Before thousands of Barbadians from all walks of life last night as the country launched celebrations for its 50th anniversary of Independence, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart urged his fellow countrymen to help shape Barbados into a place which “we would be proud of even 50 years from now”.
Beaming with pride, and clad in a black suit, blue shirt and yellow tie, Stuart’s inspirational words could be heard from as far as Broad Street – where virtually every square millimetre was crammed with people, including school children – as he stood elevated in Independence Square, a few inches away from the statue of the island’s first Prime Minister, Errol Walton Barrow.
Flanked by Commander of the Barbados Coast Guard Ricky Shurland during the entirety of his 20-minute speech, the Prime Minister told the large crowd that while they could not alter the past, the future of Barbados was in their hands.
“We can’t live our lives in the past and as I said, not everything about Barbados has been as we would have wanted it to be, but we cannot un-make history.
“But we can shape the future and our concern tonight has to be not only to celebrate what we have achieved, but also to determine what kind of Barbados it is we want to create for the next 50 years,” Stuart advised.
“As we embark on this period of celebration and reflection, let us be proud of what we have achieved . . . and as we look to the next 50 years, let us recommit ourselves to the development of this nation which has done so much for us.”
While insisting that Barbados had made tremendous strides over the last half of a century, the Prime Minister admitted it had not been an easy road.
However, he said there was not one person who could argue that things were worse off now than they were in 1966.
“As a nation we have had our ups and downs . . . but the peculiar feature of Barbados over the last 50 years is that when we have had our ups and downs, our footsteps have not faltered [and] our faith never wavered. We confronted our challenges and kept an equal balance in all of our responses to the challenges which we were made to face from time to time,” Stuart said.
He argued that the four global recessions which Barbados was able to withstand was a testimony to the island’s resilience, declaring that despite these setbacks, Barbados was still able to build strong educational and health care sectors, which ranked as among the best in the world.
“It is testimony to the strength of Barbados’ character [and] it is testimony to our resilience as a people that we have been able to keep cool heads, keep our society calm through all of these crises and tonight to be launching a celebration of 50 years of our Independence.”
Stuart noted that it should be the goal of every Barbadian to make Barbados the “best country on earth”.
“If you take nothing else away from this occasion, take this away – Independence may have been fought for by just a few persons, but Independence was won for all of us,” the Prime Minister stated to rapturous applause just before concluding his speech.