For too many times this year, and for all the wrong reasons, young people have made front-page news in Barbados.
Too often the story has been a recurring theme of needless bloodletting, interminable turf wars, drug disputes, and the result of an inability to communicate, settle disputes or just talk one’s way out of trouble.
But International Youth Day presents an opportunity to highlight the very best of a Barbados that is budding with promise.
This day should remind us that the future of this nation is not written in blood but etched in the brilliance, excellence and creativity of its future rulers and makers.
In the past weekend, we have toasted the academic success of more than two dozen youngsters who have reaped the fruits of their long labours in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination and the associate degree programme of the Barbados Community College.
And we have watched as still others have striven for the best in the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Their story of academic and athletic prowess is testimony to the application of long-held – and often too-long-lost – values of discipline, hard work, diligence and perseverance.
This is perhaps not the time to focus on the elitism of the Barbados Scholarship – an award created by the colonial government in 1879 to skim the very cream of the crop of our island’s best and brightest and fill them with a love of classics and divinity.
Today, the Barbados Scholarship and Exhibitions offer an opportunity for young people to pursue rigorous, high-value training, not mere academic education.
Our awardees are about to pursue training in such fields as medicine, law, actuarial science, accounting, and the natural and social sciences, among others.
Indeed, a future discussion may well wish to dwell on acknowledging excellence in the technical and vocational studies of young people and to reward those who are gifted not only with fine minds but dexterous hands and agile bodies.
But we digress.
Barbados has of late been found wanting in those two important qualities exemplified in our national motto – pride and industry. Our young people offer the best hope of restoring pride and boosting industry.
At a time when our economic fortunes and standing in the world have for too long been in peril, it is young people whom we count on to shape a Barbados that may be nearly unrecognisable from that in which we live today. And that need not be a bad thing.
What we hope for is a future nation that is progressive, fair, just, productive, creative, innovative… and just plain cool to live in. It will be their nation to fashion; the opportunity is ours to give them the space to be the best they can be, or just, sometimes, merely grant them the benefit of the doubt.
On this International Youth Day, we offer humble praise, prose and prayer to the future citizens of this sceptred isle.
May they grow up to feel that this nation is a grand idea worth contributing to, fighting for, and living in.
We hope that their efforts redound to the benefit not of the few but of the many and this sooner rather than later.
Today’s young scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, thinkers and thinkers may yet be joined on the rostrum of national hope and glory by yet more young people who craft excellence in many different and glorious ways, not in the least in science, technology, agriculture, the creative arts, business, technical and vocational endeavours, and philanthropy.
Go on, young people. All Barbados is behind you. We must be.