Lady Allen and I welcome the opportunity to visit with you at this institution which is built on the foundations of the Church and Education. What better traditions could there be for preparing you to nurture the minds, hearts, spirits, and values of our young people?
You may be interested to know that my wife and I met almost five decades ago when we attended Teachers’ College in Montague. Although that particular College was Government-established, perhaps even that connection in some way may have foreshadowed our involvement in national service.
Madam Principal, I use this occasion to note our pleasure to be visiting with you in the cool hills of Malvern and note your Custos’ pride in this educational cradle of St. Elizabeth and Jamaica. Every time I make a trip to St. Elizabeth, the Custos invariably ensures that Malvern is included!
- Malvern: a place likely named because the natural beauty and topography are similar to that of Malvern in Worcestershire, in the West Midlands area of England, and Malvern, we encounter –
- Bethlehem: the name of the institution, Madam Principal, reminds us of its religious roots, paying homage to the City where our Lord was born.
The history and growth of this your College over the past 158 years are inspiring, and this is without doubt an enviable legacy for all Jamaica. I observed with admiration the sustainable projects (Water Harvesting and Chicken Farming) that you have undertaken to complement the teaching and learning process.
The artifacts and documentary evidence on display in the Reality Museum will allow generations following to review your footprints on the sands of time, especially those educational, cultural, spiritual, and social footprints.
The Criminal Justice Programme, which has been added to the multi-disciplinary curriculum, has enhanced awareness of the career opportunities in this field, and shown the importance of policing and law enforcement. These groundbreaking achievements have put Bethlehem firmly on the path to achieve its Vision of being “a centre of excellence.”
However, most importantly today, we are among young bright minds who are being trained, as your Mission Statement states to prepare “leaders who are developed academically, spiritually and professionally.” Graduates who will undertake one of the most critical positions in our country, that of being harbingers and molders of the future we wish for Jamaica. Your Motto sums it up very well: “My care is for the future.” I congratulate the Moravian Church, the Board, and the Faculty. You have built a sanctified life of prayer every day, every hour of the year and this is an indestructible chain.
You students and future teachers are the cradlers of our civilization and the protectors of our culture and mores; the Samurai(s) of Jamaica, protecting the nation from moral and cultural decay, while educating our youth to be ‘thinkers’ and not just ‘reflectors of other people’s thoughts’.
Yours is the awesome responsibility to develop in your students here at Bethlehem, and they in turn to develop skills and utilize the Socratic methods to develop argumentative dialogue between your pupils, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions.
In these ways, you will assist your pupils to do evaluations, deductions, and arrive at conclusions based on irrevocable evidence while exploring and attaining the summit of academia where possible.
Your institution, in fact, all our tertiary institutions in Jamaica especially those who train teachers for the classroom, are tasked with the responsibility to train them in such a way that they can excite, inspire minds, and show students a whole new world of exciting possibilities. Our tertiary institutions cannot and must not be simply ‘talk shop’ for intellectual sophistry, but must serve as the germinator for, and guides to pathways that can stimulate ideas and show ways to apply the research done.
If bearing fruits therefore is not the end goal of germination then we are wasting time sowing; and if execution and production are not the results of brainstorming, conceptualization, and discussing ideas, then we are just marking time, conducting exercises in futility, and being simply “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.”
I say that – not to parody the eighteenth century churchman John Wesley, whose biography The World His Parish has inspired many. I refer to the students and soon-to-be graduates who will join the ranks of young Jamaican professionals, who deeply love their country, but who also have no difficulty with widening their horizons, and seizing the moment when opportunities arise.
Whether as teachers, entrepreneurs, or individuals committed to a lifetime of academic research, we look out upon the world around us. It is a world, which is becoming increasingly difficult to describe succinctly. It is a mixture of changing human values, restructuring old national alliances, and concerns about the future of our natural environment.
The statement that “The only constant is change” perhaps best sums it up. Put another way, “Change is the only constant in life”. This enlightening observation was written by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, and was first recorded some four centuries before the birth of Christ.
Here we are seeking to equip ourselves to live meaningful lives.
- Lives which give us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
- Lives which enable us to “live peaceably with others”.
- Lives which enable us to overcome the inevitable challenges which come our way, and,
- Lives that lead to a eulogy, which your family and friends can cherish proudly.
You who are being education in a church -connected institution understand this imperative more than others who are no so impressed.
However, let us not dwell on that point in your story. Let us focus on living life to the fullest. Let us seek inspiration from those around us who combine their educational experience with their personal energy and vision to succeed.
It is not to drive a wedge between you and your fellow travelers, be they colleagues, friends or family. It is rather to buttress the strength of your conviction that what you are striving for brooks no excuses, no hindrances, and no turning back. When exhaustion tries to take hold, keep your eyes on the prize you have set for yourself.
In addition, that leads to the purpose. You may have heard the words of the song Desiderata:
‘You are a child of the universe,
No less than the trees and the stars,
You have a right to be here,
In addition, whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is unfolding — as it should.’
Along with having the right to be here, you have been set here for a purpose and although that purpose may change as circumstances around you change, you will always have a goal that is consistent with your abilities and the environment in which you find yourself. Let us ensure that in all we do, we protect the foundations and institutions that for centuries have held us in good stead.
Finally, I urge you to preserve your self-confidence at all times. Our first National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey reminds us, and I quote, “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life” unquote. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.”
Self–confidence and self-assurance are admirable qualities, not to be confused with bombast and pomp. We Jamaicans have a reputation for being assertive, but assertiveness and determination based on the values of respect, tolerance and genuine pursuit of goodness are good companions under the umbrella of the quiet confidence of which we often as church people speak. We know the God we serve.
Therefore, fellow travelers, I greet you warmly and wish you well as you pursue your vision for a better Jamaica and a better world, beginning with a better you. That “better you” is in process. I commend you and those who guide you. I am confident that you will be beacons of light and hope as you prepare yourselves to help create that better world.
God bless you!