Up until Friday, no one could lay claim to being the first and youngest MP to make their maiden speech in Parliament in front of their father, who is the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Since his election victory on July 18th, Dennis Lister III sat quietly, observing the proceedings as the first MP to form a father and son team to sit in Parliament in Bermuda’s modern-day political history.
That changed on Friday, in what would be a passionate and powerful maiden speech, when Mr Lister rose during the Motion to Adjourn to urge Government to push ahead with changes to Bermuda’s education system.
As a young Black Bermudian male, he spoke intensely on the need to help the country’s young people reach their full potential by developing their sense of purpose.
The overarching theme of his maiden speech was for young people to find their purpose and pursue it to their full potential. If each person lived to achieve their full potential, he said, they will effect the world in a positive way.
Revamping the middle school system will also go a long way to instill a sense of direction, he said, especially for our young Black males.
“Not everyone will be or become an accountant, or a lawyer,” said Mr Lister, who also cited the case of Nicki Bascome, the young Bermudian boxer, who in the absence of a solid family environment, turned his life around despite the odds against him.
“It speaks to finding our purpose because he was drifting through life with no sense of purpose,” Mr Lister said. “If they know that they can be successful in that and make their living, that will give them a focus in life, a purpose and keep them from getting distracted in negative things that as an idle mind, with no purpose, it is much easier to get caught up in.
“If we can do that with all the young people coming up, you can imagine the positive effect this is going to have for Bermuda.”
As a young Black male, he also recalled his days of being distracted and negatively influenced by his peers. Although he was not sure what he wanted to be growing up, he said he knew that one day, he wanted to sit in the House of Assembly as an MP.
“I stand here today as a MP as the youngest member in this House, but in my younger days I had no clue,” he said. “I knew I had a purpose in life – I just didn’t know what it was and on my pathways I was distracted. But I had an experience with my uncle Terry Lister when he was running to be the PLP leader. As a young person that resonated with me.”
After working with his uncle, he said he felt it was his time to stand up and make a difference. “Fast forward seven years – I stand here today because I found my purpose and stuck with it, and here I am. It all ties into finding my purpose and I stand here as a witness as someone who found their purpose.”
Introducing a STEAM academy in primary schools would provide more opportunities for young people to find their purpose in life as well in his view.
“I want to encourage our government to continue going forth with their Throne Speech promises of introducing the STEAM academy and also to go through with revamping the middle school system because that is where the majority of our young and especially Black men fall through the cracks,” he said.
“They get lost because they are not as academic as ‘that person’, so they feel like they are a failure. We have to do all that we can to make a positive environment for the young people coming up – to enforce to them and reinforce and reiterate to them that you can be whatever it is you want to be; give them all the opportunities education-wise, training-wise, so that they can be exposed to anything so that they can see their opportunities.”
With schools focused on academics, he said those who are not academically inclined face constant challenges. “And that challenge has a knock-on effect in society and what we see today with a lot of antisocial behaviour, a lot of negative that young people get caught up in,” he said. “I have to speak to teachers and the people who help our young people to reach their goals,” he added.
He recalled the story of a M1 Clearwater Middle School student, who got an ‘A’ on one of his projects – the first ‘A’ he had every received for any of his school work.
“When the teacher gave him an award, he walked out of the classroom because he didn’t want his friends to see him cry,” said Mr Lister. By introducing STEAM in our primary schools, he said: “The effect will change the direction of a lot of our young males especially, because it will give them a sense of purpose.
He also noted that he received supportive messages from young people, who want to follow his lead “all because one person took a stand, followed their purpose and used it to make a difference”.
At one point he asked his dad how much time he had left to speak. His father replied: “Seven minutes” and then chuckled.
With only a few minutes left, Mr Lister said: “In closing, I want to encourage our government to continue going forward with the Throne Speech STEAM initiative and revamping the Middle School system, especially four our Black young men. Nahki Wells is a very good example,” he said.
“And I want to encourage our young people to find their purpose, their goals, and what it takes to effect it. If we do that for our young people we are unstoppable.”
His father, Dennis Lister II congratulated his son on his maiden speech, and noted that it was very timely, in that it was made on the day marking the anniversary of his father’s death.
- Featured Photo by Chris Famous MP