Today is turning out to be a day of Biblical proportion. We have just arrived from Bethlehem Moravian College, an institution with a well-known Biblical name. Now we are at another whose motto is, “A city that is set on a hill.” Therein lies the Biblical connection. The King James Version of Matthew Chapter 5 and Verse 14 says, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set upon a hill cannot be hid.” Generations of Munro boys have proudly spoken of that city.
Indeed, there was a time when parents from South and Central America who wished their sons to receive the benefit of a good education in an English-speaking country, would send them to Munro College with total confidence.
Conscious of that history Lady joins me in this historic visit to Munroe College, orchestrated by your Custos the Honourable Beryl Rochester, who itinerated us to visit during this our parish tour. Obviously, as a city on a hill you can be seen from every point, North, South, East and West which means that you have to be fortified and protected by walls and warriors. If we continued our biblical motif for a while longer, we could extrapolate situations that would be quite fitting to Munroe’s existence and mission in today’s world. During biblical times, we are told that Jacob had 12 sons who later became the leaders of 12 tribes in Israel. Two of those tribes were described in this way: the sons of Issachar were known as men who knew the times and knew what must be done for the benefit of the nation.
The sons of Zebulan were known as men who could hold rank, how to stick together and not yield for the benefit of the nation. Dying for what they believed.
I cannot begin to tell you how critical a place in which you have found yourself:
- A place of light,
- A place of sight,
- A place of learning,
- A place where character is formed and framed for the future and where you have the fortunate opportunity to complete the secondary level of your education.
So much is being invested in you by the church, your parents, the government and the academic, administrative and support staff, so that wherever you go you know that you are from the city on a hill, you are conscious of who you are and hold firm to the principles you were taught because you are in the light and not of the dark, others must follow you because you are leaders.
Some may argue that education of this quality is costly, but I will remind them of the words of the famous American educator, Horace Mann, who said that “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. I encourage you to remain proud not only of your motto but of the traditions, achievements, reputation, and promise of this city set upon this hill.
Young men, you are at a critical stage of your preparation for life as a citizen of your country and the world. I, therefore, urge you to take stock of your abilities, plan realistically for your future, and remain open to the disappointments or new opportunities, which may unexpectedly arise.
Education is one of the fundamental pillars on which successful societies continue to endure. It is “our only political safety. Outside of this ark, all is deluge”. And before you decide that you have already heard this, let me tell you, it is the kind of truth that never goes away.
The reality right here in Jamaica, with the
- Rampant crime and violence,
- Ignorance in personal care, health and protection,
- The wanton abuse of citizens, misuse of drugs, human trafficking
- Abuse of the environment, and ignorance of climate change
- Failure to read, et al.
Are all products of a lack of sensibility, a lack of foundation, which is a lack of education.
That is why your parents sent you to this prestigious school, some at great sacrifice, so that you can make your way through this world with dignity and purpose, and you can make choices because you understand consequences. That is why so much is invested in your education.
Since my inauguration nine years ago, I have had countless opportunities to speak with young people across the nation. Those conversations made me hopeful and reaffirmed my conviction that despite the challenges we face, our young people represent the nation’s hope, and we must therefore inspire them to greatness. Jamaica is still known for excellence in many areas including sports, music, arts and culture, jurisprudence and academia, to mention a few.
Today, we are witnesses to the ‘culture of excellence’ which is being pursued here at Munroe and which shaped the ethical standards of past students I know, like Ambassador and now Advisor the Honourable Burchell Whiteman, Rhodes Scholar Christopher Taylor, IBI Ambassador Sujae Boswell and freshman in University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Alex Lawrence.
I reference these outstanding alumni because their achievements epitomize the culture and focus of the I Believe Initiative, which I inaugurated in 2011.
The IBI and its programmes are intended to restore hope, belief and sound values in Jamaica’s families, youth and educational programmes, while acknowledging the outstanding achievements and efforts of persons at the level of the community who seek to effect positive change built on any of those pillars.
The involvement of our young people is critical to these programmes. There is an urgent need, a clear imperative if you will, for young people who will be called upon to take on the reins of leadership in this country, to be motivated to believe in themselves and to take all the steps necessary to pursue and reach their goals so that they can give back to Jamaica.
I close with another quote from that great educator, “Be ashamed to die until you have won a victory for humanity”.
Always remember you will pass this way only once. You will never be 12-18 again. So any good that you can do now, at this stage in your life, do it! Do not defer, for you will not pass this way again.
I know every young man here is different, but regardless of your differences, remember you are all here because someone thought you worked hard enough, that you are talented, that you are special, and you can take that with you wherever you go from here, because someone already saw the potential that you may not see.
So when you leave here, always hold your head up, for your greatest value will always be you. You are young and the world is waiting for you, starting now there is lots of living to do. In addition, by living, I do not mean self-indulgence and pleasures, but the positive things you will do to make the world a better place.
I encourage you to continue engaging in programmers and activities like the IBI that will help you to maintain a record of hard work and good behavior.
Munro Gentlemen, it has been a pleasure to be with you in this setting. The 168 years of our existence has provided many leaders across the length and breadth of Jamaica with an enviable education. More importantly, it can be claimed that the vast majority of Munro alumni display the qualities of hard work, respect and gentlemanly behavior which strengthen the social fabric of our nation.
The Science demonstrations, sports displays, cadets on parade and other aspects of our tour have been very impressive, and I can see that Munro is in good hands. My Special Advisor the Honourable Burchell Whiteman, a Munro Old Boy, will be pleased to hear of your progress.
I trust we will all continue to benefit from the city set upon this hill, and may those city lights at Munro College burn brightly for the benefit all.