If I may be permitted a personal note: I was there, so to say, when she arrived here courtesy my best friend Peter Foster and the pulchritudinous Therese Monplaisir. Barely three months later I took to referring to the newcomer as “Princess” whenever I spoke to her parents, on the phone and elsewhere. Before long she was 13 years old, and superstar-model beautiful. As it turned out, she loved to perform for the camera, a hint that there was more to her than met the untrained eye: a talent for acting, for example. She graced the cover of our Tropical Traveller more than once and featured in SHE Caribbean (also published by the STAR). And then suddenly Tianah was being talked about for something else: her mind. Her school reports were always excellent (enough to bring tears to the eyes of her adoring Q.C. and House Speaker Daddy, who has been known to claim credit for his daughter’s beauty and brains—even though the better informed among their friends have always known Tianah’s Mommy is mainly responsible!) I was not the least bit surprised to learn she brought the house down with her SALCC Valedictory Address a little over a week ago, on December 3 (reported in last week’s STAR). Here is a daughter of the soil destined to go far. I look forward to having her as my guest on TALK one of these days. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.
Tianah Foster’s Valedictory Address, delivered on 3 December 2017:
Your Excellency, Dame Pearlette Louisy, Governor General of Saint Lucia; Honourable Dr. Gale Rigobert, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations & Sustainable Development; Members of Parliament; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Officials of the Ministry of Education; Members of the Board of Governors of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College; Members of Staff of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College; Distinguished Guest Speaker:
A pleasant afternoon to all. To the lecturers of this wonderful college, without whom none of us would be here, to my fellow graduates and our proud parents, congratulations! Today we celebrate, and we are celebrated.
Ladies and gentlemen, specially invited guests, our media representatives, I welcome you: Today, we have become graduates of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, a proud institution and the training ground for tomorrow’s doctors, architects, engineers, scientists, teachers, lawyers and leaders. In addition, this institution also produced a number of special entrepreneurs and its very own shuttle service (both of which I will get into in a minute). We have a lot to be proud of, and we are here this afternoon to celebrate our triumphs and achievements, both individually and as a college.
The Sir Arthur Lewis Community College has five known divisions: DASGS, DAGRI, DTEMS, DTA and DHS. However, this is not where the list ends. For instance there also exists, a Sir Arthur Lewis Community Cars. At the beginning of our tenure here, many of us complained of the distances between buildings, having a class at VAR then having to walk all the way to DTEMS or vice versa was in no way enjoyable, especially not under the blazing sun. At that time, a shuttle service perhaps would have been a brilliant implementation. However, in our second year, this desire was no longer necessary, and quite frankly would not have been possible because the shuttles would have no place to turn in the students’ car park, since it was now filled with parents’ cars. Ah yes, the feeling of accomplishment of getting one’s license was not complete until you dropped your parent to work in the morning then took their car to school. Thus was born Sir Arthur Lewis Community Cars. Our very own shuttle service whereby twelve or more people would pile up in a five-seater to go “down the road” (to our selection of 5-star roadside restaurants) or simply to class on the other side of campus. I was left to believe that many of these “community cars” operated on water, not fuel, because it was hard to understand how such high volumes of fuel could possibly be paid for in such short spaces of time, all of the time.
Another branch of college life was the Sir Arthur Lewis Community Co-op. Average students at a regular college would have books, stationery and other such related products in their bags. Not here. We had our very own food co-operative operating out of the students’ backpacks, and in some cases their cars. Delicacies ranged from wraps to burgers to brownies, and were never too far away . . . just a step or two was all it took to satisfy our cravings. All of these branches of the college contributed to a tree of memories that we will forever cherish, and for which we are all well rooted.
In addition to all of these occurrences, we did manage to get work done, or at least some of us did. We were fortunate to have had lecturers who went above and beyond their call of duty, who took a personal interest in our education. However, we are a college, so we were not spoon-fed. Attending this institution was proper preparation for what is to come in the real world. Essentially, there was a sink-or-swim atmosphere. For those who do not understand what I mean by this: we were basically dropped into a pool; whether we sank or swam was our decision to make.
This, my fellow graduates, is the exact scenario we are about to be thrust into. Except that this time around, instead of grades being the only result at the end of the pool, the result will be our future, our well-being, our careers, our happiness. We are at a pivotal point in our lives. The most important, I would say. The decisions we make now, ultimately, will determine the course our lives will take.
Class of 2017, we, more than the class of any other year, know all too well and have had firsthand experience with the sayings that “life is short”. Or “here today, gone tomorrow”. As a class group, having lost four classmates is a significant eye-opener. This life we have, it’s precious; it’s fragile. And the other thing about it is that we only have one life. We only have one chance at life; we are given one life to live. Zina, Zhane, Joshua and Nigel, are charismatic spirits who continue to live on . . . with us, and in us. And although they had only short lives, they lived their lives to the full. They lived their best life!
My fellow graduates, I want to share with you how we can be our best selves—and live our best lives. And I wish to do this by expanding on three main guidelines. The first is to adopt short-term habits that will lead to the achievement of long-term goals. You cannot wake up today and decide to run a marathon without having done any prior training whatsoever. You will most definitely burn out after mile one, and feel very unaccomplished. We need truly to dissect and understand this principle, and apply it to the way we live our lives. If you have a major goal, you need to do more than just write it down. I’m going to underscore that: if you have a major goal, you need to do more than just write it down. You need to devise a plan, set out step-by-step, lay out exactly what you need to do, and when you need to do it by. Give yourself a realistic timeline to work with. Focus not on the harvest you reap every day, but rather on the seeds you plant and nurture. I promise, if you do, the harvest will follow.
The second, quite simply, is to give up excuses. You are never lacking resources; you are only ever lacking resourcefulness. Give up your excuses and become resourceful.
The third, and in my view, most important, is to give up toxic people. Spend time with born winners. I think Colin Powell whose following words of wisdom truly encapsulate this principle: “An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.”
The last thought I want to leave with you, my fellow graduates, is that all of these things, all of these avenues and roads to success, won’t be arrived at overnight. Success comes in time. It takes dedication, perseverance and commitment. Of course, there will be times when we feel overwhelmed;
when we feel down. Remember that’s normal; we are human. The ones who make it to the finish line are the ones who pushed through regardless. To cite Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr: “If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; and if you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving!”