- November 24, 2016
- Posted by: Joan Underwood
- Category: Gender, Governance, Leadership, People
In March 2004, Antiguans and Barbudans elected the first woman to sit in the House of Representatives. Last month, that woman – Dr. Jacqui Quinn – announced her retirement from politics. The announcement came as a surprise since Senator Quinn is in her early 50’s and was seen by many as still being in the prime of her political life. However, as Dr. Quinn pointed out in her farewell speech in the Senate, her decision to retire was taken after consultation with her doctors and family and in order to safeguard her health and well being in the wake of a battle with breast cancer.
On 20th November, hundreds gathered to do what we so seldom do as a people – i.e. give Jacqui her flowers while she’s able to appreciate them. The fact that it was her birthday made the celebration even more special. This week’s blog features my tribute to the Honourable Jacqui Quinn – a shining example for both female and male politicians no matter our party affiliation.
It is both a pleasure and a privilege for me to be here today to pay tribute to an outstanding woman, a pioneer, a role model, a woman of faith who has served her God, her Country, her Party, her Constituency and her Gender with equal measures of distinction and humility…
We’re here to honour the First Lady of Representational Politics in Antigua and Barbuda…
- Jacqui Quinn – a politician who knows not only how to count votes, but how to make votes count.
- Sister Jacqui – a politician who knows that her words are her weapons, and that her words are also her bond.
- Jacqui Quinn – a politician who knows that only if she leaves room for discussion and room for concession can she gain room to manoeuvre.
One of my favourite quotations comes from Ellen G White. I have taken certain liberties with it given our context today:
The greatest want of the world is the want of men and women – men and women who will not be bought or sold; men and women who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men and women who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men and women whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men and women who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.
Sister Jacqui came to the fore to satisfy that want. She entered the political arena and distinguished herself as one who was true and honest; unafraid to call sin by its name whenever and wherever she encountered it – either in the House of Representative or on the political hustings. Her faith was her moral compass which was perfectly aligned to decency. She was faithful to her principles – in and out of season.
Sister Jacqui was – and continues to be – a living testament to the fact that women could in fact stand up and stand out in representational politics. This turned the status quo on its head. You see prior to her entry into the fray, conventional wisdom held that women weren’t tough enough to roll and tumble with the big boys; that politics was simply too dirty for decent/respectable women to stomach. Not only did Sister Jacqui prove the pundits wrong, but she did so emphatically and in grand style!
While Michele Obama recently coined an expression during the fateful presidential elections in the US, Sister Jacqui lived it out first in 2004 and consistently thereafter “When they go low, we go high!”
As I embark on my own path in representational politics, I look to Sister Jacqui as a trailblazer and mentor – as a living testimony of what it takes for both women and men to be successful in the political fray.
There are five primary lessons that we can take away from Sister Jacqui’s career in politics in general and in the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government in particular.
- We must be able to analyse the situation or context: Sis Jacqui ensured that she understood the history of our Party, its values and culture including how decisions are made
- We must build partnerships and alliances: In addition to building partnerships, she skilfully maintained them. She understood and was guided by the African proverb which says “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, take others with you.”
- We must be very skillful and managing conflict: One key strategy is to make a distinction between the problem and the person – i.e. disagree without being disagreeable. Another key strategy is to look for areas of mutual interest and building on those areas to create win-win solutions. A third strategy is to embrace loyalty as an essential building block.
- There should be no compromise when it comes to maintaining our integrity: The title honourable was taken to heart – it cannot be viewed as just a handle or an outer garment that one can put on and take off, but rather must be seen as a way of being. This translates into respect and strong character – standing up for one’s beliefs.
- Maintain a healthy balance by placing God first, and then country, family, Party and Constituency. Even as we balance the needs of all those whom we serve, we must always bear in mind that self-care cannot be delegated. We cannot give our best to others unless and until we do what needs to be done to take care of ourselves.
So, Sister Jacqui, as you proceed on retirement and begin the next phase of your life journey, I salute you and your sterling career.
For the example which you have set…
For shattering the glass ceiling…
For your service…
For your love…
For the sacrifices made by you and your family – especially your children…
For your dedication…
On behalf of the women of the United Progressive Party, especially those of us who seek to walk the path that you have cleared…
I say a profound and heartfelt THANK YOU and GOD BLESS!