aspect is that I spent time in the trenches, off-stage, preparing. I was clear in my mind right from the start that the last book people would buy will be my first book. People ask when they read Sebitically Speaking: wow, is this your first book? I only smile and perhaps now I can tell them: “No, I have been imploring and improving over the last 7 years; hoping I can look forward to making impact.”

Has it been easy? No. It has been tough along the way. I haven’t recouped all my investment. Sometimes I have wondered if it really was worth it all. In 2011, I launched Tales from Different Tails after the lowest time in my life when I went through depression. It has not been all rosy.

But like Joseph and Nii Saka, sometimes you have to go through the pit before you can get to the palace.

I ask again: How are you using your time or chance off-stage? Will you be ready when the platform beckons?

I thank you, and God bless. Merry Christmas.

Nana Awere Damoah

December 2015

Accra, Ghana

Time Changes and Times Change – by Ace Anan Ankomah


Speech Delivered at the 2014 Graduation of the American International School, Moevenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra on 5th June 2014

Madam Senior Administrator, The Principals, Teachers and Staff of the American International School, Parents and Guardians, Graduands, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I do not remember anything that any Guest Speaker said at any of my graduations. And so, graduands, I will not hold it against you if you don’t remember anything that I will say today. But it is a privilege to have been invited to be the Guest Speaker at this august graduation event, and I am grateful to the American International School for this honour.

My topic for the graduating class, today, is “TIMES CHANGE, AND TIME CHANGES.”

TIME is that indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. CHANGE is said to occur when the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something/one thing becomes different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.

In 1986, when I graduated from Secondary School, we had no mobile phones. Indeed telephones were not that common and I do not recall having a telephone conversation from school, with my parents at any time during the 7 years that I spent at Mfantsipim. There was no email, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, Google or Yahoo search. If you needed anything from home while in boarding school, you wrote letters to your parents, which took about 2 weeks to move between Cape Coast and Accra. Thus by the time your parents read that you were unwell (and it was mostly from malaria), you would have recovered already. If you wrote a love letter to a girl in the nearby girls’ schools, you would either post it (and that would take a week or so to arrive, by which time all your words would have become stale) or hand-deliver it yourself to her when you visited on Saturday or Sunday. If you were as shy as I was, you would ask her not to read it until you had left!!

But what happened? TIME went past and in the course of that TIME, CHANGE happened. I am no longer that skinny, gangly, bright-eyed boy who wanted so badly to become a lawyer. Today, I am a lawyer – I have achieved that dream and attained that vision. Today, I have children of my own, 3 of them, one of whom is about enter her sophomore year in college, this fall. I have grey hair. TIMES CHANGED, and the TIME CHANGED me. The world around me changed. I had to CHANGE to meet and suit the CHANGING TIMES. I would be an irrelevant, fossilized dinosaur, the object and subject of interest of archaeologists, extinct, but awaiting the magic of a Jurassic Park resuscitation, if I remained stuck in the world of 1986, when we are in 2014. There are many human dinosaurs around. Don’t become one.

Yours today, is a fast moving digital age. It is often said that CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT. That change can be frightening and daunting if we do not recognise that each passing second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, etc provides us with an opportunity. Thus, the CHALLENGE OF CHANGE, is at the same time, and in and of itself the OPPORTUNITY OF CHANGE. It is important to see those opportunities and take advantage of the new possibilities they bring.

Today, each Graduand is witnessing a change. When we leave this room, you will not be a high school student anymore. You will be a high school graduate. What has changed? Just your designation or description? I think not. You whole life has changed. You are at the cusp, the edge of a new beginning, a new journey, where there is no end or destination until you die. The journey of life, is itself the destination. You only fail when you stop undertaking the journey.

And so tonight, you must celebrate the fact that one season is past, and another season is born. So party, dance, rejoice. But as you celebrate the end of one stage of your life, you mark the beginning of another stage of the same life. When you leave this room, when you wake up tomorrow morning, it will be the beginning of the rest of your life. CHANGE has happened. CHANGE is happening. Are you ready for it?

