Prime Minister Spencer also had the opportunity to address the over two hundred graduates and hundreds of parents and supporters, following which he received a standing ovation.
In his address to the graduates, Prime Minister Spencer called on them to be shining lights in their communities and make positive contributions to the development of their nation.
We reproduce below the text of the Prime Minister's Presentation:
President of Mid-Continent University Dr. Robert Imhoff; Members of the Board of Directors of Mid-Continent University; Faculty and staff; Specially invited guests; Students:
It is indeed a special honour and privilege that I stand here to address you on this historic and significant occasion.
Historic, because I think it’s the first time a Prime Minister from Antigua and Barbuda will address a graduation ceremony here at Mid-Continent University.
The relationship between this institution and my country is due in large part to the efforts of your President, Dr. Robert Imhoff, and his encounter over the years with Antiguans and Barbudans, who have contributed in a significant way to the growth and development of the game of soccer in some colleges in the Mid West, U.S.A.
The hosting of a Graduation Ceremony is always a significant occasion, as it represents the successful culmination of a period of academic study.
It is also the recognition that you have achieved in your efforts to gain knowledge, wisdom and that you have improved your skills in whatever field of study.
For some of you this is a new beginning, an opportunity to explore new pathways and examine new horizons in life; for others, it is a continuation of advancement in a particular field of work. But for all of you, this Graduation Ceremony is a testimony of your desire to continue a life journey of service and stewardship to your community.
It is a major step towards seeking and acquiring the tools, skills and wisdom that will foster confidence, goodwill and pride in life.
The Bible teaches that: “The first step of education is to have one's eyes opened and be turned from darkness to light. (Acts 26:18)”
It also teaches that ‘the beginning of Wisdom is to work to acquire it. At the cost of all you possess, strive to gain insight.”(Proverbs 4:7)
Your presence here as proud graduands of this innovative and blessed educational institution is again testimony of your desire to achieve, with the ‘insight to gain’, more knowledge.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
My government and the people of Antigua and Barbuda particularly persons from the Wesleyan Holiness Church Community, the Villa Lions Soccer Club and the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force, recognize with profound gratitude the efforts made by Dr Imhoff and his team, over the past 25 years in building a solid and fruitful relationship that has impacted on the lives of so many young Antiguans and Barbudans.
Some of these individuals who would have benefitted from your efforts Mr. President, include Guss Gumbs, Sobie Gomes, Everton Gonsalves, the Jarvis and Richards brothers and Peter Wall just to name a few.
I am also confident that our current students here at Mid-Continent University will also return to Antigua and Barbuda to make meaningful contributions.
For many of these young Antiguans and Barbudans, the opportunity to study at a University in the United states, is a tremendous experience, but more importantly, the exposure to Christian teachings, moral principles generally and the ability to be of service to people in various communities they encounter, has impacted their lives in immeasurable and enduring ways.
I therefore applaud the Mid-Continent University for its role in providing quality education by helping adults to formalize life-learning experiences and translate them into formal academic results and achievements. This, to my mind, is a highly commendable effort by an educational institution whose primary purpose is to provide Christ-centred quality education at the highest level.
Your efforts as a University to facilitate student development by promoting the synthesis of academic knowledge and Christian values for spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical maturation, is an approach that I would take the opportunity on this auspicious occasion, to recommend to all educational institutions of higher learning, to wholeheartedly embrace.
Mr. President, graduands, specially invited guests, ladies and gentlemen:
In 1981, my country celebrated its political independence under the theme: “A Nation to Build, A Country to Mold”. This theme resonated with many citizens who recognized the important role we all have to play in nation building and the value of education in this process.
There is a Latin Proverb that says, “By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn.”
Ladies and gentlemen, my focus today is on life-long learning and the power of knowledge as a source of building and molding society.
The role of citizens and the importance of individuals recognizing that life is an ongoing process of constant education, are important for us to understand as teachers, student, parents, fathers and mothers and members of the faith community.
Antigua and Barbuda is a small island state in the Caribbean, located three hours by plane south of Miami, with a population of approximately 85 thousand. We are part of a wider grouping of Caribbean countries stretching from Jamaica/Bahamas in the north to Trinidad and Guyana in south.
