Address by Honourable Mario Michel at National Independence Youth Rally February 22, 2003
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Her Excellency the Governor General, Dame Pearlette Louisy; Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony and Mrs. Anthony; our First Chief Minister, Sir George F.L. Charles; Ministers of Government, Parliamentary Secretaries and other Members of Parliament; their excellencies the members of the diplomatic corps; Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and Principal of the St. Augustine Campus, Professor Bo Tewarie; Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Jimmy Fletcher; Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports, Dr. Didacus Jules and Mr. Henry Mangal; other Permanent Secretaries; Chief Education Officer, Mrs. Fortuna Anthony-Husbands; other officials of the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports; other government officials; President of the National Youth Council, Mr. Silas Wilson; other youth and student leaders; principals; teachers; students; ladies and gentlemen.


I am once again called upon as Minister with responsibility for Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports to deliver brief remarks to the annual rally in celebration of our country’s independence.  The rally used to be called a National Youth Rally at a time when it was no more than a gathering of students addressed by Government officials.  We changed its title some years ago and began to call it a Schools’ Rally but the format remained the same.  As of last year, however, we reverted to calling it a National Youth Rally and sought to have it live up to its name by inviting the President of the National Youth Council to give the main address and to have young persons – albeit from the student body – to address the theme of the rally.  Consequent on this change in format, my role as Minister is no longer to make a substantive address but to deliver some brief remarks.  Let me, therefore, on behalf of the Government of St. Lucia, wish a happy 24th independence anniversary to all of St. Lucia and, in particular, to the youth and students here gathered.


The theme of our celebrations this year is “Guarding our National Pride Amidst the Global Tide” and although the task of reflecting on the theme has already been performed by Ms. Gizelle Lafeuille of the Choiseul Secondary School, I do at least want to reflect on the significance of this theme to us at this time, considering the tumultuous impact of the global tide on our current situation and the need for us therefore to guard our national pride amidst this global tide.


The global tide threatens at this time to wash away all of the progress which we have made in our twenty-four year journey of sovereignty.  It threatens to eliminate our banana industry, decimate our tourism industry and discriminate against our financial services industry.  It threatens also to make us victims of collateral damage in a war which may be fought elsewhere but felt right here.


Amidst this tide we must preserve, protect and promote our national pride, for no matter how small we are as a country (both in terms of land mass and population size), no matter how poor we are as a country (both in terms of natural and financial resources), no matter how insignificant we may appear to be in the global scheme of things, we are a country which has much to be proud of.  And our pride derives not only from our great honour of having produced two of the three nobel laureates of the Caribbean region to date, but also from the fact that as a small nation state in the large global constellation of nations we can still hold our heads up high unashamed of our contribution to world civilization.


Do you know, for instance, that in July of this year our Foreign Minister will assume the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly, so that when leaders from all over the world address the General Assembly of the United Nations they will first acknowledge and pay their respects to the President of the Assembly, our own Julian R. Hunte.

Do you know too that while several countries around the world, including many much bigger than ours (in terms of both population and land mass), are still grappling with the challenge of getting the majority of their children into elementary school, St. Lucia as a country has provided universal primary education coverage for our children and is moving steadily and successfully towards universal secondary education.


And do you know too that the products of our education system – though we sometimes complain about them – have been able to enter the education systems of developed countries around the world and not just survive but excel; to the extent that High Schools and Universities in North America, for example, actually canvass and compete to attract our students to their institutions to improve the educational performance of their institutions.  To the extent too that some developed countries are poaching our teachers and nurses and other home-grown professionals trained entirely by our local educational institutions.


I will be leaving the state in the next two weeks or so for the Seychelles, at the invitation of and at the cost of the Commonwealth Secretariat, to meet with Ministers of Education and other officials from around the Commonwealth to discuss whether and under what circumstances we should permit our teachers and other locally-trained professionals to take up employment in the United States, Britain and elsewhere, because the quality of education which we have been able to provide to them and the educational results which they have been able to produce make them attractive to developed countries.


So – never mind the talk from those who seek to belittle our nationhood and the achievements of our people – yes, we are a small country with our fair share of problems, but, though we may not have the oil wealth of Iraq or the military strength of the United States, we do have a nation state that has made strides in the development of its people to a sufficient extent that we can be proud of our achievements and must guard that pride even amidst the unfriendly and unaccommodating global tide.


And students, young persons, if you doubt at all that you should feel proud of your country, just look around at this magnificent edifice in which we are gathered today – the most modern and well appointed cricket stadium in the world today – rated highly by cricket authorities around the world and soon to welcome some of the best cricketers in the world – built by us at a time of severe economic difficulties (regionally and internationally) – and you should see why we should guard our national pride amidst the global tide.


And I can go on, citing other achievements which we have recorded on our journey of sovereignty, but I am reminded that my task is merely one of making brief remarks to you on this occasion.  I shall therefore end here by once again wishing you a happy 24th independence anniversary and urging us all to keep guarding our national pride amidst the global tide.

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