Valedictorian for the Faculties of Food and Agriculture and Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Richard Ali called on his fellow graduands to use their skills to develop their nation.
In his speech on Monday, Ali said while mistakes, failures, and disappointments were inevitable as they moved forward in life, it was what they did afterwards that mattered.
“We must seize opportunities when they come, and not look back at the ones we would have missed. The UWI has provided us with the training and God has given us the talents to give back, not only to ourselves but to our community, nation and by extension, generations to come. Your success to come should not be about you, it should be about improving the lives of others who are not as fortunate but possess the same potential to be successful.”
He called on granduands to find the courage to become leaders.
“Leadership is not about following, instead it requires courage, the courage to stand up against the perpetual mistakes and flaws in governance that have resulted in the current social unrest in our nation. Class of 2020, we are now all leaders in our own right, and may God provide us the courage to implement changes that will steer our country into a future defined by equality and a less stratified society.
“If many years from now, our economy is still not diversified, then we will have failed. If, many years from now, our brightest still continue to migrate and develop other nations, then we will have failed. If, many years from now, our country still continues to import the majority of its food, then we will have failed. Let us take up the responsibility for the fate of our nation and our Caribbean.”
Honorary graduand Prof Edgar Julian Duncan of St Vincent and the Grenadines, who received a Doctor of Science (DSc) for contributions to Caribbean Science and Agriculture, advised the graduands that they should avoid the pitfall of thinking that they knew everything because they had completed a degree.
“Learning is a life-long endeavour. For those who started ahead of you, there’s still a lot to be learned and discovered, new skills in which to become adept and many problems relating to the islands in which we live, to be solved.
"Some of us are approaching the sunset hours of our lives, but there’s still a lot we can do, a lot we need to learn, discover, and do in the hours of sunshine available us. We invite you, if you have the time while pursuing your chosen path, to join us in a collaborative effort.”
Duncan said, as the graduands moved forward, they would come to a crossroads with paths pointing to education, the pursuit of riches, the pursuit of power, and in total service to humanity. He urged them to think about their choices carefully and make them honestly.