The Audacity of Hope in T&T

By Derren Joseph
November 09, 2008

Trini PeopleOsei is one of my best friends. He is a Trinbagonian, who resides in the UK. Osei visited Trinidad last week. I had not seen him since I moved back to Trinidad last year. As the ole talk went on, we started comparing living in Trinbago to living in Europe or North America.

At one time, I remember hearing about many people who wanted to migrate and live elsewhere. Within recent time, however, I have been seeing the opposite. So many Trinbagonians we know on the outside are considering repatriation to Trinidad and Tobago.

I shared what I picked up in a report called “Brain Waste: 1 in 5 College-Educated Immigrants in U.S. Labor Market Stuck in Unskilled Jobs or Unemployed.” The report from the Migration Policy Institute spoke about the more than 1.3 million college-educated immigrants living in the United States who are either unemployed or working as taxi drivers, dishwashers, security guards or in other unskilled jobs.

This is simply because they are unable to make full use of their academic and professional credentials. As a result, many highly skilled immigrants experience a sharp drop in occupational status upon first moving to the United States.

As one would imagine however, highly skilled immigrants with U.S. college degrees or U.S. work experience prior to permanent settlement do fare far better than their peers with foreign-obtained degrees or no U.S. work experience. Interesting report!

Now add to that, the economic challenges facing North American and European economies. It really is not that easy out there. That’s for sure!

But for many Trinagonians, it is not just about returning to take advantage of the job and business opportunities created by a relatively buoyant economy. Nor is it just about enjoying the quality of life offered by the warm weather or proximity to old friends and family. Many of us are also motivated by a desire to positively contribute to our twin island republic. I tell everyone I can, including my good friend Osei – if there ever was a time to move back to Trinidad and Tobago – it is now!

At the same time, staying positive may sometimes seem to be a daunting task. Every day we pick up the papers (or log-on as those who live outside often do), we get bombarded by the things that are not going so well.

Now that is what makes the results of the American election so encouraging. It was a campaign fought and won on hope. While acknowledging the many challenges facing his country, President-elect Obama called on his countrymen to believe in a better tomorrow.

He succeeded in making people feel good – rather than feeling scared.

For me President-elect Obama’s campaign started way back in his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. He famously said:

“In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!”

And here we are – just a heartbeat away from 2009. The year 2020 is not as far away as we think. Perhaps we in Trinidad and Tobago could embrace a message of hope as well? Not that we completely ignore what is not going well, mind you. But we hope for, focus on and work towards a future where we enjoy –

– A more caring society;
– More competitive businesses;
– Having more innovative people;
– A sound infrastructure and environment; and
– A more effective government.

Despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in Trinidad and Tobago. Let us have the audacity of hope in our country…

20 thoughts on “The Audacity of Hope in T&T”

  1. Whats good my friends? I completely agree with you. I am a Trinbagonian, who will be returning to my home after 33 years living in the USA., I just voted for change by electing Mr. Obama, and i look forward to taking my place in helping develop a new Caribbean, via a new trinidad and tobago. The Audacity of HOPE in T&T is my new mantra. Any Caribbean repatriates, who wish to contact me, maybe we can facilitate change as individuals and a group. ierelove.

  2. This article appears to be intellectually dishonest. The subtext within this article is glaring, and it appears to have the handwritings of the PNM all over it. In a regressive political culture, with Manning and Panday being the head of each political party respectively at least until 2020, how can most of us be hopeful? Would Americans be as hopeful if Bush had the authority to single handedly rewrite the American Constitution, and there were no term limits for certain elected officials? Our country can move forward and be hopeful only when there is new leadership in both the UNC and the PNM. New leadership that brings new ideas can only be guaranteed with term limits, which could produce meaningful change. Until then, any talk of hope is just a cruel illusion.

  3. Unfortunately the audacity of hope requires an audacious leader to lead the people into a brighter future. America has been exceptionally lucky to find such a leader at their darkest hour. Who will do the same for Trinidad and Tobago? Not our current crop of leaders I fear. We desperately need our own Barack Obama to rise up and srticulate the aspirations of the country. Now more than ever we need someone to make us believe, “Yes we can!” It is left to be seen if such a person exists.

