Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
Opening Remarks: C-PAC Patrons Annual Luncheon – 10th Anniversary, Hilton Doubletree Hotel, Silver Spring, MD/USA, 7th November 2015
It is my distinct privilege to offer a few opening remarks, and perhaps put in perspective why we are here today.
For many years, perhaps decades, preceding the founding of this organization, as members of the Caribbean diaspora community we engaged in ad hoc lobbying of government and political leaders. Each time, as issues affecting the Caribbean diaspora community and the countries of the Caribbean region have arisen, some of us have responded individually, and in small groups, to each circumstance, often relying on a few dedicated American friends to help us in our efforts towards a desirable outcome.
The results, though important in many respects, paled in comparison to the results that might have been achievable had there been organizational and institutional support for our efforts, during those years. It was only because of our persistence and our resilience as Caribbean people, with limited resources, we were able to get some positive results. It also helped that there were also political leaders at the local and national level who had an endearing likeness for, and affinity with the people of the Caribbean. Sometimes, we shared common cause.
While we struggled in the political corridors of influence, we had no illusion about our limited capacity to affect policies, or effect changes in policies that were inimical to our interests and the interests of the Caribbean region. We lacked institutional underpinnings and the broad overt support of the Caribbean community. We had what could be best described as “silent and inactive support.”
There were a number of failed attempts to form so-called political action committees by individual members of the Caribbean community. I stress “individual” because these attempts were not grounded in the collective, collaborative context of the community.
Ten years ago, November 2005, the visionary leadership of Chris Gardiner and Denys Vaughan-Cooke, in particular, made the Caribbean-Political Action Committee (C-PAC) a reality. Today, we celebrate their efforts and the organization’s success and endurance. One of the most important aspects of this undertaking, however, is that through their leadership and perseverance, they brought together 100 members of the Caribbean community in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area, representing all of the countries of the Caribbean region, who contributed financially to the start-up of C-PAC. These are the C-PAC Patrons we honor with our annual luncheon. But even more importantly, most of these original Patrons continue to actively support the work C-PAC has been doing in the past ten years. I guarantee to you, that if C-PAC was not doing effective and valuable work, that support would have long eroded, and C-PAC would have floundered.
Today, thanks to your support – your independent contributions, sponsorships, attendance at our annual lunches, and your paid memberships, C-PAC is financially sound, that is, as far as the work now being done by the organization in the Tri-State area. Politicians seek us out for support – C-PAC’s financial support and endorsements.
The leaders of C-PAC, past and present, recognize that our work and influence on the body politic must expand beyond the local political construct and must extend to the national level – to the federal government. Without your increased support, however, we cannot contemplate such action. But, I am confident that as Caribbean people we can move to the next level and the community will provide the necessary support for such an important endeavor.
Our relevance in the Nation’s capital and surrounding states must now be translated in relevance and influence where it will have an even greater impact on our diaspora community and the Caribbean region. It must expand and grow, and our impact and influence must extend to the national level. We must strengthen our institutional capacity and empower leaders.
C-PAC’s leadership is in good hands going forward. I urge you to continue supporting C-PAC’s work, becoming more actively engaged with the organization, and help expand its portfolio.
Let us, therefore, go forward together, collectively, as members of the Caribbean diaspora community!