Dr. Joyce El Ali
Please accept my sincere gratitude for the confidence and trust you have placed in me by electing me as your President. This is a time of reckoning for the survival of this iconic association – NAJASO. I am humbled by the outpouring of support and I am ready to take on the challenge. We are here today, on the cusp of change, because of your commitment, support, and exhaustive efforts focused on preserving the integrity and sustainability of NAJASO. Colleagues, because of your efforts I am here to stand with you in solidarity to resurrect NAJASO and place it on the road to a sustainable future. So, again, thank you for your undeniable support and trust.
Congratulations and welcome to the newly elected officers who have committed to serve NAJASO unselfishly. I am confident that we have the right team in place to move forward, and together we will march to the order of change, transparency, relevance, and commitment.
Many thanks to the outgoing officers to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for their service and hope they will continue to serve in other capacities.
Now the difficult road to recovery begins!
We have an exceptional team in place, and I am more confident than ever that together, we have the will to place NAJASO on a new trajectory. In this instance, change is inevitable. When we lead with honesty, integrity and respect for our members; when we are inclusive and trustworthy; when we follow a democratic protocol and not a dictatorial one, then progress does happen, resulting in relevant change. Inclusive leadership works, but we must want it – not just during an election year, but all the days in between.
You have told me that you share in the values of inclusive, trusting and transparent leadership. You have certainly shown me your conviction with a landslide victory to the presidency of NAJASO. Certainly, you demonstrated that leadership in NAJASO need to change and emphasis must be placed on updating the Constitution/Bylaws and on succession planning. Be assured that these items are high on my list of priorities. I will be placing high emphasis on reaching out to the younger generation, not only “young professionals, but young people from all socioeconomic levels and with a strong emphasis on the “forgotten” (less privileged) where there is disparity in the allocation of attention, resources, and opportunities. Not every child is destined to be lawyers, doctors, and bound for college. Every child, however, is bound for an education, in whatever form, regardless of financial or economic status. Therefore, this administration under my presidency, will be broadening its educational program focus to reach these underserved communities.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the black, green and gold, the constitution of NAJASO and with deep respect and allegiance to the stars and stripes of our adopted homeland, the United States of America.
This year’s election called us to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against the hard reality of declining membership, lack of funding and the “greying” of our membership base to see how we are measuring up to the legacy of our founding patriarch, Hon. Ambassador Alfred Rattray and the promise to future generations.
As we consider the role of President of NAJASO, this individual should embody the spirit of selfless service. And yes, at this very moment – a moment that will define the future of NAJASO, it is this spirit that must inhabit all who serve this association, and it is this spirit that I will bring to the NAJASO presidency. For as much as NAJASO can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of members upon which it relies. Our challenges may be new. How we meet these challenges will definitely be new, especially with the proliferation of technology and social media. But those values upon which our success depends – honesty, integrity, hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress for successful organizations. What is necessary then is a return to these truths.
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility and accountability – a recognition, on the part of every officer and member of NAJASO that we have duties to ourselves, our individual organizations, our communities and specifically, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying and defining to the spirit of serving, than giving our all unselfishly. This is the price and the promise of effective leadership and the source of our confidence – steep in the knowledge that we are voted into office to shape the uncertain future of NAJASO. Yet, despite the magnitude of the task at hand, we are committed to rolling up our sleeves and putting our shoulders to the wheel to get the job done.
One of the most important things I intend to do as your NAJASO president is to help in preparing the next generation of leaders to take up the baton and take their own crack at enhancing NAJASO by ensuring its continued relevance. So, let us mark this period by doing the right thing and make this a day of remembrance of who we are, how far we have come, and where we are going.
We must also acknowledge that we are faced with the common dangers of declining membership, lack of interest among existing members, and not having a clear vision of how to engage and attract young people for succession planning. Yet we must be hopeful. I call on you to keep the faith and continue to fight for NAJASO’s survival. Let us be inspired by these timeless words: “With hope and virtue, we need to brave the icy waters and endure what storms come along with change. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end- that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of unselfish service” and delivered NAJASO, safely to future generations.
NAJASO is celebrating more than four decades of existence, yet, it is performing at an embryotic stage of development. We must change, while retaining our foundational tenet. It is time to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose a more effective path of service upon which NAJASO was founded.
In reaffirming the significance of NAJASO, we must understand that sustainability is not automatic. We must work at it and earn it. Our path, which is not for the faint of heart, should never be one of short-cuts or settling for less or for those who prefer leisure over work, or who bask only in the pleasures of self-aggrandizement. Oftentimes, it has been the risk-takers, the hard workers, and the innovative thinkers, who work obscurely in the shadows, often bearing the brunt of the burden and are rarely celebrated. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our constitution and bylaws, but because they are the embodiment of the spirit of service which is a willingness to find meaning in something greater than self. At this very time which will define NAJASO’s future, it is that same generous spirit of service that is required and must reside within all of us. As much as an organization can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of its members on which the organization relies. Things have changed around us, and we must change as well.
Although the challenges we face may be new and the ways in which we meet them may be new, those values upon which our success depends – honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance, loyalty and patriotism – these are all old but true and have been the underlying force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.
NAJASOites, today, I say to you, we have a moral wind at our backs, Ambassador Rattray, and that as we stand at the crossroads of NAJASO’s future, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that we face. If you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, and if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all of you across the NAJASO footprint will rise up alongside me as your President to reclaim and reset NAJASO on the path to fulfilling its mission. The melody of Jimmy Cliff: “I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day” will propel us to reach for that rainbow.