By Henry Beaucejour CEO of Haiti Tech of New-York
Investir et s’investir en Haiti: Un acte de foi, is the title of a riveting book recently released by author and entrepreneur Jerry Tardieu. After Port-au-Prince and North Miami, Tardieu chose New York as the third stop of his book tour. When I found out that the Harvard trained entrepreneur would be in New York for a book signing, I decided to attend.
I was curious to meet the author whose recent book is being praised by critics and journalists in Haiti and abroad. More than the author, I wanted to meet the “engaged young citizen” who was able to galvanize the Haitian community of North Miami and Pétion-Ville a month before. I had seen the images on television and was quite surprised that a writer could draw such big crowds in a society often allergic to intellectual matters.
I went to the book signing and it was a great success. The huge turnout is well deserved for Tardieu, a big dreamer who believes that his native Haiti can rise from the ashes of the earthquake and become a regional economic power. All night, an impressive crowd of Haitian Americans filled the elegant conference room of Hofstra’s university student center. After a round-able, where five panelists discussed his book in length, a charismatic but yet soft-spoken Tardieu addressed a captivated audience for an hour.
A little before midnight, there was still a line of people determined to get a signed copy of the book. This is rarely seen in the Long Island community! At midnight, Hofstra University had to put an end to the event. The author invited those who did not make it to his table to a Brooklyn restaurant the next day to get their signed copy of the book.
I realized from the huge turnout at the book signing that there is a Jerry Tardieu phenomenon in the making, at least on the scholarly and intellectual level. No wonder. First of all, he is well-spoken. There was pin drop silence as he answered questions from the audience. He connects with the crowd in a humoristic, yet eloquent way even when he addressed very sophisticated topics.
Secondly, he speaks passionately and optimistically about his country. He is a dream seller but the kind that you need to take seriously. For one thing, he is no talker. The 47-year-old Harvard entrepreneur has a long list of palpable business achievements to his credit. Recently, he led an effort of a pool of investors who invested $ 45 million in a high end Hotel in Haiti’s capital.
Dreamer or not, It is reassuring to see that we still have business leaders who passionately believe that Haiti can be a leading country in the Caribbean region. So many of us have lost hope.
The book signing was not only academic, but also social. People stayed for a long time. While patient fans of the author stood in line for hours in order to get their precious copy, many others chose to mingle at different corners of the room. All conversations were mostly related to Haiti and the current political impasse. Heated discussions and loud laugher continued throughout the night as more people started showing up.
Tardieu comes across as an open-minded bridge maker. At Hofstra, I was particularly struck by the diversity of the attendees. There were Haitian New-Yorkers from different social economic backgrounds and also from different political allegiances. There were also many university students and political activists. When asked, all spoke very highly of Tardieu. Knowing how Haitian society is often divided along social class and political beliefs, this is quite remarkable, and frankly uncharacteristic.
In a nutshell, there is a Jerry Tardieu phenomenon because the 47-year- old entrepreneur was able, through his writing, to inspire, gratify and encourage a divided society looking for different role models, new leaders, new thinkers and new faces.
I hope that he continues to inspire the Haitian youth and serves as a model for Haiti’s young entrepreneurs who dare to dream big. Haiti’s faith depends on how big we can dream. Dreaming is not a bad thing, in fact it’s a must. We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming is like saying you can never change your fate. Walt Disney said it all when he said “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”