Reigning Power Soca Monarch and Road March King Machel Montano put his music aside to deliver what was described as a “brilliant”, “insightful”, “heartfelt” and “inspiring” address to hundreds of Caribbean students at Miami Dade College, North Campus in Florida, USA, on Saturday.
Montano appeared as the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the 40th conference on leadership, hosted by the Florida Caribbean Students Association (FCSA). The event featured testimonials from students, panellists, entrepreneurs and even a member of the US Congress, before Montano took the podium and shared his life story and advice with the attentive assembly.
After observing all protocols and recognising his former schoolmate, Dr Anil Ramnanan, Trinidad and Tobago consul general in Miami, Florida, and event coordinator and FCSA adviser Marlon Hill in the audience, Montano began his 40-minute address by sharing his own personal story of struggle and triumph at birth.
Beginning with the experience of being born dead for six minutes, Montano then recounted the facts of his entry into music and entertainment, the obstacles he faced, choices made by his mother and his subsequent rise to stardom.
Montano advised the assembly to “lead by example” and “unite the Caribbean”, whilst sharing our “greatest gift to the world”.
“I was born in Trinidad, but I moved to Jamaica when I was just two years old and I consider myself a Caribbean man…We are one by history, by blood, sweat and tears. I want you to nurture this hope—manage the Caribbean with good parenting. You may not have a mother and father, but try to be a mother or a father to somebody, try to share somebody’s mother or father—there’s enough to go around. Be great thinkers, be skilful managers, be noble, be humble and be inspirational leaders...and to be a leader you have to be a visionary, you have to be compassionate and you have to have integrity.
“I want you all to reject the notion that your government or head of state is your leader—every member of society must be groomed to lead. To lead is to dream, to plan, to implement, execute and then you have to get others to buy in and follow…on Instagram…”
Ramnanan also endorsed the work of the FCSA and saluted Montano’s call for regional unity among the next generation.
“Having been involved in student government for many years at The University of the West Indies, we feel a deep passion toward students and we’re always very happy to support our brothers and sisters from the Caribbean. But what has me ecstatic today, no pun intended, is the presence of Machel Montano and his powerful address this morning.
“He went deep into his lifestyle to explain to this very diverse audience the meaning of true unity and Caribbean unity and where it can take us in years to come. I think he did a wonderful job and it speaks also of the vision of the FCSA to have him as the keynote speaker here today, at a time when we are witnessing the rise and influence of the Caribbean in various facets of business and entertainment throughout the world.”
Buoyed by the demands of the crowd, Montano then ended his address with a brief and impromptu performance of his 2014 hit, “Happiest Man Alive”, before he was presented with an award of appreciation from two junior members of the FCSA.
Miami Dade College has the largest student population of Caribbean descent in the United States with more than 20,000 enrolled annually.