Monday, March 2, 2009

Can we save ourselves?

CVM People's Choice Award Recipients - Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown


Jamaica Observer | Monday, March 02, 2009

It was stirring to be part of the packed church last Ash Wednesday, to have an ashy cross traced on our foreheads, a reminder of our brief sojourn on planet earth. US Vice President Joe Biden also had a smudge on his forehead as he stood beside President Obama for a White House briefing later that day. So here we are, the humble and the powerful trying to connect to our Maker, trying to bridge the gap between the material and the spiritual, trying to stay strong in faith even as our economy weakens.

People of faith are seeing magnificent metaphors from their Maker, the messages of today harking back to the parables of Jesus. And so I have no doubt that the miraculous landing of US Airways Flight 1549 was a divine message, delivered on January 15, 2009, the actual birthday of hero-saint Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Some of us went as far as saying, "MLK held that plane together - he was not going to allow anything to rain on Obama's parade." But to explain it away like that would be to deprive the hero of the day, Captain Chesley B Sullenberger III, of his due honour.

The story had biblical undertones: the passengers appearing to walk on water, standing gingerly on the airplane wings washed by the Hudson River. The bravery of their saviour who insisted on checking the craft row by row to ensure that everyone was out, even after it began taking in water. The symphonic rescue when all boats and personnel converged in quick succession to give America a prelude to its hope-filled Inauguration Day. In commenting on the masterful handling of the pilot, crew and other rescuers, Time magazine said this demonstrated that "we have the power to save ourselves".

Our new governor general, Dr Patrick Allen, said it well at his installation on Thursday: "There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica. every Jamaican must know, think, internalise, personalise and actualise the theme 'I believe'."

We continue to swoon at every speech made by President Obama, but we should not blind ourselves to the excellence of our own fellow Jamaicans. We have certainly not been short of heroic figures, brave thinkers, educated strategists who have taken us from one milestone to the next and kept us current with an audacity that belies our size. St Elizabethans do not tire of reminding us that Black River had electricity before New York, and last year the bigwigs of the Ford Motor Company, converged on Jamaica to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their oldest dealership outside of North America, Kingston Industrial Garage.

The fastest growing telecoms company in the world was launched right here in Jamaica and Denis O'Brien never fails to remind that "Digicel is a Jamaican multinational". Naturally, they signed up the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, to be their spokesperson. Our visits in the past two months to our busy resort areas remind us how much others appreciate our great tourism product; the beaches were beautiful, the sea sparkling. I remember Bolt's response to HBO's Bryant Gumbel when he asked why the track star did not opt to go to the US like many other local athletes. "Why would I want to leave this? Look!" answered Bolt, his hand sweeping the curve of the Trelawny beach where they sat.Indeed, there is indescribable beauty in our people and our environment.

We also read in this paper that Sandals Negril became the very first hotel in the WORLD to be awarded the Green Globe's inaugural Platinum Award. Sandals CEO Adam Stewart described such innovations as "a biodiesel refinery at Sandals St Lucia, which converts fats and oils from the resort's kitchen into fuel for its diesel engine vehicles, and its wind turbine and solar generation power plant at Fowl Cay in The Bahamas".

The report said that the company had launched an "Earth Guard" programme that has two full-time engineers "who ensure that all of Sandals' development plans, from inception, go through a multi-organisational process, which vets them for environmental sustainability". Stewart is moving to abolish the use of plastic drink bottles at the resorts.

Consider the courage and resourcefulness with which our leaders are approaching our national challenges, and the inspiring words of our new governor general who urges us to "immediately develop and implement a survival package. that will call on the creative genius of all well-thinking Jamaicans in defence of the nation". This Lenten season is a good time to refocus on our own productivity and the empowerment of even one other individual.

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