I am honoured to pay tribute this morning on behalf of the Government and the people of the Virgin Islands in remembering the life and legacy of Honourable H. Lavity Stoutt, the first Chief Minister and a visionary leader who left an undeniable mark in history book of this Territory.
It is good that we are keeping his legacy alive through this event that is fixed on our yearly calendar.
I recall Honourable Stoutt’s uncanny ability to relate and connect with others. With his warm personality, a few words and a smile, he showed his sincerity for people. Indeed, he had a heart for those he served.
Many have referred to Mr. Stoutt as the father of modern BVI. Others have coined him the pioneer of his time. Some have said he was a transformational leader.
These references are no doubt a result of the immeasurable contributions he made to the development of the Virgin Islands.
Honourable Stoutt’s story continues to be an inspiration to all of us.
His story is about an ambitious young man from Long Bay, who took a bold step and left his love for real estate, landscaping, home and boat building in exchange for a life of giving up self, for others.
In 1957, at the age of 28 years, he entered the political arena and was elected as the representative for the First District in the Third Legislative Council. He served us tirelessly for 38 years in office—17 of those as Chief Minister
His story is one that should be told for generations to come.
As a remarkable leader, committed to modern development, Honourable Stoutt stood firm in his proverbial beliefs that “where there is no vision, the people perish.”
He pioneered several beginnings for the Territory.
During his era our industries grew in leaps and bounds.
Health clinics were opened throughout the Territory. Roads were improved and expanded. Ports were developed in major entry points. Social security was introduced to make our people secure.
He led and guided the BVI throughout most of the period of its development as an international financial centre; and the government’s administration building where we are right now was his vision.
Additionally, Honourable Stoutt with his commitment to constitutional reform played a pivotal role in the constitutional development of the Territory. A member of the Constitutional Conference of 1966, he worked to ensure that a ministerial system of government was established in the Virgin Islands.
Mr. Stoutt always referred to his successful contributions to the BVI as “leadership, direction and determination.”
So today is also the continuation of the familiar story about a servant leader who believed that tertiary education was the key to improving the quality and range of education for all in the BVI.
You see, Honourable Stoutt believed in a future where all Virgin Islanders were armed with the tools of a solid education so that everyone could contribute in every area of the development of our Virgin Islands.
That was his vision for the people of this Territory!
He championed education and understood its value for our people. It was this vision that inspired him to make a bold step to advance the education sector. Now many of our people have been able to advance their lives and families with professional and academic degrees from the community college named in his honour.
Today, HLSCC is not only a household name, but the pride of our people, who are now the greatest benefactors of Mr. Stoutt’s hard-fought vision.
In fact, it was just this January that I joined with the HLSCC family and the rest of the community as the institution marked 25 years of providing thousands of our people with the foundational skills needed to remain competitive in today’s modern world.
Indeed, his vision and commitment has changed the lives of many!
So today is important.
Through the continued celebration of his work on this holiday named in his honour, we continue to keep his story of building foundations for others to thrive on, alive.
We continue as a people to remain steadfast in our commitment to progress.
We understand that even though obstacles are common; opportunities and new beginnings are bountiful, and within our reach. All we need is the determination like Mr. Stoutt to be successful.
We understand that leadership is not about popularity, but rather about never growing weary of creating opportunities for our people.
We understand that building a better Virgin Islands is about preparing our children for leadership tomorrow.
It is about us, the people of today, keeping our shoulders square and firm so that those who will stand on them tomorrow have confidence in their next steps because we created an unshakable foundation.
Our people want to lead productive, meaningful and successful lives, and it is up to all of us to do our part to make it happen.
As we reflect on the personal traits that has made Mr. Stoutt a memorable BVI hero, I encourage all of us, the proud beneficiaries of his commitment, to take a page from his book, and make a difference in this place in which we live.
Like him, let us continue to think seriously about forward planning, so that we will be ready for the next phase in life, facing the unknown with optimism.
Let us continue to make this Territory economically and viably sound where we continue to move forward improving what is before us now.
Let us continue to diversify this Territory by putting our heads together to find the ways and means to remain a sustainable BVI.
Let us make more inroads to improve our families, our youth, our homes, and our communities by working together to move ahead organised and collectively.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is important that we continue to embrace this day for years to come because future generations must understand from whence they came.
Mr. Stoutt’s life, his example and his legacy provide daily guidance for all of us.
His vision laid the foundation for us to build a stronger, better Virgin Islands and we must continue to press forward to make it even stronger.
My Government has embraced Mr. Stoutt’s legacy to lead, to direct and to remain determined so that all of us together could make an invaluable difference.
Although he is not with us, his legacy and the fruits of his vision lives on in the successes of each of us.