Kirk Humphrey: People, passion and politics
If there’s one thing you can’t say about Kirk Humphrey, it’s that he is unprepared.
Even his political opponents, most notably Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who he’s squaring off against in the battle for St Michael South, have to admit that Humphrey has an impressive educational and professional resume. Couple his educational credentials with a healthy dose of optimism, idealistic principles and his belief that he can change the world, or at least the lives of his constituents for the better, and Humphrey makes for a formidable opponent.
“I’m not focusing on him (Stuart) you know. My focus is on the people, and on the fact that for the last 10 years people haven’t been able to maximize opportunities in this country,” Humphrey said. “Very few people have been able to rise above their circumstances. I know young people who believe a university education won’t do anything for them so they have no interest in school. I meet old people who tell me they don’t get their pensions often or on time. I know people whose homes are falling apart and they can’t afford to repair them. I am focused on those things, not Freundel Stuart.”
The 44-year-old bachelor and father of a 13-year-old daughter, Humphrey holds two Masters’ degrees, one from the London School of Economics in Social Policy and Planning for Developing Countries and the other in Public Administration with a dual concentration in Public Policy and Leadership from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. So focused was Humphrey on preparing himself educationally, that the lure of being in the United Kingdom and the United States with its myriad job opportunities, couldn’t sway Kirk’s desire to return to his native land.
“One of my professors in London offered me a job to go work in Africa, and it was a pretty decent job,” Humphrey revealed. “All the people who came to study from Africa and the Caribbean wanted to stay in the UK and America. I never had that inclination. I just wanted to come back home.”
And return he did. Along with working fervently in the community, he was the director of Constituency Councils, and worked for several International Development Agencies, the Bureau of Social Policy Research and Planning, the Child Care Board and the Canadian High Commission. Whatever Humphrey did professionally, he never abandoned his work with the community. That became such a burning passion for him that “People over Politics” became more than slogan, it became a guiding philosophy.
“At first when I said I was going to use the slogan ‘People over Politics’ some had their reservations. They asked, ‘What does that really mean?’, and if I thought it would resonate with my constituents. But the testimony I bring is that when I reflect on everything I’ve done my whole life, it has always been about putting people first.”
Putting people first for Humphrey also means trying to impact the hearts and minds of the young people in his constituency.
“The most painful thing for me to see in my community isn’t the poverty, but it’s the fact that people genuinely believe they can’t do any better. The unfortunate thing now is that a lot of the youngsters in my constituency don’t see anyone who’s been able to make it. So I have to say to them you can achieve this if you do this. The other day I told some of them to go and do some training, go and learn a skill, so a few of them went and registered, praise the Lord,” he added.
Humphrey’s sense of community and commitment to the people probably comes from his humble beginnings growing up in the Pine. He, along with his seven siblings, was raised by a single mother. And even though he could have easily been distracted from his studies to follow a different path, it was the people in the Pine, even the boys on the block, who saw something in him and challenged him to study and maintain his focus.
Humphrey stuck to his ideals and his slogan and so far it has proven to be the embodiment of what he represents. Members of his constituency willing worked on refurbishing his constituency house, because of what he means to them.
“This constituency house is the oldest house on this block. When we built this house the men came from the Bayland [and] Britton’s Hill and gave me free work,” he said. “I remember going to offer a man money one Friday and he said ‘Kirk you can’t pay me. You look out for me all the time, you can’t give me no money, I’m doing this for you.’ So I know people believe in what I’m offering beyond the politician thing. I think people actually have faith that we can do something and if I let them down then I will feel like a real fraud. I would let down my family, my mother [and] my daughter Kenya. At the end of the day Kenya is really the litmus test for me. If she is my anchor and she is, then I won’t violate the principle that I must be above politics.”
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