19 March 2011

Anguilla Honours Its Revolutionary Leader James Ronald Webster


Aspire To Leadership, Webster Tells Youth

Anguilla’s Revolutionary Leader, James Ronald Webster, has called on the island’s young people to prepare themselves for leadership. He was at the time delivering an address on the national holiday on Wednesday, this week, to mark his 85th birthday.

Speaking at the ceremony at the Webster Park, he said there was a need for a committed and invigorated group of young people to turn Anguilla’s challenges into opportunities for economic and social growth. He asked them to look at his example in which he emerged from a poor and little known, but ambitious, youth to become the revolutionary leader and first Chief Minister of Anguilla. The address, in which he also expressed a desire to be given an opportunity to fully retire from public involvement to meditate in private, follows:


Address of James Ronald Webster

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen and the Youth of Our Nation

It is with great pleasure that I extend sincere thanks to all of you on this grand occasion, and I bid you a most cordial welcome. I assure all of you that your presence here, in demonstration of your love and respect for me, is greatly appreciated.

I am indeed happy today to be celebrating my 85th birthday, a special milestone in my journey. I take this opportunity to give Almighty God thanks and praise for sparing my sinful life to see such a ripe age, and for the hope of an even longer existence.

It is said, and probably true, that the first thirty years of anything, be it life, a career or a vocation, are worth all the remaining years. Yet in those precious years, we make mistakes; buthave opportunities to correct them; and we seek to learn and achieve on a road to near perfection, in an imperfect and difficult world. Thanks to the varied experiences of those first thirty years, which help to shape our destiny and mine in particular.

As we reflect on the past years, particularly from 1967-1984, during my term of office, we have much to rejoice about.We have lived, and continue to live, in a country which is peaceful, and where our people enjoy harmonious living despite the many political, social and economic challenges and changes that have come our way.

There were many ups and downs in the early years of our revolution. However, with trust, patience and steady focus on our journey, we eventually obtained legal separation from St. Kitts and are successfully coping with nation-building.

Despite the pressures exerted by St. Kitts, Britain and from other sources, along with our scarce natural resources, wehave remained undaunted. We have made, and are making, every effortto ensure that each young person receive quality education and have hope for a brighter future.

During the revolutionary years, we were able to protect and respect the rights of our citizens; show respect for the sovereignty of our neighbours; and demonstrate how a people can live in love, unity and peace. We also safeguarded the resources of our country for future generations of Anguilla and I hope that this practice, which may have since been allowed to fail, will now continue. Throughout all of those difficult years of our revolution, we remained resolute in our commitment to our island and to Almighty God, our Heavenly Father.

As a young nation, looking towards independence,Anguillians must continue to have faith in God and love our neighbours. If we, as nation, adhere to the rights and wishes of our people, and as family and friends live in peace and share each other’s pains, we will continue to grow from strength to strength, moving steadfastly and united towards a new frontier. The road travelled since 1967 has been long, sometimes eventful and lonely, but we made it, and will continue to succeed, God being our helper.

At this juncture in our history, we are faced with social, economic, constitutional and other problems, some caused by ourselves. We must use the energies and talents we have to confront and overcome these challenges, whether internal or external. We are matured men and women and must demonstrate a sense of responsibility, strength, unity and, where necessary, patience and compassion in dealing with various situations.

We must keep in our thoughts that we are a people struggling for the same cause in the name of freedom and prosperity for all the inhabitants of our lovely homeland. We fought a revolution in 1967 in which there was no bloodshed and avoided a civil war, so to speak. Let us now concentrate on promoting peace, unity and love among ourselves.

There are great challenges ahead. As we continue struggling to reach a safe harbour we cannot afford to sit idly by. Just recently, Anguilla was blessed with a high per capita income, with Anguillians thereby enjoying a more comfortable standard and quality of life. This is what we desire for our homeland – to be a just, caring, prosperous and equitable society.

It is therefore with deep regret that the joys and splendour we had are no more in our grasp. The table has turned in the opposite direction. Today, instead of being surrounded by, and enjoying, the bounty that was ours at the commanding heights of the economy, we have high unemployment, economic stagnation and unbalanced budgets, to mention a few. We also have, most unfortunately, growing crime, with the highest prison population per capita in the Caribbean.

It will take a group of dedicated and invigorated young people, men and women, to turn Anguilla’s challenges into opportunities for economic and social growth and discipline. We are a maturing society, and with national maturity must come responsible governance and political finesse by our leaders.

Among the relevant imperatives which tend to be overlooked by some of us, are good and wise leadership, dedication, honesty and goodwill. With the varied problems facing Anguilla, the stage should now be set for young men and women to come forward to make a decisive commitment to political involvement and leadership.

I always felt that active participation in the political process is vitally important. This is because I think that political involvement is a powerful vehicle by which a people are able to choose their path to personal, public, social and economic development.

