STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT H. LAVITY STOUTT MEMORIAL CELEBRATION
MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2020
H. LAVITY STOUTT’S VISION
It is a pleasure to be here on this auspicious occasion. Before I begin my remarks, I must say to you that I felt chills listening to the Territorial Song, and my heart is warmed by the creative designs of Territorial wear adorning the bodies of you wonderful people. I must say that these were chaired by our beloved Eileen Parsons. We sit within a structure that bears her name. She has been an employee and board member at this institution for just about the last 30 years. Last year I attended the 40th anniversary celebrations for the Heritage Dancers, which she started. She has also chaired the H. L. Stoutt Commemorative Committee and the Territory Day Committee. Oh what a legacy you have left in this Virgin Islands. You are a true heroine, and I am adamant that we must have a documentary that will record your life, contributions, and unique perspective.
I must also thank our chairperson for her passion. I can’t help but remember our dear departed sister, Delores Christopher. And I look around the room and children who continue a legacy. And it brings to mind one of the most important works we have on God’s precious earth, planting and nourishing seeds, working on behalf of current and coming generations, building the future. When we are all gone, what do we have left—a legacy!
I adopt the protocol that has already been established, but allow me to recognize the Premier and representative of the First District, Hon. Andrew Fahie, the members of cabinet, the deputy governor, the members of the HOA, former legislators, senior civil servants, the family of H. L. Stoutt, and all those who have gathered for this occasion. I also want to thank the H. L. Stoutt Commemorative Committee for their hardworking in pulling this event together.
Just over 70 years ago, three men, Theodolf Faulkner, Carlton Decastro, and Isaac Fonseca, led a march of 1500 persons through Road Town, demanding, among other things, the restoration of our Legislative Council, which was taken away from us in the early 1900s. They wanted to eliminate the taxation without representation that our people were subject to for far too long. They wanted to assert our common humanity—the right of all men and women to live equally, to vote, to be a part of the democratic process, to be an active part of shaping the future of our people rather than just being an object in someone else’s story.
By God’s grace, the people’s resounding voices were heard, and in the following year, the Legislative Council was restored. The actual date of the election that was held was November 27th 1950, and you can expect that this will be commemorated in a significant way during the course of this year. The four persons that were elected were Isaac Fonseca, Carlton Decastro, HR Penn, and, a man who was recognized in memoriam at our last Territory Day celebration, John Charles Brudenell-Bruce. Since that day, for the last 70 years, the people of the Virgin Islands have benefitted significantly from, what I would consider to be a fundamental human right, a leadership accountable to an electorate. I do not take for granted the office I hold, and the fact that many generations did not have these opportunities.
In 1957, in the third election following the restoration of the legislative council, a man by the name of Hamilton Lavity Stoutt was elected to represent the people of the first district. He was a special leader, for, with the passing of a new constitution in 1967 introducing ministerial government, he would be elected as our first Chief Minister and lead our people in shaping a modern BVI.
I remind you that the BVI suffered from great neglect, being a small dot in Britain’s large empire, easily forgotten about. For so long our people lacked electricity; we had to rely on the church for basic education; we survived through fishing, farming, and trading with our USVI neighbors; we traveled by donkey and boat, and it is with the responsibilities conferred to our leaders that our fortunes changed.
Hamilton Lavity Stoutt, given the length and breadth of his service, given his significant accomplishments, given the strength of his attributes, perhaps best epitomizes the impact of our increased autonomy. Allow me to delineate some of his most striking qualities through a backronym, using the word LAVITY. For those unfamiliar with the word backronym, it is defined as an acronym using an existing word. The L in Lavity represents leadership. In order to inspire the people to have confidence in local representation, it is absolutely necessary to exhibit strong leadership qualities, such as being responsive to the needs of people, being people focused and people centred, knowing when to hold back and when to press forward, making alliances to advance the people’s interests, disarming potential enemies with affability. These are just a few of the qualities that allowed H. L. Stoutt to be the longest serving Chief Minister, with the most consecutive terms as leader. This allowed him to lead the United Party and then the Virgin Islands Party. What a leader!
The ‘A’ in Lavity can represent a number of things. It can represent the ‘Autonomy’ that our leaders have fought for since believed enslaved on this soil, and the autonomy that we will continue to fight for as we progress in this decade and this millennium. ‘A’ can also stand for his ambition for the BVI and his aspirations for his people, which is closely aligned to the next letter in this backronym, which is V, representing vision.
I would assert that the greatest quality exhibited by H. L. Stoutt is his vision, and, hence, his favourite bible quote, “where there is no vision, the people perish.” H. L. Stoutt had a vision for what the Virgin Islands could be. He had a vision for the economy, a vision for the education system, a vision for the infrastructure, and he put the components in place to execute that vision, and we are seeing the benefit from that vision today.
Next I will repeat the ‘V’ and join it with the ‘I’. It is appropriate that “VI” are the two centre letters in the word lavity because he was truly a patriot. Everything he did was from a deep seated place of affection for the VI. He was very inspirational, very important, Very influential, very intelligent.
I will end this backronym with another pairing of letters, TY, which stands for Training Youth. To accomplish the vision H. L. had for the Virgin Islands, it is absolutely essential to train youth, and that is what H. L. did. Ironically, H. L. Stoutt did not benefit from secondary education, but he had the vision to implement comprehensive education in 1968, so all the youth had the opportunity to realize their dreams and aspirations. Again, he established the Community College that bears his name, the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, which is celebrating its 30th year by the way, because not only must the youth benefit from primary and secondary education, but they must be allowed to hone their skills, narrow their focus and specialize in areas that will help them to grow and develop these Virgin Islands. H. L. Stoutt also sent countless young people away to school because he understood that we had the intelligence, the character, and the ambition to run our own affairs. We just needed the training, and we could do anything we put our minds too.
God bless Lavity Stoutt. God bless his leadership, his ambition. I passionately declare, God bless his vision. God bless his Virgin Islands patriotism, and God bless his passion to train youth. We all are sitting in the shade of the trees he planted. Let us not chop those trees down foolishly. Rather let us plant the seeds that will grow into the trees that will shade future generations. With God’s help, we will.