'I want to be the first person with a disability to serve as a Cabinet minister'

Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Eighth in a series giving a snapshot of the lives and thoughts of people you see on the streets daily. Sunday Observer reporter Sharlene Hendricks speaks with Alister McLean who was born blind and now serves as media monitoring officer in the Office of the Prime Minister.

I attribute most of my success to my mother who is now deceased. I was diagnosed with glaucoma at birth and there were persons who would have encouraged my mother when I was very young to give me up for adoption. They were of the view that because of my disability, it would be difficult for me to thrive and I would not come to anything good to be able to make a contribution to my mother in her old age.

But my mother stood by me. I recall the tough times, especially when I was at the Salvation Army School for the Blind boarding in Kingston and my mother would leave from Manchester every two weeks to visit me. When I was at Jamaica College she would ensure that she was at every parent-teacher meeting. The staff there called her the model parent.

I spent seven very good years at Jamaica College, and after successfully completing my CXC and CAPE subjects, I matriculated to the University of the West Indies where I pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Sector Management.

Because of my interest in politics and governance, I worked as a research assistant and volunteer at the Office of the Prime Minister. Currently I serve on the Young Jamaica executive which is the youth arm of the Jamaica Labour Party.

I was always an advocate. As a teenager most adults saw me as an argumentative and rebellious child, but looking back I was just an advocate at heart. At the school where I boarded, I would disagree with some of the policies of the administration and I would advocate for students there. It reached a point where I was expelled from the institution due to my level of advocacy.

I see myself becoming the first person with a disability to ascend to the position of a minister with a full portfolio, serving in the Cabinet. You have Senator Floyd Morris who was a state minister before so he would have served on the executive but he was not a Cabinet minister. I want to be a Cabinet minister, and I would want to use that position to empower persons who are disenfranchised, and especially persons who have disabilities.

Even though I came from a very humble background with limited means, my mother instilled in me that in spite of my circumstances, I am no less than anyone else. She is actually my hero.

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