Allow me to suggest 7 things that you need to do, if you are going to remain relevant in this fast-changing world. And I will borrow substantively from the thoughts of Kathryn D. Leary, writer, marketing and public relations consultant and former President & CEO of the Leary Group Inc.

1. TAKE STOCK. Spend some time thinking about your life to date. Search your soul. Make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, joys and disappointments, mistakes and successes. What have your brought to the world and what else would you like to do, accomplish or experience? Stay open to all possibilities and allow time to really ponder about yourself.

2. IDENTIFY POSSIBLE GOALS & OPTIONS. Once you have taken stock, start identifying new interests and possible goals for the next phase of your life. Your life from childhood to date definitely has a store or wealth of assets, from your experiences and the skills and learning that you have acquired along the way. Don’t be stuck in a groove. Think outside the box. How are you going to use these assets to create satisfying and enriching life?

3. ASSESS YOUR OPTIONS. When you have identified you new goals and options, begin your research to explore the viability of each option. The Internet, which hitherto has been your means of pointless chatter and endless gossip, and visiting of websites that you cannot admit you have visited, should become a new tool, a source of information on your areas of interest. What is the current climate for pursuing these goals? It is at this stage that you must identify and talk with people who are doing what you are interested in pursuing so that you can assess if this is something you would really enjoy doing. Learn as much about your options as possible and evaluate whether your skills and temperament are suitable. How viable are the options? Will they make your money? Would they make you creative, or give you freedom?

4. COMMIT TO YOUR GOAL AND GET TO WORK ON YOUR GAME PLAN. After the assessment, choose the goal you desire most and claim it mentally. Affirm your ability to make it happen, based on your commitment, intelligence, wealth of experience and skills. Create a roadmap of what you need to do to pursue this particular goal. What is competitive environment for the dream job, business or new life direction? What are the strengths and weaknesses for this goal? What are you going to do to shore up your identified weaknesses? Special training or courses? Reading books and online research? Be sure to know what you don’t know, then go learn it. Discover everything there is to discover as you get ready to execute your plan.

5. BUILD YOUR CREDENTIALS. When you have completed the commitment and working-on-game-plan phase, it is time to get to work. It is school time all over again. Take the courses you have identified, to attain and improve your arsenal of credentials. This is the time that you build your CV, through HARD WORK. Your CV should not be a mere collection of words and alphabets, but a testimony of your hard work. Use your vacation times to intern or volunteer in the field to gain experience. These will give you opportunities to experiment with your new direction, develop your craft and gain exposure.

6. BRAND YOUR NEW SELF. In the course of all of this, you must seek to become unique. There are millions of artists, musicians, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, computer scientists etc. What would you be bringing that would make a mark or dent in this world? Identify what is distinctive about yourself and the unique approach you will bring to the field you have chosen. Use this information to create your identity or brand yourself. Work hard for distinctions because they will count in your branding. Don’t just pass exams. Pass with distinction. Create a personal slogan or tagline that captures your uniqueness and use it everywhere. In my senior year, mine was “failure has no breeding grounds where hard work, discipline and dedication lie.”

7. LET THE WORLD KNOW YOU’VE ARRIVED! At every stage when you have achieved something (e.g. a graduation) you must make a statement. Use every opportunity you can to create a message about the new you. Be creative, be daring and be heard!

My law firm is proud to have been associated with the founding and growth of this school in Ghana, and glad to have seen what was then, but a dream, at the beginning, bear fruit and continue to bear fruit. The best testimony of the greatness of that dream and vision, is and will be the quality of the students that it produces and the effect and impact that they in turn have on society.

As I come to a close, permit me to share with you, my personal mantra: “If others sit, stand. If other stand, stand out. If others stand out, be outstanding. And when others are outstanding, be the standard.”

