Estrada, speaking at a farewell ceremony here on Thursday night, said the “seeds of these problems” including high crime “were planted before this government took power and they have deep roots.
“These problems did not manifest in the last 15 months. Turning them around will take time, patience, self-honesty but most importantly a sense of urgency and a demand for accountability by the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” Estrada said.
The Trinidad-born diplomat said despite obstruction, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley “has pressed forward for real change,” adding “I couldn’t have asked for a more courageous partner”.
Estrada said he was pleased to have been given the opportunity to serve as the US representative in the land of his birth, noting “who would have guessed when I boarded a plane at the age of 14, an unaccompanied child, leaving Laventille to start a new life in the United States that I would return almost half a decade later as the U.S. President’s direct representative to the country of my birth?
“Who would have thought that after leading the U.S. Marine Corps in the fight against Terrorism, I’d continue that battle as a diplomat, striving daily to secure the lives and livelihoods of our citizens and allies? No one could have imagined it. But I know how it happened.”
But he told the ceremony it did not happen because he was more special than anyone else, or more connected than everyone else.
“It all happened because from the time I became a U.S. Citizen, I was an *engaged* U.S. Citizen. Such is the power of the citizen,” he said, recalling the words of outgoing US President Barack Obama that “when citizens are free to speak their minds, to organize for what they believe in and to hold their leaders accountable, governments are more responsive”.
He said the US-Trinbagonian partnership has proved President Obama’s point, that when citizens are free to organize and work together across borders to make communities healthier and the world safer, that’s when real change occurs.
He said rediscovering his roots during his posting here “also included re-learning the meaning of words I had long forgotten…such as… getting licks, getting a cut-ass, and cocoa in the sun…”
He said he was also glad to have been given the opportunity to speak to young people at schools here saying “they are why I am so deeply optimistic about the future of Trinidad and Tobago.
“These young citizens are curious, intelligent and full of life. If we think of our youngest citizens first, if we place the future of our youngest citizens above our immediate gains, if we unify behind them instead of dividing along partisan lines our future will be bright.”
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