Address by their Excellencies on the occasion of Father’s Day 2016

My dear citizens of Trinidad & Tobago, good evening. My wife and I are humbled to come into your sanctuary, your very home, as we celebrate and honour our fathers and father-figures on Father’s Day. In this year’s Mother’s Day message, we paid homage to all the mothers of Trinidad and Tobago who sacrifice daily for their families, and we spoke of the need for broken mother-child relationships to end and mend

Today, we commend those wonderful fathers and similarly, we do hope that Father’s Day and this message will be a balm for those fractured father-child relationships.
Fathers, do not underestimate your game-changing role in moulding strong, stable families and happy, responsible children.

A father’s traditional role has been that of provider in the household. In these challenging times however, both mother and father are out working to make ends meet and there are even fathers who are also stay-at-home dads. It is therefore important that as fathers, we recognise the powerful utility and value of our presence- emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and financially- in a loving and secure home environment.

The impact and influence of the matriarch, in the home is waning. We men, must step up to the plate to support, at home, the working mother, and assume more responsibilities than we have shouldered in the past, in running the household.
There is a type of emotional love, care and wisdom that only a father can impart to a child. Perhaps, it has to do with how children associate their fathers with superhero status, believing that he will protect them from every adversity at all times; perhaps it has to do with the psychological and emotional needs of the child in requiring the joint efforts and input of both mom and dad in raising them; possibly it has to do with something more innate, rooted in the very core of our souls as men- to aspire to provide the very best for our families.

The stark reality is simply this- the road to a child’s success can be a bumpy one and as fathers, we must always be there to guide our children along that road, because if we don’t, who will?

First Lady:
Children need their fathers in their lives as much as they need their mothers. We are proud parents of two wonderful children and I am fortunate and grateful that the responsibility, and joy, of raising our children has been a shared experience between His Excellency and me.

At the end of the day, a child will be better off because of the love, input and inspirational involvement of both parents in his or her life.

Fathers, simply providing for the financial needs of your family is not enough.  Fathers truly enrich their families by leading by example, in the home, in their jobs and in their general attitude, interactions and disposition.  I salute you fathers, today, who lead by example, to continue to be positive role models, not only for your own children, but for your communities at large.

I remember as a little girl growing up in deep South Trinidad- and while indeed, my father was one of my greatest role models and heroes- there was always a priest, a pundit, an imam or a male school teacher in the village who all the little boys and girls would regard and respect as men of honour, standard and integrity. They were great father-figures, who influenced their communities in a positive way.

The author, Clarence Budington Kelland said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived, and let me watch him do it.”  One of the greatest gifts any parent, father or mother, can ever provide to his or her child is to live a life worth emulating; to lead by example; to be an inspiration.

Sometimes, as parents, what is required of us by our children is the simple eloquence of our example. Yes, as the old people say, “Monkey see, Monkey do.”

Fathers of Trinidad and Tobago, be your children’s heroes, or even, their superheroes; and when that is done, be decent, kind and towering pillars of strength and respect for your nieces, nephews, for the community’s children and even, for the child who may be a stranger to you, but who may be in dire need of a father-figure to look up to.
To the men of our Republic who make it their duty to be good, solid role models and mentors- you can be the difference between a child, on the verge of failure and dysfunction in life, and that same child, who sees in your example, the inspiration and confidence, not to give up- be it at school, sports, swimming or football; even on dreams and indeed, on life itself.

Equally, if you are a delinquent or absent father, your child may well be, or grow up to be, a product of your actions or inactions in his or her life. It is a fact that often, a good child is the collective reflection of a stable, holistic environment.

His Excellency:

Hundreds of children have been coming to the Office of the President as my guests, from pre-school to university, and I have been stumped by what some pre-school and primary school students ask of me. It is emotional as well as hurtful. They ask, “Can you be my daddy?’ It is a reflection of an emotional void in their lives that daddy is not being daddy, or that daddy is simply not around. If you are that kind of daddy, you must do something about it and become the daddy your child wants you to be.

As Prosecutor and Judge in the Criminal Courts of Trinidad and Tobago, I have come across many a man-child standing in the dock charged, often the result of fatherly neglect.

They were generally between the ages of 17-30. They were from broken homes, battered and beaten down by life, by poverty, by having to be the man of the house at too early an age and to provide food and money for their mother and siblings, because there was simply no father or reliable father-figure in their homes or lives.

Circumstances can force a young man, to be influenced by bad company, be tempted by quick, easy money, become part of a gang, ending up in jail and then his own child is left fatherless and wanting; and a vicious cycle of man’s inhumanity to man becomes a relay race with no end.

We fathers can stop that cycle of dysfunction in Trinidad and Tobago by simply being there for our children at all times. The man-child in crisis is salvageable, and very often he needs the support of those who love him or those who know better.

I live in eternal hope because as a former Criminal Judge, I initiated the Bail Boys Project, a programme working to take young criminals off the street, empowering them to become law abiding citizens. There is no quick fix but a potent solution is the power that a father can wield with disciplined love.
The American author, Frederick Douglas, stated, “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.” Think about it. Consider how many less broken and damaged men we would have among us, if we all did our part in building strong children from inception. In our daily lives therefore, and from one father to the many fathers of this Nation- build your children up; fortify them in a way so that they can become exemplary adults of this Republic.

Fathers, teach your sons to be respectful and kind to women, and do so first of all, by your example and conduct at home. In Trinidad and Tobago, we are plagued by a culture that thrives on denigrating and belittling women and this must stop. You don’t have to be a bully to be a strong man, and we must teach our sons, by example, how to treat wives, girlfriends and partners. A man is no less a man because he is a gentleman.

First Lady:

On this Father’s Day, fathers, reflect on the role you are playing, or not playing, in your children’s lives. If you are absent or barely present in your child’s life- just clean up your act and get involved in your child’s life; be supportive, be visible; be active.
In 2014, when Malala Yousafzai received her Nobel Peace Prize, she said of her father, “I am thankful to my father for not clipping my wings and for letting me fly.” To every father of Trinidad and Tobago, when the time comes and your children speak of your legacy in their lives, let it be that they are thankful because you did right by them as a father, as a provider, as a supporter of their goals and aspirations.

Fathers, let your children fly and soar and reach for higher heights in their own lives, so that they in turn, can become better human beings, better citizens, better men and women and of course, better parents.

His Excellency:

That is the gift my now 90 year old father gave to me- to fly and soar, with dignity, respect, humility and compassion- and that is the gift I will pass onto my children and hopefully, they to their children’s children.

My fellow citizens, that is the cycle and legacy of love and humanity that we must seek to engender in every child and in every man and woman in this Republic.

On behalf of our entire family, including our children, Christian and Anura, we celebrate, we honour and we salute all the fathers of Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, let’s make a big deal out of Father’s Day because our fathers are our kings and leaders, in their own right, and importantly, in their own homes. Fathers, you are special, revered and truly appreciated.

Have a wonderful, joyous and blessed Father’s Day.

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