This is a discussion I’ve previously ignored and opted out of intentionally and without hesitation. Mostly because I thought it only a pointless topic people occasionally brought up just to ‘sound of’. I’m old enough to have experienced the full rise and rise and rise of Usain St Leo Bolt, and bright enough to understand and appreciate his contribution to his and my country, Jamaica. But should I seriously sit down and share my thoughts on why this tremendously accomplished Jamaican athlete could not appropriately matriculate to a Jamaican hero (anytime soon), my points would sure set fire under more than a few people’s wire. So instead of jumping down the pretentious hole of research, big words, facts and figures to only balance on the fence. I’ll keep this pretty surface so as to set blaze to my definitive opinion on this matter. A definitive opinion that was carefully formed and from which I will forever refer whenever engaged.

For a quick crash course in our seven current national heroes’ history, let’s turn to an excerpt from a Jamaica Observer article originally published in 2015. (see here)

Nanny led the guerrilla warfare which liberated the Maroons from British colonial rule; Sam Sharpe led the revolts aimed at freeing slaves from the sugar plantations; George William Gordon spoke out against the injustices of colonial rule; Paul Bogle led a protest by peasants for more just conditions; Marcus Garvey led a worldwide movement of people of African descent with the goals of equal rights, economic self-reliance and the liberation of Africa; Norman Manley was the architect of political independence from British colonialism; and Sir Alexander Bustamante was a pioneer of the trade union movement in the quest for better wages for workers.

Obviously and appropriately noted in the article from which this synopsis was excavated, all these acts are centered around some sort of political crusading. The article and most intellects will argue (as their final point) that the criteria by which a national hero is named and honored must be revised to be more inclusive of ‘culture, science and sports’, and less exclusive of the world of politics. While that has all the makings of a valid point, one must return to the fundamental definition of a hero, of heroism and of the title  ‘National Hero’.

Usain Bolt is a three time Olympic champion in three different track disciplines and the fastest human ever timed. He is globally synonymous with speed as he is with extrovertism. His embodiment of Jamaican pride has by virtue instilled the same for Jamaicans toward him. However, putting yourself through years of championships, training, injury, criticism, concubines and the lot, to later achieve all the aforementioned laurels - is not by definition selfless or heroic. Winning races and running very fast -running the fastest- is not essentially a Jamaican national ideal. Earning millions of dollars and millions of global fans are also not essentially Jamaican national ideals. These are however wondrous ingredients that makes a perfect modern national ambassador the world over. I’ll quote a tweet I recently made in regard to this said topic; ‘’Fame does not equate to heroism’. And no - I’m not trying to conveniently denigrate Bolt’s accomplishments down to one single word (fame) to help drive home this, my definitive opinion. What I am however doing is calling a spade a spade. If Usain had accomplished what he has but was not made extremely popular in doing so, ‘hero’ and ‘Bolt’ would never be complimentary words subjected to an eight year debate. For all our seven national heroes we had to be taught and given the opportunity to learn their names, faces (some of which we’re still uncertain of) and acts of heroism. Acts important to how we as Jamaicans are now able to live and thrive. They were not as they are now; widely revered, researched, honored or syndicated. While Usain Bolt should be regarded as a firm pillar on which a good portion of prideful Jamaican history sits, his ‘portfolio’ is lacking a better amount of what it takes to be regarded as a National hero. And let’s be clear, placing the words ‘modern’ in front of ‘national hero’ does not -all of a sudden- change the definition of the title or phrase. While I am a thriving millennial that believe we should always create new (things), we are simply not allowed to change the rules of definition to suit a single place or time or impractical argument.

A national hero has qualities that make him stand out, such as commitment, self-sacrifice and dedication to national ideals. He generally demonstrates leadership qualities and ethical behavior, showing love for his country. (see here)

I’m afraid we have shamefully reduced the title National Hero to a bareness that resembles the title ‘Role Model’. In all truth and fact Usain Bolt -through his more than deliberate actions- has always steered clear of placing such commitment, self-sacrifice and dedication on his broad shoulders of an ethical and nationally appropriate Role Model. So how then are we even practically and logically considering that handing him the honor of National Hero is by any means smart, appropriate or timely? His national powers for me begins and ends at him being able to bring together the majority of this great nation’s people to watch him win. To watch him win first for himself, then puma, then perhaps for his country. Now that’s a prime piece of honesty.


If Paul Bogle or Sam Sharpe were to only rally peasants and slaves to march to town squares to watch them be great, they would perhaps be remembered as great men, but definitely not made immortal as national heroes.


Conclusively, Usain Bolt -more so than anyone else since Bob Marley- has the best platform on which he may acquire the added accomplishments needed to rightfully fit the bill of National Hero. Also important to note is that matriculating to the status of a national hero does not necessarily mean you must ‘win’ whatever case, competition or fight you're fighting. It is in being brave, standing up and placing the plight of an entire society squarely on your shoulders and uninhibitedly putting yourself last. It’s championing your way to effect national change on essential national issues. This often times includes matters of law, regulation and human treatment, and making or changing any or all of the aforementioned to be good, satisfactory or right.  Yes, he’s closest to the throne. But Usain St Leo Bolt is not now or will anytime soon be the true human embodiment of a Jamaican National Hero.  Something to consider; Bolt may very well not care for this honor and by his recent and not so recent actions I think that is indeed the fact.