Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires John McIntyre
At Chaguanas Borough Corporation Excellence in Education Awards Ceremony
Chaguanas Borough Corporation
November 30, 2017
It is my absolute honor to be here today. My name is John McIntyre. I am the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy here in Trinidad and Tobago and that’s just a fancy way to say that I’m the boss at the Embassy.
As the Chargé d’Affaires I get to come to cool events like this and speak with nice people like you. But few things give me more pleasure than being able to honor the achievements of young people like you students here today.
The United States has always recognized the importance of education in building a strong country and providing individuals with the tools they need to succeed in their own lives.
In fact, promoting education is one of our key goals at the Embassy. And in a country like Trinidad and Tobago, with your high quality education system and talented students, you guys make our jobs pretty easy.
Many of you may know that our College Fair took place about one month ago at the Hyatt Hotel. The College Fair was a huge success with over 40 U.S. colleges and universities coming here to recruit local students. This is an event the Embassy is extremely proud of and I hope many of you were able to take advantage of the college preparation sessions which took place at the fair.
And really, the only reason we can have a successful College Fair every year is because of the high quality students that Trinidad and Tobago produces, and I find myself standing up here and addressing a room full of them! Each of you being honored here today are perfect examples of what I’m talking about so go ahead and pat yourselves on the back.
But students, we all know that your achievements did not just come from your natural abilities – we know that you guys have worked hard, overcoming many challenges and sometimes distractions that often come at your age.
In fact, I remember my own time as a young student like you…it was just a couple years ago. [personal anecdote]
One thing that I have learned about life is that challenges will always come, no matter who you are or what you do. But what makes individuals distinguish themselves are the choices we make when confronted by the challenges.
Often we can’t control what obstacles life will throw at us, but we can always control our attitude and approach to those obstacles. It is how you react to life’s challenges that will ultimately decide who you will become.
We are often shaped by our family and the places we come from. Like you guys come from Chaguanas, a place that has really evolved, changing from a rural area to one of the fastest growing and most dynamic cities in Trinidad and Tobago.…I mean you guys got the first Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, which my kids love by the way.
But seriously… just like you face challenges in your own lives, Chaguanas is facing its own challenges, such as crime, which honestly is a challenge not only here in Trinidad and Tobago but even in the United States. But, we can use Chaguanas as a real life example of how it is possible to rise above life’s challenges and continue to thrive and prosper.
The U.S. Embassy has been working closely with Mayor Gopaul Boodhan to assist in addressing community challenges. He has been a strong partner and his dedication to improving the safety and security of Chaguanas is evident in Chaguanas being the first English speaking city in the Caribbean to join the Strong Cities Network, a remarkable achievement.
This means that he joins a global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers, and practitioners who are united in building social cohesion and community resilience to counter violence and violent extremism in all its forms.
Through his Chaguanas model, he has taken an inclusive approach to addressing public safety and security issues as a community team. These are some of the reasons why we are happy to continue to work with Chaguanas and support these endeavors together.
As you know, the U.S. Embassy is much more than just a place to get a visa – though I do want you to know we approve four out of five visas. We have dozens of people who work within different communities all over Trinidad and Tobago with their leaders, citizens and students on projects that deal with education, entrepreneurship, gender equality, violence prevention, and good governance. These will continue for as long as we are here.
We know the important roles that adults play in shaping our young people, whether as a parent, a teacher, a mentor, you name it. We have to make smart choices because no matter who you are, there’s a young person looking up to you as an example. And when we do the right thing it’s so much easier to get them to do the right thing. Believe me, I learned that the hard way…I have young kids.
But getting back to the stars of the evening…the students; quite frankly, I like what I see in each of you today.
Often times it takes an extra push, an extra amount of drive and a thirst to succeed in order to overcome adversity and achieve your goals. And to see that kind of drive in young people like you is truly inspiring. This really gives me confidence that Chaguanas and Trinidad and Tobago has a bright future.
The message that I want to leave with you today is to continue working hard. The truth about education and learning is that it never really stops. Life will always bring you opportunities to learn. So don’t stop here, don’t rest on your impressive successes. Remember, education is the foundation that creates real opportunities in life, and education is the tool that will help you to reach your full potential.
I look forward to hearing about your many future successes.