Yours is a Christian mission school. Some, including your parents, have paid a price and made sacrifices to ensure that you are where you are today. You must respect that. I also cannot end this speech without referring to the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Source and Finish, best captured on an occasion as this in the words of the hymnists Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate as follows:

“Through all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ.

Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear;
Make you His service your delight,
Your wants shall be His care.”

But I would also leave you with the endearing words of the late music legend, Michael Jackson, who famously sang:

“I’m Starting With The Man [and Woman] In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His [and Her] Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change”

Dear Graduands, I salute and congratulate you on a successful completion of your course of study. Go out and be that change that you want to see.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Ace Anan Ankomah

Navy SEAL Commander Tells Students To Make Their Beds Every Morning In Incredible Commencement Speech

U.S. Navy admiral and University of Texas, Austin, alumnus William H. McRaven returned to his alma mater last week to give seniors 10 lessons from basic SEAL training when he spoke at the school’s commencement.

McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command who organized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, stressed the importance of making your bed every morning, taking on obstacles headfirst, and realizing that it’s OK to be a “sugar cookie.”

All of his lessons were supported by personal stories from McRaven’s many years as a Navy SEAL.

“While these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform,” McRaven told students. “It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status.”

Here are McRaven’s 10 lessons from his years of experience as a Navy SEAL, via University of Texas, Austin.

Watch video here:


I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, California.

Basic SEAL training is six months of long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.

But, the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships.

To me basic SEAL training was a life time of challenges crammed into six months.

So, here are the ten lesson’s I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy.

Every day your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in.

Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help— and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class which started with 150 men was down to just 35. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.

I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them—no one was over about 5-foot five.

The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish America, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the mid-west.

They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews.

The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feetprior to every swim.

But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh— swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.

SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.

If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough.

Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.

But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle— it just wasn’t good enough.

The instructors would fine “something” wrong.

For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand.

The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.

There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right—it was unappreciated.

Those students didn’t make it through training.

Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.

Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.

It’s just the way life is sometimes.

If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events—long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.

Every event had standards—times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to—a “circus.”

A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics—designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.

No one wanted a circus.

A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue—and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.

But at some time during SEAL training, everyone—everyone—made the circus list.

But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Overtime those students—who did two hours of extra calisthenics—got stronger and stronger.

The pain of the circuses built inner strength-built physical resiliency.

Life is filled with circuses.

You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.

But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot high wall, a 30-foot cargo net, and a barbed wire crawl to name a few.

But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three level 30 foot tower at one end and a one level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot long rope.

You had to climb the three tiered tower and once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.

The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977.

The record seemed unbeatable, until one day, a student decided to go down the slide for life—head first.

Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the TOP of the rope and thrust himself forward.

It was a dangerous move—seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training.

Without hesitation—the student slid down the rope—perilously fast, instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.

If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

During the land warfare phase of training, the students are flown out to San Clemente Island which lies off the coast of San Diego.

The waters off San Clemente are a breeding ground for the great white sharks. To pass SEAL training there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One—is the night swim.

Before the swim the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente.

They assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark—at least not recently.

But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position—stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid.

And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you—then summons up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.

There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.

So, If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

As Navy SEALs one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during basic training.

The ship attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over two miles—underwater—using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target.

During the entire swim, even well below the surface there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you.

But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight—it blocks the surrounding street lamps—it blocks all ambient light.

To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the centerline and the deepest part of the ship.

This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship—where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and fail.

Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission—is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

The ninth week of training is referred to as “Hell Week.” It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and—one special day at the Mud Flats—the Mud Flats are area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slue’s—a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you.

It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors.

As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud.

The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.

Looking around the mud flat it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone chilling cold.

The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song.

The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm.

One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing.

We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well.

The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing—but the singing persisted.

And somehow—the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.

If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan—Malala—one person can change the world by giving people hope.

So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see.

All you have to do to quit—is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims.

Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT—and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training.

Just ring the bell.

If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

To the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away starting to change the world—for the better.

