MOUNT OBAMA MONUMENT
AUGUST 4TH 2009
Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack,
US Charge d’ Affaires, United States Embassy Barbados, Mr. Brent Hardt,
Congress Woman Yvette Clark,
President of the Senate, Hazelene Francis,
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Gisele Isaac-Arindel, Hon Hilson Baptiste, Parliament Representative for St. Mary’s South, fellow Parliamentarians,
Members of Diplomatic Corps,
Ms. Monique Barbut, of the Global Environmental Fund,
Members of the Clergy,
Guest of Honour Angela Bassett and Marianne Jean Baptiste,
Members of the Mount Obama Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen:
This is a very special occasion for me and the people of Antigua and Barbuda as we gather here to witness the dedication of the Mount Obama Monument.
The official renaming of Boggy Peak to Mont Obama is a significant exercise as it marks my Government’s recognition of the ascendency of Barak Obama as the first black President of the United States of America.
This great political achievement by Barak Obama resonated with me in a way that I felt compelled to do something symbolic and inspiring for the People of Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean.
As an emancipated people linked through our common ancestral heritage and a history of dehumanizing enslavement, we need to, at all times celebrate our heroes and leaders who through their actions inspire us to do great and noble things.
As emancipated people we need to celebrate our victories and cherish those accomplishments that are derived through hard work, dedication, intellectual discourse and professional approaches.
When I announced my intention to rename this national edifice, Boggy Peak to Mount Obama, there were positive reactions, tempered with very respectful criticisms about why we should or should not rename Boggy Peak. This to my mind signals a love by the people of this country for landmarks such as this mountain that stands tall within the Schekerly Mountains range, with its green forestry, pristine environment and historic significance.
There were many comments about the advantages and disadvantages of using the name Obama as opposed to a national hero or icon.
Some suggested that we could have used the name of a Caribbean freedom fighter or reggae icon like Bob Marley; but as the debate continued I realized without any prompting, that the mount Obama monument has already began to stimulate national debate about the value and significance of this mountain, that was named over 100 years ago without any question or discussion.
The debate and discussions are already in progress about the importance of the eco-system in this area and how best mechanisms can be established to ensure its preservation and conservation.
The debate and discussions have already started about the historical significance of the mountain for runaway slaves and the potential of the area as an historical, environmental and pleasure site that can further boost the country’s tourism attractions.
It is the continuation of these debates and discussions that will keep this monument alive and allow it to serve as a symbol of black struggle and intellectual discourse, innovation and creativity, excellence and efficiency, productivity and professionalism.
It was Obama himself who said that “It is only when you hitch yourself up to something bigger than yourself that you realize your true potential”.
My desire to simply honour an occasion that resulted in a hall mark victory due to a very creative campaign executed by Obama’s team of hard and dedicated workers and develop something that’s symbolic and inspirational, has given rise to very informative and enlightening debates and discussions about the value and significance of monuments.
Through these debates and discussions we are now realizing the ‘true potential’ of this landmark to serve not only as a symbolic monument to recognize the ascendancy of the first black person to the presidency of the United States, but as a living environmental programme of excellence and professional integrity.
My fellow citizens, our specially invited guests from the United States and United Nations Global Environmental Fund, the Mount Obama monument will serve as an inspiration for all citizens to strive for excellence in all their endeavours. The future establishment of the Mount Obama Environmental Programme will seek to exemplify good leadership, professionalisms, hope and love for God’s creation.
The programme will highlight the areas historical significance as a refuge for runaway slaves, and its value to biological diversity, forestry, wildlife habitat, soil and water conservation.
The development of an Agricultural Research Institute will be pursued to further our research initiatives in the area of organic farming and agro-industries.
I am therefore very grateful for the efforts made by Mr. Ivor Jackson and the hard working members of his committee established to organise this ceremony and provide strategic guidance, thought and leadership towards the future implementation of the Mount Obama Protected Area Development Programme.
Because of our emancipation carnival celebrations I know its was not an easy project to execute, but given what I see before me, I am pleased that you have set the example of what hard work and dedication can do for a small country like Antigua and Barbuda.
I am also honoured and pleased that our specially invited guests took time out to come and share this very special and symbolic moment with the people of Antigua and Barbuda on this the birthday of President Barak Obama.
So on behalf of the Government and the people of Antigua and Barbuda, I join with you to wish President Obama a very happy birthday and pray that he continues to be blessed with good health, wisdom, courage and compassion.
I therefore urge all Antiguans and Barbudans, residents and friends to hold this monument and what it stands for in high esteem, to cherish it as your own and work collectively to make it into a model landmark, an attractive tourism product, a well managed ecosystem and agricultural research and production plant.
Thank you and may God continue to bless our nation as we celebrate our Emancipation Carnival.