Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dare to Live the Optimist Creed

October 22, 2009

The privilege is mine this evening to share in the Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea Installation Exercise of its new president 2009-2010, Mr. Patrick Prendergast. This event is no ordinary one; you have twinned the installation activity with your major project for the year – the continuous development of the Marie Atkins Basic School, the latter being done in recognition of the Early Childhood Commission’s Standards for all ECI operating in Jamaica.

Driven by community service the leadership of the Marie Atkins Basic School has been providing early childhood development services to scores of Jamaican children and their families since the early 70’s. So naturally, when I was asked to deliver the keynote address to this illustrious group of community service workers I did not hesitate, but rather readily accepted the challenge.

The story is told of two men who fell from a 15 storey building. Half way down, one was heard to shout..."HEEELLLLLLPPPP", while the other said “WELL, SO FAR....SO GOOD." All a matter of perspective some say. The perspective which sees possibility underpinned with hope is usually that of the Optimist. This evening The Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea will officially place a new person at the helm, one who must dare to dream and "to look on the sunny side of everything and make his optimism come true” regardless of the challenges that there may be.

President Patrick, you must possess an inner strength that cannot and will not waiver. This intrinsic strength which will be bolstered by the support you receive from fellow Optimists who live by the creed, “To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind”

To this end a good leader/President should “Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as he is about his own.” This denotes a character of true selflessness which seeks to meet the needs of others and celebrate that as much as one’s own achievements. It speaks to one who will not seek the glory or necessarily to be recognized as the individual in as much as the community is benefitted and the team lauded.

The Optimist club has a history of being a service organization. This service has been extended to the continuous development of the Marie Atkins Basic School. Why is this even noteworthy? It is because Early childhood education, the most critical of the education levels, is the last of the education sector to be augmented and therefore the least developed.

The early childhood years are internationally recognized as the years from birth to age eight years. It is during these years that brain development is maximal. During these early years children learn how to interact with and manipulate the world around them. It is in these years that children learn and develop lifelong skills in language, thinking, reasoning, comprehending, socializing, computing and playing.

Through play children learn, about the world around them, develop and test new skills, learn to use their imaginations, develop creativity, build trust, and learn about relationships and social interactions. Sadly it is something that does not receive enough attention, structure and dedication on an individual or a corporate level. Thankfully the Optimist club has chosen to meet the need.

The President also has the responsibility of seeing this adoption of the Marie Atkins Basic School to greater fruition, by partnering with the ECC’s mandate. The establishment of the ECC in 2003 occurred at a time in Jamaica’s history when many things were happening in education yet there was no legislation governing the early childhood sector. There was no umbrella organization that had pertinent information on ECD in Jamaica in spite of all the work and achievement that was being accomplished. With this establishment the regulations to govern ECIs became critical. Consequently, twelve standards were developed to accompany the Act and Regulations of 2005.

Click Here for the ECC’s Start Them Right Guide

The Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea has demonstrated its commitment to ECD nation building. It will be very important that the President and by extension the entire executive, be prepared to forget the mistakes of the past and eagerly press on to the greater achievements that lie ahead. There is the possibility that not all things will go as planned; nevertheless, the machinery must not stop moving. While personal evaluation is important, there cannot be time lost belabouring past errors while there is the possibility of change and a better future.

The Leader of any group must think the best and in as much as he will work for the best it should come as no surprise to those around that he ought to expect only the best: not only of himself but also his colleagues. As simple as this seems it can easily become a problem for ever so often the scenario plays out that leads to conflict.

The scene is that of a president, board chair or group leader who dares to aim for the stars and soon finds that only he has caught the vision of boarding the shuttle. Two things need to happen: the one with vision need to market the concept as desirable; but what is also true is that those on the team should also be prepared to be led to a new plane provided there are no clearly apparent pitfalls to blasting off.

The final key I care to leave with you is that beyond all things dare to live that which you believe. For too many people, life consists of being a member of a society or group; following the group; following the code; attending the meetings; paying the fees: doing just enough to maintain membership but never having a passion for the ethos of the group. Be it that social group, service organization, or religious conviction.

As long as there is something worthwhile and of merit, dare so convicted of what you believe or are a part of so much so that you live it each day and influence the life of another positively. Remember to be gentle to those who are less able to care for themselves, especially our elderly and our children. As you live each day, whatever your station in life or at a given point of a day, be a leader that is “too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble”.

President Patrick, and Directors the ECC congratulates you and on your call to office to serve your club at a critical juncture in time. We wish you and your members all the best for the year 2009-2010 and look forward to celebrating with you, your anticipated successes and stellar achievements. May your motto and creed be your guide as you continue to provide continuous service to Jamaica’s children and more specifically the children of the Marie Atkins Basic School.

I thank you.

Richard Williams is Regional & Community Interventions Coordinator at the Early Childhood Commission

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