Dame Sandra Mason

Presidential Inaugural Address

delivered 30 November 2021


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Your Royal Highness Prince of Wales; the Honorable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister; the Honorable Sir Patterson Cheltenham, Chief Justice; Members of the Cabinet; the Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, National Hero; his Honor Senator Reginald Farleigh, President of the Senate; his Honor Arthur Holder, Speaker of the House of Assembly; Bishop Joseph Atherley, Leader of the Opposition; your Excellencies, visiting heads of state and heads of government; members of the Privy Council; members of the Judiciary; her Excellency Dr. Carla Bennett, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community; members of the Houses of Parliament; all distinguished guests; Barbadians here and wherever the technology takes us:

Good morning.

I greet and join you this day in celebration of our nation, our people, and the future that we now chart.

On a rain-soaked night 55 years ago, the inhabitants of what had been the world's first slave society shed the mantle of colonialism to become an independent nation. Vessel Independent Barbados weighed anchor and cast off from our colonial moorings. Unable to see the future, we embarked on the journey of nationhood with no clear knowledge of our strength and capabilities, or our potential as a people.

Some were understandably fearful of how her inexperienced crews and passengers would navigate storm-tossed international waters. A sense of uncertainty surrounded the viability of our social experience and our economic well being. Others voiced grave reservations about where our small barque would end up. But even in the face of the uncertainties and the unknown, we set aside our doubts and fears, and with hope in our bosoms we committed to the journey, embracing the vision of a proud, strong, hard-working people -- and we sailed forward.

On that first independent night, we became bound together as a nation and as a people. The consciousness and responsibility of independence imbued us with an understanding that whatever lay ahead in the best of time and in the worst of times1 we had to rely on each other and face the oncoming challenges together.

It was from this vision and understanding that we constructed the foundation for our new nation, and with it the core values and guiding principles of Independent Barbados. To this, we owe our identity and our triumphs as a people. And as cautioned by our first Prime Minister, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, we ought no longer to be found "loitering on colonial premises...."

In 1966, we were seeking to define ourselves, our national identity, and to stamp our place in the world. Since Independence, our heroes and our humble citizens, our crews and passengers, have built an international reputation anchored on our characteristics, our national values, our stability, and our successes. Drawing on the lessons of those intervening years, possessing a clear sense of who we are and what we are capable of achieving, in the year 2021 we now turn our vessel's bow towards the new republic. We do this so that we may seize the full substance of our sovereignty.

For decades we have had discourse and debate about the transition of Barbados to a republic. Today, debate and discourse have become action. Today, we set our compass to a new direction, girded by the successes of the last 55 years, buoyed by the confidence garnered from our triumphs and accomplishments, committed to country and to each other, and motivated to press confidently and boldly forward for the sake of our nation and for present and future generations. We stand on and claim our traditions, heritage, and patrimony earned by the sweat of Bajan brows and inherited from our forefathers.

As we celebrate all that is good in us as a people and travel onward, we must avoid the trap of merely reliving, retelling, and relying on our past achievements as a nation. Instead, we must seek to refine our definition of self, of state, and the Barbados brand in a more complex, fractured, and turbulent world. For the formation of -- of Republic Barbados, out of structure of Independent Barbados, is ultimately a call to greatness, the greatness which was contemplated by our forefathers and enshrined in the lyrics of our national anthem.

Answering this call requires of us an act of will and deliberate action; the determination to build and improve upon what existed before; and the unwavering resolve to safeguard our national reputation and advance the national interests of Barbados. We are a community of Barbadians; but we must now collectively ensure that our new republic is truly exemplified by creativity and innovation in a place where pride, industry, discipline, and productivity are conjoined. In the Republic of Barbados we must see ourselves thought leaders and change agents, actively engaged in the difficult business of nation building -- a nation that is characterized by courtesy, harmony, unity, opportunity, equality, economic well-being, empowerment, and respect for each other's differences.2

In this, our ceremony, I see the confluence of possibility for country and citizen. A simple girl, born in humble circumstances in rural Barbados, nurtured by the values and traditions of this island, assumes High Office in a small state attempting to be a model of global leadership and to create a large, international space for itself and for its citizens. Our country and our people must dream big dreams -- and fight to realize them. As poet James Stephens puts it, "We must learn that we are better than our clay and equal to the peaks of our desire."3

I was born and grew up in the time of colonialism, and witnessed Barbados's Independence. I am part of the bridge generation from the colonial past to the independent nation to the future of the new republic.

Today, and I am both proud and humbled in the presence of Almighty God, my Creator, my family, my friends, my country's political leaders, Barbadians at home and abroad, our Caribbean natures [sic], our Caribbean friends and global communities, and those who love Barbados wherever they may be from.

I have become President -- the first President of the Republic of Barbados, which I have sworn to serve faithfully.

As the President of Barbados, your President, I charge and call our country Barbados and all its people to personal and national excellence and greatness.

We are Barbadians.

We, the people, must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance.

We must shape its future.

We are each others' and our nation's keepers.

We, the people, are Barbados.

Vessel Republic Barbados now leaves port. For this and all the journeys hereafter, let us hold fast to the traditional values that have served us well.

Let us craft new ideas and ideals.

Let us set our aspirations higher.

And let us, by word and deed, so conduct ourselves that the lights on this ship will shine brightly and allow our country and our citizens to be seen across the world.

From this moment, every Barbadian becomes the living embodiment of the new republic. Whether fair or foul winds come our way, vessel Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage. May she weather all storms and land her country and citizens safely on the horizons and shores which are ahead of us.

And as the Prophet Jeremiah stated in the 29th chapter, God has promised at verse 11: "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

And at 12 -- verse 12, he says, if "you call upon me and you go and pray I will listen to you."

Godspeed, Barbados.

May your journey be long, fruitful, and bright. And may your sons and daughters all flourish.

I thank you.

1 Allusion to the famous opening line in British author Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities. Fuller quotation: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

2 Notable use of enumeratio

3 From Stephens' poem The Road

Page Updated: 12/12/22

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