President Anthony Carmona is again advocating for 16 and 17-year-old citizens to have the right to vote for their leaders. The President made the point as he presented silver and gold awards to participants of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards international programme – which is locally known as President’s Awards – at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts yesterday.
The programme is open to young people between the ages of 14 to 24 years from 144 countries around the world and teaches survival, leadership, management skills, love for the environment and service to humanity among other disciplines.
Carmona who is expected to demit office later this month, told the young people they were “full of cabeza” (Spanish word for head) and much brighter than the adults he hears on local talk radio, pronouncing on politics, the environment and other world issues.
In his 40-minute discourse, he emboldened the young people from the ASJA Open Unit, Curepe Open Unit, MIC Technology Institute Unit, Horizon Open Unit and Naparima Girls’ Open Unit he presented with awards saying, “Don’t let anyone tell you to wait your turn to effect positive change.”
The father of two young teenagers himself, Carmona told the audience, “You don’t have to be in a position of power to effect positive change. You don’t have to be in a position of authority, you don’t have to have money or social status to effect positive change. Much change has been wrought by young children in this world of ours.” He referenced Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was almost killed when she stood up to the Talibans to defend her right to an education.
“She has been able, through her advocacy, to raise the importance of education in countries that felt the only script for girls was to be married off and have children. She changed that in countries where culture and religion have kept women down,” Carmona said to applause.He also referred to the nine-year-old American school girl named Sofie, who wrote to former President Barrack Obama while he was in office, asking him to put a woman on the US currency. That resulted in the face of former slave and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, replacing slave-holding Andrew Jackson on the US$20 bill.
Saying that something is wrong with the leadership of this country, Carmona encouraged the young people to engage in service leadership and not necessarily power leadership.
“Be leaders who inspire,” he said, cautioning that sometimes when one stood up for something they believed in they would find themselves standing alone.
“I have found myself standing alone,” he said.
Saying the youths of this nation continue to inspire him, Carmona advanced, that today is a mesmerising an inspirational day for young people to continue to bring a sense of rejuvenation to our old and tired system, to challenge social norms and engage critical thinking.
He ended his speech with a quote from Jamaican reggae artiste in a Jamaican accent, saying that what he did and had been doing during his tenure in office, “Mi nah do it for de likes, but mi do it for de love,” sending the youthful audience in uproar.
As he left the stage at the end of programme, he made a slanted peace sign with his right hand which he placed on his heart and on his lips and to the audience.