Fight! Struggle! Break the harness with might!
Show the worth of Black fruits,
Carrier of great pride, spirit and more,
for out reproduction, you come forth, Courageous, powerful, like the lion
Let us hear you, rooooar… Black Child!
Since we are honoring educators, I think it fitting to speak about the role of education: formal and informal or as I call it “learning through the University of life” and its importance in our lives.
Education is the foundation upon which we build and nurture who we are; it is the key to opening doors to opportunities; it is the tool we use to make choices and decisions and to build stronger and more productive communities.
My overarching theme is On Whose Shoulders…
• The metaphor of dwarfs standing on the shoulders of expresses the meaning of “discovering truth by building on previous discoveries”. This concept has been traced back to the 12th century and is attributed to Bernard of Chartres.
• However, its most familiar English expression is attributed to Isaac Newton in 1675: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
• More recently, I cite the 2014 poem of Julian B. Kiganda, Author and Motivational Speaker – “I stand on the “Shoulders of Giants” which she dedicated to mothers.
I was fortunate to grow up in a family and village where education was highly regarded. My Uncle Francis Humphrey and wife Cousin Christabelle, with whom my mother Margaret Farray had the great presence of mind to leave us with when she was migrating to Canada, were strong believers in education. They instilled in us very strong work ethics and principles. So in coming to Canada, I did my best to follow their guidance and teachings.
After completing my undergraduate degree at Concordia University, I made the conscious decision to further my education not formally, but instead by learning from “The University of Life.”
I value the importance of formal education, especially in preparing one to assume a place in the workforce and to advance in one’s career. On the other hand, one has to be cautious about the concept of education; this too can be the source of “mis-education.”
I feel certain that formal education and “normal” education are not mutually exclusive and that they go hand in hand to complement each other.
In my pursuit of further learning through the University of Life, I have stood and continue to stand on many shoulders:
I stand on the shoulders of my family and friends; they are the wind beneath my wings.
I stand on the shoulders of my community; it provides fuel for my passion for community service.
I stand on the shoulders of the Grenada Nationals Association of Montreal, Inc.; it has been one of my platforms for growth and development.
I stand on the shoulders of lovers; they have taught me to take the good, learn from the negative and rise above.
I stand on the shoulders of co-workers; they are a source of validation, new knowledge and inspiration.
I stand on the shoulders of humanity; an ever present field of learning, while seeking to understand self, humanity and my place in it.
And I am sure that many of you have stood on similar shoulders in your quest for learning and growth.
In life, we are confronted with positive and negative experiences. I have learned to choose what I take from these experiences. One can learn from negative situations. But to do so, one has to have presence of mind, exercise tolerance and good judgment.
Over the years, the community and especially the Grenada Nationals Association of Montreal have provided great learning experiences, provided space and opportunity for me to develop and to excel.
To this end, I was able to advance in my career at McGill University, where I have been fortunate to work for over 38 years. I must give credit to John Cruickshank, Leonard Wharwood, Jr., Peter “Uncle” Charles and Roosevelt Alexis for their ongoing encouragement and support.
In life, we all meet challenges, but it is not what we allow them to do to us, but how we select what to retain. What elevates us as human beings is the ability to analyze, discern and to make decisions. It is in choosing how to interpret and accept situations that we can learn from our experiences.
As we celebrate our nation’s 44th Anniversary of Independence, let us remember on Whose Shoulders we as Grenadians stand. Let us give thanks and praise to those who have laid the cornerstone for us.
We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors
We stand on the shoulders of our grandparents
We stand on the shoulders of our mothers and fathers
We stand on the shoulders of our relatives, friends… and yes
We stand on the shoulders of our politicians (past and present)
So let us recognize the great works and legacies of those of our compatriots who sought to seek a better future for us, our children, our nation.
Stalwarts such as: Julien Fedon, Henri Christophe, Cynthia Gairy, Uriah “Buzz” Butler, Winifred Strachan, Nadia Benjamin, Gloria Payne, Mary Fortune, Gertrude Protain, Whapple Nedd, T.A. Marryshow, Hon. Hebert.A. Blaize and others. (I note that while Henri Christophe is historically linked to Haiti, he was born in Grenada – October 1767.)
We salute them for laying the groundwork and inspiration for liberation and independence so that The Right Hon. Sir Eric Matthew Gairy could have built on their work and realize the ultimate goal of Nationhood in 1974.
Our Island Nation of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique is on the verge of new elections on March 13, 2018. We should expect no less, that regardless of which party forms the government, that it will forge a better path forward to build on what is good, improve what is weak, and to build new and stronger systems and infrastructure which will lead to a positive and more productive nation to the benefit of all its citizens.
Doing so will be tantamount to a better nation and well-fitting given this year’s Independence theme: “One People, One Country, Our Responsibility.”
We should all be grateful to those on whose shoulders we have stood.
Janice Farray is a community advocate. She works at McGill University.
Speech delivered at The Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martnique’s 44th Anniversary Gala at the Holiday Inn, on Saturday, February 17.