“Does it Make You a King to Have More Cedar?”

At a warm historical gathering of all five living U.S. presidents and their wives, foreign dignitaries, and former administration officials at Southern Methodist University, the 43rd President of the USA George W. Bush welcomed the opening of his library and museum, the George W. Bush Presidential Center. All the former presidents and Barrack Obama paid a glowing tribute to the former president. The one that touched me most was when Jimmy Carter mentioned the wonderful work Bush is doing in Africa. I was emotionally touched because Bush and his wife Laura are doing commendable work in some of our under resourced communities in Zambia supporting our health services. In his remarks Bush reminded the crowd of over 10,000 people that the building with his name above the door belonged to the citizens of the USA.  He stated, “For eight years, you gave me the honor of serving as your president, and today I’m proud to dedicate this center to the American people”

He further stated that, “In democracy, the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. The political winds blow left and right. Polls rise and fall. Supporters come and go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.”  Bush is not the first president to have a library dedicated to the work he did when he was president. In the bible all the kings had a library. This is what is said about David, “David son of Jesse was king over all of Israel. He ruled over Israel forty years. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.” And then the bible states that, “As for the events of King David’s reign, beginning to end they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophets, and the records of Gad the seer, together with the details of his reign and power and the circumstances that surrounded him and Israel and the kingdoms of all the other lands (1 Chron. 29:26-30).

Leaders who lead with conviction and love for their nation want history to remember them for the dedication and love they showed to their nation.  Therefore, they are willing to leave a record for future generations so they too can learn from their leadership skills and the vision they were pursuing.  Sadly, in Africa we remember leaders by the “palaces they build through unrighteousness and corruption.” Jeremiah questions the kings of Israel who built themselves great palaces with spacious upper rooms and paneled them with cedars and decorated them in red.  He asked them, “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? (Jeremiah 22: 13-15). African nations are losing our history and culture not because we have embraced English as our official language, but largely because we are not good at keeping written records and most of us lack a longer view than building palaces for ourselves.

Take the case of Zambia. We recently re-named Ndola International Airport as Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe and Livingstone International Airport as Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula. Our Hip Hop culture guys are asking, “Man who were these dudes?  When we re-named those airports we should have had celebrations at both airports that included a creative re-telling of their historical significance in the advancement of our nation.  In our short history we have had four former presidents. Two are living and two have passed on. We need to build a library that will ensure that the works of Kaunda, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, Banda, and the teams of men and women who served with them are preserved and used to help future generations learn from their experiences. What was their vision, how did they establish a democracy, how did they expand education, fight corruption, and how did they confront HIV and AIDS?

“Does it make you king to have more and more cedar” is also directed to Christian leaders. Jeremiah warns that Christians must not boast in their riches. On the contrary, he encourages us to boast that we understand and know the Lord-that He is the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth (Jer. 9:23-24). When all is done may our record state that we served the Lord and we are no more. Even if no one remembers us, may our hearts be at peace that the Lord will remember us.

Lawrence Temfwe