IT WAS A hectic weekend for the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies. The campus held its annual graduation ceremonies at which students who successfully completed courses of study were presented with their scrolls; a moment of pride and joy for each and every one of them.
It was also a special occasion for four people who were conferred with honorary degrees for their distinguished work. Only one, Dr Carissa Etienne, is not a Barbadian.
She is a distinguished daughter of Dominica having had an outstanding medical career in her homeland and now serves as director of the Pan American Health Organisation. She is a Caribbean person and in that way embraces and was embraced by Barbados.
Carol Lady Haynes (better known as Dr Carol Jacobs), even if not Barbadian by birth has made this country her homeland and her contribution in the field of medicine has been second to none. Her work in the fight against HIV and AIDS stands out like a beacon. Likewise her fellow Independent Senator Sir Trevor Carmichael was recognised for his sterling contribution to this country’s international business sector, to cultural preservation and legal services. For all his successes, Sir Trevor remains a humble person.
It is journalist Richard “Tony” Best, the other recipient, on whom I want to focus a bit more.
Those who have never come into contact with him are poorer for not having interacted with a man who personifies those good old Bajan characteristics; he is decent and honest. Tony Best has not strayed from the values his parents instilled in him so many years ago, and will not blemish their memories by deviating from the good he was taught.
His civility must not be mistaken as a weakness when it comes to his work. Tony became a journalist even before Barbados attained independence and today is still plying his trade. He knows how to ask the tough questions without being either offensive or impolite.
It comes with years of experience dealing with premiers, prime ministers, ministers of government and religion, chairmen of statutory corporations, political acolytes, business and academic leaders and the average Joe. This is perhaps why he gained the reputation for getting many a Barbadian politician who adopted a tight-lipped policy at home to speak freely in New York where he has lived for many years.
Since 1981 Tony has been the NATION newspaper’s man in the Big Apple, getting the North American stories of interest to us. His reports and commentaries have also been a staple on the Starcom Network.
There is no doubt that his work has been of the highest quality. Yes, he covered the 1966 independence talks in London. Yes, he served for a short time as general manager of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. Yes, he can cover sport and is as at home with it as politics, business, the environment and health.
Tony has been unfortunate in that at the national level his contribution has never been recognised when many others who would have done far less have been elevated. Generally, most of the local recipients of honorary degrees have already been recognised by the state. I suppose being the journalist he is, many people within the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party will not take to him.
He will be branded by either side as an opponent. The reality is that his work can stand the test of time. He is a journalist with high ethical standards and truly strives to be fair, balanced and accurate. Little wonder so many respected professionals from the Caribbean working or visiting New York value his insights into so many things.
What is amazing about Tony is that even after he has passed the three score and ten he has the energy and passion for what he does. He is a fountain of knowledge and can tell of almost every Barbadian in North America who has excelled in their field of endeavour. While he is not in Barbados for any extended time in the year, he remains fully apprised of all the major local developments.
Here is a man with an understanding of why Barbadians at home must not see this little rock as the centre of the universe but feel that we must be prepared to meet the challenges of a global village. Here is a man who wants to see Barbadians excel within the UN system, in the Organisation of American States and within the emerging markets, whether in Asian, Africa or Central and South America. A man who believes the UWI is one of the best educational institutes in the world. Tony is simply the best.
Tony Best is still thirsty for knowledge.
I rejoice knowing the UWI has acknowledged his work.