One’s future is shaped by one’s character, heart, vision and sense of sacrifice to achieve an objective, and newly appointed United States Ambassador John L. Estrada, exemplifies that motif of life by which one should strive to live. Having very humble beginnings in Trinidad and Tobago, he has risen to overcome the challenges the hand in life had dealt him, to become the highest enlisted rank in the US Marie Corps and now the US Ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
These were among the welcoming words spoken by His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona ORTT, SC President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to Ambassador Estrada when he received Ambassador Estrada’s Letters of Credence on April 19, 2016 at the Office of The President, Circular Road, St Ann’s.
His Excellency John L Estrada, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America who was born in Trinidad migrated to the US as a teenager. There he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and subsequently rose to the highest rank in the history of the Corps, the 15th Sergeant Major. The Ambassador was accompanied by wife, Dr Elizabeth Anne Cote Estrada; his aunt Ms Sheila Andrews and Deputy Chief of Mission US Embassy, Ms Margaret B. Diop.
As both men officially greeted each other for the first time, President Carmona teasingly described Ambassador Estrada as a prodigal son but not in terms of delinquency given his many accomplishments since leaving his country of birth but as a truly successful son of the soil, which makes him an inspiration to all in Trinidad and Tobago
President Carmona went on to say that the presence of Ambassador Estrada characterises in a real way what is possible in life notwithstanding one’s place of origin. The individual you are, or, current economic standing has nothing to do with where you can reach. It is one’s character, heart, vision and sense of sacrifice to achieve an objective that shapes your future.
The now familiar sight, of students from various colleges, during the presenting credentials was no surprise to Ambassador Estrada as President Carmona explained that their presence was an initiative he began since his inauguration and it was, aimed among other things, at bridging the disconnect between the young citizenry and governance.
President Carmona explained as a youth growing up in a rural part of the country, he never saw or met anyone of importance. It seemed the world was a distance place and there was a definite feeling of disconnect between what he did and governance.
His Excellency went on to say that he concluded one way of arresting such a situation was to ensure it does not happened to anyone else. As such, young people are brought to the Office of the President from all parts of the country including Tobago and even from the School for the Deaf to witness the ceremony. They are even given the opportunity to engage the officials present with questions.
He reasoned through their presence, the students have an opportunity to experience governance first hand thereby allowing them to understand the need to become global villagers because, regardless of where in the world an event occurs, it affects the entire world in one way or the other.
The presence of students from the School for the Deaf President Carmona explained was due to the fact that he is firm believer of inclusivity and no one should be left out due to being differently abled. Using a Biblical analogy, His Excellency said when Christ walked the earth; he did so with all manner of man. No one was excluded.
Ambassador Estrada recounted some fond memories of his childhood in Trinidad before migrating to the US at age 14. Being fascinated by war movies he saw while living Diego Martin, Trinidad, upon his migration, the US Marines Corps was an option that immediately attracted his attention.
He went on to tell the students that they remind him of how lucky he was at their age to be given an opportunity to succeed and hoped that the students will embraced every opportunity presented to them to succeed. He recalled that in the Marines everyone is considered to be a leader and similarly every student present is a leader.” The Ambassador urged the students to fulfil their role as leaders. Some he noted will try to discourage you from attaining your goal but face them with courage and conviction and inspired them by always doing what is right.
Ambassador Estrada said that when asked what is so great about the United States his response is that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, religion, social stature, origin or physical ability, deserves and has the right to be treated with respect and to be included as one. He crystalized his point by first using himself as an example – an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago given the opportunity to become the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, an institution that is older than the country itself, and then, an African American can become President of the United States of America, speaks volumes.
He further stated President Obama’s commitment to education has been the driving force to his success, and believes the same is possible here, echoing that “education is the foundation of opportunities for you and your country to prosper economically and remain free. Do the right thing, even when no one is watching you or when it’s unpopular,” encouraged Ambassador Estrada.
The students were then given an opportunity to ask questions and questions ranged from how one will maintain focus in an environment with severe negativity, ways to stem gun proliferation and staying on the right path with some many distractions. One question that stood out was in the form of a request made by Mary Kate Montano, a student of the Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf in San Fernando, who wanted to know if the Ambassador can assist in obtaining a means of transport for her school that would the students to get to school as many miss school days due to transportation problems.
The students invited were from the following schools:
|Ms Diedre Richardson||Success Laventille Secondary School – Teacher|
|Maya James||Success Laventille Secondary School|
|Dave Lyons||Success Laventille Secondary School|
|Ms Leean Copeland||Diego Martin Central Secondary School – Teacher|
|Keva Clarke||Diego Martin Central Secondary School|
|Patrice De Freitas||Diego Martin Central Secondary School|
|Ms Summer Warner-Samuel||Tableland High School – Teacher|
|Chantelle Thomas||Tableland High School|
|Terry Guerra||Tableland High School|
|Dr Paulson Skerrit||Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf – Teacher|
|Terique Rougier||Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf|
|Mary-Kate Montano||Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf|
|Ms Jennelle Moore||Tobago Students Chaperone|
|Shadae’ Daniel||Signal Hill Secondary School|
|Kyle Brathwaite||Pentecostal Light and Life Foundation|
|Mr Pradeep Mathura||SWAHA Hindu College – Teacher|
|Talesha Sukul||SWAHA Hindu College|
|Narvind Kissoon||SWAHA Hindu College|