What makes a global citizen?
When Consul General Gladys Johnson-Sands reached out to other international bodies whenever the Bahamas Consulate hosted events in South Florida, she may not have realized how powerful the effort would prove to be.
Backed by a team she doesn’t forget to thank, Johnson-Sands spent the three years of her tenure enthusiastically supporting the initiatives of other nations while promoting her country with pride.
On New Year’s Eve the City of Miami recognized the Consul General’s spirit with its prestigious Global Citizen of the Year Award.
Johnson-Sands, whose three-year contract as Consul General ends this month, called winning the award a few days short of demitting office”a wonderful thing.”
“I just wish God’s blessing on us always and I’m grateful for the opportunity that was afforded me to serve my people,”she said.
A spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office expressed pleasure on behalf of the mayor and the City of Miami with the Consul General’s achievement.
“We’re so proud that we do have someone from The Bahamas here in our city receiving such a prestigious award,”said Pat Santangelo, Public Affairs Officer for Mayor Tomas Regalado, on Wednesday.
The Consul General’s achievement joins several other firsts for the country in the state. The proclamation declaring Johnson-Sands recipient of the Global Citizen Award noted that Bahamians were the first non-native settlers and the largest group to sign the City of Miami Charter for incorporation in 1896. The Bahamas was also the first country in the region to embrace Global Wellness for tourism, it said.
“We worked with Ms. Gladys over the years at the Mayor’s Office here in Miami and she’s been nothing but the most helpful professional person that she can be,”Santangelo added.
Johnson-Sands, a former senator and the daughter of the late Cat Island MP Oscar Nathaniel Johnson and Mrs. Sylvia(nee Roberts)Johnson, credited her parents with her passion for exporting the nation’s culture through her official duties.
“Both my parents were very proud Bahamians and they always taught us to love and to appreciate who you were, and to know who you are you must know your culture,”she said.
“I’m always very concerned about the overall image of the country and in the manner in which we represent The Bahamas. And so everywhere that I’ve been invited to speak, which has been on many occasions, I have sought to share background information on The Bahamas.
During her tenure Johnson-Sands combined civic activities with those as diverse as health and trade to advance the country’s interests abroad. She led the consulate in endorsing the Coconut Grove business community’s formation of the Little Bahamas Cultural Heritage Inc. to provide organized assistance in the export of Bahamian culture. She also worked to connect the Jackson Memorial Health system with the local health system through a project that included the introduction of new diagnostic imaging technology.
The Consul General was also awarded the State of Florida Medal of Excellence during the 36th Annual Bahamian Independence Celebration. She highlighted that event as a particularly special one in which the Consulate invited other countries to attend and share in the culture.
“We extended the invitation to the broader international community, and by so doing we were able to share Junkanoo, limbo and our food,”said Johnson-Sands of an event that had previously been attended largely by only Bahamians.
“When you embrace other people’s culture, when you appreciate others and their way, they in turn appreciate you and your way,”she said.
Reflecting on her accomplishment, Johnson-Sands stressed the potential of individual contributions to build the country’s international image.
“I would wish to see us continue to improve on our representation overseas and to just continue to appreciate the value The Bahamas has and the way the world views The Bahamas,”she said.
“It takes us to put a positive image into the world. We build that, one of us at a time.”