It is a pleasure to be in your company on this magnificent day as we gather to pay tribute to the civically engaged men and women who have just been formally invested with the 2017 National Honours Awards by His Excellency the Governor-General Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton. My Cabinet is particularly delighted to have supported your nomination for such high honour.
Distinguished Honourees, please accept my heartiest congratulations on having attained the very prestigious National Honours Awards.
Today’s investiture is a culmination of your many years of devoted service, outstanding commitment and leadership in your respective areas of expertise. In honouring you, we also pay our respects to those who stood with and by you and allowed you the space and time to serve our Country faithfully and loyally.
As I gaze into the audience, I see the unmistakable look of pride on your loved ones’ faces, reminding me of the best known psalm, Psalm 23, which states in part, “…thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
It is believed that David wrote this beautiful psalm to memorialize his sweet, unexpected victory against Goliath, as well as the prosperity that came to him afterwards. David wrote Psalm 23 with great inner peace and assurance, recognizing that all of his successes were due to God, his shepherd, who was leading him to his calling.
Indeed, after being called to greatness, David vanquished Goliath and became somewhat of a national hero who was invited to the Government House of his day to appear before King Saul. So perhaps the anointing of David’s head with oil that is referred to in Psalm 23 describes his own investiture like the one we have gathered here for today.
Our Honourees have been invested here at Government House with the National Honours Awards, which comprise the Companion Star of Merit (CSM) and the Medal of Honour (MH) – two of the highest civilian honours that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis bestows on its sons and daughters.
The Nation’s highest award, of course, is the Order of National Hero, and we are honoured to have in our presence Dr. the Rt. Excellent and the Rt. Honourable Sir Kennedy Simmonds, St. Kitts and Nevis’ only living National Hero.
The National Honours Awards are known as the National Heroes Day Awards because Honourees are announced every September 16th, National Heroes Day. These National Honours Awards recognize especially meritorious contributions to our Nation, and with today’s investiture, we place these Honourees on a pedestal as shining examples of all the remarkable things that can be achieved when we heed the call to greatness.
A Call to Greatness
This call beckons the people of St. Kitts and Nevis to rise and seize opportunities and to not back down when one door closes because all it means is that God has opened another avenue to succeed the next time we try.
This call entreats us to put country above everything else – even self – and to realize that our country’s success rests not on geographic size or location, but on our determination to work together in meaningful service for the good of all.
This call to greatness entreats us to realize that there is a Hero inside each and every person – in you and in me – and, just like today’s Honourees, we can achieve something great and be admired for our stewardship and service to our beloved country.
Indeed, there is no limit to what we can build, achieve and accomplish, if only we follow the call to greatness and claim our rightful destiny.
So how do we as proud, patriotic citizens claim our destiny? How do we even know how to decipher the call to greatness, or what form it comes in and when it presents itself to us?
I believe that we have all been blessed with the sixth sense of knowing when our life is going as it should – that is, knowing when we are fulfilling our God-given purpose and when we are on the right path. We also know when we are failing to live up to our potential.
I believe, too, that we can only truly stretch our potential and achieve full capacity when we engage our greatest passions, talents, interests and skills in doing work that is fulfilling and meaningful and which uplifts us and, by extension, our country.
I believe that being diligent, industrious and hardworking is the true definition of greatness because this opens the door to leadership, influence, success and respect – the same attributes embodied in today’s honourees.
- For Commerce and Public Service, Mr. Jacques Cramer CSM, whose enterprising spirit led to him co-founding St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla Trading and Development Company Limited (TDC) and becoming one of the first local real estate agents, as well as Israel’s Honourary Consul here.
- For Culture and Local, Regional and International Credit Union Involvement, Mr. Melvin Edwards CSM, who is an inductee in the African-American Credit Union Hall of Fame. He co-founded the St. Kitts Co-operative Credit Union in 1982. Before that, he worked from 1974 to 1981 as Director of Youth and Community Development.
- For Public Service and Community Activism, Mr. Arthur Evelyn CSM, a businessman who was elected as the first Chairman of the Nevis Local Council and went on to implement Nevis’ first land reform programme as the NIA’s first Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing, Labour and Tourism.
- For Education and Public Service, Mr. Calvin Farier JP, CSM, whose successful career in education and government saw him become the first male Principal of St. Theresa’s Convent High School then later Cabinet Secretary and the first Chief Secretary and Head of the Civil Service.
- For Education and Voluntary Service, Mrs. Agnes Morton CSM, who became a Pupil-Teacher at the age of 13 and later made her mark both as a teacher of Home Economics and in church, serving as a Choir Director at Wesley Methodist, where she also introduced and supervised “Meals on Wheels.”
- For Education and Community Service, Mrs. Olvis Dyer MH, who served as a teacher for 41 years, including four years as Head Teacher of Gingerland Primary School. She has served as Vice President of the Nevis Cooperative Credit Union and Commissioner of the Nevis Girls Guides.
- For Public Service/Education, Mr. Elmo Liburd MH, who serves on the Public Service Commission (Nevis) and has worked in Education, the Ministry of Nevis Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture for close to 40 years, of which 13 years was in the post of Permanent Secretary.
- and for Agriculture and Music, Mr. Samuel Powell MH, former Director of Agriculture in Nevis and Director of Co-operatives, who guided farmers on crop scheduling, forecasting and moving to a market-led system. He has also been playing the organ at the Gingerland Methodist Church for the past 49 years.
We applaud all of you for giving of your best in building our beloved country. You have worked diligently in God’s vineyard, so today is just a foretaste of the eternal rewards that await you in the house of the Lord.
Today, the Nation of St. Kitts and Nevis rewards your hard work and industry. We have come here to Government House to support you and record our debt of gratitude to you for never flinching from responsibility or duty. Today, we also record our immense pride in all that you have accomplished for yourselves, your families, your communities and your country, and on behalf of the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis, I say thank you.
Exemplars for Our Youths
The holding of this investiture serves to sensitize our youth to a previous generation of trailblazers by showcasing these eight positive role models who accepted the call to achieve greatness.
Indeed, Government House has organized this investiture to celebrate some of our heroes so that they do not fade from the popular imagination of Kittitians and Nevisians. It is now up to us to pass on the value of your demonstrated leadership and success to future generations.
Undoubtedly in the year 2018 – 18 years into the 21st Century – the calls that our youth hear are a cacophony of distractions. There are many divergent paths to explore, some of which are much more steep and treacherous than ever before.
That is why all of us need to engage our young people more than ever before. We have to mentor them and stand up for them more. We ought to teach them about the brave, enterprising and hardworking people like today’s Honourees who helped to shape our past and secure our future.
That is the only way to be heroes for our young people: we have to put in the work to guide them and be the kind of leaders they want to emulate because they represent our future.
That is what my Government and I strive for each and every day, so I challenge each and every one of you to do the same.
May it please you to do so, and may the Nation and its youth go from strength to strength, building on all of our trailblazing achievements and those of our forebears.