It will not be easy.

But, YOU are the class of 2014—the class that can affect the lives of 800 million people in the next century.

Start each day with a task completed.

Find someone to help you through life.

Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.

Thank you very much. Hook ’em horns.

Read more:


Author Speech – Launch of I Speak of Ghana



06 DECEMBER 2013


Yesterday, in the afternoon, I drove from Lashibi to Tema with my friend Kola Nut (Kofi Larbi) and my kids to pick up my mum who had just arrived from Wasa. It was in my sister’s home in Community 11 that I checked my mail and got the first hint of the news: Madiba Had Gone Home.  It is fitting that this event be dedicated to the memory of the one person who has taught us much.


To me, the greatest lesson was about forgiveness. I reflected on this same theme, in my first book ‘Excursions in My Mind’ in the chapter entitled The Therapy Tool Called Forgiveness, and if you would indulge me, I quote:


‘A prominent public speaker and writer/dramatist in Ghana [though I elected not to mention his name in the book, today we have this person here with us – our Chairman Uncle Ebo Whyte]  told a true story about two journalists in Ghana, two good friends. One of them was imprisoned under the military rule in Ghana in the eighties. Whilst in prison, this journalist learnt that it was his friend who had betrayed him to the authorities, about their attempts to sabotage the military government. Till today, the victim has never talked about this betrayal in public and indicates that he forgave his friend.


Nelson Mandela was imprisoned under the apartheid regime in South Africa, for almost 27 years, released on 11th February 1990. He was 46 years old when he started his prison term and 71 years when he was released. He had over a quarter of a century of his life taken away from him, his freedom taken from him, and tormented in many ways especially psychologically. This is the man who found in his heart to forgive, and not to rest on the past ills. What was his motivation for this?


I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom)
You see, Mandela realised that it is not only the beneficiary of forgiveness who benefits. The giver does himself a great deal of good as well. Lawana Blackwell states this fact most eloquently: “Forgiveness is almost a selfish act because of its immense benefits to the one who forgives.”


In reflecting on the odd nature of the interviews I was watching this morning on BBC in respect of the absence of tributes from African leaders, my friend Nana Esi Ghansah in Dubai had a great response:


“The greatest tribute African leaders can pay to him is not through interviews on BBC or CNN but practise his ideals and deliver their people and our continent from the shackles of poverty – poverty of body, mind and spirit.”


Madiba: Apart from the act of forgiveness you displayed which really brought your nation together, for me, your greatest example was stepping down when all of us would have said you deserved to be President for life. You left when the applause was loudest and we never stopped applauding. Rest well, Tata, and give my regards to Bombay.


Hello, friends, family and loved ones. My deepest appreciation goes to each one of you for your support over the past five years of my journey as an author. So many of you who have never met me interact with me online and spur me on: this Wasaman is grateful.


Permit me to introduce my mum, who has been a great pillar for the entire family and has taught me a lot. In my books, I have shared some of those lessons. I am so proud of her. And always sad on such days that my dad Bombay isn’t with us physically. My wife Vivian: you give me room to think and write – love you!


I am particularly grateful to have Uncle Ebo with us today as he has influenced and mentored me in a very quiet way.


A group of friends who have grown to be quite influential in my life over the past two years have been a great support and I wish to specially appreciate them. DGG, are you here? A member of this group, Jerry Jabir Disu, is celebrating his birthday today: Happy birthday nyε-bro. Keep your CATholic flame burning!


The lessons from Madiba’s life and the response from Nana Esi speak eloquently about what I Speak of Ghana seeks to precipitate: my belief that we have much to do as Ghanaians and it is our collective responsibility to put our leaders on their toes and to be on our feet as well, working hard, sweating here and not elsewhere and even if we are sweating elsewhere, to ensure we give back to our country and continent so as to correct the strong sense that most times I have, that in Ghana, the past usually feels brighter than the future.


