Statement by Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley
On the occasion of the first Chief Minister, Hamilton Lavity Stoutt at the 24th Annual Memorial Celebration
and the 19th Wreath Laying ceremony
Monday, March 4, 2019
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we take the time to celebrate the birthday of one of our great Virgin Islanders, our first Chief Minister, Honourable Hamilton Lavity Stoutt.
The Theme for this the 19th Commemorative Celebration, Back to Basics is a timely one.
We need to get back to the basics of doing what is right for the people of the Territory. We need to be reminded of the qualities Honourable H. L. Stoutt and his peers learned that shaped them into strong and intuitive leaders that they became. These men were raised on some very basic principles. Principles of hard work and determination, community living and togetherness, the value of a sound education and a strong belief in God and prayer were the foundation of life as a Virgin Islander, and today, as we traverse the waters of moving our country forward we would be prudent to journey back to basics.
H. L Stoutt grew up in a time where discipline and hard work were an integral part of everyday life. Very quickly any young child growing up in the Virgin Islands, in any village would see their parents and older family members rising in the early hours to tend to the work of the day; be it fishing, raising cattle or sheep, or farming. These tasks were not easy and many times the produce harvested was depended upon to feed their families. It was consistent work that required determination, hard work and discipline. As a boy, Lavity would have had to help his parents and therefore learn these principles and later apply them to his life.
Today, we need our young people to learn the principles of hard work and determination and apply them to whatever discipline they pursue. We need our young people to have that drive and determination to create dynamic new industries that will strengthen our economies. We need our young people to have that discipline as we too explore the cultural and creative industries, the blue industry and the green industry that are new and emerging industries and are viable sources for economic diversification and development.
With the economic boost in these new and diversified industries our young people will have numerous entrepreneurship and employment opportunities.
Another basic fundamental belief held by H. L Stoutt and Virgin Islanders was the value of a sound education. H. L Stoutt understood the value of having an education and seized the opportunity when it was presented to him. His legacy in education is well documented from his introduction of comprehensive secondary education to the establishment of H L Stoutt Community College named in his honour.
In today’s world, more than ever, a sound education is necessary; and not only a sound education, but a rounded one. An education that includes information technology skills, technical vocational skills and adaptability skills especially given the fact that the jobs of the future in the blue, green and orange economies require training that is not yet offered in school. We must expand the educational experience to provide our young people with the tools to lead and work in these industries. Young people must also value the education that is made available to them and seize the opportunity to develop and expand their dreams to become entrepreneurs and provide employment for others. A diverse range of skills is necessary for the success of the current and future entrepreneur and employee.
One of the most basic principles of Virgin Islanders was the role of and sense of community. Indeed in H L Stoutt’s day, the village raised the child. Every child was taught and expected to respect their elders, their teachers, their religious leaders, the police and each other. It was not uncommon for the village to dig a foundation or build a roof. It was not uncommon for a neighbor to share his bounty and exchange with another neighbor, fish for sweet potatoes. It was not uncommon for a family member to board a child or children from the country in town so that child can attend school in Town. Virgin Islanders worked together, looked out for each other and built the Territory together.
This basic value of community was practiced after the ravages of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Neighbors helped neighbors, people helped total strangers and the warm feeling of community could be felt. It is very important to note and understand that empathy is a powerful strength and one that enables growth and development. The importance of a cohesive sense of community and togetherness to the development of the Territory cannot be taken lightly. Students need to be taught the importance of the strength of community and this lesson cannot simply be taught in a classroom. This lesson is taught through example.
As the Virgin islands stands on the brink of redevelopment and repositioning let us remember the many wonderful things the late great H. Lavity Stoutt did for his country. Let us be further reminded that out of a much simpler time, a solid foundation was built for Virgin Islanders. As we have reminisced on those fundamental principles, let us recognise that by returning back to the basics of education, hard work and community we can build a stronger, prosperous and resilient Virgin Islands.