“The Audacity of Hope in T&T.” - 9 nov 2008

“The Audacity of Hope in T&T.”

Osei 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. American Tax Singapore
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 theMekong 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… 

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