“Bermuda is at a crossroads” and as a country, we “can either stay on this road that is divided by class and colour, by private school and public school, by blue colour and white colour, by the haves and the have nots, or we can choose to see the best of who we are by confronting the evils (like race) of the past, acknowledging the pain and working together to heal what divides us”.
That was the message that resonated in the maiden speech delivered by National Security Minister Wayne Caines in the House of Assembly on Friday, as he told MPs “that together we can make Bermuda a better place for all of us”.
“I believe that we are on the cusp of some really transformational times,” said Mr Caines. “We know that we have to jump start the economy. And we have some innovative plans already taking shape.”
In the words of the late Shirley Chislholm, the first Black woman elected to the US Congress, he said: “Service is the rent that we pay for living on earth.” And he reiterated that a balanced society “must have people who are willing to give back to our community”.
But he said there’s a dark side to giving back to the community, in the form of the venomous commentary expressed on “the issues of the day” under the cloak of anonymity”.
“You’ve heard them on talk radio and you’ve read their comments in The Royal Gazette, or on the Facebook and Bernews blogs – those hiding behind a name de plum,” said Mr Caines.
“These individuals are carelessly willing to cast aspersions and voice vitriolic comments from behind a computer screen, but in many case they do nothing to make our country better.
“I have coined a term for it, I call it intellectual twerking! And after watching the December 2nd incident, from the sidelines, I felt sick to my stomach from my own lethargy.
“I felt that it was time! it was my time to step up to the plate. I could no longer find our use excuses for not serving the people of Bermuda in the House of Parliament,” said Mr Caines.
“To be clear, I have always served the people of Bermuda, but thing crystalised for me last year. I could no longer walk separated from the leadership within my country.”
He noted that “service means finding an opportunity to give back… to give of yourself without expecting anything in return”.
“Those in position of affluence and influence cannot continue to benefit from the gifts of our island home and do nothing to help those who have not been as fortunate. And so the question becomes, what legacy are we leaving for the next generation?”
He urged Bermudians, whether they work “in reinsurance, in law, finance and or in Government”, to “find a way to help out” and “figure out a plan to give back to your country”.
“There are so many organizations that need help, that could use some guidance, energy and support,” he said.
“There must be more to living in Bermuda than getting ‘LIT’ at the Dog House, Rangers or Spanish Point Boat Club on the weekends.
“We must understand that if our way of life is to get better, we must ensure that we balance our society, ensure that the vulnerable, the down trodden, the young and the old are cared for!”
He stated from the outset that his maiden speech would be “a passionate address” covering “quite a bit of ground” that led to finally having the “distinct privilege” to stand in the House as a PLP MP.
Honoured to speak from “a place where some of our greatest leaders” and many of his heroes have spoken. he cited a list of “leading luminaries”, including he late Dame Lois Browne Evans, L Frederick Wade,Arnold Francis, Julian Hall and Reginald Burrows, just to name a few.
Mindful of “the Legacy of Leadership” he “must and will live up”, he thanked the Premier “for the opportunity to serve in Cabinet”, in addition to the party’s Chairman and Committee for believing in him, and “all the people” who canvassed with him, “who in four weeks helped him knock on almost 1,200 doors”.
And he commended his campaign manager, Maxanne Caines, his 20-year-old daughter for putting together “an innovative, engaging and professional campaign”. “She showed political wisdom beyond her years and I would venture to say that she is destined for great things,” said Mr Caines.
He also acknowledged a host of people who helped him from childhood throughout his life, dating all the way back to primary school, including his P4 teacher, Ms Furbert at Prospect Primary who, when he had “the lowest self esteem and the worst handwriting”, told him to put his “best foot forward”.
“I represent the North Village Community Club. So thank you ‘Doc’, for the nights of training in the ‘Desert’ across from the Victor Scott Primary School,” he said.
“My brothers and sister, my first friends, my playmates, defenders, the quartet, the bankers, my ‘posse’ – thank you for your love and support. And, last but by no means least – Maxanne one and two, thank you both for teaching me how to love.”
To understand his move towards politics, he said: “You would have to understand my home.” His father was a career civil servant, who worked in the Tax Commissioner’s Office for over 40 years, who he described as “a quiet man”, and “a student of politics”, who is “rabidly passionate about the Progressive Labour Party”.
The “challenge as a civil servant was that he could not openly or publicly declare his views”, he said. But in the home, he “would shape and mold” his children’s political views from a very young age.
“Now my mother, (God bless her) has no such affliction, she is as bold as brass! Not to be stopped, never to be muzzled and has the heart of a lion and the mouth of a… (well I will leave it there),” said Mr Caines.
His family was raised in a home that “was always full of debate and banter”, by parents who “had tons of friends from every walk of life who would discuss, Bird in Antigua, Manley in Jamaica and Fidel in Cuba”. “And one thing was clear, you had to have a position and you had to come correct.
“My dad always said to me, I am a civil servant, I will keep my head down and my mouth shut, so you don’t have to! But my mother’s position was different, her position was… You fight until your dying breath.
“My mother would say she did not come from Jamaica to play! She would say with a Jamaican accent, me come fe drink milk not to count cow. My parents from a very young age, instilled in us that we would have to take on leadership roles in Bermuda. It was clear with the events and extra curricula activities that my mom had a plan – one that I see now. But I could not see then.
“I could not hang with boys. I could not go to certain places, I could not eat certain things. There were expectations with reference grades. And i would hate to give the impression that I was a well behaved child, because that would not be the truth. I was taught that to who much is given, much is required.”
Asked by the late Nelson Bascome to consider running for the seat left vacant as a result of the death of former Tourism Minister David Allen, he said the general consensus after discussing it with family and friends was “not to do it”.
