By CEO in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science & Technology, Dian Castillo Maheia
At the Wreath-Laying Ceremony of the 1st Observance of George Price Day
Good morning, my fellow Belizeans,
I am honored and deeply appreciative of the opportunity to speak today on the occasion of the 102nd birthday of the Father of our Nation, the Right Honorable George Cadle Price. I am no accomplished historian. I do not have the same treasure trove of memories of encounters and experiences with Mr. Price that so many of our people have. But I am the daughter and the granddaughter of teachers, I value the stories and the memories of our family, and I share in your deep-seated respect and love for this great man.
Today as we gather to honor him, I keep thinking of the lessons we have learned from him: the humility, the service, the faith. And more, I keep thinking of why it matters. Why is it so important for us to continue to pay our respects to this humble, gentle man? Why do we need to teach our children about him? Why do we all need to learn these lessons?
We need to learn these lessons because they are as relevant today as they were when Mr. Price was here with us. The stories we all know of his walking through the streets and picking up trash, saying good morning to everyone he passed, asking for your name and the name of your parents – and then remembering more of your family members… these are more than stories we should share like fairy tales. These are examples we should follow. Your age, your job – those things are not nearly as important as being polite, being considerate, being kind. It costs us nothing to keep our surroundings clean, to greet the people we encounter, to smile and to wave even if we do not know them.
Mr. Price’s service to Belize has been unmatched. His dedication to building this nation and to working for our common good is unquestionable. And he worked quietly, without fanfare, without fancy degrees. Imagine the good we could all do if we followed that example.
I ask you, now, my friends, to please indulge this Lit teacher. In his poem “Belizeans: Unite to Build our Nation” Mr. Price speaks directly to us all. He says that “we have worked all night and worked all day.” Actually, he says it twice. In the world of poets, that means you need to pay attention to that line. The work is long. It is hard. “While we build, the rivers flood the roads, the forests choke the tamed earth, the underground waters flee the thirsty field.” Have we not so recently experienced this? – From droughts to floods, we have seen that we cannot control the elements of nature. But still we work.
“The builders await the sunrise. They seek new strength.”
That brings us to the lesson of faith. Mr. Price’s faith was strong, constant. I was reminded this morning of his love for the Virgin of Guadalupe. His walks to mass each morning at the Holy Redeemer Cathedral form the basis of so many of our people’s memories. Mr. Price knew that the sun would rise each morning, and that with the sunrise would come the new strength. His Catholic faith, his belief in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Trinity, these things renewed his strength daily. Today, when our world seems confusing and hard to navigate, we can learn from this example too. Seek refuge in faith and let us see that every morning, as he says in the poem, “The sun rises from the life-giving sea”…
When the sun rises, “its glory fills the beauty and the bounty of our Belizean land.” He encourages Belizeans to “see the living beauty all around us, the teeming bounty, the soul-moving glory.” These are powerful words to remind us that we live in a beautiful country. From east to west, and north to south, that radiant sun comes to “staunch the floods and enrich the fields.”
Darkness does not last forever. “The sun rose. A new day. The past is present and the present future.”
How meaningful are those lines for us today? Today is a new day. Today is the first day ever that we honor Mr. Price in this way, with a holiday declared by our new government of the People’s United Party. Today, as we stand here, at his grave, the past is present. We remember. We celebrate. We believe that Mr. Price’s legacy must continue. The present is future.
“There, not buried but founded, lies [a Belizean patriot]. Not bones on arid plain that once became alive. [He is] alive. [His] spirit moves the Belizean man.
Today, let us allow the spirit of Mr. Price’s legacy to “call forth the new Belize, First in whispered messages, then in thundering call.”
Today and every day, “Belizeans: let us unite to build our nation.”