As Bahamians gear up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence on July 10, 2023, Sharmaine Sinclaire, acting deputy director at the Ministry of Education, challenged students at Aquinas College to prepare to make positive, innovative impacts on the nation.
“I challenge you as the generation that is next in line to take the reins of national leadership, to be stronger, to be better, to be wiser and to move us even closer to achieving the vision for The Bahamas that is yet to come.”
Sinclaire spoke to the students during the school’s recent Flag and National Pride Day. The school’s theme was “Proud to Be Bahamian … Road to Fifty”.
It was a theme Sinclaire said gave her cause to pause and take stock of where The Bahamas is as a country – not only its achievements and challenges as a people, but also to reflect on what truly makes them Bahamians, and her role in inspiring a sense of Bahamian pride in others.
“Just think that on July 10, 1973, at the stroke of midnight, when the Bahamian flag was first raised as a symbol of an independent Bahamas, the ideals of equality, freedom and fair play for every citizen of this country, of whatever sexual gender, race, creed or color, would have been uppermost in thoughts of Bahamians like my parents, your parents and grandparents, as the Union Jack was lowered and our national symbol replaced it on the flag pole.”
She encouraged the students to try to imagine the feeling of pride that their forefathers would have had on that evening on Clifford Park.
Sinclaire said men and women like Robert Melville Bailey, Samuel C. McPherson, Leon Walton Young, A. Leon McKinney, Charles Rodriquez, Dr. Claudius Roland Walker, Bert Cambridge; and women like Mabel Walker, Georgiana Symonette and Mary Ingraham would have inspired that feeling of pride as they dreamed of the development of a Bahamaland that would allow the youth of today to not only achieve their own dreams, but also to be positive contributors to a free and democratic sovereign nation founded on spiritual values.
“Equality, freedom, fair play – what are the realities, the actualities of these in the 21st century Bahamas?” she asked.
“Over the past 49 years, through efforts of men like Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, Sir Randolph Fawkes, Sir Arthur Dion Hanna, Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Sir Clement T. Maynard, Sir Arthur Alexander Foulkes, Curtis McMillan, James Shepherd, Garnett Levarity, Paul Lawrence Adderley and Geoffrey Thompson, the people of The Bahamas have collectively enjoyed greater political, social and economic opportunities. We have maintained a peaceful and steady democracy. New generations of entrepreneurs are pushing the boundaries to achieve further economic growth and national development. In the education arena, students like you have access to opportunities that many of your grandparents, my grandparents and great-grandparents, despite their intellectual prowess, could only dream of during their youth.”
She said the creative talents and energies of Bahamian artists, artisans and musicians are not only re-emphasizing, but, in many cases, are redefining the distinctive flavor of the Bahamian identity.
She described musical artists like the late Ronnie Butler, Sweet Emily, Sammi Starr, Pencil, DJ Godson, Funky D, and Julien Believe as a flavorful past and present.
Bahamian athletes, Sinclaire said, excel in every sporting arena nationally and internationally – Chavano “Buddy” Hield, Steven Gardiner, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Jonquel Jones, Jasrado “Jazz” Chisolm, Kai Jones, Ryan Ingraham, Jacobi Bain to name a few.
“Despite the small size of our country’s population, compared to many, there is much that our people have accomplished over these years.”
As the flag was hoisted on the school’s Flag Day, the acting deputy director told students that they can and should be proud of the many accomplishments of the people of The Bahamas. She encouraged them to not only reflect on the amazing achievements but to also revisit questions she had asked them.
“If I were to ask you to stand and give examples of, or, better yet, your experiences of equality, freedom, fair play, would you be able to do so?
“If I were to ask you to share with us your contributions to the achievement of these ideals on a national or an individual level, would you be able to do so?
“As we consider what has been achieved for and by you, what has been your contribution to the further development of this country?”
Sinclaire told the Aquinas College student population that she was not picking on them, and that she is equally as introspective and asks herself what has been her contribution.
“In the forward, upward, onward movement of The Bahamas, what really has been my role and what really should be my role as an educator, as a policymaker, as a church leader, as a mother, as a grandmother in the further development of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas?
“What has been and what should be your role as a student, as a youth leader, as a community activist, as a daughter, as a son, a granddaughter, or a grandson? What is and has been the quality of your contribution to the further building of this nation?”
Sinclaire said despite the fact that The Bahamas continues to face obstacles brought on by natural disasters; pandemics; obstructions such as poverty, crime and social injustices, that she is encouraged by the fact that as a people, Bahamians have proven themselves to be resilient.
“Despite these setbacks, and many the other hurdles faced over the years that have sometimes caused us to stumble, and at times even caused us to lose our rhythm for a while, we have managed to regain our stride, re-establish our rhythm and continue marching towards our goals. On the move to celebrating 50 years of independence, I want to inspire, encourage and even challenge you to make meaningful, positive, innovative impacts in this nation, that will reverberate for years to come.”
Sinclaire said just as the country’s founding fathers recognized that they would need wisdom that went beyond their human understanding, to achieve the vision of a Bahamas, founded on spiritual values, she admonished the Aquinas College students to take the ever-present, all-encompassing hand of God and allow Him to invigorate, rejuvenate and energize them for the journey ahead.