It is a Government’s responsibility to inspire its people to improve their standards of living, to create the necessary opportunities for them and to guard their individual rights. Public life is a crowning career for young men and women and it is a most worthy ambition. Clean politics and leadership must be seen as an honourable adventure for those wishing to work towards nation-building.

Seeking political office is an enormous national commitment. But only well-qualified persons in terms of education, dedication and integrity, and with the right leadership charisma, should be selected for public office at the highest level. This holds true whether it is by the ballot box or other forms of legal appointment.

It is here that I wish to emphasise a special appeal to the young people of Anguilla. Aim high. Whatever task comes your way, do it well for you never know what opportunity or calling awaits you. You must be ready to seize every opportunity when it presents itself.

I can only speak about myself as a prime example. I never went to College. My parents were poor, my father being a humble fisherman and my mother an ordinary housewife. As a boy, I travelled to St. Maarten in search of employment and got a job with a wealthy couple. They had no children of their own. They adopted me and I started working on their estate as a shepherd boy, and took on greater responsibility over the 27 years of my service for them. They eventually died and left a fortune for me.

Some years later, I returned to Anguilla. As fortune would have it, I ended up being the Leader of the Anguilla Revolution and the first Chief Minister. That has earned me global recognition. I set out to steer Anguilla along a path of self-determination, political stability, prosperity, prudent fiscal management and a peaceful and safe social environment. My trust was in Almighty God to guide me and through Him, all things were made possible. I rejoice in the fact that He used the foolish toconfound the wise and made the impossible possible.

I am not a John the Baptist, or Stephen, or a martyr in any way. I kept going because there were people who believed in, and trusted, me; people who were looking to me to change the course of history for Anguilla. They followed me and were willing to put their time, energies and entire selves where their trust and faith lay. Many of them are now dead, but their memories will always remain with us. Thankfully, some of them are present here today, among this vast crowd. To you, and those who have passed on, I offer eternal thanks and call for a round of applause.

I am aware that, in addition to the resolve and involvement of my peoplein the early years of political development in Anguilla, there is a debt of gratitude owed to a number of other people. They are our friends and supporters in and outside Anguilla whose help I also graciously and gratefully acknowledge today.

We are gratified that Anguilla has reached this moment in our history, where we are free from oppression and domination from St. Kitts, and on a path for further self-determination in these post revolutionary years.

I am appealing to all Anguillians, old and young, to bury their differences and ill-will and to seek to be united again. Let us make this emerging nation a land of glory and opportunity; a land where we can say with pride and joy that we are Anguillians; a land in which paradise has been regained, with God being our great leader.

I am grateful to the Government of Anguilla for honouring me with this full national holiday for the second time. I am also grateful toall who organised this celebration and all of you who are now here with me celebrating my 85th birthday. Many thanks, above all, to our Heavenly Father, above all, for His bounteous gift of long life to me.

I am a humble man but I believe, as an individual, that I have faithfully and honestly done my part in serving my people and country to the best of my ability, with God’s guidance. My active political career is over, but my life is not ended. I trust that despite all the gratitude and recognition being paid to me today, and later on, that I may be given an opportunity to spend my last moments quietly to meditate on, and look forward to, my eventual exit from this life, and to that grand and glorious reward that awaits me and all who remain faithful and true to God, our Father.

I offer my heartfelt thanks and love to all.
May the Good Lord bless and keep you always.


A Message from the Youth

Submitted by Shellecia Brooks
National Youth Ambassador Corps

Happy Birthday Mr. Ronald Webster

Ronald Webster, the Father of our Nation, is undoubtedly the greatest of Anguilla’s revolutionary leaders.

I will briefly examine five characteristics of Mr. Webster which enabled him to achieve such a feat. I will then look at how young people (that is me and you, this present and future generation) can emulate and utilize these characteristics to better our lives, the lives of others and contribute to Anguilla’s development.

A quote by Henry Kissinger states that ‘the task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. Real leadership skill involves getting people to do something they have never done or are not even sure is possible.

Ronald Webster did this when he successfully brought Anguilla from a state of being referred to as the ‘backwater of the Caribbean’ through a complete social, economic and political metamorphosis. If we know our history, we know this was no easy task.

Mr. Ronald Webster possessed vital characteristics which made him such a successful leader. The most noteworthy of these are his faith, his vision, his determination, his charisma and the fact that he was a good shepherd.

I will deal with each characteristic in turn.

Firstly, his faith. Articles, books and quotes about Mr. Ronald Webster often compare him to the biblical character Moses and indeed like the story of Moses, Mr. Webster came and ‘delivered Anguillians out of the hands of the Kittitians. He was a man who stood by the scriptures and his faith. Memorable quotes include

‘Let the world know that Anguillians are men who place their trust in God Almighty. He goes on later to say ‘our strength is in the people of Anguilla who, by their courage will always stand as free men….Have faith in your God and your Government and we will overcome.

