By Emmanuel Malou Deng.

Oct 25th (New York, USA)

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile,” Albert Einstein.

This statement is exceptionally essential in regard to being a genuine leader. A life of service has been the hallmark of John Gai’s leadership. Taking an example from his initiatives while he was Minister of Education Science and Technology—we can see that a life of service is what brings true meaning. Dr. John Gai is an academic who is blessed with profound leadership skills, especially in identifying potentials in people. To him, every individual has something to offer given a chance. John Gai has done tremendously in his leadership, and in this piece, I am obliged to point out two imperative initiatives he has done that deserve commendation.

Starting with myself and Joseph Makol —while we were mere primary school graduates— we were frantically needing support to join secondary school. With virtually no optimism of joining a secondary school, my brother Makol and I turned to Dr. John Gai, who was then Minister of Education, for financial support. To our astonishment, he responded positively by enrolling us in one of the most expensive boarding schools. Even while at school, John Gai kept on supporting the two of us. Whenever we needed anything —be it cash or exhortation— he was consistently there to help. What challenges most people, Dr. John Gai isn’t from our tribe —Dinka: he is a Nuer. The idea of John Gai supporting young people from another tribe was inconceivable to people because not many people do what he does. Therefore, this was an open indication that we are all one and that a leader can serve beyond the tribe. Because of his decision to help us enroll in one of the top high schools, we were able to excel in the National Exams. To us, Prof. John Gai wasn’t just a sponsor, but also a father figure who was always there to advise and mentor us. He is an individual with positivity and believes everything is possible.

While I reflect today on the kind of individual John Gai is, it is quite difficult to compare such a great leader who is often optimistic about the potential of young people. Today, I am at Columbia University, a top private Ivy League research university in the United States of America. Sometimes, I ask myself: who might have seen this potential in us if Dr. John Gai Yoh wasn’t there? Who knew, if not John Gai, that a mere primary school kid would finish secondary school, score well in the National Exams, and go to a top Ivy League School in America? This is a testimony that young South Sudanese are viable of doing extremely well when given opportunities by our leaders. Joseph Makol is today at a prestigious Ethiopian University and keeps asking the same questions. South Sudan has numerous individuals that are passionate about uplifting potential young people, yet there are not as many as we would want. A country’s future depends on its young people, and the more individuals with power are willing to empower the young generation, the more promising the nation’s future becomes.

Dr. John Gai saw similar potential in Prof. John Akech, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Juba. The University of Juba was low in its quality of education and was almost collapsing. When John Gai, in his capacity as Minister, was presented with opportunity to bring new light to the university, his vigilance prompted him to swiftly recommend Prof. John Akech to President Salva Kiir Mayardit as Vice-chancellor of the University of Juba. As it can be widely attested, the courageous leadership of Vice-Chancellor John Akech greatly transformed the University from a dying institution characterized by mediocrity to a propitious institution.
On the off chance that John Gai had not settled on this decision, I surmise things would be different now at the University of Juba. Thus, thanks to Prof Akech for recognizing, in his Facebook post, the work done by Dr. John Gai. Without a doubt, Dr. Gai knew that John Akech was the perfect individual to make a difference in the university’s leadership. Truly, John Gai must be pleased with his anticipated potential in Prof. John Akech. What is even amazing about Dr. John Gai is his modest nature. He values everybody, whether young or old. He serves past the tribe; he sees all South Sudanese equal. Likewise, he sees potential in individuals, and he has supported South Sudan substantially during his leadership as Minister of Education.

John Gai’s leadership teaches us a lot. His leadership teaches us that we are all equally South Sudanese—a Nuer can help a Dinka, a Shilluk can support a Mundari and etcetera. In fact, Dr. John’s personality signals to us that serving others is a goal. His leadership teaches us that being a leader is tied in with seeing potential in individuals. Many thanks to Dr. John Gai, for his inspiring leadership. May God favors him to keep serving our beloved country.