Celebrating Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott

At this time, every year, Saint Lucia celebrates the achievements of two of its sons, Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott, two Saint Lucians who have won Nobel Prizes recognition without parallel, in the realm of intellectual achievement and contribution.

Both gentlemen are now deceased but the prestige of the Nobel Prizes awarded to them, and there is no comparable prize in the intellectual realm, compels us to celebrate with National pride, annually, the   Laureates achievements in their respective fields.

The celebrations which first began, and ended within a week and was called Nobel Laureates Week has now expanded into more events and is now known as Nobel Laureates Festival.

We find the celebrations absolutely appropriate for the following reasons:

  1. To show that despite the constant labeling of Saint Lucia as a third world country, a backwater country, it can still produce a positive and significant ripple on the world stage;
  2. To show that the barrage of rhetoric designed to point out that countries like ours should not be engaged as serious players in world affairs will not stop us from producing men and women in diverse fields within the intellectual realm who could achieve great things, to make the world a better place;
  3. To serve as a reminder to every living Saint Lucian that our land size and micro economy are not barriers to greatness and world recognition; and finally, but by no means of less importance,
  4. To remind ourselves that though Lewis and Walcott won worldwide recognition for their contributions, names such as Venner, Augier, Parris and Floissac add to the proof of the statement that “little acorns grow into large oak trees”.

The question, why are Nobel Prizes important and what do they contribute to society is answered by Juan García-Bellido, who in an article stated that “in an age in which we are gradually losing whole sets of values, fundamentally humanistic ones, the Nobel Prizes are one of our last bastions. We seek in them a reference, not only of excellence, but of honesty, enthusiasm, commitment to ideals, that inspires both laymen and professionals.”

And so, we say “yes” to the annual recognition given Lewis and Walcott by their country. They were exceptional individuals, and were so long before they were awarded the Nobel Prize.

Lewis, Walcott and the other intellectual greats  spawned by this little 238 square miles of lava and coral in the Atlantic Ocean are tremendous inspirations and examples for the young, and not so young. Many Saint Lucians we believe have learned and are continuing to learn from listening to the advice given, not only by the two men and the body of work they left behind, but by all of the great minds that preceded this time.

It is said that of all the Nobel Prizes, those of Science – Medicine, Physics and Chemistry – have a more fundamental character, and that there is a degree of truth associated with them that is not present in the Nobel Prize for Peace, Literature and Economics.

We say that despite that, all the Prizes have one common goal, showing different views of how societies can be developed in more meaningful ways.

Lewis and Walcott left behind great gifts for us to value. How we use these gifts is up to us, however, we believe that these gifts can benefit us individually, collectively and as a nation.  The finest measure of appreciation of what has been left for us by our great forbears is emulation.

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