“I am proud that my country Barbados. By the time it became independent in 1966 — before I was born — the architects of my country saw it fit to invest in its people. I am certainly a product of that.”
Selwyn Hart, senior UN diplomat, at his recent farewell party.
Trees, at the appointed stage of development, often shed leaves as they move unto their next mode. Sometimes, the bloom and transition is noticeable, although as the leaves falls few hear the ground as it rejoices and celebrate.
So is it also true with people – leaders and outliers. They always make what seems to be impossible moves when you least expect. Without question, Selwyn Hart, former consul at New York and senior diplomat to the United Nations is one of these people.
By any measure, Hart is leaving a trail of excellence within the corridors of the United Nations and, the expectations are that he will continue to be exemplary in whatever he chooses to undertake.
This was evident by the tributes which were paid to Hart by a wide cross section of Caribbean and other diplomats, his fellow workers and friends, at a recent farewell function that was held in his honour at the office of the Barbados Consulate, where he began his career in New York.
Although the order was prescribed for speaking, still, some sought to speak before others. This jockeying, not only added excitement to the proceedings, but created a diversity of language. Nevertheless, the repetitive themes were glowing.
Listen to some of the name tags given to Selwyn: humble, committed, collaborator, trustworthy, friend, loyal, hardworking, pops, big bro, big poppa, flexible delegate, and go-to guy.
A diplomat from Grenada described Hart’s flexibility and commitment this way:
“It is the 99th hour and you need someone to sit down in a room and negotiate from sundown to dawn – all through the night. There are only a few people who are able to do this. Selwyn is one of these persons.”
Ambassador Wolfe from Jamaica added:
I want to say something about regional integration. I am a creature of the 1970s, when Carifta and Caricom was the in-thing. I am not sure that our leadership appreciate that at the UN we are often picked off as one against the other. On the politics of a number of issues Barbados as well as Jamaica has shown leadership. Selwyn, though Barbadian, does not negotiate only on behalf of Barbados. He is Caribbean.
Consul General Price spoke about Harts early years when he was a freshman and noted the exceptional work which he did for the Barbadian Community while at the Consulate and alluded to the leading role which he played in the executing of major projects.
Ambassador Joseph Goddard was grateful for the assistance and orientation which Hart gave him when he came to New York. Goddard said saw Hart’s departure as the best of times and worst of times and hoped that in future, Barbados would still be able to borrow on his commitment to make an input as far as Barbados and Caribbean matters are concerned.
In his response, Hart made it clear that he would never have been able to achieve so much by himself. He praised Barbados for the opportunity it provided him, the lessons from his mother, and the support of his Barbadian and Caribbean colleagues.
Hart said: “I am humbled by this outpouring of love and affection from such a diverse group of individuals that you will ever find. I wish to thank my colleagues at the mission, most of whom you will never see sitting behind the Barbados name plate at conferences, but in all honesty none of what I achieved would have been possible without their support, without their guidance, and without their input. The achievements are to my mind theirs and yours.
Ultimately, what was intended to be a roast of Hart became an articulation of a model diplomat who left an indelible impression on all those he came into contact with, simply by being committed to his world view which has being shaped by the opportunities provided by life in Barbados, hard work and a relentless desire to well — a lesson that he learnt from his mother.
Hart was at pains to connect his success to remembering where he came from and grasping opportunities whenever and wherever they appeared.
Among those attending the farewell function was his mother and two children, a wide cross section of diplomats from the Caribbean and Portugal.
Hart was presented with a farewell gift and many remained afterwards listening and dancing to music, including Buffalo Soldier which was used by one presenter to described Hart.
Response of Selwyn Hart, senior diplomat to the United Nations at a farewell held in his honour at the Barbados Consulate at New York on December 15, 2012.
“I am humbled by this outpouring of love and affection from such a diverse group of individuals that you will ever find. I wish to thank my colleagues at the mission, most of whom you will never see sitting behind the Barbados name plate at conferences, but in all honesty none of what I achieved would have been possible without their support, without their guidance, and without their input. The achievements are to my mind theirs and yours.
“Now when I was first posted to the consulate, I was a young 27 year-old guy. I remember that event that the Consul General Price referred to. I was not sure what I should say so I spoke from the heart. That was the greatest honour, that of serving your country. And a decade and a half later I still have that love. It has never wavered. It made me into who I am.
“I was born in very humble beginnings and my mother who is here can attest to that and the struggle that we had. But Barbados provided me with the opportunity which made me into who I am. It is not the hand out, just the opportunity to work hard, to be responsible, to go to school and pay your dues.
“In Barbados we have no resources but I am proud of my country. By the time we became independent in 1966, before I was born, the architects of our country saw it fit to invest in its people. I am certainly a product of that.
“The advocacy of Barbados, in my own experience, has been rooted in the experience that all things are possible once opportunity is provided and in a real sense that is the approach that I brought to my work at the United Nations. The work that we do provide opportunities for children — and no matter where you were born, it should not determine where you end up in life. And I hope that in some small way I have been able to contribute to the assistance of others.
To my Caribbean colleagues, I am a natural Caribbean man. When I first started, I can honestly say that I was a Caribbean skeptic. But, when I see the challenges that we face as a region, and we are not united as ambassador Wolfe said, it is easy for us to be picked off. But when the Caribbean is together, we are unmovable.
“The first Prime Minister of Trinidad, Honourable Eric Williams, said our efforts in integration is nothing less than commonsense and we need to communicate that to our people. I have no problem with a Jamaican representing my interest once that person ensures that the interest of Barbados is protected. I don’t agree that there will be any vacuum since there are exemplary and talented officers around.”