President David Granger: We have been here for over three hours. Now that climate change has started to make its presence felt, now that we are closer to lunch and now that the valedictorian has spoken, I think I would become very unpopular if I stayed here too long.
So I would try to reduce my remarks, in [the] light of those four factors so that you can get to the serious business of taking some photographs and getting on Facebook. [Laughter.]
Chairman of the East Berbice – Corentyne Region, Mr. David Armogan; Regional Educational Officer, Ms. Volika Jaikishun; Headmistress, Ms. Tracy Heliger, other regional officers, Ms. Shafiran Bhagan, teachers, parents and guardians, graduating Class of 2016, students, special invitees, members of the media:
I am very glad I could make it today. Twenty-four hours ago I was coming in from Chile and the first call I made was to ask my secretary to get on to BHS and say I can make it after all. [I] wasn’t sure if I’d reach from Chile in time, but I told the pilot to fly fast. [Laughter.]
So here I am, not much sleep, but I am glad to be with you again. I was here, as you know, in September when you celebrated your centenary.
As the last speaker… is that everybody has said everything that needs to be said, but I would just like to add my voice of congratulations to all of you, the best graduating student in particular, and all of the graduands, and particularly to the hard working staff.
No great enterprise is achieved by one person and I noted the words of the valedictorian, and he is very grateful for the teachers, and I too would like to add my voice to that.
A brief word about your school’s motto, ‘Carpe diem’. Well, it is part of a longer quotation in Latin, and as you know that quotation comes from the Roman poet, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, who lived sixty-five years before Christ. People call him Horace but his full name was Quintus Horatius Flaccus, and his words were, and I quote his exact words:
“Dum loquimur, fugerit invida. Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero”
And that whole quotation, of which ‘Carpe diem’ is just two words, means “While we’re talking, time is fleeting: seize the day and put no trust in the future”. That’s what ‘carpe diem’ means diem means day – seize the day and put no trust to the future, which means do not procrastinate. So do not delay, do not put off for tomorrow, but seize the day and do what you have to do and that quotation is a very appropriate one for students.
Sometimes people leave and they say “I work too hard in school I gone take it light”, and they start to idle, they start to look for some low paying job just to get some money in their pockets and ten years after they still in some low paying job, twenty years after they are still at some low paying job, postponing their tertiary education, postponing their development.
So I do hope that as you leave here you realise that graduating from secondary school is not the end of the road. I think when I was here in September I told you what [United Nations] Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said about the well-known West Indian athlete Usain Bolt. He said Usain Bolt doesn’t stop running after fifty metres, so you too don’t stop running.
I hope to see you all at the University of Guyana campus when you change your blue gowns for green, and you will all be Chairman, like Mr. David Armogan here who wore that green gown one day when he was young; he said when he was young. [Laughter.]
But, as I said before, I want to be brief. I want to congratulate you on the step that you have taken. A new chapter is about to unfold in your lives, new opportunities are about to be opened, new pathways must lie ahead and your education here at Berbice High School has prepared you for all of those opportunities.
One thing that the Chairman has said, which I would like to repeat, and when I was here last time I left a million dollars, asking that that money be put aside particularly for assistance in Science and Information Technology; and this morning those of you who pay attention to the news would have seen the dreadful news that the wildlife of the world is disappearing at a fast rate.
Two weeks ago I was in Washington sitting next to the President of Botswana, Mr. Ian Khama, and he was giving us statistics [about] the rate at which elephants were being killed. Well, when I was young here on the Corentyne, here living at Whim, everybody used to boast about the manatees in Canje.
This country is God’s own country. It is a blessed country and we have got giants, which you cannot find anywhere else on the continent, in the Caribbean or in the world. The largest anteater in the world; the largest freshwater fish in the world, the arapaima; the largest spider in the world; the largest eagle in the world and you can go through twenty of the largest animals in the world and I want you to see those animals. That is why I put money in Science.
I want you to study Botany and Zoology, and Biology and Physics and Chemistry. I want you to stay here and develop Guyana, build roads, build bridges, help to protect our wildlife, and that is why, as I said in Washington, as I say here again, I want Guyana to be a ‘green’ state. That is why I declared the 1st October to be National Tree Day so that we cool down Main Street, we cool down the Strand, we cool down the Corentyne, plant tress all on the waterfront, plant mangroves, and plant courida so that this part of the planet remains cool; cool Guyana.
We absorb more carbon dioxide than we generate; that is why the Norwegians actually pay us to keep our forest intact. We are part of the lungs of the earth. We hold the freshwater reserves. So Guyana is important not only to you and your children and grandchildren, not only to the continent and hemisphere but to the entire globe. We are a global resource and I look to you, the graduands today and generations to come out of this school, Berbice High School, to help to protect our wildlife, to protect our coastal zone, to protect our rivers, to protect the atmosphere so that we all could, and your children could live in this country for years and for centuries to come.
Today you are very lucky, and as I said in September, many of you would know that your parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to secondary school, and their parents had it worse because many of you are children of Africans, who were enslaved, and Indians who were indentured, but they had the good sense that once they came off of the plantations they sought every opportunity for their children to get the best education because education meant mobility; education meant creativity; it meant responsibility.
So we don’t all have to cut cane, we don’t all have to push carts; we don’t all have to go and fish. Everybody can choose what he or she wants to do, but where your parents and grandparents produced ten bags an acre you can produce twenty, where they produced twenty you can produce thirty or forty because you have greater education, because you understand Science. You can get a better grass for drainage and irrigation and fertilization. You can go on the computer and see which countries need rice. That is what I have been doing at the United Nations.
I meet the President of Liberia. I said, “You want rice to buy?” She said, “We eat rice three times a day.” I said, “I will sell you rice three times a day and twice on Sundays.”
I meet the President of Nigeria. I asked him if he wants rice to buy. All the time I go there I am selling rice; so I want you, the graduates of this high school, not to be afraid of Science, not to be afraid of agriculture but to go out there and do better than your parents and fore parents did.
As I said, many of the remarks I would have liked to have given have already been delivered and it is too close to lunch time for me to talk too long. So let me close by congratulating you on your studies over the years.
When I was in high school myself, I remember on our last day we used to sing a hymn and, when we sang that hymn, included in the words were “those returning, those returning make more faithful than before”. Some of us would actually cry because we know that we would be parting company with our teachers and with each other and those days it was a boy’s school and we still cried, much less nowadays. [Laughter.] It is a sad moment, but it is a moment of great responsibility and challenge.
Guyana is a challenging country. I don’t have to ask you to stay and build Guyana. Some of you will want to migrate. But when you see the things that will be happening in Guyana, when you go to our beautiful hinterland you would see that what I have said this morning that this is a blessed country, God’s country, the second garden of Eden, and you will want to come back and use the education that you gained at Berbice High School to make this country a great place, a beautiful place for us and for generations to come.
I thank you all, I congratulate you, and may God bless you.