Every four years the nations of the Earth get a chance to compete in the Summer Olympics. A chance to showcase the athletic talent they have cultivated and to rally behind them. It’s not always about the medals, though that hardware is the ultimate prize, instead it’s often about seeing your country represented on the world stage. There is a reason the opening ceremony and walk-in always proves so popular.
Per-capita, The Bahamas has done incredibly well over the years. It is incredible the amount of talent this country produces and can produce. Every four years we don’t just show up: we compete. In athletics The Bahamas has shown itself more than capable to make a name for ourselves.For a country like ours, one so small in stature, the Olympics is not about the relentless pursuit of an ever increasing medal count. Though, as a country of little over three hundred thousand we have not done badly at all. The Olympics is about showing what you’re made of.
Going forward, however, I would like to see our country show this same kind of competitive spirit and enthusiasm for success in other areas. We can make a name for ourselves in industry and education, not just athletics. Our chief industry, tourism, drives our economy almost entirely. Diversifying away from this particular service industry is a scary notion; but sitting still is just as frightening.
Yes, The Bahamas is the leader in our region. But how much of our success has to do with our close proximity to our largest “client” and how much is because we, as a nation, have trained our children to be the best in this particular industry? That is an important debate we should have.
If, moving forward, we decide the best course of action for our country’s economy is to continue growing the tourism sector at the expense of other investments then we need to get serious about it. We can’t let our children continue to produce so far below par academically. We cannot allow our education system to continue along a path that will cripple our country when it is time for the next generation to take the starting block.
I am not an educator. I have no experience in that system. But I do know many, many hard working teachers and principals who deeply care about the youth of this island and this country. Still, I don’t need to have years of experience in academic administration to see the direction our country is heading. We can all see it. Unless we, those of us with the ability, make an effort to help our youth find their footing. We need to help them start the race and we need to be there to cheer them on much like we do our athletes.
Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Debbie Ferguson are incredible role models and each relay an incredible story. They are more than worthy of our praise and cheers. But if we roar and applaud when these Olympians take the stage every four year but sit back and watch our children continue to struggle in a system, that is so obviously broken, day after day then we are hypocrites.
Somewhere along the lines we have gotten lazy. We’ve relied on our crutch and it has dampened our competitive spirit. Somehow we got the idea that the tourists will always come here because of our close location to U.S. soil. I don’t think anyone actually thinks this consciously, but instead it is a notion that has been buried in our society’s subconscious. It has made us lazy. It has reduced our competitive spirit. And it will destroy us if we continue to sit back at the starting line while our neighbors in the region, and globally, work furiously against their every disadvantage to attract foreign investment and tourists.
The world is getting flatter. The track is going to get easier to run and it will open doors to competitors we didn’t even know we had. If we don’t invest in our youth and our education now then those who have been doing so this whole time will not only beat us they will make sure we don’t even place. That is not acceptable.
The bare minimum is not our country’s potential. A murder every week is not our country’s potential. And a crumbling academic system is not our country’s potential.
Our potential isn’t just to show up to the race. Our country’s potential isn’t just to place in an event. Our country’s potential isn’t just bronze or silver. Our country’s potential, our children’s potential, is gold. But we need to help each other reach that goal.
That goal won’t be accomplished by cheering every four years for our country’s sports heroes. We accomplish it by cheering every day for our children and for our fellow Bahamian. Get involved with a local school. Volunteer for mentorship programs. Find a niche that is so unique that any effort you put towards it will yield an improvement.
Start something that will leave a mark.