Family and friends hail retiring MP as he gets a roasting
Veteran MP Walter Lister may have needed the assistance of his charming wife Brenda to climb the few steps leading to his place at the head table with the look of a sacrificial lamb, paraphrasing an observation of former Premier Alex Scott, but he certainly emerged after more than two hours of ‘political roasting’ by friends and even family, as a broadly smiling, ‘Elder Statesman’ retired yet raring to go for more service.
A retirement roast honouring his nearly 40 years as a Sandys Parish representative in the House of Assembly took place at the Fairmont Southampton resort last Saturday. Maybe ringing uppermost in Mr Lister’s ears at the end of the night was the old biblical salutation directed at him personally, of ‘Well Done thou Good and Faithful Servant’.
However, Acting Premier Derrick Burgess, getting the roast off to a good start, referred to ‘cousin’ Walter as a genteel, gentlemanly, scholarly, sophisticated, humble and honourable gentleman, who in any case was a politician representing the various Sandys constitutiencies “where all of my best friends (Derrick’s) are from”.
But he was going to leave it up to his friends to decide whether or not Mr Lister related to the great Mahatma Gandhi’s contention that the latter was a politician trying hardest to become a saint, or whether, as others claimed, he was a saint losing himself in politics.
On the other hand, there was the claim of one unknown philosopher that “politicians are like diapers. They both needed changing for the same reason!”
Mr Burgess went on to say he knew what ‘cousin’ Walter’s response to the American entertainer Wil Rogers would have been when the latter claimed everything was changing, people are taking their omedians seriously and their politicians as a joke. Walter would have told Rogers he must have been joking, unless of course he was talking about the One Bermuda Alliance (the burgeoning new political party under leadership of MP Craig Cannonier).
The Acting Premier was followed at the podium by former MP and Senator Reginald Burrows, who retired last year after more than 40 years in Parliament. There was much he wanted to say by way of a roast of his old colleague, but he changed his mind when he saw so many of the clergy among the 300 or more guests present. Then, in winding up his tribute, he seemingly forgot it was the same diners he started with, using expletives that would have been bleeped from a radio broadcast.
There were plenty of laughs throughout the evening, hosted by comedian Nadanja Bailey.
Three former Premiers paid tribute. Ewart Brown, being both Mr Lister’s leader and physician, tried hard not to violate his Hippocratic Oath, describing him as a fine specimen of a man. There were also speeches from former Premiers Scott and Dame Jennifer Smith. The Dame, a fanatical St George’s Cup Match supporter, shorn of any drab light blue and dark blue colours, paid homage to her Somerset colleague Walter by wearing to the roast the brightest reddish, sexiest looking gown manysaid they had ever seen her in.
Attorney General Kim Wilson, who has been confirmed by the Progressive Labour Party as the candidate contesting Constituency 34 that Mr Lister is vacating, got the attention of diners when she pranced before the head table, lifted her gown to her ankles displaying why she was aware Walter Lister had left her some big shoes to fill.
And then she reached for the fishing rod with which she was armed, demonstrating how Mr Lister had shown her “how as a candidate to fish where the fish bite”.
Several other tributes were forthcoming during the dinner and music interspersed by The Unit Band. They included the Listers’ daughter Lisa and one-time Deputy PLP Leader Walter Roberts, who flew from his retirement home in Florida to roast and embrace the man who was his namesake and running-mate during the good old days of ‘dual-seat constituencies’. Tributes also came from Mr Lister’s Allen Temple Pastor, Rev Howard Dill, Health Minister Zane DeSilva and former Opposition Leader Kim Swan of the United Bermuda Party. The latter two brought the audience to their feet with probably the most energised of all the toasts and roasts.
Premier Paula Cox was conspicuous by her absence. At the same time of the roast she was in New York where she received the 2012 Woman of Great Esteem “Emerald Award of Excellence”. The ceremony was held in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
The Premier is the third Bermudian recipient of the special WGE Award of Excellence distinction, joining the late Dame Lois Browne Evans, former Attorney General and Leader of the PLP; and former Premier, Dame Jennifer Smith.
The Woman of Great Esteem “Emerald Award of Excellence” is presented each year to an extraordinary woman whose exemplary life achievements have brought her prominence among her peers, honour from her community and positive notoriety in her country and the world.
The awards recognises accomplishments in Politics, Religion, Education, Health, Economics, the Arts, Law and Leadership. To date, the WGE “Emerald Award of Excellence” has been awarded to recipients from Bermuda, Jamaica, Barbados, the United States, the Bahamas and South Africa.
From New York, Ms Cox requested Mr Burgess to commend the Mr Lister for his stewardship and leadership as a former Cabinet Minister, and elder statesman in both the House and the PLP.
She concluded her salute with praise and thanks for being the calibre of man that he is; and with a reminder of an old quotation that “a wise politician has a sense of timing, does not overstay his welcome and leaves when his adoring public is still wanting more”.