Going “beyond excellence” and transforming “ordinary people into extraordinary servants of God to humanity” are the aspirations that are central vision and mission of the University of the Southern Caribbean. These aspirations are embodied in the motto and mission statement of our university. Beyond rhetoric, these words and the values they reference, confer upon USCians a duty to ceaselessly pursue excellence, not as an instrument of personal and financial aggrandizement but rather, as vital preparation for meaningful service, to real people with names and faces and needs.
Consonant with this, the University of the Southern Caribbean salutes members of its alumni, who are now offering themselves for public service as candidates aspiring to become local government practitioners in the LGE 2023 cycle in Trinidad. Electoral politics is by no means new to the smorgasbord of service-oriented careers that USCians have put their valuable education, professional experience and good characters to. USCians can be found in the municipal and parliamentary chambers of several countries across the Caribbean region. A USCian mayor, prime minister or president may not be too far off – who knows?
USCians can also be found giving quality service in other areas of the government superstructure and the public service, that do not require elections for entry. They are in this nation’s senate, the foreign service, officers of the court, and in a wide range of civil service positions. A USCian currently presides over the parliamentary chamber of the Tobago House of Assembly. This is a matter of extant fact!
In the present LGE cycle, there are five USCians who have offered themselves as candidates. They are: Ms. Aviea Isaac, (Class of 2018), Mr. Emmanuel Pierre, (Class of 2017), Ms. Karina Nanan (Class of 2016), Mr. Kadeem Graham, (Class of 2013) and Pastor Courtney Francois, (Class of 2005).
We had the opportunity to directly interact with two of the five USC alumni (one male and one female) whose names will appear on the ballot on next Monday. The two belong to opposing political parties and are contesting electoral districts in different municipalities.
When asked about what attracted them to electoral politics one candidate said, “I have always been a believer in service over self, I would have spent the last 7 years as a public servant in local government and found myself just always trying to find better solutions to everyday issues. So, with my love for service and appreciation for the local government fraternity, politics was a natural flow… it is an outlet to help the people from a different perspective.”
The other candidate indicated a deep love for active community service and has a successful track record of over two decades of interventions to improve the quality of life of particularly the underprivileged. Entry into electoral politics was seen as a means of upscaling the capacity to improve the lives of people.
When confronted with the question of resource scarcity and the seemingly unlimited demands that are made on councillors by their burgesses, both respondents spoke of finding creative ways to grow the resource pool available to councillors and to more efficiently manage what is available. One of the candidates emphasized the importance of educating the public on the true roles and functions of local government, their rights, privileges and obligations and knowing how to de-conflate local issues from national issues, so that the legitimate demand for public goods is rightly placed.
When asked about the enabling role studying at USC played in developing their public spiritedness, leadership confidence and service orientation, both candidates testified that they benefitted enormously. One candidate recalls participating in student government. She served a one-year term on the executive of the Associated Student Body as Director of Social and Cultural Activities. She also assisted in the design of “Club Soc Sci” – an academic and social club for students of the School of Social Sciences. She was also selected by the university as one of its representatives for the 13th National Youth Parliament. At the youth parliament, she was given the portfolio of Prime Minister and Member for Tobago West. She also regards with high value the spiritual ethos of the university and said that “it has really helped in times of difficulty… as a young person when you are trying to be more grounded and more stable putting that centre focus on God really helps get you through difficult things in life…Your faith is a really big part in public life so I am thankful for my USC experience for that.”
The other candidate shared that his Caribbean Union College/University of the Southern Caribbean experience contributed invaluably to preparing him for the hard work of campaigning and the even harder work of representation if elected. He shared that he entered CUC in the days when the work-study programme and working an industrial year were normative. He confessed that it taught him discipline, sharpened his goal-orientation and built habits of multi-tasking, industriousness and hard work. Recalling our previous institutional motto “A Light to the Caribbean”, he said that “politics can be a very dark place…you have to bring your light into that arena so that people could have a clearer vision of where to walk”. He advised fellow USCians that “whether you are in the police service, nursing service, fire service, teaching service, wherever you are – and politics is not exempted – we need to find more of ourselves in there so that when we sit down at the table, we can bring light to the discussion.”
Our university salutes these USCian candidates and wishes them and USCians everywhere success in their aspirations and lived endeavours to improve communities, nations and a world that is desperately crying out for positive redirection. You can hear those cries if you are truly attuned. Listen.