I grew up in Kotobabi with a dream to be the best I can possibly be. In Ghana National College, as I learnt about Nkrumah and his role in setting up the school, naming it ‘Ghana National College’ in 1948, nine years before Ghana was born, imbibing the lessons from the motto ‘Pro Patria’ [for the sake of the Fatherland], I was imbued with nationalistic fervour. Working with Unilever and being taught the basis and rudiments of discipline and seeing what a structured approach to corporate strategy and implementation can achieve, and spending a year out in the UK for my Masters and observing how a step forward a day moves a nation forward, I came back two weeks after school determined that if Ghana is to be, it is up to me. But apart from my toil, it is my responsibility to speak to the barber so I don’t get a bad haircut.


In I Speak of Ghana, I have captured my dreams for my nation. I have captured my fears about our slow progress, my joys of the simple pleasures in Ghana and I have washed, both humorously and forcefully, our dirty linen in public. If you consider a book a public platform. It is. I have used the tsetse fly approach: fanning well whilst sucking. Huru yε.


In the end, my wish for my nation is same as yours: that we will build it well so our children do not use the same words we use today to bemoan.


In concluding, let me quote from I Speak of Ghana:


Our generation is the game-changing generation for our country and continent. We cannot join in the chant of our predecessors; we cannot think at the same level, we cannot go at the same pace. We are the generation with the greatest exposure to what better conditions can be like – let’s replicate them here. We know what a country that takes action looks like – let’s cut the long talk. We know not just the potential but the actual position this nation can spring to – let’s get working.


In the words of John Legend, in the song ‘If you’re out there’:


If you hear this message, wherever you stand

I’m calling every woman, calling every man

We’re the generation

We can’t afford to wait

The future started yesterday and we’re already late.



I thank you all.


God bless richly,


Nana Awere Damoah

Author, I Speak of Ghana

06 December 2013

Sytris Café, Osu, Accra, Ghana


Brains Develop A Nation, Not Resources: Speech by Ace Ankomah


Speech delivered by Ace Anan Ankomah, Guest Speaker, University of Ghana Congregation, Great Hall, Saturday 9 November 2013

Mr Chairman, Professor Vice-Chancellor, Professors Pro-Vice-Chancellors, esteemed members of the University community, graduands, ladies and gentlemen,

26 years ago, as an incoming student, I was going through registration, right in this Great Hall. As we waited in line, I struck a conversation with one Lawrence Mefful (who later became a Major in the Ghana Army, and a lawyer, and unfortunately died in combat working for the United Nations in Afghanistan not too long ago). Lawrence had been my senior in Mfantsipim, and was working as one of the registration assistants here. As we chatted, he offered a piece of unsolicited, yet life-changing advice that struck a chord, and stuck, with me throughout my stay here. He said: “don’t just go through the school; let the school go through you.”

In Legon, you have had positive and negative experiences. You have also had experiences that fall somewhere between positive and negative. These, and how you dealt with them, will have an impact on what you do in life, from here. One of my favourite writers, who goes by the simple name of Paul, wrote, many years ago about how ALL things must work together for your good. This revelational writing finds its way into the Bible, and the key point is not that all things are good. He says that the good, bad and in-between things, ALL THINGS, must work together to produce good. Ladies and gentlemen, the way you dealt with that difficult roommate here, will tell on how you deal with that difficult co-worker at your office when you leave here. The lecturer who did not like you, was probably just preparing you for the boss who will give you a tough time on your first job. In what way has Legon prepared you to deal with those situations? If all you take from here is a degree, then I suggest to you that you have short-changed yourself. The big question is whether the school gone through you, or have you merely gone through the school?

