by R. T. Luke V. Browne
I believe that the award of National Hero should be conferred on Dr. J. P. Eustace (1905-1989). Dr. Eustace was the Founder of 3 major secondary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – the Intermediate School/Intermediate High School in 1926, the Emmanuel High School Kingstown (EHSK) in 1952 and the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia (EHSM) in 1963. Additionally, he built 2 primary schools. The EHSM will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year. Dr. Eustace was also a celebrated eye-specialist and Minister of Religion. I believe that he made the most substantial individual contribution to national development operating in the fundamental fields of education, healthcare and religion. He can be considered to be the Forefather of the Education Revolution, the Forerunner of the Vision Now Programme or Miracle Mission Brigade and the Patron Saint of Religious Freedom and Liberty.
This matter of the award of National Hero is regulated by the Order of National Heroes Act (Act No. 7 of 2002 which can be found at Chapter 5 of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Revised Edition 2009). According to the Act, in order for a person to be qualified for the conferment of the Order of National Hero, he or she must have –
been born in SVG (s. 10(1));
died (s. 10(3)); and
(a) “given outstanding service to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and his contribution has altered positively the course of the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”;
(b) “given service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of the highest excellence which has redound to the honour of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”; or
(c) “through his heroic exploits and sacrifice, contributed to the improvement of the economic, social or political conditions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Vincentians generally (s. 10(2)).
Dr. Eustace satisfies the legal requirements. Indeed, he completely fits the bill.
John Parmenas Eustace was born in Mayreau on the 17th of December 1905 to Reynold Eustace and Beatrice Eustace née St. Hillaire. He is 100% Vincentian. He is therefore eligible for national hero from the standpoint of place of birth. Dr. Eustace died on the 1st of December 1989. My father delivered the eulogy at his funeral. If I were making this presentation in the Court of Law, I suppose I would have had to provide birth and death certificates as exhibits.
In relation to the other statutory requirements, permit me to first make the point that the substantive limbs are disjointed. This means that only one (any one) and not all 3 of them need to be satisfied. Secondly, the limbs are intertwined – a person who gave outstanding service to SVG that has altered positively the course of our country’s history would likely (but I suppose not necessarily) have given service to the nation that was exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of the highest excellence that has redound to the honour of SVG and may have through heroic exploits and sacrifice contributed to the improvement of the economic, social or political conditions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Vincentians in general.
Dr. Eustace satisfies all 3 limbs. In this article, I would restrict my comments to his satisfaction of the first limb. In subsequent articles, I hope to make targeted comments about the other limbs and explore special themes.
Outstanding Service that Altered the Course of History
Dr. Eustace gave outstanding service to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and his contribution altered positively the course of the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In relation to this proposition, we have to establish that –
J. P. Eustace gave outstanding service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and that the outstanding service he gave altered positively the course of the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
We know that education is fundamental to development. According to the research, an investment in education particularly for the benefit of low income families leads to a reduction in poverty. The educated child can break the cycle of poverty for his or her family in the next generation. Former USA president John F. Kennedy said that the progress of a nation can be no swifter than its progress in education. One of JFK’s predecessors from the 19th century, James A. Garfield (who had a short-lived presidency), said that without education there can be no freedom and justice. Fidel Castro said that there was an inverse relationship between the level of educational attainment and the prevalence of crime. Former South African President Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world. Clearly, there is a high level international consensus on the importance of education.
In light of this fact, we can have an appreciation of the range and scope of the outstanding service that Dr. Eustace gave to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
J. P. Eustace provided educational opportunities at the primary and secondary school levels for thousands of Vincentians. He thereby altered positively the fate and fortunes of their families and helped many of them to escape poverty traps. He improved their life chances and by extension our national prospects. They were no longer consigned to a future of under-education, menial employment on the margins or peripheries of the economy and general second-class citizenship.
Before Doc (as Dr. Eustace was affectionately called), the highest ambition of most children growing up was to occupy the “lofty” office of road gang leader or time keeper, and there was a pervasive sentiment that an adequate post-primary school education can be derived by listening to the transistor radio. We have emerged from some very dark ages.
Dr. Eustace made us as a people recognise that nothing was out of our professional reach – like the astronauts we could reach for the stars. He made it abundantly clear that our career prospects were not circumscribed by the circumstances of their birth, and that we could therefore by dint of hard work occupy the highest offices of the land. This literally proved to be true – our first Chief Minister and Former Premier E. T. Joshua was a past student of the Intermediate School. Sir Louis Straker (Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs) is a past student of the Emmanuel High School Kingstown. The schools that were established by Doc have a long list of distinguished, illustrious and exemplary past students who in their own right made or are making major contributions to the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the world-at-large.
If it were not for Doc, we would have suffered lost generations, families and communities would have been stuck wallowing in the mud and misery of poverty traps, our development ambitions and aspirations would have been stymied for lack of human resource capacity and technical expertise. In other words, we would have been stuck in a mode of underdevelopment.
Dr. Eustace by his work in the field of education helped to dismantle colonialism, emancipate us from mental slavery and set us on course to Independence. Cleary, he altered positively the course of our history.
I suggest that the educational foundation or platform that was put in place by Doc served as a launch pad or springboard for the creation of our current knowledge-based, modern and sophisticated society that is punching above its weight and playing an outsized role in global affairs. Dr. Eustace initiated the thrust towards universal access to secondary school education. This is why I consider Doc to be the Forefather of the Education Revolution.
Doc’s work in education was complemented by his work in healthcare. He was our nation’s first Optometrist and Optician. In those capacities, he addressed an important need of the population. Moreover, he ensured that eye-care services were available to economically disadvantaged groups. This is why I believe that Doc was the Forerunner of the Miracle Mission Brigade.
Additionally, Doc was a powerful, persuasive and passionate evangelist. I should say that Dr. Eustace saw his work as an educator and healthcare provider as an outgrowth of his Christian Ministry. He was a leading figure of the Christian Brethren Movement that built Gospel Halls and Chapels in many parts of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He attended to the spiritual needs of the population. I sometimes picture him visiting different parts of the country and declaring in language reminiscent of Christ – “upon this rock I will build my church and gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Dr. Eustace was a great advocate of religious freedom and liberty. He played an important role in the spread and dissemination of the gospel. He also helped to decolonise the church and exorcise the demons of colonialism. He dismantled the stranglehold that certain religious denominations had on essential matters of faith and worship. He provided a great boost to the Protestant Movement – the fact that a man of Doc’s stature and calibre was associated with the so-called “wayside religions” raised their acceptability, prominence and profile and brought them into the mainstream. This is an important part of Doc’s legacy.
In effect, Doc operated a theological seminary and made a seminal contribution to the development of religious theory ad practices. He revolutionised the concept, psychology, culture and content of religion. He preached many sermons, taught classes at Sunday School, organised numerous open air meetings and performed missionary services. As a nation founded on the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man as per the Constitution, these facts have to be taken into consideration. This is why I described Doc as the Patron Saint of Religious Freedom and Liberty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In conclusion, J. P. Eustace is eminently qualified for the award of National Hero of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He saved the soul of our nation and saved many souls. I hope that the appropriate honour will be bestowed upon him this month.
In the language of the Scriptures, I would say that many sons and daughters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have done virtuously, but Doc excellest them all.