2008 Graduation Key Note Address Delivered by Dr. Wendy C. Grenade

Your Excellency, Mr. Carlyle Glean, Governor General, Canon Christian Glasgow, Manager of the School, the Honourable Glynis Roberts, Minister of Social Development, Social Security, Ecclesiastic Affairs and Labour, Representatives from the Ministry of Education and other ministries, the members of the governing body of the school, members of the clergy, specially invited guests, parents and guardians, staff of the school, graduates, good afternoon.

It is with great pleasure and humility that I address you this afternoon. Congratulations to you, graduates. Your graduation marks a significant milestone in your journey through life. This is a proud moment for you, your parents, teachers and other loved ones. Welcome to the AHS alumni! There is something so very special about being a This was indeed an extraordinary year for the Anglican High School. We achieved:

  • First position in the St. George's University’s Knowledge Bowl
  • First position in the RBTT Young Leaders’ Programme
  • First position in the CXC exams nationally
  • Another one of our students was among the top ten students in the CXC exams nationally
  • We also achieved first position in the Female Basketball Competition

What sterling accomplishments, in the true spirit of our tradition of excellence! It is no coincidence, therefore, that I was asked to speak on the theme: “Building on our legacy of Greatness: Expanding our Horizons.” The theme suggests the need to simultaneously draw on our past, even as we seek to shape our future.

In order to capture the essence of the theme, I will focus on two questions. First, what is our true legacy of greatness? And second, how can we expand our horizons in the 21st century? I will address both questions in turn.

First, what is our true legacy of greatness? Graduates, I want to locate your accomplishment today within its larger historical context. While each of you has achieved this individual milestone, and it is a great personal achievement, it is also a collective victory. Four hundred years ago we began a journey that would become a seemingly impossible journey.

Believe it or not, your graduation from the Anglican High School in 2008 was made possible because many years ago, your ancestors dared to reach beyond the inhumane boundaries of slavery and indenturship. They dared to challenge a system which deprived young girls, like yourselves, of education. Our ancestors resisted a system where ordinary people laboured hard from dawn to dusk, without the possibility of ever owning wealth.

They were courageous enough to break physical shackles as they searched for freedom and imagined a better life for you and me. Our ancestors dreamed of the freedom that we now enjoy. Graduates, embrace your success, but never take for granted the freedom you now enjoy. Those who went before you paved the way and crossed several critical boundaries. Today, that journey has taken you from plantation to graduation. That is the foundation of our true legacy of greatness!

Noted Caribbean intellectual, C.L.R. James, brilliantly used the game of cricket to raise our consciousness about the need to reach beyond boundaries. Today, you are a product of a series of boundary-crossings. But the journey goes on.

While the physical shackles are gone, there are other mental and psychological barriers we still need to tear down. Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley after him reminded us that we have to “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.”

The mantle is now being passed to you. You have now arrived at a significant juncture. But you have not yet made it to the other side. As Rex Nettleford, one of our most distinguished Caribbean intellectuals reminds us, “This is long distance running, it isn’t sprinting.” Therefore, other horizons beckon. In the words of Jimmy Cliff, “We have many more rivers to cross.”

This takes me to my second main question. How can we expand our horizons in the 21st century? I am a firm believer in the power of education to unpack myths about our inherent limitations. I hold true to the adage that knowledge is power. As the plantation reproduces itself in the contemporary era, in the disguise of globalization and free trade, education assumes greater significance. It becomes a necessary tool which you must use to search for opportunities and mitigate challenges. As the plantation reproduces itself, so too we have to continually renew our knowledge, skills and talents. Graduates, you need readiness for global competitiveness. As the late Lloyd Best, a leading Caribbean intellectual, often reminded us, education is the only means through which we can transform the social relations which linger on from the plantation experience. But what kind of education does a Grenadian and Caribbean student require in order to successfully navigate the 21st century? Our education system has to produce citizens who are globally competitive. Today’s graduates should be innovative; technologically proficient, research- driven and scientific-minded. They also need to be conscious of the global political and economic landscape, since global events have direct and indirect implications for us in the Caribbean. The current global financial crisis is a case in point.

The complexities of the global landscape demand that education goes beyond certification. It must fundamentally be about transformation; transformation of the polity, the economy and the society.

Our education architecture, of which the formal school system is only a part, must produce informed citizens who can participate constructively in the political process. It must not produce passive bystanders, but conscious citizens. It must be one of the grooming grounds for future leaders.

In addition, our education must support the search for a new path to economic development. As the global financial crisis looms over the economies of the Caribbean, we need to critically rethink what we teach. Education should enable us to find new paths to development which will reduce our dependency. Our education system should create entrepreneurs. It should be a bridge to link agriculture and tourism. In other words, it must be meaningful to the lives of ordinary people.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel. I urge the new government to use those programmes of the PRG which worked. We live in crucial times, which require crucial measures.

In addition, our education system must also be geared towards transforming the society. Community education must be on the agenda in a frontal way. We cannot only focus on “formal education”. I can still remember the days when the motto was: “each one teach one, we learn together. More education, more liberation.” Skills- building is imperative. Life skills are critical. Young people need to understand how to manage conflicts. Too many of our young men in particular are dying senselessly!

