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A chronicle: Voices of the Pelican

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, January 25, 2019

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There are many wise sayings which talk about unity and living in community. According to an African proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The Trinidadian Coat of Arms says: “Together we aspire, together we achieve.” Jamaican old-timers say: “One hand cyaan clap.” They are all pointing to the conclusion that we need to come together to get the work done.

One example of people coming together in our region is The University of the West Indies, Mona. Over the 70-odd years of its existence the learning institution has brought together residents of the Caribbean to share a space as they journey to a better life, through education. The road which students will travel is marked by the milestone event at the culmination of their studies – the graduation ceremony. That special day is a time for celebration and joy. However, it is also a time for reflection and introspection. There are always wise words shared with each graduating class, hoping to inspire and encourage students on their way through the gates.

On Tuesday evening of this week, The University of the West Indies Office of Administration and the UWI Press launched the book Voices of the Pelican: Graduation Speeches by University Chancellor Sir George Alleyne. The speeches were taken from his years serving as chancellor from 2003 to 2010 and then 2010 to 2017. The speeches which were selected to be in the book were not only directed to the graduating class, as they came from a man with a definite view of how he sees and wants to see the Caribbean. Sir George's words were also for the wider society. A vision of how the region can continue to shape and shake the world.

The editor of the book, and colleague at Mona, Cecile Clayton, referred to Sir George as the “quintessential Caribbean man” as she discussed the task of selecting the speeches included in the publication. Sir Hilary Beckles, another “Caribbean man”, also remarked on how Sir George thoughtfully imparted his desire to see The University of the West Indies continue to impact the region while congratulating the graduates on their achievements.

Years before receiving honours and accolades, son of Barbados George Alleyne was a medical student on The University of the West Indies Mona Campus in the 1950s when the enrolment numbers were much less than they are now. Dr Alleyne was among the second batch of medical students to study at what was then the University College of the West Indies. After further studies in London, he returned to the Mona Campus to teach medicine. He was appointed professor of medicine and taught many of the region's doctors over the years.

Sir George continued with his Caribbean connection while working with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) as chief of research promotion and coordination. He would later serve as assistant director and director of the organisation which seeks to improve health and living standards of the people of the Caribbean and the Americas.

His work is so highly regarded that, in 1990, The Queen made him Knight Bachelor for his services to medicine, and in 2001 he was awarded the Order of the Caribbean Community — the highest honour that can be conferred on a Caribbean national.

Sir George remains a man of commitment and is respected by his colleagues within the Caribbean and the wider region. The University of the West Indies students have heard his words of encouragement as they have grown and learned the lessons that will make them assets to their families and countries. As others go through the pages to hear the “voices of the pelican”, no doubt they too will be enriched by the wisdom of Sir George. Congrats, Sir.

In memoriam

Condolence to the family of political historian Troy Caine, who passed away recently. He had a store of information on the ins and outs of the Jamaican political scene and was always willing to share the knowledge with wit and wisdom. Rest in peace, Brother Troy.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@gmail.com.


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