Thank you, Mrs. Marguerita Hall for such a warm Fortisian welcome. Your words of reference this afternoon will remain with me and my wife, Dr. Patricia Miller-Spencer for years. It is great to be the keynote speaker at my alma mater, on behalf of all KC alumni in the world, I want to congratulate you all on your tremendous achievement.
I met Mrs. Hall in May of 2012 during the KC Chapel Choir tour of Washington, DC. I knew her husband Hector for some 20+ years, and we worked tirelessly to make that trip a success. Mrs. Hall demonstrated her high level of commitment to her husband and his alma mater.
Our principal Mr. Myrie is such a gentle leader; a person born to groom and lead young men, our Fortis young men; his actions so remind me of our second headmaster – Doug Forrest. Mrs Myrie and he are such a great team – our school only benefits from their positive approach.
From last year 2013 to now, Mr. Myrie and his wife have been the first team of Kingston College.
This is my second time presenting to the graduating class at Kingston College. At the first one in 2007, the headmaster was my class mate Mr. Rupert Hemmings – I smiled to myself that I have been given a second opportunity to improve on my speech from seven years ago. A great tenor named Pavarotti reflected on his singing career. He said in the early years when he performed in the USA – he was applauded only once after each performance. But in Italy, he got so many encores- later on he was informed of the reason –his hometown community of people wanted him to get the notes right, that they kept applauding for him to return to the stage; so he could get the notes right; Thank you KC – I pray that some of my experiences will have an impact today.
- Please take a moment and applaud our leaders of the school.
- Let me congratulate the special awardees.
Before I start, let me make a certain point, only 12% of a speech is recalled a hour later. As time goes by the retention rate diminishes. Therefore, I give each of you this opportunity to applaud now at the beginning of the speech so you can say I had 100% attention. Don’t be shy- applaud. One of our famous ministers of Government made this pact with his audience before each speech he made. Won’t call any names, but you can. Applaud the gentleman for his courageousness.
I am an action oriented type person like Batman, not a speech maker or writer, so pay close attention. I got so nervous in preparing today’s speech – I recalled what I did in my earlier days in calming myself down. During my younger days – I would play football before preparing a final paper, but since a few decades have passed since school days – I turned to a less physical process. So I got the vacuum cleaner – vacuumed the entire office – drove to my wife’s office area on Friday, emptied every garbage pail in my office to get the writing juices started.
As I migrate to my personal points I will be making today. Let me first say that I am totally humbled by the committee and Mr. Myrie for selecting my wife and myself to be your special guests this afternoon. We deeply and I say deeply know that others could have been easily chosen to spend the afternoon here; we are grateful for the invitation and honoured.
I dedicate today’s speech to my parents Egbert and Gwen Omphroy Spencer, my wife Dr. Patricia Miller-Spencer, my brother Wayne Spencer, Mr. Dave Myrie and Mr. Audley Hewett, Mr. Douglas Forrest. Other persons are in my thoughts – you know who you are, but time does not allow for personal recognition at this time. I also take this opportunity to acknowledge Dr. Patrick Dallas and Mr. Maurice Weir who have graciously hosted us these past 24 hours.
I also acknowledge Mr. Alton Brown, Treasurer of The New York Chapter of the KCOBA.
I will use my remaining time to illustrate how persons you may know of use the opportunities presented to them.
Mr. Douglas Forrest – his attitude of giving opportunities and teaching a lesson of forgiveness- he always found a way to unleash your best qualities. If you were, bright, a troublemaker or a middle of the road type of person, Dougs found a role for you in the school. He inspired one to get involved in some aspect of the school life. He strongly believed that you should complete school. You should not cut your opportunities short.
Speak on not giving up: Tom Brady of the New England Patriots: Drafted 6th in the NFL draft as a rookie. That is a very low position, but Mr. Brady today is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the National Football League winning a few Super bowls plus MVP awards. On the day after the draft, he told the owner of the Patriots “ You made the greatest decision today drafting me (was Tom confident of his skills and ability?), knowing that he was going to succeed, because you normally don’t last in the NFL with such a low draft pick.
Mr. Luther Winn of Greentrack Casino Style Gaming in Alabama as a young man was one of the marchers in the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march. He was a part time security guard working two jobs to sustain his family. He got fired from his full time job because he stood up for his principles. His former employer for the part time job heard that he lost the job that kept food on his table hired him at his old salary plus the part time salary. A few years later, he was given the opportunity to become President of the Greentrack Casino. Mr. Winn at age 64 is now one of the richest men and African American in the USA. Just last week he asked me to partner with his bidding team to apply for permission to build a US$200,000,000 casino in the City of Newburgh, NY.
My mom Mrs. Gwendolyn Omphroy-Spencer OD who revolutionized the Jamaican Midwifes. And someone named Egbert Spencer on kindness: helping our fellow man.
Kingston College Trust Fund:
The class of 2014 can become the special class of Kingston College period. I challenge the class to commit J$1000 per class member for the KC trust fund for five years. The fund would have grown by $2.5 mil over those five years. Your class would be the first class to collectively grow the fund. The board of directors after five years may have to rename the fund “ The Kingston College class of 2014 Trust Fund” since you would be the first graduating class to show such a commitment. You see, I believe in the Trust fund, since it is the bedrock of KC’s future. You as a group can show and demonstrate this leadership quality that will change the future of KC. That is request #1. I just have a few more.
Request #2. None of our alumni have become the Governor General or Prime Minister of a country yet. None of us have been elected to congress in the USA so far. Hon Nick Perry is our first NY State Assemblyman, and I am our first county legislator. We both attempted to gain higher office, but the will of God said “no.” So, make a pact, a commitment to go for one of the high offices in the land.
Don’t limit yourselves. Take it from me as one of your colleagues, the most gregarious among us are far more insecure than we would ever admit. We all go through life bristling at our external limitations, but the most difficult chains to break are inside us.
Request #3. After five years have elapsed come back and report to your favorite teacher and Mr. Myrie your successful journey. The teachers like to hear the stories. There is some pride stored in their treasure chest. It gives each of them encouragement.
My name maybe forgotten tomorrow as your graduation speaker, but one name that will not be forgotten in time is that of Nelson Mandela. Nelson said:
“Our worse fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”
My legacy is from my great grandmother a 1st generation descendant from slavery, my grandfather, the first black sergeant in the Jamaica constabulary, and the first Jamaican to open a book store even before Sangster’s Book store. My mother who has such a drive that nothing can stop her. My mother demanded equality for the Jamaican woman and the Jamaican midwife, no apologies. My wife, one of the first women of color to be an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon in the USA. My son Leighton, one of the first Jamaican athletes to run the 10,000M and 5000M at an International track meet, and my daughter who was named the best athlete to have competed at her high school in its history male or female.
In closing, this is the special graduating class or Kingston College, your class is the start of the renaissance of the alumni of the great institution Kingston College. The world awaits your every step. Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, one large step for mankind. You have taken one small step to receive your diploma today. Your large steps made tomorrow will have an indelible link to your family lives and that of our institution.
Congratulations, Class of 2014. Go out and show us you are FORTIS Forever.
The speech was delivered on June 22nd, 2014