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
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
And at 12 --
he says, if "you call upon me and you go and pray I will listen to you."
May your journey be long, fruitful, and bright.
And may your sons and daughters all flourish.
I thank you.
Allusion to the famous opening line in
British author Charles Dickens'
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
Notable use of
From Stephens' poem
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