On the eve of what will be a momentous and historic occasion for our beloved country and indeed, yourself personally, I feel moved to express the enormous amount of joy, hope, optimism and great expectations I have for your Presidency.
Having spent five years leading Trinidad and Tobago as Head of Government and, first female Prime Minister, I feel especially privileged to witness the elevation of your good self to a similar history making moment.
It is in moments like these that I remember the dreams and aspirations of a nine-year-old girl sitting alongside her father selling vegetables in the Penal market together with a determined mother who ensured that I had the opportunity to pursue education in order to make those dreams reality. Today, as women, we carry the dreams of many of theseand other unsung heroes who laid the foundation for the road that we travel.
There was a general feeling that my elevation to the office of Prime Minister augured well for the future of women and girls in our nation in relation to leadership and empowerment. Your Presidency is undoubtedly both a reflection of this as well as a marked and welcome continuation of this progressive development.
Permit me to share with you a key realisation which came to me very early in my tenure as Prime Minister, for I respectfully believe it may serve as a guidepost to your good self. The simple truth is that despite my election as the first female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, this additional title was but a welcome accessory to the job of Head of Government.
The role of Head of Government, as I quickly realised, was a responsibility that was much bigger than being the first female Prime Minister. The job as Head of Government required much more than the empathy, compassion and maternal instincts which are amongst(what I like to think) are my hallmark traits as a politician. This role in fact demanded of the office holder an unquestionable and unwavering love for country and a resolute commitment to advancing the interest and welfare of each and every citizen of our Republic, above everything else. It required a steadfast vision and a strong will to work towards transforming our nation so as to benefit and uplift the lives of all the people whom we have the privilege to serve. So too does the role of Head of State.
History has traditionally recorded our triumphs in breaking the glass ceiling even further to enable the advancement and progress of women and girls, and this is good; but having been privileged to be the first to walk that path in the politics of our country, it is my firm belief that our society can only rise to reach its true potential when we lift our boys and girls, ourmen and women, side by side together.
Madam, I once stood in shoes very similar to those that you wear today and I understand you commitment as well as any concerns and anxiety that you may be experiencing, but I urge you to continue to have faith in God and in yourself and to take heart in your own remarkable life story of achievement and successes, and let that guide your tenure.
It will not, of course, be an easy path, for pioneering ones rarely are. I know what it is like to sometimes be unfairly and unjustifiably criticized, condemned and ridiculed, but I never wavered in my commitment to steer the course in the interest of the great privilege of public service and, I encourage you to do the same and move forward with God as your guide always.
I think you may agree with me that what is needed at this time in our country is strong leadership to stimulate and motivate young minds and inspire and embolden consciousness and hearts and souls of every single citizen. The time to win over the young impressionable minds in our society to the much-needed spirit of nation-building is indeed, now.
As you take your oath of office, you represent a spark of hope in our nation beleaguered with crime, failing institutions and mayhem. Restoring a true sense of impartiality, non-partisanship and social justice for all is anticipated by right thinking citizens who know that Trinidad and Tobago can be so much better than what we are today.
It is my hope that as a bastion of our Constitution and our democracy,the Office of the President will continue to find innovative ways to redefine itself, that the doors will continue to be opened and that the people of Trinidad and Tobago can feel through your words and deeds that they have someone fighting for their interest on their side.
Be reminded always that we must never allow ourselves to lose sight of the ultimate goal of public service, namely, the creation of a nation which embodies the very definition of progress, success, justice and equality for every single citizen. Indeed, it is up to all to work towards this sacred objective, but more so, the ones elected or chosen to hold the highest Public Offices of the land.
Always remember that our legacy must be anchored in the changes that we bring to the lives of the people we touch and the work that we do to bring about a better Trinidad and Tobago for them and our future generations.
For five years I had the distinct pleasure of being called Madam Prime Minister, and, on Monday, I truly look forward to addressing Your Excellency as Madam President.
I wish you well on your journey. I assure you too, that once you act in the best interest of our nation, you will never walk alone once it is in the pursuit of excellence on behalf of those you swear to serve.
I wish you strength, wisdom, courage and God’s richest blessings and guidance as you embark on this new season in your life and in the life of our blessed nation.
K. Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP