A new kind of leadership: Tai Foo Benoit Lee

A few days ago I had coffee with Tai Foo Benoit Lee, of Raiz, a new political party, but we left politics out, it was a private conversation.

Towards the end of the week, he said,  his group will be hosting a press conference, introducing its members and its platform to the public, meanwhile RAIZ has an official FB page with many followers where they post on various subjects creating awareness with potential voters about the political movement and relevant issues such as: Citizen participation, community building, equal rights for all, the protection of nature and the environment, and the reinstitution of the island’s traditional norms and values, just to name a few.

Tai Foo is a well known contributor to FB here, I follow his intelligent writing frequently, and I welcome him now into the political arena, idealistic, I don’t want to say naïve so I say fresh, and on fire; he loves his island and he wants to bring some positive change about.

In his personal life Tai Foo has been the general manager of a chain of sandwich shops for the past 6 years. He says it was an excellent school where he was taught by 103 of his employees about life on the island. “Over the past years,” he says, “I watched my people struggle, confront challenges, and cope with the stress of making a living and raising a family here, and I tried to help wherever I could, as a leader-servant,” he adds.

“When you have 103 multi-cultural employees,” he states, “you see and hear everything, I am totally prepared for the big picture, I recognize the issues, and it is time for us to come up with workable solutions.”

The way he sees it, he was in the trenches for 6 years, learning all he needed to learn in the microcosm, to be a future leader for his people, in the macrocosm.

Another story he told me which I liked is his recent failed business venture. Last year Tai Foo confidently opened a most charming café — it was great in many ways – he invested blood, sweat and tears, in a difficult location, and did not see success. “The experience of TAN’DẺ humbled me,” he comments, “I needed it, it taught me humility, and that life’s greatest riches are spiritual.”

“There is no coincidence,” he remarks. After closing the café he joined the local Tao society, exploring its system of belief, attitudes and practices, where he now enjoys the mentoring of some more experience Tao friends and practices austerity in his lifestyle. “Tao,” he explains, “is about flowing with life, with care, and that is what we fellow-islanders need in order to genuinely connect with each other and with nature.”

I had two coffees, he had water. And he became a bit emotional when he spoke about his family members which he loves and admires. If anything, he is a family man.

Earlier in the week he wrote to me: “I can also assure you of this, we are here to make a difference in the local traditional way of handling politics, and how it is experienced. We wish to elevate the level of discourse so as to create a society of citizens who demand a higher performance level of their public servants. We will work to the best of our abilities and with good intentions to enhance the quality of life of all Arubans with no personal interest at stake and most importantly without bashing of trashing our political adversaries present or past. Because I now belong to a group of people decisions must be taken by consulting the group first. Loyalty, is an important value to me, one which must be respected at all times so as to create understanding and trust.

My kind of man, principles above personalities; please invite me to one of your political gatherings; I need to learn about Raiz.