Feature address given by H. E. Dame Cécile La Grenade – Governor General
on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Willie Redhead Foundation
and the 5th Patrimonial Award Ceremony
10 November 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, honorees
I take great pride in addressing you today, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Willie Redhead Foundation, as well as the foundation’s 5th Patrimonial Award ceremony.
This evening’s activities represent what is special and distinctive about our nation and its people — appreciation of our patriots whose lives of service to country have been a beacon of light and inspiration to all.
Every year, on the Anniversary of the formation of the Willie Redhead Foundation, we pause to reflect on his life and work.
Mr Willie Redhead was a true Grenadian son and public servant, who lived an exemplary life as an Administrator, Superintendent of Prisons, Chief Commissioner of the Boy Scouts movement, a sportsman, and an all-round community man.
…But perhaps, were it not for Willie Redhead’s regular contribution of articles to the Grenadian Voice Newspaper, we would not be here today, at this award ceremony, of a foundation named in his honour. His articles and book were in praise of the beauty of his birthplace, as they consistently highlighted and advocated the need for the preservation of the heritage of the town of St George.
It is for this reason that we pause yearly to reflect on Mr Redhead’s legacy.
We pause also in gratitude to Mr Norris Mitchell and friends who saw it fitting to establish this foundation in the name of Willie Redhead.
For the past 5 years, it has become a tradition to dedicate some time to show appreciation to those who have taken up the mantle of the call to service, in the spirit of Willie Redhead—A stalwart of the Grenadian community, who was a fountain of knowledge of Grenada’s history and culture, and who used that knowledge to serve this land with distinction. I can truly attest to that as I hold fond memories of the time spent with him and his wife Eula my late God mother, during School vacations at Belair Park in Carriacou.
I fondly recall the many exciting and fun-filled evenings of story-telling star-gazing and history lessons during that period.
The focus of my message here this evening is Service to Nation. This is a subject very close to my heart. I have said it often and I have said it clearly: I was raised in the principle of service to others, and by extension, service to country.
This was my parents’ greatest gift to me, and I aim to always make it the focal point of my life’s work. This is why I am always heartened to recognise those whose efforts are selfless and exemplary and those who go beyond the call of duty.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we live in rapidly changing times, and industrial development has been known to supersede special interests throughout the world. However, we know that it is not only that we must develop, but HOW we develop.
As such, the tenets of Willie Redhead more than 20 years ago which seemed unique at that time, are highly relevant now and make the work of the WR Foundation ever important. It must be a daunting task to advocate and work so assiduously to encourage the preservation of different aspects of this nation, given that development often necessitates dramatic changes not in keeping with conservation or preservation. But I know you are up to that task.
For this reason, I commend the Foundation on their public education campaigns of Grenada’s heritage, their sponsorship of programmers to fund scientific investigations to safeguard the architectural integrity of the town, and in raising their voices in opposition of what they deem detrimental to the uniqueness of our birthright.
Few among us have the courage to hold true to their stance in the face of opposition. Willie Redhead was true to his cause, and the Foundation today is pursuing the same end, for which its members must be commended. You are dedicated to the preservation of our unique and splendid architecture and your efforts must be recognised and applauded.
Ladies and gentlemen, at the root of stellar service must be a character of boldness and bravery. By taking the risk of being criticised for your position, you walk a road where others dare not tried, A life of service and purpose involves being true to oneself, being candid in expressing views, even when everyone else disagrees, or even when one stands alone.
Nevertheless, it is my firm belief that we also have to be open and malleable enough to change—thoughtful when listening to other points of view, and even though we do not agree with views that differ from ours, we must always respect these differing views.
This is the challenge today, for the Willie Redhead Foundation.
This gem of a nation—Pure Grenada, the Caribbean Isle of Spice—which Willie Redhead so vehemently helped to conserve, is at a crossroads in development.
Admittedly, successive governments have been torn between fiercely protecting what is our very own—what is intrinsic to our history and culture; while at the same time cognizant of the fact that we need to move with the times in order to maximize our developmental potential and to successfully compete with our regional neighbours.
Our responsibility is to strike the balance between upholding our standards and beliefs, while at the same time being open to different perspectives and to change in the best interest of our nation. Been able to achieve this equilibrium, is the answer in our quest to preserve this beautiful land.
Those of us who are entrusted with leadership or influence must find ways to share best practices to ensure that our history is preserved, and that the fabric of our society is maintained as we move forward in our development thrust.
Many are aware that there is a tragic and regrettable void in the documentation of our history and that of many of our citizens who lived lives of distinction. Present and future generations need to know the stories that inform our history. Willie Redhead did his part, we must do ours.
We have been blessed to be able to call this beautiful little island HOME. That blessing also comes with a tremendous responsibility to care for it, to preserve it and to develop it. How we marry those three-often competing interests will determine how well we have risen to and surmounted this challenge.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we gather here today to honour those who have responded to the call to service and who have made indelible marks on our homeland, let us commit ourselves to harmony as we strive to preserve and develop out tri–island state which has given us so much. Visitors are enthralled by the breath-taking beauty of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and we must strive never to lose this.
Whatever our sphere of influence, as long as we can use that influence to achieve some good and to positively impact our nation’s development while preserving our cultural heritage, we are fulfilling a life of purpose, and demonstrating love for our country.
While not everyone, can be a Willie Redhead or Leslie Pierre, or Norris Mitchell—patron and founders who are responsible for our gathering here this evening each of us should strive to make a difference in our society.
The impact of a Willie Redhead’s life work on our society was ensuring that his knowledge was conveyed through the print media in his plea for the historic preservation of his birthplace. The baton has now been passed to Mr Norris Mitchell and the other members of the Willie Redhead Foundation to continue the legacy of WR by recording history and striving for the preservation of our rich heritage.
Ladies and gentlemen, honorees
Grenada is a treasure, and we are the blessed trustees of that treasure. Willie Redhead knew it, the Foundation’s members know it, the government and people know it: therefore let us all work together to achieve what is our common objective for our country—preservation, development and prosperity.
I once again congratulate the awardees on their distinguished involvement in the life of our nation. I also commend the foundation and the organisers of this event for keeping the Grenadian spirit alive in your advocacy of holding steadfast to what makes us unique. May your dedicated work in service to country and appreciation of our heritage and beauty, continue to inspire generations.
I thank you.