  4. Realistically the idea of repatriating to T&T has its pros and cons. But that being said I have been living and working in the US for alomst 20 years and received my university education here and truly would like to return home, I agree that T&T needs a change in who is at the helm of both the government and the opposition in order for us to realize change. The things that are weighing heavily on my decision to return is crime and healthcare, if the PM of any nation decides to fly to Cuba each time he/she needs treatment then what are citizens to think of their own ability to access proper health services. Do we as citizens well-to-do or not have to live in virtual prisons and hire security to escort our children to school, please understand that it is not only a government who has to tackle crime but it is the citizens themselves who must decide to change the way they do things to finally reduce the crime rate. I do hope I can return home within the next year or so (if my wife agrees)and that we as Trinbagoians can change.

  5. Obama is charismatic,physically attractive,neutrally racial,willing to compromise, tolerant,insightful, humble,task oriented ,and has a vision for the future.He conducts himself in a manner characterised by a total lack of arrogance.
    Is there such a leader in T&T?

  6. Dr.Santiago, Trinbagonians will change when intelligence becomes top priority to the nation. The negative thinking, racial divide promoted by the leaders and the poor judgement of this current administration leaves nothing to be desired. We have a prime minister who’s only agenda is his personal and financial agenda. He is working feverishly to punish the business sector in the country, he is refusing to introduce laws that will protect the citizens from the undesireables, he is trying to muzzle the media and he is leaving our youth’s without a prayer. Manning thrives on hate, murder and mayhem; his supporters keep him in power because they are untouchable when under his wing. Take a good look at those who resided outside the country for years and return home only to get kidnapped, murdered, raped and robbed. Guns and drugs are coming into our ports of legal and illegal entry and yet he is so DUMB that he can’t figure out what to do. My advice to you is keep your arse where you are if you would like to enjoy the fruits of your labour. It would be nice to repatriate to T&T till the end of our days, but chances are, the end of your days will come a lot sooner than later.

  7. Felix, my man, to say that” Manning thrives on hate ,murder and mayhem”, is not only irresponsible but utterly false!
    You claim that “things will change when intelligence becomes top priority to the nation”, but you, yourself shows no intelligence in your remarks.

  8. T- Man America over two centuries to find one, perhaps we too can evolve in the year 2214. Patience my friend, let the Trinidadian calaloo/ cosmopolitant experiment continue in sweet T&T as we open up our doors to forein immigrants in similar fashion to America, and you never know where that might lead.
    Felix should be commended for his honesty , as he is only articulating a view that many share both in and out of the country.
    Inform Dr. Santiago that returning home with your family to expose them to dsnger as you attempt to run the Ministry of Health is not his only option. The pimple face college kids, boring actors and entertainers , and businessmen that are doing wonders in Africa, Latin America and Asia , as they strive to make a difference via civil societies and foundations have no plans to live in any of these depraved countries in the global south. Let him begin by offering some advice to members of the Cancer society that are in need of advice to stay afloat.

  9. Hope is what keeps us going, and believing that the next day will be better than the day before. We need an inspirational leader like Obama.
    We need someone who can give back to Trinbagonians their security, their well-being, their comfort zone and their ability to walk and live free without fear of racial divide and persecution.
    Trinidad and Tobago is a blessed land with beautiful people, but again like George Bush, it is being destroyed by our corrupt leaders namely Manning and Panday. I would move back home in a heart beat but to live in fear for one’s safety is a sin. To not be able to sleep at night is wrong. Crime is a problem everywhere in this world and we can be victims at any moment in time but for a small country like T&T, it does not have to be so out-of-hand. Something is missing and here again we have leaders who are doing nothing for the citizens.
    History has shown where people have revolted at times like these.
    We need not only intelligence. We need a vision, motivation, commitment, integrity, empathy, and honesty.
    Does T&T have someone like that and or maybe in some ways somewhat like that.

  10. T-Man–
    When was the Last time you know of that the PM addressed the nation and publicly rebuked or debunked the criminal elements of the country? When was the last time the PM and his his disabled government attempted to draft new legislation that comforts the nation and threatens the murderers, robbers, thieves and rapists? It is clear that the PM’s interests lies elswhere and the fear and discomfort Trinbagonians live with day in day out seems to empower the PM. The attack on the media about comments that “he” is disturbed with drew him out of his corbeauxs nest to defend himself while leaving the citizens open to murder and mayhem. To say that he thrives on Murder and Mayhem may be an understatement, but then again, i’m sure where you are currently residing is free from the Manning affect.