Before I got to Legon, I was fascinated by sayings and mantras. I still am. My best, before I got here was “failure has no breeding grounds where discipline and dedication lie.” That is still true. But discipline towards what? And dedication to what? This is what brings me to my main theme today, which I heard just a couple of days ago from my friend and classmate in Legon, Professor Francis Botchway, now Professor of Law at Qatar University: “BRAINS DEVELOP A NATION, NOT RESOURCES.” And to that, I add “resources are not…, they become…” One of my most favourite comparisons of countries is between Ghana and Switzerland. I am certain that Switzerland earns more money from chocolate and cocoa products that we earn from selling cocoa. I am also certain that the closest cocoa tree to Geneva is in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, as the crow files. We got the resource, they got the….. [you said it, not me]. The manufacturer in Ghana of easily the most favourite chocolate drink in Ghana, Milo, is a company called Nestlè. Guess what? Nestlè is a Swiss company. We got the resource, they got the… [you said it again!]

I am always reminded of an African proverb, which says that “a man/woman has to hold his/her mouth open for a VERY LONG time before a roasted guinea fowl flies into it.” Often, that is our problem. Life is not waiting for us. “The future started yesterday, and we are already late,” sings John Legend, the musician.

Alvin Toffler writes that “the illiterates of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot LEARN, UNLEARN AND RE-LEARN.” That is what this institution is supposed to turn you into: not just a degree holder, but a person with the ability to learn, unlearn and learn again. It is all about the mind. That is why the late Robert Nesta Marley (more popularly known as “Bob Marley”) famously sang that “none but ourselves can free our own minds.” You are what you think you are. If you think that you are a grasshopper, you are a … [now you are giving my speech.] But if you think that you are an achiever and a giant, that is exactly what you are. It is said in the Good Book, again, that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” It is that thinking, the developed brain, that will develop this nation. :Resources are not…, they become…”

I am of the firm belief that the solutions to Ghana’s problems are in Ghana. Many of them are hiding right here in the various faculties and archives of our universities. Why do I say that? Every year, literally hundreds of students engage in supervised project work, theses and dissertations, all of which identify and actually solve, at least on paper, many of the problems that confronts us. Loads of research have been conducted in, for instance, our Bio-Chemistry and Engineering faculties. These should feed industry; but there are no linkages. We have to start digging out those archives and bringing to life, for us to learn, unlearn and relearn that vast wealth of solutions that are presently in hiding. It is the mind that develops a nation, not resources.

Paul, my favourite writer also boasts about “one thing” that he does, which he particularises into three – yes, three, wrapped in one. He says that (i) he “forgets the things that he has achieved,” (ii) he “reaches forth towards the things that are ahead”, and (iii) he “presses forward.” Yes, those three constitute just one thing – LIFE. You build on what you have experienced as a basis for aiming, and then moving forward. Your university degree is the foundation. Today, you must be in that “forget” state, and start reaching towards new things, and then pressing towards them. Look, life is not impacted by those who have merely touched or tickled it. Achievers PRESS and PUSH towards the mark.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do not believe in coincidences and so I particularly identify with this graduating class. This is because a few years ago, I was the Chairman of a scholarship scheme run by an organisation called Changing Lives Endowment Fund, which offers scholarships to help some students through second-cycle and tertiary education. It is significant that two of our very first beneficiaries have graduated today as part of your class, and I would want to take this opportunity to salute Miss Paula Duah and Miss Rejoice Okai.

Ladies and gentlemen of the 2013 graduating class, I salute you and welcome you to life. There is no end to this journey. We have to break bounds and expand territories. That journey begins and continues in the mind. The journey is the destination. But you must always remember, that there is a God who rules in the affairs of men, and who says, through the same Paul, that “it is not of him who wills, or of whom who runs, but The Lord who shows mercy.” Yes, be geared to the times, but don’t forget to be anchored to that Rock.

You are who we, Ghana, has been waiting for. We have been waiting, for a long time, for your brains arrive and develop this country. Do not disappoint us. I welcome you to life with another of my mantras:

When others sit, you must stand.
When others stand, you must stand out.
When others stand out, you must be outstanding.
And, when they become outstanding, you must become the standard.

May God bless you and us all.


