The following statement was issued by Pro-Vice Chancellor and campus principal of The UWI, St Augustine, Prof Brian Copeland on the occasion of the 2020 UWI St Augustine graduation ceremonies.

After the events of last week, and I speak here of what many are calling “Capitol Wednesday”, I am moved to make some very brief comments with our UWI graduating class, who we celebrate this week, and the wider national community.

You are graduates of The UWI in a truly historic time.

You came through even as the long drought of a recession came to the fore in the years preceding the pandemic and continues to this day. You persevered in continuing your studies during the lockdown, even as staff and student alike struggled to engage in teaching and learning online.

It seems to me that you have the mettle of the kind of citizen our nations need at this point in time. Indeed, your participation in the online delivery makes you pioneers for a new UWI—a target we have been shaping for all the years of my tenure as campus principal.

As graduates of The UWI, you are beneficiaries of a public spend that covered some 80 per cent of what it costs to educate you. I repeat my plea to you to use your experience not just to develop yourself in your chosen careers but, even as you do so, that you do all you can to continue the fight of forming a society that better addresses the problems we face today.

We cannot survive without land, air and water—yours is the collective challenge of addressing the critical issues to their preservation.

Our society cannot survive without a robust economy—yours is the collective challenge of leading the creation of the network of net foreign exchange earning enterprises that will dominate our economic landscape. I have challenged you before to start doing so by 2034.

Our society cannot survive if it implodes on itself because of an impossibly large income gap, runaway poverty, or even the level of bigotry and hatred we saw on display last Wednesday at the US Capitol. Yours is the challenge of fashioning a more emotionally mature and just society.

In keeping with these sentiments, I share with you with a song that is very popular here in Trinidad and Tobago. While it is nationalistic in nature, I offer it as well to the non-Trinidad and Tobago citizens in our midst—to all Caribbean nationals.

I wish you all success and prosperity.

God Bless Our Nation

by Marjorie Padmore

God bless our nation

Of many varied races

May we possess that

common love

That binds and makes us

One.

Let it be known around

the World

That we can boast ofUnity

And take a pride in Our

Liberty.

God bless our isles of

tropic beauty rare

Of flaming Poinciana

And shady immortelle

The warm and sparkling

waters

That beat upon our shores

Beat out a tune that seem

to tell

We take a pride in Our

Liberty.

God bless our leaders

Give them grace to guide

Bestow on them thy

judgement wise

To rule our land aright

To keep the flag of

freedom

high that we may sing

most lustily

We take a pride in Our

Liberty.

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Despite the fact that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president to lead a divided nation during the civil war of 1860, he said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside, but if we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

News this week that global carbon dioxide emissions possibly fell about eight per cent last year is but a drop of positivity in what has been a calamitous year for the planet. While greenhouse gas emissions declined infinitesimally, cognisance must be taken of the fact that this was only due to the lockdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in a temporary halt in industrial activity and airline travel.

The pandemic continues to plague the globe, but manufacturing and air travel resumed during the year, perhaps not at pre-coronavirus levels, but enough to make the good news transitory.

In a few days’ time, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States.

Many governments and individuals around the world will breathe a collective sigh of relief. This will not be because a Democrat has replaced a Republican, but because an individual who represents stability, certainty and rationality is again the head of state of the world’s most influential and economic and militarily powerful nation.

“How you feeling today, Gramma?”

I would ask that question of my paternal grandmother every day.

“The head hurting. The blood pressure and the sugar high,” she would invariably answer. “Squeeze the head for me, beti.”