President Wyclef Jean? Mixed reactions from local Haitians

If I was president,
I'd get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday,
and buried on Sunday.

Fafa GiraultFafa GiraultThese are words to the song “If I Was President” written by Wyclef back in 2004. Six years later, he announces (tonight) on CNN's "Larry King Live" that he intends to run for president of Haiti in the country's Nov 28 election.
The 37-year-old Grammy award winner has always given back to Haiti. The recording artist and now politician has been a goodwill ambassador for Haiti since 2007.
Like many, I always saw Wyclef as a world wide representativefor Haiti. He put Haiti on the map and made being Haitian cool for many of us. All of a sudden Haitian people who denied they were Haitian came out the woodwork— some wearing Haitian flags even. Classic.

There was not one time he got on stage and did not represent where he came from. He never failed to mention his people of Haiti. I definitely admired him for his constant shout outs. I felt a connection with him due to us sharing the same heritage. I felt like he was a distant family member regardless how big he had made it. He has never been too big for Haiti.
Since the big news hit the streets many questions have arisen. Is Wyclef ready to take on this job for president? Is he qualified. Has he had enough schooling, is he experienced enough? Being a celebrity is one thing, being president of Haiti is another. Will he hurt or help?
Qualified or not, he just might be eligible. The Haitian constitution (Article 135) says that in order to be elected president one must:
a. Be a native-born Haitian and never have renounced Haitian nationality;
b. Have attained 35 years of age by the election day:
c. Enjoy civil and political rights and never have been sentenced to death, personal restraint or penal servitude or loss of civil rights for a crime of ordinary law;
d. Be the owner in Haiti of at least one real property and have his habitual residence in the country;
e. Have resided in the country for five consecutive years before the date of the elections;
f. Have been relieved of his responsibilities if he has been handling public funds.
In a video posted on New York Times website, Wyclef had this to say:
“My decision was a draft — I’m being drafted by the youth, meaning that, as a Haitian citizen, if I’m to just stand back for another five years, for everything that I stand up [for] and just watch this country get toppled, after going on the ground picking up bodies — dead bodies of kids — then I won’t be able to sleep at night.”
After sharing his words with a few individuals, I then asked them what their thoughts were on Wyclef's decision to run.

Nadege Arrendel , Cambridge, MA 38,
Partners Healthcare, Administrator

"Well I have mixed emotions. I think that he would want to run for an ambassador position first. I think he decided to make the decision because off his emotions, his love for his country but more so because people are putting it in his ears to do so, and not due to him being qualified but more based on what he has done for the country already. He is no politician, and if he does become president, I hope that he has the right support and guidance."

Roamy Fils-Aime,
Executive Rockland County, NY, 27
Producer for Beat-Mining Productions

"I feel that Wyclef Jean would perform well as the president of Haiti. He is very active within the community working with NGO companies on Haiti's best interest. Thanks to his music career, he has a great relationship with other countries throughout the world, which could be used for the benefit of Haiti in the future. Wyclef Jean is very aware of the activities performed in Haiti where if he was given the chance to help develop Haiti into a better country. Wyclef Jean for President."

Jason Grier, Mattapan, MA, 30
Software Engineer

"There are a lot of positive and negative aspects of the prospect of Wyclef becoming president. I think that he could serve to unify Haiti in a very real way because he is a popular figure that would be fully appointed by the people. And in a country where a high percentage of its population are young people, he can relate to the majority of the people living there.
"Conversely, to lead, and to effectively bring Haiti into the 21st century will take more then just a popular president but a real plan for the revitalization of the country with someone at the helm who has the experience to represent Haiti on an international stage.
The concern with Wyclef being president isn't with his political experience per se, but with his celebrity status and the heightened expectations from a desperate people who are longing for stability in their beloved country will ask more from Wyclef then even a seasoned political figure could provide.
"I think as a Haitian, Wyclef is obligated and committed to the betterment of the country, and he has achieved great success in life, so he is a strong person and proved he has what it takes to excel and be extraordinary in difficult situations.
"In November- if he gets elected - he might be the best thing to happen to that country in 250 years, and although sometimes the most popular option isn't necessarily the best one. Today there are special challenges in Haiti, and if there is someone who can solidify the people and represent them in a positive light, while focusing on the governance of the country and not political or finical gain - he could be the start of a new day for Haiti."

Leon David, Malden, MA
Youth support coordinator and a home-based clinician

The fact that Wyclef is pursuing what is obviously a dream to him is commendable. Yet this goes beyond simply just dreaming. There are real lives at stake, and I do not think that the millions of Haitian lives are an expendable accessory to any one dream.
"If Wyclef's bid at the presidency is to be more than just one man’s grab at self actualization, there needs to be a clear explanation of that dream and how all parts of Haitian society fits into that dream - down from the feral dogs in the streets, barely supervised by their owners, to the lowest and highest in our many bewildering layers of society, to schools, youth and elderly, back to the homeless orphans and disenfranchised.
"There needs to be an actual platform; a vision that people can make their own and contribute towards. I think many people may be more shocked at the fact that Wyclef chose to run (even though we all probably suspected it would eventually come - at least that's the case for me since he cut off his hair); some may feel that he is unqualified for whatever reasons but is that fear really relevant? And can't Haiti afford a breath of fresh air, after all nothing else seemed to have worked in past attempts? I see no harm in going for something that is out of the box.
"Nevertheless, I would caution that if his success is to be founded on success alone then stop and move back start because he would have failed before even beginning. If there is anything we can learn from history is that being popular does not guarantee success. There is much Wyclef can learn from the Aristide example. If Wyclef can show a clear platform and can demonstrate that he has the wisdom to share power by surrounding himself with qualified people who know the workings of the Haitian
political system (they would also need to have a track record of demonstrating that they have the peoples' interests at heart), be a
catalyst for organic leadership and entrepreneurship, a model for decency and integrity, and inspiration for active youth mobilization and a plan for the country that goes beyond mere touristic advantages to neighboring islands then he may stand a chance.
Well, with that said made the best man— or woman— win!
Ayiti Cherie.
Farrah "Fafa" Girault is a regular contributor to the Boston Haitian Reporter.