We need a re-birth of our community spirit and a renewal of our family ties. Grandparents and God parents need to be relevant again. The village must again raise a child.

The seriousness of the times requires greater partnerships between the formal education sector, parent teachers’ associations, churches, NGOs and other non-state organizations. A collective approach is mandatory at this time.

I am of the view that we need to continually review and overhaul our education system to make it relevant to the demands of the 21st century. Education planning and curricular reform are critical for long term success.

Above all, our education system needs to be grounded in our Grenadian and Caribbean history. As Rex Nettleford says “our education generally prepares us to deal with the outside world, but it does not prepare us to deal with ourselves.”

As Caribbean integration deepens through the OECS and the Caribbean Single Market, it is imperative that Caribbean students be educated about their role in building a Caribbean nation.

Grenada has always been central to the Caribbean’s experience. Whether it was the contributions of T.A. Marryshow, Uriah Buzz Butler, or the Grenada Revolution, the Caribbean’s flavour is incomplete without its Grenadian spice.

This year is fifty years since the collapse of the West Indian Federation. Despite challenges, Caribbean integration remains a necessary imperative. Graduates, you need to prepare yourselves to be competitive locally and within the OECS and CARICOM. Be confident, embrace and maximize opportunities. Explore new frontiers.

Given the above, the government has a responsibility to seriously invest in the education sector. Caribbean countries which enjoy a higher quality of life are the ones where governments had the vision to invest heavily in their human capital. I admonish the new government to make education a high priority. In order for Grenada’s sons and daughters to explore new frontiers and expand their horizons, there needs to be serious investment in education. The future of Grenada’s children depends to a large extent on visionary political leadership, sound policies, and a comprehensive, relevant and well financed education sector.

It is appropriate here for me to make mention of the invaluable work of our teachers. Graduates, I admonish you to appreciate the sacrifice your teachers have made over the years. They have played a significant role in your overall development. We owe a great debt to the teaching profession. Teachers do not only teach, they perform multiple roles: they nurse physical and emotional wounds; they mediate conflicts; they provide care and counseling and instill lasting values which help to shape your character.

Increased financing for the education sector must include decent salaries for teachers. We need to be able to recognize the worth of our teachers and reward them appropriately. Teachers you too have a responsibility to live up to your noble vocation. Be lights to the students who look to you for guidance as they seek to chart their future.

Graduates, some of you will join the world of work, although I must caution you, that a secondary school education is insufficient for you to be competitive in today’s work place. Others will go on to technical and vocational skills training and others will pursue an academic path. Whatever you choose, be the best you can be.

See your education as a continuous life long journey. Invest in building your mind. Enhance your mental capacity. Read, read, read. Use technology wisely. Do no allow technology to be your master. You master technology in order to master the times. Explore non-traditional ways to pursue higher education. Above all, pursue excellence. It was the Philosopher Aristotle who said: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Graduates, I charge you, remember it is your attitude that will determine your altitude. Never compromise with honesty. Find a spiritual anchor. Give back to the society which has nurtured you. Respect and honour your parents. A word to the parents. This is a proud moment for you. Continue to encourage and guide your children. You have a critical role to play in these trying times.

Graduates, you are graduating in a momentous year. This year Usain Bolt blazed the trail like a bolt of lightening in Beijing. Our own Louis Hamilton raced his way to the World Championships and Barrack Obama defied history to become the first African-American President-elect of the United States. Their success is our success, because it is a collective success grounded in black pride and resilience. Their success says to you, you too can be great.

Your greatness begins with an appreciation of your past and a vision of the many horizons yet before you. I charge you to reach for the spirit of your ancestors within you and expand your imagination.

Think beyond the narrow confines of geographic boundaries and limitations of small size. Think beyond a history which says to you, “stop, who are you? You are too black” or “you are too poor.” Think beyond a society which says to you, “stop, you were not born into the right class.” Think beyond a system which says to you, “stop you are a woman, remember? You’re not supposed to be doing this?”

Take it from me, as you navigate the rough waves of life, you will hear “stop, stop, this horizon is beyond you.” In the words of Barack Obama, let them know, A High School Girl can. Yes, we all can!

So let’s begin to imagine an AHS graduate of the 2008 graduating class as the first female prime minister of Grenada or better still, the first female President of a United Caribbean States! Let’s imagine an under water Caribbean Shuttle, and the first female engineer is a graduate of the AHS 2008 graduating class. Let’s imagine a Caribbean Hollywood and the first CEO is one of you.

Congratulations on your achievement. My best wishes for a future filled with endless possibilities. Build on our legacy of greatness as you expand even beyond limitless horizons. I thank you.

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School Quote

"every student is expected to take her academic studies seriously at all times;’ and  ‘every student should regard herself as a citizen of the Anglican High School Community, who live together, pooling and sharing their qualities of mind and character with a view to utilizing and developing the resources of their common habitation for the good of all.’

~ AHS Handbook given to every new student