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Respect and our nation builders

Countries and peoples demonstrate maturity, or lack thereof, when nation builders die.  In mature places men and women who were at war, politically, for years set aside rivalry and honor the successes of departed opponents.

In unstable places, places not at ease, there is pettiness and spite when the legacies of dead statesmen are analyzed.

Maturity was on display after the death on Tuesday of former Governor General Sir Clifford Darling.  Sir Clifford, the fourth Bahamian-born governor general, died at Princess Margaret Hospital at 89 after a long illness.

“His proud legacy will not be forgotten,” said Prime Minister and Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Hubert Ingraham in a statement.

“Sir Clifford’s passing brings to a close another remarkable career of an early nation builder and pioneer for equality.”

Sir Clifford had a decorated life in politics, which culminated when he was appointed governor general in 1992.  He had served as a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP from 1967 to 1991.

In 1971, he was appointed minister of labour and national insurance and had oversight of the introduction of the National Insurance program.  Sir Clifford also served as a senator and as speaker of the House of Assembly.

In November 1957, Sir Clifford and a group of cab drivers blockaded and closed the airport in a bid to protest an exclusive deal the major hotels had with a taxi company, which resulted in a monopoly that excluded the taxi union.  The General Strike followed in January.

Perry Christie, leader of the opposition and of the PLP, noted the significance of the 1958 General Strike in the achievement of majority rule.

“Clifford Darling was a major figure in that political struggle as well under the banner of the Progressive Liberal Party,” he said.

Branville McCartney, leader of the Democratic National Alliance, also offered a note of respect on the death of Sir Clifford.

“Our nation is forever blessed to have birthed a true nationalist like Sir Clifford Darling,” he said in a statement.

“We, as leaders, could learn so much from his service and sacrifice, and should honor him by trying to mirror his great legacy.  Bahamians everywhere are eternally grateful to reap the fruits of his labor; I know that I’m one of them.”

All great men and women do much good and make quite a few mistakes.  When the historical record is written, the entire scope of work of historic figures should be analyzed.  What is important for the development and evolution of a young country is that we collectively keep the respectful, reasonable and fair tone, which was on display this week, when we speak of those who sacrificed much to build an independent Bahamas – be they PLPs, FNMs or even members of the old United Bahamian Party.

For our policymakers we must make sure that modern Bahamian history is taught as much as possible in our schools.  This history will help the next generation know what it took for us as a people to come this far and what it will take for us to go further in the 21st century.

It was not easy for men such as Sir Clifford to challenge the old political order of the day, but through courage and perseverance they succeeded in making The Bahamas a better place.

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