For those familiar with the epic The Hunger Games the word “tributes” in that context refers to the participants from the 12 Districts who must fight to death in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one individual remains. Thankfully, no such games which give sadistic pleasure to the elite in society form part of our existence.
Our tributes are those exceptional persons who have during their lifetimes made it their business to take their respective professions, vocations or callings to the next level. Collectively, they can be termed “tributes” in that their lives speak to personal sacrifices and struggles for the welfare of the State. There are numerous persons who have been ‘tributes’ as just defined whose works although not the subject of national profiles have inspired many to accomplish greatness.
By so doing, they have ensured that their living has not been in vain.
Each time a distinguished son or daughter of the soil dies, it gives us the opportunity to reflect upon his/her life and to ensure that we pay fitting homage as an acknowledgement of the contribution made to the positive development of our nation.
It is expected that the form or manner of adulation will vary according to the position(s) held by the individual and the overall impact the person had on the lives of others.
That over the last two years we have lost a number of outstanding men and women who some have aptly described as ‘irreplaceable figures’ means that there are significant voids that must be filled by fit, proper and suitable individuals to ensure that the legacies of our past heroes live on.
For some reason though, our society has never been one that focuses on passing the baton.
While praise is given to many who deserve commendation for their accomplishments, not enough is done to ensure that their achievements act as catalysts to create the environment for future generations to develop similar skills and expertise. The point is that many of our high achievers from all walks of life including academia, culture, sports and entertainment have been extraordinarily driven individuals who set the bar at a high level in order to leave noteworthy legacies.
The golden thread that runs through most, if not all of our local heroes is that they came from humble beginnings and rose to greatness by dint of their hard work, dedication and a great sense of duty.
Undoubtedly, they must have had persons in their lives giving them the requisite advice and guidance to fulfil their potential and develop their natural skills.
Some would argue that these achievers were successful primarily because they happened to be in the right place at the right time and were fortunate enough to get the breaks needed to showcase their talents. But I disagree. While the existence of an opportunity to step into the ring or take centre stage is an important factor, these individuals had what it took to make themselves shine when the time came.
Whenever a person achieves distinction in his/her particular field, placing our country on the map, there is usually a debate on what would be an appropriate gift to celebrate the particular success. There is never national consensus on the matter as factions argue either too much or too little has been bestowed upon the achiever. There is usually agreement however on the fact that the person ought to be recognised for his/her accomplishment.
Perhaps the time has come for us to have some sort of template or guidelines for the type of award given to those who perform at the top of their game.
It has been suggested that young achievers ought to be given incentives to encourage further success in their vocations or projects. Having been placed on the national radar, it is important to ensure that these young persons keep on the right track, build on their strengths and are not, as sung by the late Michael Jackson “like a comet — gone too soon.” And that remains an area of concern — the ability to provide an environment that enables these young exemplars to rise to higher heights.
Our history is replete with examples of young men and women who rose to national and international stardom and unfortunately, because of a lack of proper support and guidance, went off track or never fulfilled their potential. This is the reason for emphasis being placed on a tracking system that monitors persons who have excelled in order to ensure that they are provided with the necessary support to continue their work. When such persons show signs of going astray, support measures can be implemented to keep them in line for achieving their objectives.
Such is the importance of having proper mentoring programmes in place so that these young achievers remain role models and not promoters of bad behaviour. It is time for us to have a national discussion on providing the ideal environment to nurture and promote our tributes so that we are in steady supply of local heroes.
—Gillian Lucky is an attorney-at-law and presenter of the television programme Just Gill.