President David Granger: Thank you very much for your introduction, Chairman of the Queen’s College (QC) Board of Governors; Principal of Queen’s College, Ms. Jackie Benn; Deputy Principal, Ms. Lenise Parker; other members of the Queen’s College Board; members of staff; parents and guardians; students; members of the media.
As Mr. Alfred Granger said, I was here sixty-one years ago, before your parents were born I believe, maybe even before your grandparents were born but it was a tremendous experience for me at that time and there is a strong sense of nostalgia as I return here today; makes me feel young again, makes me feel like I’m eleven. But let me first congratulate you, the new entrants who have passed your National Grade Six Assessment.
I always tell students that once I did teach here, not for a living but as a service at the time of the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the school; of the college. I always tell students that anyone who can come into Queen’s College could leave with ‘A’ Level or CAPE passes and can go to university and get a degree. Anyone who is qualified enough to enter QC at age eleven is qualified to get a university degree. It all depends on what you put into your studies. So I’d like to congratulate you now, and I hope that in the years to come I can congratulate you as successful graduates of the CAPE programme and graduates of the University of Guyana. Today is very much the first day of the rest of your lives.
Entering Queen’s College is a transformative experience and your life wouldn’t be the same again. You’re entering a college with a 172-year-old history and it is only last Sunday that I attended the service at Christ Church to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Anglican Diocese in Guyana. The Anglican Diocese came into existence in August 1842, so this makes it its 175th year and it came into existence as the result of the appointment of the Right Reverend William Percy Austin as the Bishop of Guyana, the first Anglican Bishop of Guyana. The significance is that two years later he founded Queen’s College. He is the person after whom Austin House is named, he is the founder of Queen’s College and each one of you would have a package there and in that package, there is a book of the history of Queen’s College by one of our most distinguished alumni, Professor Winston McGowan, and you’ll see a photograph of Bishop William Percy Austin and there is a book on the Houses of Queen’s College there and you are very lucky because you are the first recipients of that booklet.
I’m sure some of your teachers never saw it in their lives and you must be wondering where these names came from, Moulder, Wester and Pilgrim, but now you know that those persons are part of the tradition of our school and you’ll be able to understand better why you have these names, but particularly in August we must remember and celebrate the visionary leadership of Bishop Austin who founded this school and actually it was founded on the 5th of August, 1844. Unfortunately, that anniversary is not observed in the school because most students and teachers are on holiday on the 5th of August on any year but I do hope in order to recapture the tradition of this college, we remember the founding of this school on the 5th of August, 1844 and of course you’ll be celebrating the 175th anniversary a few years from now. So let us remember Bishop Austin and let us remember the vision because what he did in 1844 has stood the test of time, because even now the school he founded is still the premier secondary school in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. [Applause.]
Thank you for your applause. Students, as I said, (no, you don’t have to rise, you just have to clap heartily) you have an information package and in it there is a copy of the book “The History of Queen’s College”, there is a copy of the book the “Houses of Queen’s College” and in the fullness of time you’ll get another book called the “Queen’s College Cadet Corps”. Of course, there is no Cadet Corps now. It was formed in 1889, the first Cadet Corps to be established in the English-speaking Caribbean. Unfortunately, it was discontinued in 1975 but under a former sergeant of the Cadet Corps it is going to be reintroduced; so just watch out.
QC has much to be proud of, and let me speak about four aspects of your life and service, your stewardship here at Queen’s College that you will do well to remember. The first is the College culture. This College has produced four out of eight Guyanese presidents. That is statistically significant, that half of the executive presidents of this country came out of these classrooms, and you all learned fast. I don’t even have to ask for applause now. One of you could be here in years to come, speaking to the orientation group of a new class of students.
Statistically QC has the advantage in producing Presidents of Guyana but more important is the culture which makes it possible for one college to produce four Heads of State: Cheddi Jagan, Forbes Burnham, Samuel Hinds and David Granger. They came out of a culture, they came out of our school song, our name, Reginae Collegium, our school song, “Laude gratemur scholae nostraie conditores”, our school tie; it came out of the names you see inscribed on these plaques, of brilliant Guyanese who passed through these classrooms. It came out of the clubs and the sport fields, it came out of the laboratories and classrooms, it came out of the house spirit.
Every Granger who has passed through Queens College was a member of Moulder house. My brother, my cousin, my grandchildren are members of Moulder House. If you come to QC you have to go into Molder House, that’s the tradition. All of these things help to reinforce the culture of the
College. You’re never mistaken about your identity, where you belong. When I meet students the first thing I ask them before I ask them what form they’re in, which level they’re in, what House you’re in and if you don’t know your house you didn’t come to QC.
The second thing you must remember is that QC is not a cramming factory. People don’t excel because they are crammers, they excel because in this College we build character, in this College we build moral qualities where people understand their duties, they understand the need for integrity in their studies, note the school motto and in this school unfortunately you can’t run away from Latin: “Fideles, Ubique, Utiles”; what do those three words mean? Those three words were written a hundred years ago and you can’t pass through the walls of this College without knowing what they mean.
