He has an assured place in Jamaican history. As Dean of the Consular Corps of Jamaica since 2001, he essentially gave the body its independence while presiding over its considerable growth and development. But for some it is Arnold Foote’s commitment and years of service to the advertising industry that matters most. He founded the Caribbean Association of Advertising Agencies in 1970, serving as president until 1974, and was named President Emeritus of the Advertising Agencies Association of Jamaica (AAAJ) in 1991.
In the same year, Foote led the first Jamaican trade mission to the European Common Market and became the first private sector member of any African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) country to address the European Commission in Brussels in Belgium. His involvement in international relation has also included membership of the Target Europe Committee from 199401996 among several bodies. Currently, he is president of the CARICOM Consular Association, Director of the Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY) and Founding Director of the Advertising Standards Authority – just to name a few.
Foote has a lot going for him. His local and international awards/honours have been numerous and varied. Apart from the National Order of Distinction (Commander Class) and dozens of other local honours, Foote has been named Honorary Consul of the Republic of Turkey; ha has received the ORO VERDE award (1982) in Paraguay for outstanding contribution to tourism in Jamaica and an award from the Florida International Volunteer Corps for service to the people of Central America and the Caribbean. Today, Foote continues to outdo himself, making his mark in foreign affairs circles and simultaneously putting Jamaica in the glare of the international spotlight.
In November, the 72-year-old veteran was elected President of the World Federation of Consuls (FICAC) at the Eighth World Congress of Consuls hosted by Jamaica at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in St. James. Last Monday, a celebratory cocktail reception was held in his honour at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, attended by former Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke, Observer chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and several members of the diplomatic corps.
Those who know the proud father of three (Arnold III, Kimberly, and Roma), loving husband (he’s married to Patricia) and former national footballer, know that he is not one for small talk. He is high-minded and earnest – but not with a brooding character of press lore. He is a quiet, bespectacled man who chooses his words carefully and whose determination is embraced by all. Most find him warm, with a sudden unexpected laugh and bone-dry wit. He is also patient; he seems ready to wait a while longer for the moment, when many believe he will be bestowed with the National Order of Jamaica for his years of distinguished service to the country.
But that is Arnold Foote, a man for all trades, who has a way of surprising even his staunchest adversaries. He sat down with SunDay at his Brompton Road office in St. Andrew last week to talk about his demanding new role, his plans for the new year and why the thrills of success are still coming in waves.
SunDay: How does it feel to be the new president of an influential body like the World Federation of Consuls?
Foote: It is a good feeling and I really appreciate the support I have been getting. I accept the great honour on behalf of the country and the region. We (Jamaica) did ourselves proud in November in hosting the world congress where I was elected. There were 82 countries present and even though it was a unanimous decision the competition was fierce. Europe has held the presidency for over 25 years and this is the first time it is being held by this side of the world. It is such a big honour. The leadership of any international organization in the modern era is a unique opportunity to make an impact on the world in which we live.
SunDay: What exactly is the function of the World Federation of Consuls?
Foote: Well, there are 120 countries in all who are members, and each country has their own consular corps. The world body serves as a global network and as head of the entire consular movement. The main objectives of the federation are to enhance the performance of the consular services in member countries, to promote and improve contacts and friendships among consuls worldwide, to encourage the establishment of new associations and their membership of the federation and to educate the wider public about the nature and importance of consular functions.
SunDay: At the function held in you honour at the Pegasus on Monday, you said, “Organizations must, to a greater or lesser degree, react to change. Change affects us all.” What is the vision of change that you want to bring to your three-year tenure as president?
Foote: There are many things I would love FICAC to do differently. I think it is time to change the centres of influence, to be more inclusive towards Asia, Africa and the Americas. Even the FICAC constitution speaks to equitable geographic representation as being a desirable goal. I want the organization to be more responsive to the differing needs of members and to restore membership to those countries who may have left because of perceived and actual disenchantment, and to reach out to others. In this globalized world it is extremely important that we educate ourselves about our changing roles and strengthen our approach to different issues. There is a lot that can be done to improve the functioning of the organization.
SunDay: Tell us one of the major projects you hope to undertake during your presidency?
Foote: As president, I really want to develop a project by pulling people together to raise funds for the Mandela Foundation, to help underprivileged children living with HIV/AIDS. Through my leadership, I want the federation to be positioned in the minds of people as a body that cares about people and their communities, and for us to convert that caring into action. At the next meeting of the federation, I intend to ask every consular corps to host a dinner at the same time on the same night, and we will have a simultaneous broadcast from the Mandela Foundation. No date has been set for this as yet, but I want to start a programme like this that will be held annually and kept alive by future presidents. Basically, I just want to improve the status of the consular body and put solid programmes in place.
SunDay: We know that with this very demanding job as a global ambassador, you will have an extremely busy travelling schedule in the new year. What is your 2007 itinerary like?
Foote: I have several conferences to attend and courtesy calls to make. In January, I have a meeting with the consular corps in the Netherlands. I also plan to travel to the Far East in March. In the new year, I also have engagements in Thailand, Milan, Panama, Venezuela, Australia and London. Most of these engagements include meeting with presidents, prime ministers and different figures. I have also been invited to Jordan but no date has been set for that yet.
SunDay: Take us back to Jamaica now. How have you seen your contribution to nation-building change when you look back at the last few decades and compare that period to the present day?
Foote: My work for Jamaica today is more on the international scene. But one of my concerns for Jamaica at home is that we need to bridge the gap between the older generation and the young people. We have a lot to give back to our youth to prevent the recurrence of our mistakes. I believe that gap should be filled and I am willing to work with organizations to help accomplish this. That is also part of my current focus.
SunDay: Let’s shift gears here. As a former national footballer (Foote represented Jamaica in 1951 and 1954-7), what are your views on the current state of our national football programme?
Foote: The whole thing has changed. In my day, when you got selected to play for Jamaica, it was a great honour and you treated the opportunity as such. Today, it is more about fame and money. We need to get the players to be at one level with each other. They have the talent to win. Love for your country and for your own colleagues is very important. The coaches also have to do a better job of mentally preparing the team to go out there. I do not think enough time is being spent on mental preparation and education about the game.
SunDay: What are some of you other interests and hobbies?
Foote: My job is my hobby (laughs). Whenever your job feels like work, you should give it up. You should enjoy it, live it and breath it 24/7. I enjoy what I do. I also enjoy movies. TV relaxes me. I also read books about my line of work but I think I need to read more widely.
SunDay: Do you have any heroes or idols?
Foote: Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes and I don’t have many. He is a true idol. My father was also one of my heroes. He set the example of being a hard worker for me.
SunDay: Would you rather win the Nobel Peace Prize or rescue a bunch of kittens from a burning house?
Foote: (Chuckles) I would choose to rescue kittens because they are living things too, and, besides I am very, very partial to kittens. (Chuckles).
By Tyrone Reid