Alagi Yorro Jallow

If a man or a woman says he or she wants to be successful in whatever his or her interest, the first thing you do is go and check his or her library. Because what a man or woman reads pours massive ingredient into his or her mental factory and it’s from there that the economic, social, financial and professional fabric of his or her life is made.

Reading is a fundamental factor for success in life. The first and most important skill in leadership is the ability to read.

We have all heard of the saying that every great leader is a reader. Not everyone who reads is a leader, but you can never be a great leader without reading. Most great leaders are characterized with great library and an extended period put in reading.

“I cannot live without books,” Thomas Jefferson famously declared, whose library at Monticello (now at the Library of Congress) is an enduring testament to one of America’s best-read presidents.

For the past few decades, right around this time, presidents taking a few days of well-earned respite have released their summer reading lists.

Former president Obama famously shared his copious and wide-ranging selections and was often photographed at independent bookstores like Bunch of Grapes on Martha’s Vineyard carefully choosing from among the stacks.

Back in 2006, George W. Bush read for pleasure all year, having made a New Year’s resolution to read one book a week, which eventually led to a spirited reading duel with Karl Rove to see who could rack up the most reads. Rove barely squeezed out a victory, with 110 books to Bush’s 95. During his summer vacation at his home in Crawford, Texas, Bush was spotted reading The Stranger by Albert Camus between ranch-related duties.

Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara had decent taste in literature. He was a prodigious reader and  enamored of Shakespeare: President Jawara was a major fan of Shakespeare (unsurprising, given his astoundingly eloquent speeches); President Yahya Jammeh sensibly loved Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli and a devotee of western movies and local wrestling, while President Adama Barrow is an abnormal reader and a die-hard fan of Arsenal football club.

It’s not just that President Dawda Kairaba Jawara read Shakespeare for pleasure, he gained a huge part of his education from reading Shakespeare. Pilgrim’s Progress, the Bible, and the Quran, Shakespeare and a compilation of notable speeches called the Columbian Orator comprised the bedrock of his education. President Barrow and Jammeh are unnatural readers but devotees of movies and sports with an incredible ability of retaining passion.

An avowed anti-intellectual, President Nixon proclaimed in his farewell speech to the nation that, “As you know, I kind of like to read books. I am not educated, but I do read books.” Tolstoy was a favorite author.
Lincoln often quoted Shakespeare in his personal correspondence and among friends, showing a preference for Macbeth. He also enjoyed reading and writing poetry–the Gettysburg Address contains many poetic elements no doubt pulled from his reading.

Will President Adama Barrow be releasing a reading list of his current or past books because he’s too busy for such pursuits. Does he read the Constitution? Well Yahya Jammeh dictates his Attorney General and Justice Ministers to edit our Constitution.

Being a leader is a big responsibility which requires a vast source of knowledge. Reading provides one with all the necessary knowledge to succeed in leadership. From books and blogs on subjects such as leadership, communication, human relations, organizational and planning skills, personal development and many others, equip one with the necessary information to succeed in leadership.

Every great person I have ever known, heard or read of, all talk about the importance of reading. That says a lot about how reading can affect one’s success levels. Personal development is an important aspect of success in life and there is no personal development tool I have known or heard of that is better than reading.

Billy Gates had this to say, “I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid. And I think a great deal of that grew out of the fact that I had a chance to read a lot”.

All three presidents, Sir Dawda Kairaba seems to be the only one who reads serious literature, and the only one who reads for pleasure, rather than just as a PR exercise. His picks reflect a real personality and a real engagement with books.

Apart from a few selected political leaders, many of our politicians are philistines. I doubt they read anything. They surf the internet & online newspapers & Facebook postings, which is so laughably generic and transparent. It’s like some surrogates and party supporters directs them.

Some of them, of course, are very intelligent and well-read, but they seem to lack any kind of literary imagination or humanistic leanings. They sound like those politicians who just reads briefing papers 24/7 and plots their next moves.

President Jawara. I think he is the last liberal we’ll have as president – I mean liberal in the sense of having a liberal imagination shaped by literature and philosophy and art and travel. President Barrow and Yahya are too grubby and narrowly political to care about readings.

I hope our political leaders will be releasing a reading lists of their favorite books to share with the people.

Does a president’s reading habits impact whether he will effectively govern? It’s a safe assumption that a wide-ranging and prolific reader will have a greater breadth of knowledge for any subject at hand, whether that’s policy making or political ideology.

Lifting the veil on a president’s personal reading habits is humanizing as well–we, the public, get a better sense of who the leader of the Gambia is, and perhaps even share in the joys of having read the same books. It’s not often the average Gambian can look to a president and share something in common.

President Barrow and Jammeh both have passions for sports which speaks volumes.

Reading is a habit found in every successful person. Whatever you’re calling or interest in life, there are books, blogs and articles written on how to succeed, self-teach and guide on almost any subject in life, all you must do is become interested.

Besides providing us with information and knowledge that we can use to handle many of life’s challenges, the positive words and information we absorb by reading tends to influence us believe system and perspective about life. Reading also makes us think and act smarter since we have information and knowledge to base our decision and actions on.