TONY BEST: Well done, graduates
THE TIMING COULDN’T have been better for hundreds of Barbadian and other Caribbean graduates to showcase the results of years of hard work.
Against a backdrop of a sunny Saturday and under a huge tent at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, students grasped the hand of Sir George Alleyne, the retiring university chancellor, just before receiving bachelors, masters or doctoral degrees in the presence of smiling relatives, friends and gratified university faculty and administrators.
A high point came when Dominique Deandre Lovell, a first class honours science and social work graduate, delivered the valedictory address at the afternoon ceremony and explained she was the first member of her family to have attended a university.
Although Sir Courtney Blackman, a former governor of the Central Bank who later became ambassador in Washington, wasn’t at the celebration, a sense of pride surged through him on learning about the success of 1 500 graduates.
“I was gratified,” said Sir Courtney, himself a UWI graduate who was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree at Cave Hill in 2007. “I wasn’t caught off-guard by the success of so many young people, especially the women. That’s because women routinely do much better academically than the men. ”
Evelyn Greaves, a former Barbados cabinet minister who once served as Barbados’ top diplomat in Canada, wasn’t under the recent graduation tent but the results didn’t surprise him.
“I have attended graduations at Cave Hill and I have shared in the excitement of the students. Most of the students are from working class backgrounds. We hear so many negative stories about our young people and their involvement in anti-social behaviour, especially the ‘boys-on-the block’ that, unfortunately, we believe young people aren’t engaged in productive activities. But that’s not the case.”
Sir Hilary Beckles, UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor V. Eudine Barriteau, principal of Cave Hill, and Sir George obviously know the truth.
“Today, you proudly receive your degrees, certificates and diplomas,” Barriteau told the students. “These qualifications not only represent skill and knowledge that you have acquired, they also embody your potential to positively transform your societies and your lives. It is my hope, that as you move boldly into your future, you will be determined to improve your communities and countries.”
New York State Justice, Sylvia Hinds-Radix, a Barbadian who sits on America’s busiest state appeals court, said graduation exercises, were important for a nation’s youth because they send valuable messages about the youth to society.
“We regularly hear about the youth who have committed criminal offences and are not being productive,” said Hinds-Radix in Brooklyn. “In the US, we are constantly being told about the 25-30 per cent of young black men who are involved in the criminal justice system. But what about the 70-75 per cent who are not? The recent graduation at Cave Hill underscored the fact that far more young people are contributing to the further development of their country than those who are not. There is need for a balanced portrayal of the youth.
“I wasn’t at Cave Hill’s graduation but I would have enjoyed it because of the realistic messages it sent to people everywhere,” added the judge.
Dr Calvin Holder, a Harvard University trained history professor at the Staten Island College of the City University of New York, shared Hinds-Radix’s sentiments.
“Having borne witness to numerous graduations in the US, I had the privilege of attending a graduation at Cave Hill sometime ago and I came away immensely impressed by the event,” the Barbadian said. “I was impressed by the number of students graduating and doing so with honours. It spoke so eloquently of Barbadian society and of the UWI’s role in creating an educated cadre of young West Indians, especially Barbadians. Sir Hilary and Barriteau should be congratulated for what they have achieved.”
Dr Dale Husbands, an information technology professor at Valencia College in Orlando Florida, said the recent Cave Hill graduation should focus more attention on young people’s excellent performance and on what the UWI was doing to spur economic and social development in Barbados and the rest of the region.
“They have earned our respect,” he said.
Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: [email protected]