BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 2ND, 2016 – At the UWI Cave Hill Campus in Barbados on Thursday night, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris made an appeal to students to seize the opportunities that are presented to them now because they may not be available later or ever again.
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis delivered the Annual Prime Minister’s Lecture held under the auspices of the University of the West Indies Students Today Alumni Tomorrow (UWISTAT) Vice Chancellor’s Student Ambassador Corps. The night’s theme was Reaping the Rewards of Regional Integration: A Socio-economic Assessment.
Dr. Harris told the audience that they ought to see themselves as citizens of the world because they are not restricted to the Caribbean. “No matter our overwhelming attachments to here through birth, through education, through socialization, through history, we have to see ourselves as citizens of the world, making contributions in certain geographical spaces,” the Prime Minister said.
“We have to want to go further. We have come to realize how some of our citizens have a restricted view of the world. You can get scholarships to go to Morocco, but somebody feels threatened by the language. You can get scholarships to go to Cuba, and many of our citizens who otherwise would not have an opportunity to participate in tertiary level education to become a doctor, an engineer or a dentist are not willing to try because they see the additional challenge, not an opportunity for professional enhancement and engagement, not an opportunity to master a foreign language the best way known to man through immersion and involvement in that particular place in which it is part of life, but they see the constraints rather than opportunity,” Prime Minister Harris reported, adding, “Yet, that hasn’t been what has been widely known to people on whose shoulder we now climb. So we have to take another look and become much more assertive, much more aggressive about opportunities.”
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis said that what maintains in his country is also a reality in the region.
Dr. Harris added, “Sometimes we are not letting our own people who want to move ahead to move ahead and to seize the opportunity. We have a mentality that says ‘You want to move too quickly.’ When indeed the world now demands that we move quickly to seize opportunities, because the opportunities which are now there will not be there forever waiting on us. We have a mindset in the Caribbean that keeps back people by keeping on saying ‘You must wait for your turn. You must wait for your turn’ rather than seizing opportunities that are passing by, and the opportunity once passed may never come back again. This is not a time to stay in any long line waiting for opportunity. This is a time to press forward, press forward, to press ahead, to come to the top of the line in quick time, in quick time, because if you were to adopt this mentality you all are going to be students forever.” This elicited a murmur of laughter from the audience in agreement.
“You have to want to press forward with some degree of urgency, recognizing that the challenges that we face as a society and a region demand the very best of our people to come forward quickly, to do something, and to provide the kind of leadership that we want,” Prime Minister Harris said.
Dr. Harris’ soul-stirring message thrilled the audience, including Zuriel Francique of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. He is a third-year law student and the President of UWISTAT, the highly selective Vice Chancellor’s Student Ambassador Corps that was established in 2005 and officially launched in January 2006.
Prime Minister Harris’ carpe diem appeal resonated with him. “One of the things that stood out for me from the speech was that as Caribbean youth we need to be aggressive and not wait on the time to be ideal. He said that we’ve always been saying that the time is not now, we have to wait, we have to wait, and I think that gave me a level of enthusiasm, that ‘Zuriel, you can effect change right now!’ and Caribbean leaders have to stop and listen to us,” Zuriel Francique said.
Ian Constantine, a first-year economics and law student from St. Lucia, said, “Overall, it was quite an inspiring speech, I would say. Dr. Harris has a really good approach to politics and to regionalism and integration, and I feel that moving forward for our region that is what we need at this moment.”
Shafel McDowall, a first-year economics and accounting student from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Vice President-Elect of Communications and Internal Relations for the UWISTAT Ambassador Corps, said, “I found it very refreshing, especially to find out that he has a background in accounting. I have never heard of a Prime Minister with a background in accounting and he really gave me new ideas, things I never thought about, things I never considered before and I definitely walked away with fresh knowledge.”
She added, “I really do believe that we are the people of the future and he made us believe that, and I really am happy that I took part today. Today really was historical.”