Remarks by Honourable
Dr. Natalio D. Wheatley Premier and Minister of Finance
Heroes and Foreparents Day and the 80th Anniversary of Secondary Education
Honouring Our Stalwart Educators
16 October, 2023
A pleasant good day to all the people of the Virgin Islands.
Today, we are commemorating Heroes and Fore Parents Day and the 80th Anniversary of Secondary Education in the Virgin Islands, and we are also remembering and recognizing the contributions of 38 of our stalwart educators who are over 80 years old.
By all means, this is a grand occasion. We have a lot to celebrate, a lot to be grateful for, and a lot of persons to be thankful to. And let me say at the outset that while we are recognizing the contributions in education, we do have heroes in all fields and professions, and our heroes and stalwarts in education number far more than the 38 individuals who will be mentioned today. All our educators and all the people who have worked – and who continue to work – towards the development and advancement of our fledgling nation and our people are heroes.
It is easy to take for granted many of the comforts, conveniences and privileges we enjoy today, and to not know or appreciate the hard work, sacrifice and struggles that have brought us to this point in our development as a country and a people.
Where we are today and what we have achieved are the cumulative results of, for the most part, the efforts of Virgin Islanders over generations. We have come a long way on this journey of building a nation.
Our Territorial Song, O Beautiful Virgin Islands, gives a reference point from whence we came.
Out of the huts of history’s pain
Our ancestors bled and died!
But with strength and willpower we overcame
To restore Virgin Islands pride!
To preserve our beauty we devised a plan
To obtain ownership of your precious lands!
Educating our people is the golden key
To maintain the success of this Territory!
The Virgin Islands story cannot be properly told without acknowledging the activism and national service of the likes of Theodolph H. Faulkner, Isaac Glanville Fonseca, Hamilton Lavity Stoutt, Dr. Willard Wheatley, Noel Lloyd and the Positive Action Movement, and countless others. Our Virgin Islands heroes include those who fought against the institution of slavery, who marched for our right to govern ourselves, who answered the call for leadership in various capacities when leadership was needed, whose sacrifice are responsible for the freedoms we enjoy today, whose innovativeness and determination laid the path for our political and economic development.
Among those numbers also stand our educators, to whom we owe a tremendous amount of appreciation.
It is our educators over the past decades who have instilled knowledge and skills in our people, enabling us to develop our competencies in all the fields – academic, professional and vocational – to power our economy and our development, and to take charge of our destiny. They have done this often in less than ideal conditions, with less than the best resources, and for compensation that were far insufficient compared to the value and importance of their work. But they soldiered on, determined by the vision of the greatness of what our people can become and what they can achieve.
Unfortunately, some of our honorees are no longer with us, such as Mrs. Jennie Wheatley, MBE and former Deputy Chief Education Officer Mr. James Alfred Christopher, who passed on quite recently. We remember them and we pray for their eternal rest, and for all our heroes whom we have lost over the years.
We also express our appreciation to those who are still with us, who are able to be with us physically, and through whose hands thousands of Virgin Islands youths, myself included, would have passed and been molded.
I am fortunate to have a perspective from both the viewpoint of the student and the educator.
I am the product of BVI educators, and their devotion to duty is responsible for my successes in academics and in my professional life. As a former educator, I have felt the fulfillment that comes with seeing your students doing well, and how it motivates you to become more invested in your charges.
I have witnessed this cycle in our educators, especially our honorees, who have led, inspired and molded younger educators who came into the system over the years.
The contributions of these men and women to the development of the Virgin Islands and to the success of each of us, are beyond measure. They are responsible for the shaping of our Virgin Islands story and what our people will become and achieve in the future.
It is quite fortuitous that our celebration of 80 years of secondary education in the Virgin Islands coincides with our observance of Heroes and Fore Parents Day.
Heroes and Fore Parents Day is about creating awareness about the contributions of Virgin Islanders to our development and advancement, whose work have often times been under-valued and under-appreciated.
Sometimes, they did not get the recognition because we took them for granted or we did not appreciate the significance of their work and dedication. In some cases, it is also because as Virgin Islands people, we did not own up to our responsibility in documenting and telling the story of our people; and therefore versions of what were purported to be our story were the ones being told. Heroes and Fore Parents Day and activities such as today’s events aim to change that.
Through recognition of our stalwart educators and our heroes and fore parents, we aim to ensure that the historical records and the telling of the Virgin Islands story are made more accurate. We aim also to inspire our present and future generations, and instill them with the confidence to aspire to greatness – as those before them have clearly done.
As we celebrate 80 years of secondary education in the Virgin Islands and Heroes and Fore Parents Day 2023, we thank all who have contributed to the progress of our country and our people, especially our educators. We recognise and remember them, and we pledge to make them proud as we continue on the path they have paved for us.
I thank you.