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City of Banjul
Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Choose your group, or your group will choose you

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Part 4

Speech by Katim Seringe Touray to graduands at the Anglican Mission Institute (formerly called ATC), Farafenni, Upper Badibu, North Bank Region, The Gambia on Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Part 4 of 4; the complete transcription of the speech (edited for clarity and brevity) is available online at https://tinyurl.com/3aad758m, and the recording of the speech is archived at the Internet Archive (https://tinyurl.com/mrytve8j).

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The other thing I’d like to say is that you have to work hard. We all know that the alternative word for when somebody dies in Wolof is nopaleh kou (to rest), in Mandinka they say adaha taleh (to take a rest), and in English they say “Rest in peace.” That means that life is a struggle.

You know, there is one guy I see around the Serrekunda/Manjai area. He is what we call a merchant ambulant (street vendor) [with] goods that he’s going around selling. [He’s now] lost weight, but the first time I saw him, I really felt sorry for him, because this is a very heavyset guy and he was an older guy. One day he passed me [while] I was in a shop and I told this guy at the shop that “You know, anytime I see this guy, I feel very sorry for him” and he said, “Why do you feel sorry for him?” I said “Well, because he’s old, he’s heavy set, he’s doing work that’s meant for [younger people] because this its tough work going around in this hot Sun, selling shoes and things like that.” And he said, something that really was very interesting. He said, “You know? I don’t feel sorry for this guy.” I said “Really, why don’t you feel sorry for him?” He said, “Because these are the people that when they were young they did not work hard. If he worked hard when he was young, he would not have [had] to do this in his old age.

So you have a choice. It’s a choice that you have to make: you either work hard when you are young, when it’s time for you to work hard, when you have the strength and energy to work hard, or if not, you’re going to suffer in your old age and blame people for no reason whatsoever.

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And another thing, I should say, in that regard. I know a lot of you are very much into football. I’m not that much into sport myself. Not that I have anything against football. But I’ll tell you, I always tell people when I see kids playing football in the hot Sun, I tell them that look, while you are playing football in the hot Sun, there are other children who actually busy studying in the shade. And those few of you, [the] very, very few of you that would be the Sadio Manés that would sign somewhere on the dotted line their contract that will give them the thousands of dollars and thousands of pounds or whatever a week with their Manchester Uniteds and whatever have you, I tell those people that are lucky [that] the first thing that they do when they have a contract is not to call their mother or to call their father, but they will call that child who was studying while they were playing football. Because [it is that] child who grew up to be an accountant, its that child who grew up to be a lawyer.

And you know what? As a professional footballer you are going to be useful professionally, for like 5, maximum 10 years. As a lawyer [or] a doctor, you can be doing your service by virtue of [your] training practically for the rest of your life. So you think about that, Number 1, if you want to get in professional sports, your chances [of getting a contract] are very, very slim, and Number 2, the fact that your professional career is very short. And many of them [professional sports people] end up blowing their money, so … ten years [or so] after retirement, they are actually dirt poor and back to where they were. So think about that. Work hard and work smart, being sure exactly what you get yourself into.

You should count your blessings. Thank God for the blessings and the privileges you have. Once in a while [on hot days] I call my friends from Ballanghar [and living] in the Kombo’s and say “You know what, can you imagine [that] a few years, we would have been in the [farm], cultivating our millet, our groundnuts (peanuts) … but here we are in our air-conditioned offices because we were fortunate and blessed to have been to school and enjoy all these privileges and perks, [leaving] our folks, families and relatives behind.

So please, please, please, I implore you to please count your blessings. Consider yourself fortunate to have had the opportunity to go to, go to school and succeed. And when you do that, [you should] also please keep in mind those people who are less fortunate. Do not ever be so arrogant that you forget the people that you left behind.

And finally, I would urge you to choose your group, or your group will choose you. Let me explain. I always tell kids that wherever you are in the world, I don’t care where you are, whether [you are] in Tokyo, in Ballanghar, in New York, in Farafenni, or in Washington DC, … in Brazil, any neighborhood, any compound, any community, you can divide the society into two groups, exactly two groups. OK?

And who are those in those two groups? The first group are those people you know, and as I’m saying this, think about people you know in your community and place them in [one] of the groups that I’m talking about.

The first group are those people you know [that] whenever something happens in the community before anything is done, they’ll say “Where is Musa, what does he think?” “Where is Fatou, what is her idea?” Those are the people that the Community respects and listens to what they have to say and those are the people that are the decision-makers in the community.

Then there is another group, the second group. Those the people, that when something happens in the community, they’ll say “Where is Malick?” They’ll say “Forget about Malick, he’s not serious.” They’ll say “Where is Jankeh?” And they’ll say “Jankeh, are you mad? What’s she got to do with it?” Those are the people that nobody cares about. Nobody is expecting to, and nobody cares to hear what they have to say about anything of importance in the community.

What I mean by one group choosing you and you choosing the other group is that if you want to join the second group of those people that nobody listens to, that group chooses you because you don’t have to do anything to join them. All you have to do is to fold your hands and become wasted, and become a failure. Then you join that group. That group chooses you because you don’t do anything to join them.

If you want to be part of that group that people listen to, that you have a say in the community, people are interested in your ideas and they’re not going to do anything without you agreeing with it, that’s the group that you have to apply to join. And you apply by working hard.

And you know what? If you look at people in those two different groups if you want to join either of the groups, all you have to do is to follow the footsteps of people in those groups. If you want to join the group of people that people listen to, you have to follow their footsteps and work hard. If you want to join the group of people that nobody listens to, that everybody [in the group] is a failure, you have to just do nothing. You just have to fold your hands, and do nothing and you will fail. And, God forbid, you [will] join that group. So, the lesson, the moral of the story here is that choose your group, and choose your group carefully and choose well.

God bless you. I wish you all the very best. I want to tell you that we have very high hopes in you [and] I wish you the best.

Thank you!

The End

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