Thank You Mr. Ronald Webster
Mr. Ronald Webster, The Father of the Nation will be laid to rest on Friday, January 13th, 2017. His funeral service will end a week of mourning for the late revolutionary leader. The week began with a motorcade across the island where children from all schools lined the street to view the procession and pay tribute to Mr. Ronald Webster. It also included a special sitting of the House of Assembly to mark the beginning of three days where the body of Mr. Webster Lay in State.
Mr. Webster has created a legacy that Anguillians are proud of and has set an example we can emulate. As we say goodbye to Mr. Webster let us remember and reflect upon some of the characteristics that made him a good leader.
I had the honour of writing and presenting this address as a youth ambassador to Mr. Webster at a concert in his honour five years ago. Every word still rings true today.
Thank you Mr. Webster for your stellar contribution to Anguilla’s development. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Anguillian revolution. This year we will reflect but more importantly we should look forward. What role will you play in ensuring a brighter future for all Anguillians. I pray that we will not drop the mantle entrusted to us.
Below is the speech given to Mr. Webster at the concert organised to celebrate his birthday five years ago by the Department of Youth and Culture. May we all be inspired by his example to be more and to do more.
Thank you Mr. Webster.
Ronald Webster – The Father of Our Nation
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.
He refused to crawl when he had the vision to soar
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.
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.
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.
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 your sterling contributions
Thank you Mr. Webster for laying such a strong foundation for Anguilla’s Youth. Happy Birthday and We love you.
This speech was first published in The Anguillian and later published in the Department of Youth and Culture’s first culture calendar, 2014.