Facing the Challenge of a New Age

National Scout Commissioner's Address to the National Presentation of Colours and Youth Awards 2017

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that his faith in our young people was as unbounded as his faith in his country. I share that faith. I believe that the youth and scouting go hand-in-hand, for it is in harnessing that youthful spirit, that idealism, that energy that we will find the keys to building a better future for our country and for our movement.

Today is indeed a great day for all of us and as we recognise the achievements of the young people sitting here with us, I want to urge them to also remember the contributions of the adults in their lives who have brought them to this point in their life’s journey. In fact, today I want you to take some time to pay homage and honour to our elders who are here and who have gone before us.

For we are here today, both as individuals and as a movement, because of the sacrifice, dedication and commitment to service of our forebearers – that older generation of men and women whose love of country and community have forged for us a movement that has stood the test of time.

Men like the late Ray Watkins, Lalman Nanan, Laurence Mc Dowall and Gaston Benjamin; persons like Ron Richardson, Vivian Kangalee, Marlene Griffith, Kenny Arjoon, Lynley Lutchmedial, Courtney Bruce, and many others who have borne the burden of sacrifice and contributed to the life of ScoutsTT – in so doing, they have contributed to the lives of generations of young people and to making a better world.

So to our young people I say this, you cannot chart a new future without an appreciation of your past and, most importantly, without respect and gratitude to those who have contributed to your present.

In your desire to explore new things and modernise, do not disregard the lessons and values of our past. Be not scornful of the wisdom of our elders, and do not become that which you condemn – someone who does not listen, respect or engage. Open yourself to dialogue and embrace different ideas, no matter where they come from.

Today is also a time for you to celebrate. The achievement of excellence should always be celebrated. Your efforts over the last many months and years have brought you to this point and I laud you on what your presence here today says about your character – your perseverance, dedication and service as active participants in your communities. This is what scouting is about.

You stand as exemplars to your peers and have demonstrated that you have done your best and fulfilled your promise. It must not end at this moment. Let the lessons you have learnt on your adventure through scouting continue to guide you every day. Strive to do your best in everything that you do. Fulfill your duty to god and commit to being the very best person that you can be. Only then will you truly be worthy of the privilege that you have had.

To our leaders, I wish to quote Baden-Powell – “A fisherman does not bait his hook with food he likes. He uses food the fish likes”. So it is with our young people.

We must face the challenge of a new age. Those of us who live in the twenty-first century are privileged to live in one of the most momentous periods of human history. It is an exciting age filled with hope.

We stand today between two worlds – the dying old and the emerging new.

Now I am aware of the fact that there are those who would contend that we live in the most ghastly period of human history. They would argue that the rhythmic beat of the deep rumblings of discontent of our youth, the presence of virtual warfare in our schools, the piercing sound of bullets that echo in an increasing number of hotspots, and what appears to be a declining respect for the sanctity of human life and commitment to hard work are indicative of the society. They would argue that we are retrogressing instead of progressing. But far from representing retrogression and tragic meaninglessness, the present tensions represent the necessary pains that accompany the birth of anything new.

Just as in our movement, the current crisis that faces our society is born from the absence of real dialogue and understanding – an unwillingness to walk in each other’s shoes.

The ancient Greek philosopher Horaclitus argued that justice emerges from the strife of opposites, and Hegel, in modern philosophy, advocated growth through struggle. It is both historically and biologically true that there can be no birth and no growth without pain and discomfort.

Whenever there is the emergence of the new, we confront the recalcitrance of the old. So the tensions which we witness today are indicative of the fact that a new world order is being born and an old order is passing away.

As I urged our young people to do earlier, we elders and parents must also not forget our past and become that which we condemned.

To bridge that gap of understanding between old and young, we must remember what it was like to be young – to be filled with energy and idealism, the desire to create and to make your mark, to make a difference and forge your own path.

As we expound boastfully about our experience and wisdom, we must also remember our own feelings towards our parents – who heard, but really didn’t listen to us, who, in spite of our own desire to make our own way, sought to protect us rather than to guide us, who imposed their will rather than to seek our understanding, who ended each conversation with, “I hear you but!

It was Baden-Powell himself who said that scouting was built on youth leadership, embracing the ideas and innovation of young people and guiding them on a path of self-discovery.

The fulfillment of our common goals will only come by inspiring those that follow us. We exhibit our maturity and wisdom not by instruction, but by guidance and understanding of where they are.  

We must neither preserve tradition for the sake of doing so, nor change for the sake of change. There is indeed much for us to be proud of in our young people and they will listen if we treat them with respect and give them space to create and to learn.

In closing, I want to leave you with the wisdom of a young girl who, in 1979 expressed through her very popular calypso which was a clarion call for our generation, that patience and understanding was the key to the whole thing and if we condemn all of their actions, just like us they will rebel. 

I hope that her words will cause all of us to reflect on the importance of respect, dialogue and connecting to each other, for in doing so we will harness our past, live in the present and build a better future.

Thank you and may God bless each of you.

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