Full Transcript: Speech by Rawlings to mark 34th Anniv of June 4th


June 4th, the great day the Armed Forces led this country in a revolt against oppression and corruption. In spite of the many achievements, many setbacks and reversals have also taken place. But for more than a decade now, Ghana appears to have been moving towards an irreversible situation down a tunnel, thanks to Presidents Mills and Kufuor/John II and John III. President Mahama has the responsibility to pull this country out of that tunnel. How well, how far and how soon John IV can achieve that is hard to say.

The international media keep creating the impression that Africa is enjoying an economic upsurge. That is no doubt the case for a tiny minority. The reality for the vast majority is pain and suffering.

Archbishop Tutu very recently made a severe declaration that he will no longer vote for the ANC. The world cannot claim not to know why, nor can we close our minds to the reasons for such a serious indictment. Archbishop Tutu’s declaration speaks to a disease that has gripped most parts of our continent. Since the collapse of the bipolar world and the rise of what has been called the ‘savagery of capitalism’ and the tyrannical use of money, to quote Pope John Paul and Pope Francis, we are suffering the effect of a dislocation between wealth, power and authority.

Not too long ago when the Asantehene called in on me, I quoted another preacher who also made a very serious observation about too much power and too much money being in the hands of a few too many wrong people.

And here in Ghana, we see that Accra the capital is also almost on the verge of losing out to the impunity of foreign domination. While Ghana cannot close it doors to rest of the world, it is important that the relevant institutions and citizens remain vigilant and ensure that every visitor to our country adheres strictly to the laws of our land. If we fail to do so, then in the not too distant future, I truly wonder if the heartbeat of this country will be that of Ghanaians.

Not too long ago, a magazine published a list of Ghanaians who were supposed to be multimillionaires. I was supposed to be the 8th or 9th richest with $50 million. My fellow countrymen, my value as a man of principle and integrity is incalculable. The difference is that in my situation I have never exchanged or sold my conscience or sold my country, my principles, my integrity for money, or destroyed honourable people for money.

Why then will such a false statement about me being a multimillionaire be made? While the statement may be true for most of the others, why add a false statement about Rawlings to that list?

The reason is very simple. There are genuine and hardworking multimillionaires all over the world. But there are also too many criminal multimillionaires who are raping our continent, and Ghana is no exception.

In order to sanitise the concept of being a multimillionaire, distinguished persons whose values are unrelated to money, must be made to also look like multimillionaires in order to make the concept acceptable to people in general.

Being a millionaire, even if ill-acquired, must not be made to look criminal so that such people can enjoy their loot in safety. Therefore if Rawlings is made to appear like a multimillionaire then there is nothing wrong with others also being multimillionaires.

Ghana also has its share of the most vicious and evil-minded millionaires who have been used to destroy not only honourable people but also some of the most economically viable enterprises to feed their selfish greed and sometimes in favour of certain foreign economies.

Countrymen and women, June 4th was about restoring the dignity of the ordinary man and woman and punishing those who openly paraded corruption, those who dispensed favours irregularly and promoted what we used to call ‘bottom power’ in the award of contracts; those who sought to normalise a corrupt way of life in the minds of ordinary people.

In those days, the expressed rage was not by bloodthirsty desperadoes, but ordinary people who wanted decency and a better life for their country and for their families.

If after sanctioning the ultimate punishment of some former leaders — not just to satisfy the popular demand for justice but also to protect the moral fibre of this country — I were to then take advantage of my name and reputation to amass such extraordinary wealth for myself, how could I ever again stand before you on this platform and proclaim the virtues of the June 4th Revolution? How would I plead with you to protect the values of June 4th, to save the country from moral degradation, to protect our children from a future without vision and bold leadership?

Nothing is hidden forever. For instance, I can tell you how the power of attorney from the Bank of Ghana was vested in a top executive of a certain gold mining company, believing that it would be used to protect our precious resource. Little did we know that he was going to use that privilege to enrich himself in foreign banks. It is of course time, that I chronicled some of this history for the nation to know and to understand more fully some of the dark crimes that have been committed against this country.

