“I deeply desire safety and security…” President’s year end message

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“I deeply desire safety and security…” President’s year end message

A Year End message from Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes ORTT, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Good evening fellow citizens,

I just got in under the wire to make my annual seasonal visit to your homes. The usual Christmas televised message was derailed, as you may have heard, by my mother contracting COVID, and while I consistently tested negative, quarantine requirements kept me homebound. Happily, we both tested negative on her 94th birthday and are at large. I thank you all for your well wishes and prayers for her recovery.

Over my enforced Christmas retreat, a friend sent her best regards and expressed the hope that I would get all of my heart’s desires for the new year. I jokingly replied, that that might get me in trouble. After all we have long been warned, “Be careful what you wish for—you just may get it.”

On a more serious note, it led me to think of what I wished for myself in the coming year and realised that it is no different from what I wish for all of our citizens. Because the more things change the more they remain the same, many of the perennial standards came to mind and here they are in no particular order.

I deeply desire safety and security in 2023—safety from the ravages of man and nature. I would like to be able to see friends off at my gate with leisurely continuing old talk, not with their scurrying fearfully to their cars as I lock and bolt my gate behind me.

I want the pattering of rain on rooftops to mean that we can roll over in bed and squeeze in another few minutes of rest, not be anxious and terrified that we are going to be flooded out yet again.

I wish that the economy would further stabilise and put us on a more prosperous footing so that better remuneration packages, for the average worker, government services and job prospects come into being.

I wish that in the short term, more programmes are put in place that would address issues of mental health and domestic violence, so that citizens on the brink can be identified and treated so that they pose no threat to themselves or others and live a wholesome quality of life. While zero domestic violence is an unrealistic goal, I wish that zero tolerance for it becomes the norm and the vulnerable are taught to recognise the red flags, and where they fall victim are provided with the necessary safeguards and services.

Wisdom and discernment are other wishes I have for the citizens of our beloved republic—the desire and ability to seek out and acquire knowledge on matters which affect the nation and then apply good judgement: if only we would stop accepting hook, line and sinker all that those who have a platform feed us and make reasonable efforts to inform ourselves accurately. It takes discernment to separate sheep from goats when it comes to sources of information, but with careful attention and patience we can come to recognise reliable sources, distinguish guile from candour, suss out agenda and differentiate mamaguy from straight talk. To judge well on issues, both personal and civil, we will need to set aside confirmation bias, prejudice and partisanship, find the facts, and from them draw rational and sensible conclusions; in so doing we empower ourselves to make informed choices.

After my family’s brush with the pandemic, my wish for health and strength in 2023 will come as no surprise. I wish that we all will, as far as possible, avoid behaviours that put us at risk for illness and non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancers and stroke. Regular exercise, less fat and sugar and more rest are three effective and low-cost practices that both prevent the onset of these conditions, and mitigate the effects where they already exist. Better health care facilities, particularly in the public sector, and an increase in medical staff will go a long way towards treating both chronic and acute conditions.

Apart from good physical and mental health, I wish for courage in the face of any suffering and adversity. Considering that there is a possibility that things might get worse before they get better, having the fortitude to withstand and overcome hardships, trials and tribulations can help us to tough it out. It allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My overarching wish for us as a nation is for grace and peace. I fear we have become a savage people. Lines drawn between ethnicities, political affiliations, the haves and the have-nots, worker and employer, citizens and migrants have solidified into intolerance, impatience, unkindness, vitriol, and in many cases, downright nastiness. No longer do we seem to be able to have differences of opinion without descending into vicious no-holds-barred attacks on the individual rather than a debate or discussion on the issues. We appear to have lost all courteous good will, civility, decency and respect, and are fast becoming a brutish and hostile society.

I wish and pray for a quick return to graciousness; to giving people a fair hearing and a carefully considered response instead of a rush to judgement. In the words of Desiderata, “Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.” Don’t reject the message because of the messenger.

Keyboard warriors please do not use the anonymity or remoteness of social media to weaponise your devices, using them to inflict harm in a manner that you never would in person, because you full well know that it is unkind and unacceptable. May we return to respect for office, including addressing office holders by their proper title and name. Do not confuse the officeholder with the office.

I wish you peace—the peace of mind that reduces the stresses of your day-to-day life allowing you to experience happiness, contentment and serenity no matter how difficult things become. Each of us achieves peace of mind differently, it is my hope that you find what works for you and the techniques that serve you best.

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”, goes the well-known 17th century proverb. It makes it clear that beyond mere wishing we need to put some determined effort towards realising our dreams and aspirations. Rather than focusing exclusively on what others need to do, let us also concentrate on our duty and responsibility and strive to make the life and society we want for ourselves.

Routinely, as the new year approaches I choose a mantra for my next 12 months. For 2023 it is, Be ever thankful, Be ever truthful, Be ever peaceful. I invite you to create your own or you can take a borrow.

No Old Year’s message would be complete without the traditional wish—may you all have a bright and prosperous new year and may God bless our nation.