Fideles means that you are faithful, you are loyal. Ubique means everywhere and Utiles means useful. Everywhere you are faithful and useful. Whatever you do, if you’re a businessman, if you’re a politician, if you’re an attorney, if you’re an engineer, you’re faithful, and you’re useful; it was an engineer out of these laboratories who helped to build the Demerara Harbour Bridge. Engineers from this College help to run the bauxite industry and build the highways from Corriverton all the way to Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop to Parika and from Supenaam to Charity.
Guyana has a lot to be thankful for to the persons who passed through the classrooms and laboratories of this College because they helped to build character: Fideles, Ubique, Utiles and third is your conduct. When I was here over six decades ago, there was hardly any whipping even though it was very popular those days for students to be caned. Only one person had a cane; that was the principal or headmaster at the time but discipline came about as a result of the pressure of your peers. Just a look from your colleagues; there was no need for a prefect, there was no need for a principal to punish you; just your colleagues would look at you and that look would say you’re letting this side down and you would correct your behaviour.
You didn’t have to go in detention, you didn’t have to be suspended or expelled. You just had to understand that there was a requirement for you to live up to the standards of your colleagues; that school tie meant something. It means something now; next Monday, it means something when you graduate and it will mean something when you leave school. It will mean that when somebody looks at you they would see a standard of behaviour that sets you apart, a standard of behaviour that distinguishes you as a fit and proper person, that distinguishes you as a well-behaved person in society. So in QC it is not a matter of what you must do, it’s a matter of what you ought to do. The teacher’s going to tell you what you must, but after a while you yourself would know what you ought to do and you ought to maintain the standards and values of this great College. Respect for others.
When I came here there were only boys, now there are girls and the young boys must respect the girls, girls must respect themselves and the teachers must respect the students and the students must be respectful to the teachers. Respect for property; this building, if this building could talk but you see in that book in the history of Queen’s College, you will see in that book on the Houses of Queen’s College, photographs of Queen’s College in 1870; a hundred and forty-seven years ago. You’d see pictures of Queen’s College at Brickdam, Queen’s College at Carmichael Street and Queen’s College today and this is only possible because we respect the property which the state has provided for this College.
So wherever you go be respectful; we are a nation of several religions. Tomorrow we all will observe Eid- ul-Adha, an important Islamic festival. Everyone will observe it with respect. We respect Hindu holidays, Christian holidays, we respect people of Indian origin, Amerindian origin, mixed origin, Portuguese and it’s on that basis that this College was able to build its culture to respect for each other. Most of all, respect for yourselves and not to be ashamed of anything you say or do during your career in this College. It used to be a septennial – that is seven years. I’m not sure what is the duration now; it may be shorter, maybe because you all are brighter, but that septennial or whatever it is now, seven year period, will be one of the most fulfilling phases of your life, you will never forget; not only passing exams but the culture and the conduct of your colleagues, the friendships, the human relations which developed among you and will continue to last for decades thereafter, and finally, I just want to leave one word with you and that word is this beautiful country which God has given us, the biggest country in the Caribbean Community and in the Caribbean, in the Anglophone Caribbean, and what I consider the most beautiful country in the Caribbean and the most bountiful country in the Caribbean.
I am proud to be Guyanese, happy to be Guyanese. I don’t have anything against people who migrate, I don’t have anything against the diaspora, I love the diaspora but I will never migrate. Hey ah meh born, hey ah meh dead and I would hope that you, as you go through this great College, you’ll get an opportunity through your clubs, through the various classes that you will pass through, to go around this country and see what Guyana is. Get away from these house lots and these streets and avenues here in Georgetown and on the coastland- go to see the Essequibo Islands. Three of them: Leguan, Wakenaam, and Hog Island are bigger than the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.
Go and see the lake lands in the Essequibo Coast, the Tapakuma and the Capoey and the Mainstay Lakes, go to see the grasslands of Berbice and of the Rupununi. I first went to the Berbice savannahs as a cadet in 1960, just rolling grass as far as the eye could see. Go to see the wetlands, the swamps are not places to fill in. These are the places where you get some of our unique biodiversity; our national bird, the Canje Pheasant, comes from the wetlands. You don’t see it around Georgetown like Kisksadee that’s why we need to protect those wetlands.
Go to see the highlands, some of them covered with clouds because they are so high. Guyana is not flat, just this little piece, these few acres here on the coast, but we have highlands and out of those highlands come the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, the most beautiful rivers; most of them running from south to north. This is your land and the education that you will receive in this College will prepare you better to take possession of this great land, through the culture that is inculcated here, through your own conduct, through the character that will be moulded here and through your love of country.
I congratulate you on entering this great College; you have a wonderful opportunity; you all know that it’s a competitive exam, although privately, I would hope that every region could have a Queen’s College. I hope that every region could have a school of excellence. I know QC and I know that many of you would like to feel that QC is unique but I as a parent, as a president, as an alumnus, I would like to hope that in every region we could have something, a college, an institution which is comparable to Queen’s College. What a wonderful country Guyana would be. Once again, congratulations, welcome to the QC family and I pray that God may bless you all.