Earlier this year I had the (accidental) honour of delivering the Feature Address at the 2014 National Awards of Excellence where I was also awarded for Outstanding Performance at Cambridge. I call it an “accidental” honour because half an hour before the ceremony I was called upon to fill in for the designated speaker who was unable to fulfill his duty due to very unfortunate circumstances. The plan was to use a speech I had previously delivered. However I was not too excited about presenting something that had already been heard…and something that did not appear perfectly aligned with the event….Hence I found myself frantically scribbling during the ceremony trying to see what inspiring words I could come up with in 20 minutes. Although it is clearly not my best work… I decided to post it because I believe that the overall message of the speech is worth sharing.
“Excellence is not born… it is nurtured. Indeed many persons who have excelled in their respective fields, often identify common elements in their recipe for success- dedication, self-motivation, the will to persevere against the odds.
Today is indeed a remarkable day. On a regular basis, we are greeted by the unfortunate highlights, examining the negative circumstances and concerns of our youth. We are saddened by the continuous laments regarding unemployment figures and staggering statistics of youth violence. However, today we seek to place the spotlight on more positive aspects of our nation’s youth. We honour their achievements… we praise their success. Events such as the National Awards of Excellence are indeed one of the most anticipated occasions on our nation’s calendar of activities. It allows us to appreciate the abundance of talent which flourishes across our nation.
As I look around this venue filled with youthful exuberance, I see the shadows of future leaders… I hear the whispers of those who will soon develop our great country. Consequently, I believe that I would not have adequately fulfilled my role as feature speaker today if I did not directly address these budding leaders. Students, young individuals of the audience, the youth of our beloved Saint Lucia, I say to you, learn by the example of the greatest ones but do not be afraid to set your own example. It does not hurt to study the methods of those who have excelled before you. However, we are not all the same. We respond differently, we learn through various measures. As such, never force yourself to fit into a mold that has been cast by another. Tailor your suit of excellence so that it is your own.
My further advice is that while you tread the path to success, never be discouraged by the obstacles in your way. Do not let the stumbling blocks hinder you from your dreams. Instead use these blocks to build a strong and solid foundation of success.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I cast a further glance around this room I am filled with a deep sense of pride and honour. Yes, it is indeed an honour to be in the company of individuals who have attained such levels of success. From our young students, to our distinguished Nobel laureate, this room is filled with the brilliant jewels of Fair Helen’s crown. As a result, I am convinced that there could be no occasion more fitting, no audience more appropriate , to declare my next statement. While we gather occasionally to applaud the achievements of our young people this is not always adequate. Among the many things that our youth are in need of, is a strong support system. Our young persons must know that while we urge them to succeed, if they happen to fail on their journey, we will not abandon them at their time of greatest need. We need to ensure that we provide the relevant organization that can provide support and encouragement to our young people. These institutions must be visible and active within schools and communities. However, individual efforts often make all the difference. I therefore urge each of you to make the pledge to play your part. Lay your brick in the wall of reinforcement that we strive to build around our nation’s youth. Provide the social inclusion that is necessary for our young persons to feel secure and appreciated. Ensure that you have made your contribution towards providing the right conditions that will encourage our youth to continue to excel.
As I come to the end of this address, I wish to congratulate all the awardees. I encourage you all to continue in this vein of excellence. I also wish to thank you all for setting this wonderful example. We thank you for carving an admirable path that other young persons can aspire to tread. To close, I encourage you all to promise yourself to nurture the excellence that lives within you. Be strong and resolute enough to assert your identity in a world that will seek to bend you into its mold. Do not be misled by the allure of materialism. Do not be blinded by the thirst for wealth. Rather, aspire to accumulate knowledge, for this is the true measure of a man’s wealth. Sing your individual song of success as you continue in your pursuit of excellence.”