Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday her time spent at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Barbados, moulded her as a leader and a person who dared to pursue change for the betterment of the people.
She was delivering the feature address at the seventh annual distinguished alumni lecture at the campus as it marked its 50th anniversary.
Persad-Bissessar graduated from the Cave Hill Campus in 1985.
“The time I spent at this esteemed institution is synonymous in memory to great change and the excitement of new life. It was while here, I became a mother to a wonderful son,” she said.
“In that single moment of enormous transition, I came to realise that great blessings, such as the birth of my son, do not operate on a timetable, nor do the challenges that come with the simultaneous pursuit of motherhood and education,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar said although her family and comforts of home were far away, she found a new family at Cave Hill in fellow students— each with their own stories of challenge and triumph.
“As students, one of the most memorable points of learning at Cave Hill was that no true or sustainable success could ever be achieved overnight. Another was that hard work, commitment and dedication would always deliver results,” she said.
“Our time at this campus also opened our minds to broader thinking, at times daring us to be bold enough to think differently, by leaving behind the rigidity of traditionalism,” said Persad-Bissessar.
“Today, 28 years later, I have the privilege of returning to the place where my ideas of development, politics and liberty were transformed, to confess that I would quite likely not be where I am today, without the Cave Hill, UWI, experience,” she continued.
The Prime Minister said her Cave Hill University experience helped her achieve by teaching her not only to accept prevailing thought, but also to challenge concepts, and to be confident enough to defy convention with new approaches that better fit modern development.
“Certainly, as someone trained in law, I became an achieving professional by combining the evolution of the common law, the legal theories of governance and the underpinnings of equity in the system of justice. But it went far beyond simply lectures on the subject areas. The Cave Hill experience instilled in my mind that even if the application of theories worked in the past, the time will come when we must break the shackles of custom and go off into new directions,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar also disclosed that as a student she had the privilege of meeting and forming early relationships with people who would one day lead their countries such as the late David Thompson (1981-84); Freundel Stuart (1977-1982), and Kenny Anthony, prime minister of St Lucia (1981-1983).
“That time was one of the most memorable in my life, bringing my first lessons in leadership; a stark understanding of the need to beat your own path, and a pointed challenge— either sink, or swim.
And it was a moment in time when there was no Facebook or Twitter, no Skype or Face-time, and no e-mails or text messages,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar advised the students they must consider how they will prepare the present for the future by relying on their experiences.
“It is our duty to ensure that what we leave behind is a strong foundation built on solid ideals such that when tomorrow’s people reflect on our actions today, their thoughts must be woven together by the belief that we did our best,” she said.