We were all born in the 20th century. The previous century of our foreparents was a very different place. At the dawn of last century, you travelled on foot, animals, boats or trains. You wrote letters to distant loved ones and went to a library to learn new things.
Astonishing advances occurred during the 20th Century – the light bulb, the automobile, telephone, TV, the internet and smart phones. Insulin, penicillin, the vaccines you know are all 20th Century discoveries.
Also remarkable were the social changes in the 20th century. When the century started race and gender discrimination was standard. Women dearly won the vote in the 20s in the US and Britain; much later in other countries. In 1965, US President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. Just one year later Barbados achieved its own independence.
Since then, this country has progressed peacefully from a low-income economy dependent on sugar to a middle-income economy based on services, one of the most stable democracies, with first world indicators in education and health.
My question to you is, given the amazing achievements of your foreparents, what will you do for future generations?
The means to attain your objectives are not new. Learning from the last century, most progress came not from a single insight but from, steady, committed, incremental work that eventually produced a great advance.
Social and technical progress came from great people, committed to their mission, working together and learning from previous experience. Most of the time, you will need those same skills in your day to day work, particularly:
- To understand the needs of the organization you work for and constantly strive for excellence;
- To get along and work with the other members of a team;
- To show willingness to help and go the extra mile, the spirit of cooperation.
- Often, to learn and communicate in other languages.
And this why we praise the Government of Barbados, for implementing, the Skills for the Future Program, with IDB support. The program focuses on the basic academic skills that employers require and that, in a competitive job market, will lead to greater success.
But it also goes the extra mile, by supporting improved technical and vocational skills, personal qualities and employer-driven training in developing and implementing business plans; leadership and capacity development; and improved data and information systems. The Program also pays attention to the development of personal qualities – honesty, integrity, flexibility, punctuality – that are fundamental in any profession; and is also exposing young people to market driven technical and vocational training, and sports.
To you 1360 graduates, I say give due recognition to the people who helped bring you to this ceremony today and to try to develop your professional skills to the highest – for your success, and theirs.