Friday, February 27, 2009

Thoughts on Optimism – A series of reflections by Director Patrick

Part One: Finding Hope in History

It is pretty obvious to most people now that Jamaica and the Caribbean are going through very trying times as a country and a region. Of course, it is easy to also say that we are suffering from what's happening in the global economy - and particularly that of our powerful neighbour up North, the USA. Some would say this is what happens when we mistakenly embrace wholeheartedly the notion of one village going global as living in a global village and not knowing what either means for us.  

Anyway, many are referencing the Great Depression of the 1930's – and this is where my comment as part of this great movement (which we must not forget has its roots in the USA) is coming originated.

Of Dreams and Deeds tells us that with the depression of the 1930s there was a critical fall in membership but the resolve to serve youth did not fall. In fact there was more than a doubling of the work done with young people. One of the strategies was in building Junior Optimist Clubs – as we see in club President Phil's commitment for this year.  

Another was in finding creative ways for ensuring that the treasury did not run dry. This of course is probably the more formidable challenge at this time.

The important point though is that the history of the movement shows that optimism finds its best reason in the most difficult of times. These are hard times! But these are also the time for optimists to be there for our children as we were in the 1930s and throughout the war years of the 1940s when a deeper appreciation for community service took hold.
It is interesting that the current president of the USA draws so much on the policies of FDR as both came to power in similarly trying times. FDR had a New Deal, Obama has a New Hope. I have never been too keen on expressing pro-American sentiments but acknowledging the roots of the movement to which I proudly belong, I have to draw the parallel.

Again, these are the times at which optimism and Optimists are most needed. History shows that we have done it before and will affirm our doing it again.

Health, happiness and prosperity one an all.

Patrick Prendergast
January 30, 2009

Gleaner reports on Optimism

- Rudolph Brown/Chief Gleaner Photographer

With the 2009 Budget Debate just a few weeks away, young Jamaicans are calling on the Government to direct its focus at improving the education sector.

Jenielle Edwards, of Wolmer's High School for Girls, was one of many youth leaders who stressed recently that education, or the lack of it, negatively impacts the Jamaican economy.

"I want the Government to spend the money on developing schools and other social institutions. I think that because so many of our young population is uneducated, it tends to impact our economy moving forward," Edwards told The Gleaner.

She was one of many youth in attendance for the Caribbean District Optimist International Second Quarter Conference, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston last Saturday.

Education absolutely free

Ashlee Anderson, of Campion High School, said she believes the Government should aim to "make education absolutely free" by picking up the tab for the troublesome auxiliary fees that schools still charge despite education's current status as "free".

"We have limited resources and it's kind of hard to split it (how the nation's funds should be directed) because a lot of things that don't concern me directly, as a youth, need to be dealt with too," Anderson said. "But I think the education system needs to be dealt with because, without education, Jamaica is not going anywhere."

She added: "If nothing else is dealt with, I really think the education we receive needs to be stepped up."

Some of the youth suggested that the HEART Trust/National Training Agency be expanded or duplicated, and that more universities and schools at every level be created to provide greater access in terms of both volume and variety.


In addition to the discussion about education, Mikhail Webb, of Calabar High School, said he was concerned about how the Government has divested Jamaican companies and how non-Jamaican corporations seem to own the bulk of the island's industries.

"To how I see things, the economy is a foreign economy, most of the things we are supposed to own belong to foreigners," Webb lamented.

Kemar Jennings agreed with Webb's concerns about the the nation's dependence on external entities.

"I want to see us move from a dependent state to a more independent state, using our resources more," Jennings said.

The young thinker went further in his discourse on the nations situation, arguing that the wider citizenry need to play its part in fixing the current situation by paying taxes.

"The tax is a problem. People need to be paying their taxes because without the revenue coming in, the Government can't do what it needs to do like buy proper educational tools and fix the agricultural sector."

Andrew Wildes,