UG Convocation Address: We Should All be Winners!

Dr. Dhanpaul Narine with a group of UG graduates at the National Cultural Center in Georgetown, Guyana.

By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

This is the third and final part of my University of Guyana Convocation Address.

I looked at the wall of past students on my first day and there he was: JFK was smiling at me. I knew I was in the right place! Follow your dreams, don’t let anyone deter you. You have more power and light within you than you realize. Miracles do happen; have faith. Here are four miracles that happened to me through faith:

I paddled for days in the jungle to get to a tiny airstrip. When I reached Georgetown I had only two days to prepare for the flight to London. The LSE had asked me to read a book ‘ Heat and Dust’ by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala before I got to London. I was listed as the first presenter in class. I searched everywhere in Georgetown and eventually got to the SPCA bookshop in Carmichael Street. The man shook his head; someone had bought the last copy. I was disappointed and could think of nothing else.

When I left the jungle I really wanted to meet with Father Canon Dorman who had become my friend. He was twenty-five miles way and we did not see each other for weeks. I was standing at Timehri feeling sorry for myself. I approached the check-in counter and a hand touched my shoulder. It was Father Dorman. I was shocked. How did he get there? He explained that he paddled upriver for miles and hitched a ride with a GDF plane.

We made small talk and then shook hands. Father Dorman nervously handed me a small package with a letter. He said I should open the package in the plane but I should leave the letter for when I reached London. As the plane left St. Lucia for London I opened the shoulder bag and the package fell out. I was curious. What was in it? I opened it and the first book was ‘ Heat and Dust.’ Father Dorman had bought the last copy. How did he know? Miracles do happen, have faith.

When I decided to do my Master’s the fees were 3,000 pounds. We didn’t have it and was on the point of deciding to return to Guyana. I prayed for a miracle. The day before my fees were due my wife’s sister called, out of the blue, from French Guiana. We had last made contact about ten years earlier. Her friend Cecille was going to Paris and would bring some money for us to keep. We could use it as there was no hurry. When Cecille arrived she brought exactly 3,000 pounds. How did she know? Miracles do happen, have faith.

When I was a boy I would listen to the BBC World Service at 7:00 pm. One day, while I was at the LSE my professor said that I was selected to go to the BBC to speak on a program called ‘Training for Tomorrow.’ I spoke on the World Service at 2 pm GMT that was 7:00pm in Guyana and I was advising boys and girls around the world to take their education seriously. Who knew that this would happen when I was struggling to pass those O’ levels? Miracles do happen, have faith.

Ma had always said that I would meet with ‘big people’ that would be Prime Ministers, Presidents and Royalty. During my ten years at the LSE I did meet with Prime Ministers and Presidents. But Royalty?

The Queen Mother was succeeded by Princess Anne, as Chancellor of the University of London, and Princess Anne was making her first visit to the LSE, as Chancellor. The Department chose me to introduce her and to speak on its behalf. Who would have known this would happen when Ma and I were catching shrimps at the koker? Miracles do happen, have faith.

As a voice of the Diaspora, of one that is outside looking in, we note that there are several things one can do to benefit our country. We live in a different age, one in which the world is connected. It’s called globalization or better yet googolization! A click and the world is in our hands.

We see that after 50 years the system of governance in Guyana is broken. We have to throw out the old politics, the politics of the past that thrives on divisions. As graduates, you have to work peacefully for the politics of inclusion, for a new form of dialogue and inclusivity.

Smart politics suggests that we can’t have ‘them versus us and us versus them and this ism and schism.’ We get on well most of the time but as soon as the word ‘election’ is mentioned we run into separate camps and play on the fears of race. We have to devise a system of governance in which we are all winners. Then there is the question of patrimony. In 25 years, our country will change forever. There could be more non-Guyanese with second passports and dual citizenship living here. Thousands more will try to get in; we have to be careful whom we let in and on whom Guyanese citizenship is conferred.
As graduates, you will have a big role to play here. Guyanese citizenship should be a prized possession. Here is another thing: we’ve come from different places but India, Africa, China, and Portugal are not the mother country. There is only one mother and that is Guyana. This is the mother country and we must love her. The others are grandparents and we must love them too but our first allegiance, as Guyanese, is to Guyana.
To the graduates sitting here may I say that from my experience I have come to realize that if you want to develop a country you must educate women. They know how to stretch the dollar and plan for the rainy day. To the young men, please treat our women with respect. Domestic violence and abuse against our women have no place in Guyana. Absolutely none!

There is good reason to honor accomplished persons from the diaspora so that Guyanese can know of their abilities and contributions. I can think of three such persons. The first is my high school Principal Mr. Julius Benjamin Nathoo who taught me at Saraswat High School. Mr. Nathoo is a world-renowned scholar who shepherded his flock during difficult times in the sixties and produced graduates of distinction. The second person is Dr. Moses Telford a brilliant musician that taught in London, Brooklyn and at Berbice High School. The third is Reds Perreira, the cricket broadcaster. The media center at Providence Stadium should be renamed ‘The Reds Perreira Media Center.’ Let us honor these distinguished Guyanese while they are still around.

Finally, we must never turn our backs on the University of Guyana. This wonderful institution, despite the challenges, has nurtured us and given us a start in life. We must look out for UG wherever we go and make a contribution in cash or in kind to keep the many programs going. The Vice-Chancellor has built up an extensive network worldwide with his Education Resource Ambassadors and we should support it. I am a proud Resource Ambassador and I invite all to make a contribution to UG.

So lets end with love. I love to sing and you know the song. Can all the graduates please stand. One Love. Give thanks and praise to the Lord for the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor and all the teachers. Give thanks to our leaders so they can sit and work it out so that there will be an end to racism.

Let’s be the change we want to see. We know why the caged bird sings. We know there is a destiny to mold, why Europe underdeveloped Africa and the west is on trial. Give thanks and praise to our founding fathers and mothers so that Guyana may shine and onward, upward we will ever go.

Give thanks to your parents and guardians for their hard work and sacrifice. And we give thanks and praise to you the Class of 2017. New York, London, England, London, Ontario and Toronto are cold. Let’s warm them up. Hip Hip, Hooray.

Start the day with love, fill the day with love and end the day with love, says Satya Sai Baba We love you, now go and change the world for the better. Thank you. God bless you, God bless UG, God bless Guyana.