  11. Felix, thanks so much for your insight into the situation, I have taken every and all things under consideration and have made no decision yet on going back to T&T. I keep up with the news media in T&T daily via newspaers and TV(internet TV) and I am fully aware of the current climate and honestly I too agree with you on most of what you mentioned with regard to the state of things, I will reserve comment on the PM and his own personal agenda and financial objective because I do not know what his salary is and other sources of income but I do believe he should should some of the blame for the way things a going after all he is at the helm. I would like to know what suggesstions you would offer to the PM if you were granted an audience with him tomorrow you seem to be very passionate about the issues and I feel you may have some sound knowledge on how to fix some of the problems. Felix, thanks again for your insight.

  12. I think the growing phenomenom of immigration from richer countries to poorer countries extends far beyond returning expats. Also I think that this trend will grow.

    The reasons are many and include ongoing changes in richer countries for government to be more intrusive as well as increasingly involved with policies that don’t have widespead support.

    The challenge for the poorer countries than could benefit from this inward immigration of resource-rich individuals and families is not to make the same mistakes as they develop.

  13. I agree that we do need hope…everyone needs hope, in every home, every city and every country. And no selfish, ego-maniacal, unthinking leader (whether from PNM, UNC-A,B or C, NAR, NJAC, or whomever else) will allow me to lose hope. I live in Trinidad not because I have to, but because I want to. It may sound airy-fairy, but I do hope that Trinidad changes into a real developed nation – full of nice, tall, shiny buildings,yes – but also of intelligent, charismatic, kind people to inhabit them. And I want to and am proud to help contribute to that.

    Although crime is at its worst I have ever seen, everyday I still manage to meet so many good people here at home. People who will share what they have with others -whether money, or food, or jsut a kind word. People who will help others succeed. People who speak intelligently of where our nation needs to be. And it’s not the politicians I’m speaking of – it’s just everyday people.

    It’s more people like that we need to come back to Trinidad and Tobago. The criminal elements and corrupt businessmen and politicans won’t know what to do with themselves once they’ve seen the power of goodness and kindess, the power of amity and respect.

    I hope that T&T’s citizens will get back the love and respect for self and for country. Walking round town complaining about Manning (or Panday) won’t change a thing..they’re not listening anyway because they are too busy fighting about money, and it’s obvious they’re not going anywhere until they reach a ripe old age (of apprently 102).

    Let’s just try to have more respect for people and not wait for a leader – political or otherwise. Some great leader will come about, but we need to be independent thinkers and figure out a way to take back our country from those who are destroying it.

  14. Nicola, what ultra left wing tree hugging hippy commune did you get that theory from? Or was it MTV? Perhaps both?
    People do not return to the ‘poorer countries’ because of the ‘changes in richer countries for government to be more intrusive’ and ‘policies that dont have widespread support’. They return for one simple reason ECONOMICS. Those who have money can and those that dont cant. Fewer people will be returning now because the majority of hard working people have lost thier retirement savings thanks to the global financial meltdown. The lucky one who did make it back home are here because now they can get the same creature comforts here that they can in ‘richer countries’. You know like air conditioning, flat screen tv with cable, internet. They are retirees just like the other retirees. They just choose not to move to Miami or Pheonix.

  15. Dr.Santiago, I have a vested Interest in Trinidad and Tobago. My navel string is buried there,I have my parents, siblings and all my extended family that still resides there. The crime rate, the cost of living and the corruption that engulfs the nation scares me. The thought that a stray bullet could have the name of a relative of friend is even more scary. You asked for my insight and what advice I would offer the PM. I assure you, I may not have all the answers but simple common sense and the public outcry does not make answering your question trivial.

    The PM has to put the people first for once. Instead of him touring other nations looking to build relationships so he can add another chapter to his “legacy,” he could tour the country looking for ways to help those that are suffering emotionally, physically and financially. Insted of him considering renting personal jet for his comfort and looking to provide the best accommoddation for the expected high office visitors; he should hang his head in shame that a 5mth old child that needed a liver transplant died on his watch because he refused to help.

    We have a vast amount of agricultural land that can be used to plant and sustain our nation with fresh produce at an affordable cost, but that would be too easy to help farmers by allowing them to farm the land and give them what they need to succeed.Instead, he would give the land to Calder Hart and company to they can build hotels and stadiums to house who?

