Calvon Charles. (Photo: UWI/Facebook)

Valedictory Address by Vincentian Calvon Charles, one of two Valedictorians for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies, delivered at his graduation ceremony on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

Salutations:

Chancellor – Sir George Alleyne

Vice Chancellor – Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

Ambassador for the Republic of Cuba – H.E Guillermo Vazquez Moreno

Ambassador for the Kingdom of the Netherlands – H.E Gilles Jerrit Bijl

Pro Vice Chancellor & Campus Principal of the St. Augustine campus – Professor Brian Copeland

Pro Vice Chancellor & Campus Principal of the Cavehill campus – Professor V Eudine Barriteau

Pro Vice Chancellor & Campus Principal of the Open campus – Dr. Luz Longsworth

Pro Vice Chancellor – Professor Dale Webber

Pro Vice Chancellor – Professor Densil Williams

University Registrar – Mr. C William Iton

Deputy Campus Principal, St.Augustine Campus – Professor Rhoda Reddock

Deputy Campus Principal, Mona Campus – Professor Ishenkumba Kawaha

Chief of Defense Staff, Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force – Brigadier Rodney Smart

Public Orator – Dr. Brian Cockburn

Heads, Deans, and other members of Management and Staff of the UWI St. Augustine Campus

Members of the Private and Public Sectors

Fellow Graduands

Members of the Media and all our Specially Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

A pleasant morning to you all

It is said that every great story has a beginning, a middle and an end, not necessarily in that order. But I put forth that every memorable story begins with a choice. Choices, whether by fate, divine intervention or sheer coincidence, led us to this institution we called home for the past three years. For some of us, this is the latest chapter of our story as we launch into adulthood and career development. For others, today marks the middle of our journey, where we stop to make important decisions and reflect upon the legacy we have left behind. But one thing is certain, none of us has come to the compelling end of our story. If there’s anything that JK Rowling has taught us, is that there’s always room for another sequel.

As with any good book, foremost are the acknowledgments. So we acknowledge the one who grants us life, bestowed intellect and strength to cope with challenging situations and the drive to do the impossible. Indeed, without the Almighty God, we would not be here at this joyous occasion reflecting on how far we have come.

We must also recognize the persons who spend their entire lives building our own. The sacrifices they endured to put us through university, their endless capacity and desire to love us beyond our wildest imaginations are only a few of the reasons why we commend our parents. Had it not been for their continuous support, love and inspiration, our stories would have ended long before.

Finally, we acknowledge the diligent, hard-working administrative staff and lecturers who toiled tirelessly to ensure that the education we received at this university was sufficient to prepare us for the turbulent reality of the world of management, economics, behavioral sciences and politics. We owe a debt of gratitude that mere words cannot repay, but from this platform and on behalf of my graduating colleagues, I say “Thank You”.

Then in Chapter 1 the plot began. Fresh out of high school, for some college, we were given an opportunity of tertiary education, and we had a choice. A choice to seize the moment knowing that the road before us would not be easy or a choice to let the opportunity pass us by. Our UWI story began with that choice and looking around today we stand proudly behind our decision.

In our first year there were so many choices that were uncertain. Which degree to pursue? Should I do a minor or two? Stay on hall or rent? Ultimately, the decision was ours to make the most of the opportunities presented to us. As much as was learnt in Economics, it certainly could not prepare us for the steep learning curve of university life. The realization that a three-hour lecture suddenly equated to an eternity of reading and inevitably falling asleep with a textbook for a pillow. We experienced the struggle of studying in preparation for exams, quizzes and classes amidst the five competing forces of Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, YouTube and WhatsApp. We came to the consciousness that weekends were no longer a respite from work but another drop of sand in the hourglass of the semester. We realized that 99.9% of our success would be determined by our own actions and choices, we had to adjust quickly, and so we did. We chose sleepless nights, we chose to learn efficient time management skills and we chose to elevate our level of learning beyond any academic pursuit previously undertaken. Before we knew it, we had successfully written the first chapter in our university novel and were anxiously awaiting the next.

Chapter 2…The lost chapter as most of us would call it. Our second year was still one of adjusting to university life. We noticed an increase in the number of group projects and assignments, with a corresponding decrease in individual assessments. Coincidence perhaps? “Maybe it was just our poor choice of courses that reflected this dramatic change,” we thought to ourselves. Nevertheless, we embraced the challenges. Amidst a melting pot of different cultures: Trinidadians, Tobagonians, Bajans, Jamaicans, Lucians, Vincentians, Bahamians, Grenadians and so many others, suddenly, a eureka moment. We were not so different. Our second chapter brought to life that familiar term strung around campus, that is, ‘Regional Integration’. However, it changed from being a mere term to a reality, preparing us for our final chapter.

Chapter 3…The conclusion of our fascinating script. Only two semesters stood between us and the realization of our hopes and dreams as our final chapter began. By this time, we embraced sleep as only a concept, something we would look forward to only after completing our degrees. The library, TLC, FSS rooms and Faculty of Engineering rooms became ‘home’, and we learnt the true value of teamwork, as we powered through many study sessions. We realized that all our stories led to one place, this wonderful day that we now celebrate. Yet, even today we may not fully embrace the invaluable lessons that our lecturers taught or see the significance of countless assignments and projects. However, one thing cannot be disputed, the amalgamation of every experience has shaped the individuals we have become as the main characters of the story of the graduating class of 2016.

And so this chapter ends, but the pen is still in your hands: to create your story, Honor God, Fear nothing, Live your life, cherish those close to you and never regret the experiences that molded you into the person you are today. As Julius Caesar famously said “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) and with this we identify. We came to this university to gain knowledge and further our goals. In my case and for a few others, we came into a new country, and discovered that adaptation determines our destiny. We saw the challenges we would face, the demands of academic learning and difficulties of balancing study and recreation. And finally we conquered, rising above the adversity, daring to battle our way to success and today, we stand as graduates, and victors, all by choice. And wherever life’s journey takes us next, whatever challenges we face, the choice is ours.

I thank you.