President spends anniversary eve at alma mater

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

March 20 marks a year since Christine Carla Kangaloo was sworn in as this country’s seventh President.

On the eve of her first anniversary, the President took a trip down memory lane as she spent Tuesday morning at her alma mater, St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, to celebrate of the Feast of St Joseph.

She used the opportunity to tell the current crop of students who gathered in the Dr Sr Phyllis Wharfe Auditorium that she was never “student of the year,” but rather an “extraordinary ordinary” student. She prevailed on the students also to embrace the simple and ordinary.

“Accepting and loving our ordinary selves is the only sure way to lead fulfilling lives, and, as it sometimes turns out – take me as an example – lives that offer us extraordinary opportunities that we can never see coming.”

The President was treated to a bounty of cultural expressions, from songs, spoken-word monologue, to a modern hip hop dance – not in existence when the school opened in 1882. She also presented trophies to students who excelled academically by gaining places on the merit list and winning scholarships.

She spoke of the different emotions returning to her alma mater evoked. “Happiness in once again walking the halls where I spent so much of my time and made such wonderful memories. Curiosity – at seeing and hearing about the changes that have unfolded in the ‘few’ years since my graduation. And, of course, the overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the ‘good old school days’ with all their experiences – the great, the good and the not-so-good.”

She said none of her teachers foresaw this future, but predicted only “trials and tribulations” ahead for her. She attributed the foundation laid at SJC, on the tennis court and under the mango tree where she honed her social skills, as helping her to transform an ordinary girl into achieving goals and dreams, some she never dared to dream.

“I wish that I could stand here and tell you that I was an amazing student, who excelled at both academics and extra-curricular activities, who always paid full and undivided attention to all of my teachers, and who was the living and breathing embodiment of our motto, ‘wisdom and knowledge.’

“Alas – if wishes were horses. The truth is, that although at some point I am sure I must have tried to be at least some of those things, at no time at all was I ever exactly ‘student of the century.’ My report cards would often infuriate my poor father. Invariably, they would say things like: ‘A pleasant pupil. Can do better. Is too talkative.’

“I was never a superstar student. As an adolescent girl, I went through all of the pain and insecurity that girls face in the process of becoming adults.”

But Kangaloo continued to focus on her education and with the love and care of some very special teachers, eventually began to feel more comfortable with her ordinariness. Looking at the students, with whom she met individually, and even posed for pictures, she said they reminded her of her many hopes, dreams and passions when she was their age.

“In my ordinariness, I have been able to love and to live life, and to have some of those dreams come true – and to have and others happen that I never imagined would come to pass. I have the same desire for you – that you will love and accept yourselves for who you are, and that all of your dreams will come true.”

Principal Nadine Joseph-Dennie said the school sits proudly on the shoulders of its legacy, building on the past as it moves forward into the future. She said the legacy of excellence in 2024 is no different from that of 1882.

The school has won many scholarships, President’s Awards, placed in the top ten of the regional list, and won many sporting, visual and performing arts competitions. That was never the barometer to measure success, she said; that was the core values and conviction to be the best versions of themselves.

“Our present is one secure in its legacy – strong women, leaders, carers, protectors, gatewatchers, visionaries and disciples.

“When women succeed, the village succeeds, and the town, and the country, and the region, and the world. Our legacy is in women, strengthening the ties of sisterhood, standing on the shoulders of those who went before us.”