“I was told how I would be ‘black balled’. I was told how my economic opportunities would be limited, how I would end my legal career. I found it deeply concerning how difficult it was for PLP members to make a living during and after politics. So, I decided that was not the right time.”
In 2006, he was asked to serve as Chief of Staff to former Premier, Dr Ewart Brown, who also appointed him as a Senator. And it was during that period, when he said he cut his political teeth. Two years later he moved on to join Digicel Bermuda, as the CEO, but he “still felt called to serve” his country.
Now more than 20 years later, he said: “After doing all the things that we are asked to do, educate our children, become a home owner, get professional and life experience, the opportunity was right”, to run in Constituency 14.
“The crazy part is, I was not overly confident that I would win.” But he said he “learned invaluable lessons” by listening to the constituents and “discussing important matters on the doorstep and around the kitchen table”.
“I know and understand the challenges at Cedarpark. I know that we must support Prospect Primary School and ensure it grows from strength to strength. I want to work with Mrs Pusha Evans and the Devonshire Cougars to ensure this legacy organization grows from strength to strength.
“Two Way Deep Dale, One Way Deep Dale and Roberts Avenue, I know you are concerned about the escalating crime and the lack of jobs.
“Your Government knows the concerns and we will work tirelessly to find solutions. I know that C14 forms a part of the epicenter for much of the gang and gun related activity.
“We are aware of all our seniors living on Belvedere Road. We know that seniors are the most significant part of our population. We have listened to your concerns, and caring for your needs is a priority of our Government.
“I firmly believe that C14 is a great example of a melting pot. We have the working class, the middle class and the upper class.”
While noting that the new PLP government will do its part, he said it’s up to the people of Bermuda to do their part as well. “They have to be hungry, and they have to have the desire to succeed,” he said.
“You must do that which is necessary to push and work hard in your chosen field. Getting tooled up and schooled up is a part of it. The Government can only do so much. You must have the burn in your stomach to be successful.”
Noting the sacrifices of those who “have stood in front and caught the brunt of the anger, frustration and pain of the unfair practices in Bermuda,” he said: “Many of our businessmen and women, trades people and hotel workers… have pulled themselves, and their families up by their boot straps and their economic and social status bear witness to the fact that they have done well for themselves. That is good and that is something that we can all be proud of.”
But he said in many cases, the challenge “is that our leaders, social clubs, church organizations, businesses, political organizations do not mentor”, to “prepare the way for those coming behind them”.
“Often times leaders become focused on their own professional success, so much so that we have not spent time creating a path for those in the organization. So when we leave, the company still has to bring in an expat. The company does not have a specialist in the craft that you have been doing for 30 years.
“I submit that we have to create an opportunity for those behind us. Many of us do not want to give opportunities to the next generation because we still want centre stage or have not exercised prudent long term fiscal planning that sees you having to work into your 70s just to make ends meet.”
Another challenge, he said, “is that we have a new generation who has no guidance or direction and they are entering into the workplace green”. “They have no clear path. All of the training, all of the expertise walks out the door when you retire, quit or step down. So, I challenge our leaders, in business, social clubs, church organizations, sporting clubs to mentor a young person. I guarantee that we will see with mentorship, the connecting rod that will bring stronger organization, clear paths to leadership, legacy creation and a more balanced society,” he said.
On the mass exodus out of Bermuda and the resulting “brain drain”, he said he was saddened to overhear his daughter and a group of her friends between the ages of 19 to 22 say, while discussing their future, that “not one of them planned on returning to Bermuda after they finished university”.
On reflection, and in light of “the bigger implications for our island”, he also acknowledged that the “country must make a place for all Bermudians. “We must create an environment for you to thrive. But guess what? You have to be a part of the equation as well, you must understand that in life nothing comes easy.
“Sometimes, no matter where you are in the world you will have to struggle. You will have to work night and day to ensure that your dreams come true. Please know that you too have a responsibility to the legacy of our country. You have to see where you can fit in and commit to make our Island a better place,” he said.
“We have made it too easy and now you simply want to abdicate your responsibility to Bermuda and go to where the grass is greener. Well that is not good enough!”
He urged Bermuda’s young people to “be willing to put your country first”. “You must be willing to see that Bermuda needs your time, your talent! You need to take time to look at our Island from a position of giving, than a position of receiving.” And above all, he said: “Our young people must understand that they stand on the shoulders of generations of people who sacrificed all so they could attend university. So, it is your duty to come home and put your shoulder to the wheel.
In closing, he said he decided to dedicate his life “as a public servant” because he believes in the Bermuda of today and tomorrow.
“I cherish the potential I see in my people today. However, I believe that if potential becomes action, we will change the trajectory of our children tomorrow.
“I cherish the solidarity we demonstrate in times of trial and tribulation in the Bermuda of today. But I believe we can make that solidarity the norm in the Bermuda of tomorrow. This will be the norm, not just in great storms or great crises, but within our homes, within our schools, and within our communities. What we do today will change hearts and minds. Futures that were once lost in heated moments and the absence of mind will be saved through a culture of peace and an uncommon respect for life.
“I cherish the diversity that defines us in the Bermuda of today. But I believe we are courageous enough to acknowledge the damage wrought by ethnic division and use our common aspirations for peace and unity in the Bermuda of tomorrow.
“I cherish the opportunity each of us has to lead. However, I believe that more important that our opportunity to lead is our opportunity to leave a legacy. I stand before you knowing that I will cherish each moment we will work together as caretakers of the Bermuda of today.
“I believe now more than ever, for the sake of our society and for the sake of our children, we can work together as one country and one people to shape the Bermuda of tomorrow.”
- Feature Photo Courtesy of DCI, all other photos obtained from Mr Caines’ Facebook Page
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