Pride in this rich country called JamaicaSunday, January 15, 2017
Last Friday and Saturday, we attended the RJR National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards, glittering with world-beaters; the GraceKennedy Annual Business Conference, punctuated by applause for captains of industry Butch Hendrickson and their own CEO, Don Wehby; a prayerful and hopeful meeting of the Associates of the Sisters of Mercy; and a laughter-rich evening with close friends, happy to escape the cold north. Yes, indeed, we are ultra-rich in body, mind and spirit.
Ascending the stage for top awards at the RJR event, last Friday, were Usain Bolt — God’s gift to this country, guided by strong, decent parents, managers and coaches — Omar McLeod, Elaine Thompson, racehorse trainer Wayne DaCosta, and world champion swimmer Alia Atkinson. Yes, indeed, Jamaican grit extends beyond the stadium to the Caymanas race track and to the water.
In accepting the Sportsman of the Year Award for the seventh time, Usain Bolt said he wanted to say a special word to the young people of Jamaica: "I am from Trelawny. I never thought I would be on this stage as one of the greatest ever. Hard work pays off; so if you want to be great, work towards what you want, never give up. I have gone through a lot but I have never given up once. Use me as an example to work to be the best you can be." Please share this quote.
Mike Fennell, our age-defying Jamaica Olympics Association president and chairman of the Commonwealth Games, received the Global Icon Award. And here I must pause to also congratulate his radiant, practical wife Kathleen "Peggy" Fennell, who in her own right is a role model for Jamaican women.
The guest speaker at the event, Olivier Gers, CEO of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said he was in Jamaica to discover how our small country had been athletics world-beaters since 1948. He recounted the achievements of our greats, and acknowledged the past failures of the IAAF. He said that an independent unit would ensure the success of the federation’s drive for integrity, and that there would be greater fan engagement to promote the sport.
As I watched the younger athletes ascending the stage, I remembered the words of my good friend, the late Neville "Teddy" McCook in the early 90s: "Jean, if you know what was coming your head would hurt you!" Well, Mass Teddy, our heads are still spinning, as we saw Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, always a queen and suffering from an injury, hugging Elaine Thompson after the latter’s stupendous win of the 100-metre event in Rio. We were dizzy with delight as we saw the flawless gold medal hurdling of Omar Francis, and that great burst of energy at Champs from People’s Choice winner, Calabar’s Christopher Taylor.
Reports are that Fraser-Pryce said her bronze medal in the event was her "greatest medal ever…By far, I would definitely say that this is my best championship ever, because I knew how hard I worked. I knew the pain and the sacrifices and the tears."
In a similar spirit, world record holder swimmer Alia Atkinson rebounded from her Olympic disappointment to beat the Olympic Gold medallist and equal her 100-metre breaststroke world record, while also establishing a new world record for the 50-metre breaststroke short course. Dignity and perseverance — that is how our Jamaican royalty rolls!
We were honoured at PROComm when Alia attended our Christmas meeting with our scholars from Grant’s Pen. Her genuine warmth and listening ear had our team swooning and the young students blushing with pride. She is now organising free swimming lessons for them.
A BOLD 2017
Butch Hendrickson allows his passion for Jamaica to speak, and at the GraceKennedy event it spoke clean and clear. Lauding the company for its 95 years of growth, its simplicity, unique vision, and authenticity, he said the company was a blueprint for success.
He shared his beliefs: "I believe in the raw value of hard work… in the power of messing up. After all, it is only from life’s mistakes that we can ‘get it’, so to speak, and do it properly the next time around.
"I believe in the passion of patriotism; love of country, pride in country, commitment to country," he continued. "I believe in supporting the development of others, reaching out, and helping to realise someone else’s dreams… Our kids are indeed our future. There can be no wasted effort in nurturing them and providing them with all resources available to ensure a rock solid foundation."
Hendrickson asked all Jamaicans to step up and do the simple things that are so important, and to show more respect and courtesy. He explained the tremendous loss that can result from one single, unrepaired pothole, including loss of life. He noted the effects of night noise on children in poor communities, who are deprived of sleep as they try to get an education. He urged us to remember that "the individual rights of a few cannot obstruct the collective good of a country".
Don Wehby, the company’s CEO, personifies the difference between a leader and a boss, as he was unstinting in his praise and challenged his team to be dedicated to the professional development of their younger colleagues, with succession planning intrinsic in their approach. This is how a small Jamaican company became a global giant — it has never rested on its laurels.
And so, we are constantly reminded of our considerable national resources — our people, our culture, our crops, our strong democracy. Let us invest our riches to pull everyone forward.
STANDING UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT
In the midst of scandals and the very interesting press conference held by President-elect Donald Trump last week, the media both here and abroad are being challenged as never before. How does one maintain credibility in the face of accusations of "fake news"? How does a media house balance reporting on the tragic and sordid and the positive and constructive?
Take, for example, the still unfolding reports around the alleged sexual misconduct of several local clergymen. How does one report on this while still ensuring that the excellent work of the majority of our church leaders is not dismissed? Without those churches many of our excellent high schools would not even exist, many of our poor and abandoned would have no refuge.
Like Acting Commissioner Novelette Grant, we must be realistic but constructive. At her first press conference, last Wednesday, she noted: "We have no miracles. For my 90 days as acting commissioner of police, my team and I do not promise to work miracles. However, what we promise to do is to work together, and continue to partner with key stakeholders." She went further to thank those Jamaican citizens who have stepped up to assist the police in solving crimes.
This is what we all must do: Step up to do our jobs well, and be of help, not hindrance, to the many who are working so hard to build and protect our country.
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