Reflections on politics past.
Speech for Island Council, June 27th, 2007
I leave like I came. The poet Robert Frost wrote: “ I shall be telling this with a sigh.
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I….
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
When I got involved in politics in l962 it was with a view to improve living standards on Saba. This should not be confused with the quality of life.
Despite the poverty and lack of modern facilities, the quality of life was far better when I was a boy growing up on Saba than it is today.
Back then one day flowed into the next. There were no artificial noises to disturb your peace of mind. The rustling of the leaves in the wind and the crowing of the rooster to announce the dawn of each new day, were the only real noises which you could hear.
Human noises were those of the farmers shouting across the ravines to their family or friends ploughing away in the rough soil. They were attempting by the sweat of their brows to keep their families alive.
We owned the land and the land sustained and strengthened the men and women it produced. They sailed away to foreign lands and distinguished themselves in many fields.
I grew up poor on this island and I have enjoyed a rich life. I have dined with Queens and Presidents and lived the humble life with the people of my youth and their offspring. In all the years in politics I have maintained a strong support among the people and thanks to them and my perseverance and with Gods help I have come this far.
As St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, I can now say the same:
I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere, full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the one who gives me strength. All the same it was good of you to share with me in my hardships…
In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.”
I have set many records in Windward Islands and Saban politics. I worked hard for the opportunity to serve the people and they rewarded me with many victories. I never lost an election while I was sitting in the Commissioners chair and directing my party. When I did lose it was from within the party and with me on the council unable to influence and direct my party to victory.
I started out in active politics at the age of 20. I had many opportunities on St. Maarten to become what I desired if I wanted to. I could have been a big businessman. Instead I took the road less travelled. I had not made 2l when Claude Wathey sent me here from St. Maarten to run his campaign for Senator in l962. The l42 votes which the DP, Windward Islands won by was largely due to the votes I was able to get for Thomas Van Hugh Hassell of The Bottom. By the way he was the godfather of my brother Freddie and related to us through the Vanterpool/Simmons family.
After l962 up until l968 old timers from St. Maarten will confirm to you that Claude Wathey nor Clem Labega would not make a turn without having me around for advice. That relationship changed in l968 when I helped Mr Alrett Peters and the newly established
General Workers Union to write the Labour Spokesman. At the same time I started the Saba Herald which I published for the next 25 years and the St Eustatius Gazette. In l969 the stage was set for me to oppose Claude Wathey and I did so well that the following year in November l970 we were able to launch the Windward Island’s Peoples Movement. We were able to get a majority on the Island Council on Saba months before the elections.
I recently published a book Dreaming Big and said a long farewell to the people of the Windward Islands in articles entitled “Letter to Myself.” I must thank once again those on Saba, St Eustatius and St Maarten who continued to support me and who have gained for me recognition far beyond the islands. I have set many records for others to try and break. The one I am most proud of is that in every election in each voting district in the Windward Islands I received votes on my name, regardless to my position on the list. And Mr Chairman I have run in many elections. When I was not running myself my hand was felt in the candidate which I supported.
Those who are wondering what I will be doing, Roger Snow once wrote that the few times that I was in the opposition no one outside of Saba knew as they thought I was still running the government.
I started out in St Maarten as a radio announcer in l965 and I wrote a column for the Windward Island’s Opinion of my deceased friend Joseph H. Lake, Sr. I have been talking to Mikey Nicholson of having my own radio program. I am thinking of calling it: Midweek with Will Johnson. I would like to highlight the history and culture of this region , this wonderful part of the world. It is not intended as a political forum but if anyone mashes my corn they will hear from me. I want to make our people more nationalistic. I am also thinking of setting up a Foundation. I have toyed with the name of Foundation Aimed At Revolutionary Change or FARC, but I have been advised by a close advisor to dress it up moderate and to be revolutionary on the inside.
I am convinced that Sabans can do much more even though many young Sabans have achieved a great deal in recent years.
We can and we must do more. We must hold on to our little island which our forefathers and we as a people have brought to where it is today. My radio program will be there to educate and fortify the people of Saba in their struggle to survive. I have travelled from
Trinidad to Cuba and nearly every island in between several times. I will highlight the history and culture of our region so that our young people can gain inspiration from that which is positive in the region and reject all that is negative. Our leaders in the region are made out to be devils when they rise up in defence of their own people. I will highlight the lives and achievements of present day leaders and those of the past
We will not be led by outside opinion and those who lecture down at us. I will comment on international issues without the restraint of holding political or appointed office .
In thanking the people of Saba, St Eustatius and St. Maarten, and all of those of the WIPM party and other political friends as well as those who have worked closely with me over the last years, my beloved wife Lynne and my children and now being sustained by my grandchildren, let me end with the evening prayer which has carried many politicians through times of despair:
Oh Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the evening comes, the shades lengthen, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done; then Lord in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last.”
When Charles de Gaul left political life he told the French people that if they ever needed him his address was L’Oiseaux des Deux Eglises.”
My nickname among the following is ” The General”. My address will be as always that of” The Man on The Hill.”
Thank you Saba, thank you all.