    A healthy nation is a prosperous nation, and people would rather die at home as opposed to go to the hospital; because of the poor state of the hospitals and other health care facilities. The PM would fund URP, that is filled with corruption and murder as opposed to modernizing our hospitals and getting first class doctors and nurses.

    Floods are bringing people to their knees and yet he has done nothing and has nothing planned to address this catastrophe that mocks the nation a few times a year. The PM can spend Millions to upgrade the “PM’s” residence, as though it needed it, but won’t spend half of that to enhance the infrastracture even if just to avoid the floods.

    Finally, the PM needs a change of venue! he needs to be removed from his current residence and placed in central Trinidad in the rainy season, without a car and have 3 young children to take to school, and have 3 acres of land that he has to plant and sell the produce to provide for his family. I’m sure should this happen, no one will need to give advice to the PM or even ask for a audience.

  16. David, I’m neither left wing, tree hugging, nor from a hippy commune. I’m simply saying that cynicism gets us nowhere. If there are people who come home because of economic reasons, particularly now – Fine.

    But that wasn’t my point.

    My point is that I personally would like to see people come back to Trinidad to make a difference in the country because this country belongs to Trinbagonians – no one else – and we should be proud of that and look to better it any way we can.

    Also, we cannot and should not allow any political leader to dissolve whatever hope we have of making TT a better country. that’s giving them too much power over us. Leaders can only dish out what we allow them to feed us – and if they see we are negative and hopeless they will continue their current trend of squabbling over who stole what funds etc. and not really seeing about the country’s business. I’m not saying these issues aren’t important, but they’re arguing about it because they just want to show eachother up – not b/c they give one hoot about our country’s money or our country’s people.

    We also cannot wait for someone to lead us as people seem to want to do – we have to do it ourselves. We in trini have a serious dependency syndrome where we’re always waiting on someone else to do something to make it better for us….There’s a campaign in TT that says – Just Live Right, and I believe that this is the essence of turning what’s wrong in our society around. And I still hold on to the hope that we will see that by just living right we can set an example for others to follow. Living right isn’t a hippie notion; it’s just plain common sense – if you live right, good things will happen. And there are still plenty of people out there who do live right – even in these terrible times in our country. I just wish there were more of them who truly wanted to do right for their country. If they dont exist anywhere in the world,then ok, but i still hope that they do, nevermind what anyone says.

    Btw..I dont watch MTV

  17. Nicole you are committing an unforgivable crime that might be detrimental in the long run by not watching MTV. By failing to do so you are depriving yourself of vital info on what help’s shape the gullible minds of members of the Xgeneration and any of the potential global geniuses born since 2007.

  18. I have been living in Jamaica for seven years and trust me there is no place like Trinidad. You talk about Trinidad having no leadership and no future and yet Trinidad is THE ONLY island in the Caribbean that can boast of a vibrant economy with a vision (CRAFTED BY THE PNM and UNC). We contine to be small minded when we consider politics in the running of our beautiful twin island. Don’t get me wrong there are many social ills that need to be corrected in our country, but trust me I have come to appreciate that generally Trinidad is a place that recognizes the importance of moving and forging ahead and that is why we do so well. When you live in a country like Jamaica where over 1 million people live in poverty (500000 below the poverty line) and importance is placed on cars and marble walls you know that Trinidad is BLESSED, Me, I going home and all of allyuh who complaining have never once lived in countries where the dollar is constantly devalued, where it is expensive to eat and where daily you pass children begging for food. That is poverty. Give me the sweet sound of soca and my people’s vibe anyday. We in Trinidad appreciate the finer things of life, the lime, the laughter and love of fun with each other. Move back home and help the country be even better than it is now than complaining how it bad. You just don’t know how good you have it.

  19. Your poinht is a good , and perhaps necessary one Trini / Yardee – namely we ain’t have it so bad , so we should not complain to much. What is ironic and dare

  20. Prime Minister Manning needs to resign his post and go into exile. He is shaming our beloved country with his lack of leadership and 1700’s politics. He is holding the country back from development and keeping up or catching up with the rest of the world. To those people who are still Manning lovers, you should all be exiled with him as you lack common sense to be following him.

    Times are hard, crime is reaching in the very fabric of our society gutting citizens of their basic rights, just to take a walk.” He is leaving us defenceless against the criminal element, creating a path for those caught to go free and he has the audacity to offer an excuse while blaming the JLC.

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