Secondly his vision. Mr. Webster had a vision of a better Anguilla. His primary objective and burning desire was the advancement of the wellbeing of the Anguillian people. He instilled in the minds of the people that their goals were achievable whatever the odds. He advised them ‘our battle will not be won by force but by your support under the Almighty hand of God.’ It was through this vision he was able to lead Anguillians to freedom.

Thirdly he was Determined. He had a Will of steel/unflinching resolve (often referred to as stubbornness). He never accepted a compromise. Mr. Webster stubbornly resisted any proposal which would give St. Kitts even a semblance of control over Anguilla. For example, when some Anguillian leaders signed the 1967 Barbados agreement, which would put Anguilla back under the umbrella of the St. Kitts Government, Webster refused to sign despite open threats from the British officials who were present.

Mr. Webster explained at a political meeting ‘Britain cannot bribe away the spirit of the Anguillian people with a few miles of tarmac road, a few water pipes and an airstrip.

This is a fantastic example of his leadership role of striving against difficult odds, yet remaining resolute and determined in the face of adversity during the revolution.

Fourthly, he was Charismatic. Indeed, he was revered by most. ‘He was the light of the revolution and people followed him without question. To quote Jerimiah Gumbs: ‘when Mr. Webster says act, do not question him. And the late John Thomas: ‘when Mr. Webster is wrong he is right. And when he is right, he is double right.’

Fifthly, he was a good shepherd. It was the destitute and forgotten people of Anguilla, an island once regarded as “a backwater of the Caribbean”, that he was prepared to give his life for in their liberation from the feared Bradshaw regime in St. Kitts.

All of these qualities contributed significantly to his emergence as leader of the Anguilla revolution of 1967. Mr. Webster refused to crawl when he had the vision to soar and a conviction to make the changes he wanted to see.

Walter Lippman said ‘The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on.

Today I urge everyone, particularly young people to remember the extraordinary and dramatic events of 1967 and the years that followed. Let us seek as young people to take up the mantle of leadership and emulate the characteristics that our great revolutionary leader Mr. Ronald Webster exemplified.

Have Faith

Anguilla was and remains a primarily Christian society. As we move forward, as youth we must put God first in our lives and in our country’s development. Let us continue to encourage our youth to attend church and to practice faith and the lessons taught in the bible.

Follow your Vision

Without a vision a people and a nation will perish. Young people must be included now in drafting this vision for Anguilla as we move forward in Anguilla’s development. Young people you must also have a vision for your personal life and the role you wish to play in Anguilla’s development. Always seek to make a positive difference. If you have a vision to make a positive contribution in sports, youth or community advocacy, in public service, through the ministry or as a political leader, do not let anyone belittle or undermine that vision. Like Ronald Webster, follow through with your vision regardless of what adversity you may face.

Remain Determined

Many argue that young people show little interest in anything, lose interest quickly and do not follow through on action and initiatives. The youth of Anguilla have so much promise, so much knowledge and so much creativity and talent. Let us, like Mr. Webster show determination and unflinching resolve in our initiatives. If we would like to see youth representatives on all public and private boards let us fight for that. If we would like to see the creation of more youth friendly spaces and parks, let us fight for that. We must stand firm and resolute and indeed have a will of steel to ensure the youth voice is heard.

Youth must also demonstrate determination in the pursuit of our education and our goals. Remember success requires hard work and commitment.

Display Charisma

There are some young persons who have a natural charisma. That is, others are drawn to them and others look to them for leadership and advice – thus they are able to influence many. Sometimes after observing young people, I pull a young person aside and say ‘you are a natural leader’ – use those leadership qualities for good and not evil. Like Mr. Webster, use the skill of charisma to improve Anguilla in some way.

A Good Shepherd

There are also some youth who are good shepherds. John Quincy Adams said ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more - you are a leader. Indeed he could have also said you are a good shepherd. Many of us will find ourselves in leadership positions. This role may be in youth organizations in our schools, churches, NGO’s or in the public or private sector. The important thing to remember is to be humble and to always put the needs of those who you have been entrusted to lead first. If we all did this, youth and adults alike we would certainly create a better Anguilla.

In conclusion, youth of Anguilla, we should never forget the role played by Mr. Ronald Webster in Anguilla’s development. We should also never forget the unity displayed by the Anguillian people as they stood resolute for a better future. Faith, vision and determination and a genuine love for Anguilla must be the foundation on which youth will continue to build to ensure continued positive development for Anguilla. The present and future generations of Anguillians must and will continue to take Anguilla forward.

Thank you Mr. Webster for laying such a strong foundation for Anguilla’s Youth. Happy Birthday and We love you.

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