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Remarks at the State Dinner by Prime Minister The Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Independence

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In the long march of time, history is full of ironies, strange twists and unexpected conclusions.  In the tunnel of time, many intense rivalries, bitter feuds and epic struggles lose their poignancy and in the end, when the whirlwinds settle, all that is left are echoes of the vanity of men, the folly of nations and underlying it all is the lesson of the elemental humanity of which we all partake.

And so it is, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, that tonight we are gathered in around this common table to share bread and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of this young nation of ours.  And we do so in the company of some of the most distinguished representatives of those who came and those who fought.  Yesterday at the Youth Rally our school children summarized this history well – they dramatized and encapsulated in one battle on stage – replete with cannon and the clash of arms – many battles fought between the British and the French for hegemony of this land.  Seven times British and seven times French.  Three centuries after the dust of these bitter battles has settled, here we are today – a British polity with a French culture, inflected by African and Indian resistances, fused into a Caribbean civilization.

Their rusted arms of yesterday have long been beaten into the ploughshares of a common Europe and the children of pain have become a new people of hope and possibility, crowned twice with the laurels of the highest intellectual achievement in Derek and Sir Arthur and today presiding over the general conference of the world’s nations.  We are a people of unparalleled resilience and unproclaimed possibility and this 25th Anniversary is the opportunity not simply to celebrate but to reflect on the challenges and the potential and to face the future with unflinching resolve.

History is full of strange ironies and unexpected conclusions.  In every anal of Colonialism, bitter harvests have been reaped irrigated with the blood of many, leaving abiding differences and singular enmities.  Yet, in our history, the final chapters of our episode have been peaceful and civilized.  Our transition from Colonialism to Independence was in historical terms, peaceful and the interesting twist of history is that we have harvested from this history solid traditions of governance and democratic rule from the British, the passion and elegance of the French, the pride and courage of the African and the industry of the Indian.  As the esteemed West Indian educator Professor Errol Miller once put it:

we West Indians are a remarkable people.  We are Indians without caste, Africans without tribes, Chinese without dynasty and Europeans without class”.

Thus it is that we are able tonight to welcome around this table of friendship and historical affinity, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew Albert Christian Alfred of the House of Windsor, Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and the Baron Killyleagh.  We extend a heartfelt welcome to Your Highness as one does to a not-too distant relative and in the name of the common heritage – now formalized in the shape of the Commonwealth – that we share.  The presence of a member of the Royal Family on occasions such as this, has always helped to re-affirm the Queen’s esteem and the bonds that bind.

Esteemed Guests, this is not a time for long speeches.  It is appropriately the moment for expansive hearts and thankful stomachs.  Please join me in a series of toasts.

We toast our nation and its 25 years of growth and courage and the emergence of pride and nationalism.  Ladies and gentlemen, to St. Lucia.

We toast our ancestry.  We toast the strength and the wealth of British tradition, the inseparable bonds of friendship and the commonwealth to which we belong, exemplified in the person of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  Ladies and gentlemen, to Her Majesty the Queen.

And a special toast to our esteemed special guest.  Ladies and gentlemen, His Royal Highness the Duke of York, the Earl of Inverness and the Baron Killyleagh…

We toast the other commonweal to which we belong.  Nous toutes sommes enfants de la Patrie et La Francophonie.  Ladies and gentlemen, let us toast our French patrimony and the Francophonie.  Ladies and gentlemen, to France.

We toast the multiple identities that have shaped us – the shadows that only we can feel, the grandfathers who go with us.  Ladies and gentlemen, to Africa, India, China, Syria and all whose confluence has strengthened us as a people.  Ladies and gentlemen, to those who came, who suffered, who toiled…

Let us now eat in brotherhood but maintain in introspection, the lessons of history.  If all is dust in the wind, what endures are the core values that affirm our elemental humanity.  As we move beyond this 25th birthday, let us grow into a responsible adulthood that respects, enshrines and upholds these values.  As a small nation, we must always heed the admonition of our Governor General that we ought to always look beyond the differences that divide us to the necessities that unite us.

I thank you.


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