EDITORIAL: Barrow a role model
In another day this country will celebrate the anniversary birth date of one of its most illustrious sons, National Hero the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow. It is important that we recognize in these troubling days the sterling record of this great leader. He was never given to excess of any kind, and pragmatism was one of his most obvious qualities.
Not for him the excessive demonstrations of the trappings of office which so adorned the rule and times of so many Third World countries just around the time that he managed to take power and office in this small island.
We would do well as ordinary citizens to emulate some of this great leader’s qualities. He feared no one but as a former member of the disciplined forces he was respectful of authority though nobody, including someone placed over him, could run roughshod over his rights.
In fact, one of his more acid statements was to call a president of the United States a “cowboy”.
We daresay that this was his honest assessment but, clear-headed pragmatist as he was, he was photographed in consultation with another president of that country because it was necessary to this country’s vital interests that he made the representations that he needed to make directly to the attention of that leader.
It is just as well therefore that we remember his most famous statement that we must be friends of all and satellites of none, for that was his mantra, and his political decisions showed such a non-aligned but reasoned pragmatism!
He led us into Independence and first made his mark on the local political scene with the education policies of his Government. This move alone tells us much about the man. His judgement that improved access to education was what was first needed to get this country moving from the status of a backward Third World country to within striking distance of First World status is an example of clear and pragmatic priority thinking that marked his political philosophy.
A people could hardly progress if they remained uneducated, for education was the key to the understanding and application of ideas that could help to lift his people upward and out of the mire into which colonialism had left them.
Above all, he was an unrepentant believer in the ability of the average Barbadian to join with his fellow men in lifting himself and his country upwards.
Similarly, he also believed in the ability of the people of this region to accept that their common destiny provided the best reason for their interests to be best catered for under some form of regional unity; and that he did not see this achieved in a more meaningful way in his lifetime must have been one of the major regrets of a life lived almost entirely in public service of one kind or another since he left Harrison College in the late 1930s.
The problems of today’s Caribbean cry out for someone with his vision, level-headedness and respectful disregard for those who feel that today’s problems cannot be solved by the application of native intelligence.
His life and work cry out for a full autobiography, and while his work is not alone in this respect, what makes the need more clamant in his case is that this is the man into whose hands was entrusted the fate of thousands of ordinary Barbadians as they took their first steps in this world as an independent country.
His work as a leader and his visionary achievements are not the only reason we have succeeded in steering our ship of state successfully through troubled waters since 1966; but we owe a large part of our national success to the clear and pragmatic vision of this undoubted National Hero!