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Be inclusive, President tells businessmen

By SEAN DOUGLAS Friday, March 28 2014

BUSINESSpeople should include the disabled, the youth and the disadvantaged in their lives, and in their business decisions, urged President Anthony Carmona.

He gave the feature address at the Chamber of Commerce annual Business Dinner whose theme was “Leadership” last Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.

He recalled this advice from his recent meeting with American Down’s Syndrome advocate, David Egan, and the example of Facebook founder, Mark Zukerberg, who sat at a G-8 meeting at the age of just 27 years old. He also hailed former national scholarship winner, the late Ravi Ramrattan, who was killed in a terror attack in Kenya, even as he worked towards improving that country. Carmona spoke of his own initiatives to invite local youth to witness events of governance such as the diplomatic presentation of credentials, and his “Dining with the President” initiative, all events at which he ensured the differently-abled were among the youthful guests in attendance.

He mused on how one could use one’s office to help create a more equitable, just and caring society. He suggested that change need not come from any one event of tsunamic force, but from small actions. He hailed the example of Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who had defied a Taliban bullet to her head, to insist on a girl’s right to access education.

Relating David Egan’s call for the differently-abled to be included in all parts of a business, Carmona said, “It doesn’t take much to make a big difference.” He urged the business people present to adopt a policy of inclusion, recalling that energy firm, Repsol, has a policy of having three percent of its workforce being drawn from the differently-abled community.

Carmona said it is not enough to have just one traffic-light crossing at Queens Park Savannah (QPS) having wheelchair-access. Instead he called for wheel-chair access at every traffic light crossing around the QPS, and indeed at every traffic light in Trinidad and Tobago.

Carmona said foreign guests, including China President, Xi Jinping, and United States vice- president, Joe Biden, had been impressed by his inclusion of young people in governance, including the two pupils who had greeted President Xi in the Chinese language that they had learnt on their own volition. He urged the business people to mix with the disadvantaged, saying it makes no sense to bring together 200 homeless persons under one roof to meet, but rather a man with a home should dine with a man without a home. “Through dialogue we’ll get our fullest sense of humanity,” he said.

Advising the business people on leadership, he said great leaders don’t necessarily do great acts, but rather can do simple acts that have monumental consequences, such as the United States civil-rights icon, Rosa Parks, opting not to sit in the back of the bus, or Indian freedom leader, Mahatma Gandhi, picking up a handful of salt to show defiance of the colonial tax imposed on this resource. He said his own mantra of leadership, is that today he must be a better person than he was yesterday, not necessarily a greater person.

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