Countrymen and women, I stand before you here today because I still believe in the values of June 4th, because I still believe in personal sacrifice for the common good, and because now, as much as then, I believe that each one of us can take individual actions that change the course of history. Corruption is not the only way. We don’t have to join the corrupters; collectively they can be exposed.

Tomorrow as we mark June 4th, I ask every man, woman and child in this country to spend a few minutes reflecting on the path the country has travelled since June 4th 1979. Today Ghana is being touted internationally as a success story in Africa, as the world’s next economic tiger. If Ghana is to again become a role model for some other countries in Africa to follow, as it has done already several times in its political history, then let us endeavour to keep our values as a nation intact.

What are the values we espouse? Surely these are the values enshrined in our constitution and embossed in our national anthem. Courageously defending the cause of freedom and of right, cherishing fearless honesty. These are the values that express our honour as a people.

June 4th stood for the restoration of these values. Recently there have been some calls for a new revolution to again restore those values. We do not have to allow the politics of our country to descend to the point where bloodshed and violent revolt become seen as the only means to restore those values. But if we do not clean up our party, restoring power in 2016 will be very difficult.

I take this opportunity to thank the armed forces and security services for the gift of June 4. It is imperative however that the forces remain steadfast, protect and maintain very high standards of discipline required to inspire confidence in the populace.

The scourge of indiscipline that is plaguing our society requires a highly disciplined security service that stays above reproach so it can have the moral authority to maintain law and order and curb the growing lawlessness in society.

Let us demand more from our leaders, including myself, in terms of probity and accountability. Let us protect those values every day in our schools and workplaces by refusing to go along with lying, cheating, thieving and injustice but instead stand up for truth, justice, fairness, respect for each other and love for our beautiful country.

Patriotism is the key to national unity!

Thank you.


Porting to NanaDamoah.Com

I have been blogging since 2006/2007 when the concept was suggested to me by Uncle Samuel Akpan Ekong. Hitherto blogging my writings, I used to send them out via a mailing list on yahoogroups (which started in 2004 and still continues) to friends. Uncle Sam got my writings through his nephew and my friend Nii Amankrah Tetteh and became one of my ardent readers and mentor, supporter and sounding board, albeit online and remote, from the States.

I had no idea of blogging until Uncle Sam mentioned it.

I started blogging from and ran that site for about 3 years. This was mainly for my reflective essays, most of which were published in my first book, Excursions In My Mind. Alongside, I had two other blogs for poetry and short stories and one for only one-liners and quotations.

In May 2010, I decided to consolidate all my writing into one blog and also change platforms. A new site was born: I imported all my scripts, including book reviews from others, to this one-stop shop. That year, Excursions In My Mind was launched, to be followed in 2011 by Through The Gates Of Thought, and in 2012 by Tales From Different Tails. I stopped posting to blogspot in 2010.

During the journey from 2010 till now, my friend Nana Otu Turkson thought strongly that I needed to have my own domain and even if I was not ready, I should register the domains. To show how serious he was, he went ahead and paid for the domains, both .com and .org for two years.

With the kindness of my writer friend and fellow blogger, owner of the leading news portal site, Sam Obour, who has helped with hosting and on-going designing, a new site is now unveiled –

From now till December 2012, I will be doing the transition and keeping both sites active. Already, all the articles and comments on have been copied to From January 2013, I will post only to

I will humbly request the 85 followers of, who receive posts directly into their inboxes to port to New subscribers are warmly welcome!

Thanks to all of you who continue to read my works on the blogs, Facebook and other outlets such as Ghana Web, Myjoyonline, Citifmonline and my Friday column in Business & Financial Times newspaper, Excursions In My Mind. You are the reason why I have vim! (apologies to Ato Ulzen- Appiah) to keep writing.

Akpe, Ose, Naagode, Merci, Thank you, Gracias, Shidaa son, Medaase!

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