Tomos Roberts (Tomfoolery) on the world’s need for better leaders and how art reflects that need

As many Canadians watched last evening, Canadians elected another minority parliament with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While watching the polls and listening to all of the politicians’ speeches, I was reminded of a recent spoken word poem from the UK’s Tomos Roberts. Referred to as “Dear World Leaders,” it calls for leaders on our planet  to address the dearth of wisdom, insight and ethics so commonly in the news–and to value the arts and artists, as vehicles to communicate those values.

Critics can easily charge Roberts’ (aka Tomfoolery’s) poetry with being idealistic. But he makes a grounded appeal for political leaders to find better vision and demonstrate a greater commitment to ethics than most do.

Copyright(c) “Tomfoolery,” here is his poem:

“Dear World Leaders:

I know your job isn’t easy, and the pressures immense, as you navigate uncertain, unfolding events. 

You ask us to stay in our homes and put on our masks. Well, I come to you now with the simplest of asks.

Just encourage us. Look back through the archives—the most famous of speeches. Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth, Churchill’s “Fighting on the Beaches,” Martin’s Dream of the children with skin black and white, in a world hand-in-hand who would play and not fight.

They sprung verse from adversity through world movements and war. They used words that when spoken helped the hopeless’ wings to soar.

Right now, these are the speeches that we so need to hear. So our goosebumps stand up and we’re roused from our fear. Look, you can tell us of cases, ‘til we’re blue in the faces. We all know the dangers, but the whole human race is, in this moment, confronted with the very same foe.

And you were chosen to guide us all through the unknown, so we hang on your message when things slip and decline. Connected only by screen, we share statements online. But we’re stuck on one narrative and it’s always alarmist. So a word to the wise: don’t discourage the artists.

We need the creativity of people more than ever right now. Call upon them to reforge the old stories of how–we inspire the youth and look after the old, or bring peace to the tired, as they shoulder their load.

Look, if you’re an elected world leader then that surely implies we need more than polite please to “just stay inside.” It’s so disheartening to feel like these words are in vain, when such talented people are told to retrain.

You have dancers, comedians, poets galore. There are actors, musicians, filmmakers and more.

And while key workers are working themselves to the bone, and when weary and drained they must find their way home. What words of encouragement ring out in their minds, what strength for tomorrow do you want them to find?

We need plays to be written and songs to be sung, we need solidarity now so we might overcome.

It’s an emergency but not just the medical kind; ‘cause it pervades through our spirits, our hearts and our minds.

Where’s the passionate speeches that I have not heard, to encourage gives courage—that’s why it’s part of the word.

The last thing I want you to hear in this rhyme is that one day together we’ll look back at this time.

We will collectively mourn those the virus has taken. There’ll be businesses broken and livelihoods shaken. But I’d wager right now that our spark will return and those embers will ignite a new beacon that burns.

But what of you, I do ask. What will your legacy be? What will the history books read; what will you want us to see? Inspire us now and we’ll remember your name. We’ll remember how you answered the call when it came.

Kids will quote you in essays, as they remember this strife, we’ll make toasts to your word; they’ll make films of your life.

So the gauntlet is laid, take it up, if you dare: with intelligence, empathy, wisdom and care.

Just give us something to cling to; encouraging words we may heed.

I hope you’ll be that world leader; that’s the world leader we need.”

© written, directed and read by Tomfoolery: