It is certainly a pleasure to accept your invitation to address you on this very special occasion. Since taking up the post of headmaster at Kingston College, I have been cheered by the support that has been extended to me. I also greatly appreciate the prayers that have gone up on my behalf. Without this, my task would be nigh on impossible. I therefore crave your continued prayers and support.
(Let me also extend my congratulations to our honourees and let me assure you that your commitment and devotion to KC has not gone unnoticed).
As I thought about the past years and our recent 50th anniversary celebration at Penn Relays, the thought came to me that the overall theme that needs to guide us is: “celebrating the past, cherishing the present and claiming the future.”
I want to thank you, the New York Chapter, for your unwavering commitment to your core values of being an advocate and reliable resource of financial and material aid to Kingston College. Through your initiatives we have been able to address areas such as student welfare, academics and our extra-curricular programs. Additionally your general support for the various projects being undertaken at the School is greatly appreciated by the staff and students of the school. This wonderful trend that you have engaged in for the past twenty plus a year is as important to the School now as it was when you started. I implore you to continue to give your support as your school and the future of many Fortis depends on this.
An ancient roman poet by the name of Virgil once said “they can because they think they can”. He went on to say “they succeed because they think they can”. It is said that the past informs the present and sets a base on which the present and the future are built. Very soon we will be Celebrating our ninetieth anniversary and in celebrating this milestone we have to recognize and pay homage to the work of the stalwarts of the past – visionaries who answered the call that was laid on their heart, worked hard and succeeded. Included in this list are our honourees here tonight.
We are here today because a man by the name of Percival William Gibson believed that he could tackle Jamaica’s problems through systematic application of all the academic disciplines. Hence the founding of Kingston College, a school geared to provide boys (who would otherwise not have access to schools such as KC) with a quality education. Bishop’s unwavering focus on manners, appearance, discipline and hard work is a part of the legacy we have all inherited or experienced.
Therefore, may I suggest that as we celebrate tonight, you reflect on the rich legacy of the past and that you be mindful that it is our past that causes the present, and so our future.
However, let us be mindful that as a school and Old Boys association we should not and cannot celebrate our past achievements or cherish our present situation to the point that we sit paralyzed and give the impression that we have done enough and all we now have to do is await our reward. Our written past tells us who we were and defines us as to who we are now. It is what we do today that will take us into the future.
It is good to know our roots. You see, It is from the roots that the plant draws it substance for the leaves to grow to fullness. But the greatness that is Kingston College will not continue with us because we can “Remember when….” It will continue only if we keep alive the burning desire to succeed and achieve excellence; to be part of a family and to give of ourselves and be dedicated to the principle of each one help one. This is the legacy that we also need to pass to the next generation.
We are expected to do everything that we can in this present within which we are engaged and of which we are a part. This is what Bishop did; He was not content to stay in his comfort zone or focus on himself. He was engaged in and focused on serious outreach work, work that would impact the nation and the world. It is because of this focus and seriousness of purpose why we have the School and old boy’s movement we have today. We must ensure that those coming after us will echo similar sentiments or will say the same of us.
Cherishing the present is a call to ACTION; a call to DUTY; a call to SERVICE.
James Allen a famous philosopher states: In all human affairs there are efforts and there are results and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result. The task of educating our young men to ensure that they become functional citizens of this country and positive contributors requires great effort from all of us as stakeholders. I see this process as a tripartite union/initiative between the school, parents, and the old boys of the school – a powerful force for change.
You who have been through the process have learned that excellence is not a single act, but a continuous striving toward a way of being, a way that demands that we give our best at all times, and one borne from an understanding that output generally reflects the quality of the input.
I wish to suggest to you that it was the legacy into which you had entered Kingston College and that environment in which you were nurtured that helped in a real way to secure your future. Many times I reflect and ask myself what is it that made KC the success story that it has become and is. The answer is simply this. Those who helped to shape our future recognised the importance and dignity of the human person and gave each student the opportunity to maximise his potential. Therefore functions such as these are also timely opportunities for all of us to reflect on the legacy left by others, and how succeeding generations can make that legacy bigger and better.
In this regard we must never forget the philosophy which gave the school its genesis. KC was conceived in order to provide quality secondary education for dispossessed boys who could not afford a secondary education at that time. The feeling then was that if Jamaica was to become a prosperous nation then there was the dire need provide quality education for our males. Many of you here tonight are beneficiaries of that vision.
Former headmaster Wally Johnson noted that the KC boy of the fifties was no different from the KC boy of this present generation. I would like to suggest that if Jamaica is to move forward education remains the best means of transforming our male species into men of honesty and integrity who will provide the dynamic leadership that Jamaica desperately needs. Since 1925 there has been no other high school for boys and so those who enter our hallowed halls today are benefitting because of Priest’s vision then.
Kingston College remains convinced that we are morally bound to provide quality education for our boys because it is they who will save Jamaica and if we are successful in achieving this mandate then there will be no reason to worry about our future.
Providing a quality education, however calls for more than talk, providing a quality education is a call to action for all stakeholders of Kingston College. My vision for the school can be summed up in these three words, “excellence for all.” It is the duty of all the stakeholders, primarily the school, to ensure that every student achieves to his potential. However, to achieve this calls for a radical rethinking of our approach to the organisation and delivery of education. It requires a cultural shift, which is the most difficult shift to make. This shift however will be made and is being made as we seek to salvage our young men and our communities.
It is without doubt that the role of the old boys’ association is vital in the cultural shift, on which we have embarked. The role of the old boy’s association is more than raising funds for the school and providing much needed resources. It should also be a catalyst for change within the life of the school.
Often times we talk about the tradition and heritage of the school. However, what does that mean for an 11, 12 or 13-year-old pupil within the school? Do they understand what we are talking about? Therefore in order to bridge this gap, I will be seeking to expand the mentorship programme and link an old boy to each class across the school. In this way we will not only be bringing the living and breathing tradition within their reach, but will also be hopefully providing good male role models for our youngsters to look up to and emulate.
Frank Lloyd Wright (architect, interior designer, writer and educator) once said “the thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen. We are resolute in our belief that our students are capable of much more; we are resolute in our belief that our students are destined for greatness; and we are resolute in our belief that with focused planning we can continue the vision of Bishop. Our destiny is in our hands; and we are resolute in our belief that Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved."
Our Development Plan for the next five years is built on six pillars aimed at providing the quality education that can produce the calibre of student who can assert himself and function effectively in his society.
. These pillars are:
- Infrastructural/physical development – To create a conducive teaching and learning environment.
- Improved management of the educational process with focus on Quality and Standard of Teaching;
- Improved behaviour and behaviour management – school wide;
- Improved academic performance particularly at the CXC level
- Engender a One School Culture/Ethos;
- improved levels of financial contributions to the school to sustain ongoing developments
We have now completed 18 months of our development plan and we are making inroads.
Significant in the next phase of our development is the completion of the Douglas Forrest Building which will see an increase in laboratory space for science subjects, as well as an expansion in our information and communication technology capabilities. This initiative will also see the implementation of needed and appropriate library facilities befitting of a school of the calibre of Kingston College - We need your support, (everybodys’ support) for this.
I cannot in this forum provide you with all of the significant changes that are taking place (some of which are outlined in the your magazine) so feel welcome to visit the College for a closer look and to experience first-hand the winds of change blowing throughout the school. There is a buzz of excitement and an expectant hope that says, yes the school is moving forward.
It is said that there are “seasons” in the life of any movement or organization. There is the springtime and the greening of supple youth; then rapid growth, to be followed by the summer of passion and fire, to be succeeded by the autumn of wisdom and maturity which is often followed (after a time) by either the winter of a gnarled old age, accompanied by a crippling paralysis, or a rebirth. I can safely say that Kingston College is definitely in rebirth mode.
The tasks ahead and challenges we face are many and everywhere we look, there is work to be done. But again the words of Frank Lloyd Wright reverberate around us: “the thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen”. So in spite of how formidable the task ahead seems we are convinced in our belief that they are not insurmountable. The Fortis spirit summons us never to lose hope or yield because our objectives are achievable.
Ladies and gentlemen, the process of creating better schools is hard work. There is no progress without struggle. As we undertake this struggle together, I borrow the words of Langston Hughes (a poet and social activist) to describe our collective quest to build a better future for our students, country and our world: “Keep your hand on the plow, Hold on.”
We look to the New York chapter for leadership and for your continued support as we strive to create a better school and to continue the legacy of Bishop Gibson; the legacy that is Kingston College.
“Celebrating the past, cherishing the present and claiming the future.”
Fortis then, Fortis now, and Fortis Forever.