As Small Island Developing States, SIDS, our economies are small and vulnerable with problems such as physical isolation and geographical distance to main markets, lack of adequate market access opportunities for our exports where these exist, a high degree of vulnerability and, in some cases, low levels of production and productivity, insufficient supply of natural and human resources and low levels of competitiveness.
I am saying all of this to make the point that, granted that these economic indicators are factual; they do not represent a totally true or fair description of the realities of small island economies.
To discover this, one would have to dig deeper and seek more knowledge of what the realities of these economies are truly like.
As a consequence of our size and small populations, our economies are truly vulnerable and can experience negative growth from the impact of a simple storm in New York or London causing cancellations of flights from these cities and by extension, these countries.
Therefore, seeking out knowledge, asking questions and engaging realities is all part of your life quest for learning. You have now successfully completed the required course of study that will now enable you to continue your quest for knowledge and your ability to learn new ideas and approaches.
The Accelerated Adult ADVANTAGE, the 3A’s programme offered here by Mid-Continent University, is an excellent programme for many people living in small island economies like Antigua and Barbuda, with limited resources and limited opportunities to obtain higher education.
Those individuals who have decided to go to University at a late stage in life are truly gaining invaluable experiences that can only serve to better society and their enrollment underscores the point that education should be coterminous with the individual’s active human life.
Therefore, as experienced adult graduands you are now charged with the task of sharing your knowledge and insight gained for the glory of God and the good of your community and humanity.
As I conclude, I want to admonish you to
- Be good Christians and conscious citizens.
As the Bible reveals in Prov. 4:7 - "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding."
As citizens equipped with the tools and educational skills, be always willing to share and teach other less fortunate persons who are unable to access education and be always ready to learn new ideas.
- Be dedicated stewards of your community and nation and learn to share and cooperate for the benefit of all.
It was James Mason Wood who said…”Education today, more than ever before, must see clearly the dual objectives of Education for living and educating for making a living.”
- Be responsible citizens and strive to be role models of integrity and productivity;
- Be good communicators;
- Be peace-makers and always promote the benefits of good Christian values; and
- Be positive facilitators as you make a contribution in your respective fields of work and endeavour.
Dr. Imhoff, I want to also encourage you, the members of the board of directors, faculty and staff of the Mid-Continent University to continue your wonderful work in helping to shape the lives of those who come in contact with this educational institution and further afield.
I am taking this opportunity to seek your support in working with my government to establish a specially designed on line Accelerated Adult ADVANTAGE programme (3A’s) for government workers in my country and other territories in the Eastern Caribbean.
This initiative could be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology.
Through the creative and engaging education process advocated by Mid-Continent University, many young men and women are able to develop a desire to improve the lives of people and the promotion of collaborative action and partnership as important elements in contributing to their respective communities.
As Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean and indeed the world seek to deal with the inequalities of globalization and the global financial crisis, the need for us to build our capacities and foster more community and people centered strategies for change, is necessary now more than ever before.
It is for this reason that I am confident that Mid-Continent University, through its faith-based programmes can play a very significant role in helping to reshape and reorganize the destiny of the poor and marginalized of this world, to a more just and socially equitable way of living.
As students entering into new avenues, bringing to life your fields of expertise, ensure that you reflect the positive change that is needed in our communities – in other words “Lighting the Way” for change.
To you the Faculty and Staff and Board of Directors of Mid-Continent University, I thank you for extending this invitation to participate in this grand occasion.
With a humble heart, I thank you for the honour you have bestowed on me and by extension the nation and people of Antigua and Barbuda. Today will remain a memorable day in my life.
On behalf of my Government and People of Antigua and Barbuda, I thank you very much for being a trailblazer in Education and for the establishment of a relationship with my country that will grow from strength to strength. Thank you for your enthusiastic and positive approach to education as a life-long learning experience.
I pray that God will continue to bless and guide the members of the Board of Directors, faculty staff and students of Mid-Continent University in the provision of quality and relevant education for the social transformation of our communities and nations.
Congratulations to the Graduands and best wishes to all of you. You are now Mid-Continent and indeed I am now, Mid-Continent too.
May God Bless us all.