26 July 2010

Bermuda Premier Addresses House for Final Time

Premier Bids Farewell

Submitted by Progressive Labour Party (PLP)
26 July 2010 - 11:46am.

On Friday, Premier Ewart Brown delivered a heartfelt farewell address to the House of Assembly:

Mr. Speaker, let me first thank you for your indulgence and that of this Honourable House in permitting me to formalise my final speech as Premier in this great Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, 17 years ago I made my maiden speech from a seat almost directly opposite the one I will occupy for just a few more minutes.

Opposition in 1993 was exciting. Everyone knew we were on the cusp of victory. I shall defer to others any comment on the ready symbolism of my own victory in Warwick West. For me, it cemented my gut feeling that Bermuda could and would embrace change.

That change started with the fine people of Warwick West and has ended with the wonderful people of Warwick South Central. The constituents I have been honoured to serve have been loyal, patient and genuine.

Mr Speaker, there is no greater, humbling honour than to earn the people's trust and I am eternally grateful to my constituents who on four occasions have sent me to represent them.

Mr. Speaker, the modern political history of our Island records that change did come, and in three successive elections the people of Bermuda have entrusted the Island's affairs to the Progressive Labour Party.

Mr. Speaker, a child born on the day that I was first elected to service in this Honourable House will be eligible to vote in the next General Election. That child knows virtually one Government, for them we represent their status quo.

Mr. Speaker, as I reflect on my parliamentary career and more particularly on my service as a member of the Government, I believe that so much has been done tangibly and symbolically for this country that the accurate historian will label it growth, change and empowerment.–How my Government is judged seems based on a number of factors, and that is as it should be. For those still intent on judging me, permit me to commend to you the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt:  'I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.'

Mr Speaker, it is important to recognise that I do not consider members opposite as enemies. The Opposition has a vision for this country with which I strongly disagree; that is the nature of our business and that difference of vision, no matter how sharp the debate, cannot make us enemies.

Mr. Speaker, a contest to succeed me is likely to start in earnest once your gavel adjourns these proceedings. The movement to unseat me would seem to have started in November 2006 and persists beyond my declaration of departure.

I am no prophet, nor have I a crystal ball like one honourable member. I cannot say who will next address you from this seat. What I can say is that the only guarantee of full, unbridled affection in this office is to do nothing and do it very well.

Mr Speaker, if one proposes to cut one blade of grass from this seat, rest assured, there will be special reports. Cause one new idea to see the light of day and cedar beams will appear in your home. Seek to govern in any sense of that word, and your spouse and family become fair game.

For whoever assumes this yoke of service in my stead, fret not at what your new enemies say and do. Lead in this Honourable House by example and from the front. Be measured by your oratory, your record and your legislative commitment to improve the lives of the people.

The great work that remains undone is the psychological freedom of Independence. The veil of affluence and material comfort has numbed the senses of the people, and for that we are all to blame.

True self-determination can be achieved, and I am as strong a believer in its merits today as I was in the 1960s when our brethren to the south were making the transition.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of my service. I am grateful for the camaraderie of these hallowed halls and for the working friendships it has allowed me to form. As I close this chapter in service to my country to looks of relief on the faces on the walls my regrets are personal and not political. My list of checked boxes far exceeds the undone and even those welcoming my exit will concede that all my effort has been put into this work.

Mr. Speaker I close with the words of the American poet Robert Frost, words which speak to me at my sunset but equally challenge those still in the morning of their service:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever turn back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thank you Mr. Speaker and may God bless you, my honourable colleagues, and the work of this Honourable House.