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People are looking for real change

This is the text of John Barritt’s speech to the One Bermuda Alliance Leadership Conference on September 10, 2011, after which he stepped down as interim leader of the OBA.Welcome, friends, to what is an historic occasion not just for the OBA but for Bermuda politics. The party membership is actually going to elect its leaders. Now it is said that the most arduous journey begins with a first step. Trite, yes, but true.

We took our first steps some four months ago when we decided to form the One Bermuda Alliance. It was formed by members from two different parties, and we were and we are members with strong views, strong feelings and strong personalities. But we took those steps, arguably the hardest steps, and we got the job done.

But let’s be clear why it was done: It was not for ourselves, individually or collectively, or for our respective parties at the time, but for Bermuda. We heard what the people of Bermuda were saying through the polls, on talk shows, in letters to the editor and in their kitchens.

Politics in Bermuda is in need of change.

The OBA was formed to answer that call and to give people hope and, as a consequence, expectations are high.

But let’s also be clear on this: We are not there yet, not by a country mile.

This is only the beginning.

I want to speak to you tonight about what it is that people want and what they are looking for from us, and I am going to speak to you without ulterior motive, without personal agenda and without personal ambition.

The challenges facing the OBA are the very same challenges facing Bermuda.

People are looking for change that is meaningful, real and transformational. Yes, this will mean changing the system of government, changing the political culture and ultimately changing the way in which we conduct ourselves and the country’s business. All of which are part of our platform.

We need to move away from petty partisan politics and the toxic atmosphere that creates. It is counter-productive and is turning people off and away from politics and political service.

But changing the system is one thing, changing ourselves is another. It will come down to how we organise ourselves and how we sort out our problems. This will be key if we are to have a credible message of change to take to the country, if we are to show that we can do for Bermuda what we did for ourselves.

A wise philosopher once said that peace and harmony and solutions come about in one of two ways: one by human insight and recognition of what is required, the other by conflict and catastrophe which leaves us with no other choice. Bermuda, my friends, is at just such a juncture, politically.

As I said earlier this week at the Labour Day Rally in Union Square, what will be required of all of us are new approaches to our problems, new attitudes and new relationships, internally among ourselves and in our external relations. That’s what we in the OBA must be about.

We cannot go forward continually carrying the baggage of the past, fighting old fights that have already been won and lost. To do so is at the expense of the future and of forward progress. Similarly, we are not going to live down our past, if we continue to live in it.

The future demands that we show some real change. The people want to see us move away from self-centred, personality-driven politics. They want to see us put the needs of the country ahead of personality, ego and ideology, yes even ideology. It means putting Bermuda first.

Speaking for myself, I am content to make my contribution to this movement forward because there must be forward movement and sacrifice for there to be progress, and progress toward our ultimate goal which is better government for Bermuda.

Tonight the party speaks through you the members, but the journey and the hard work continues tomorrow as it will be up to us individually and collectively to show we can work and will work for the good of Bermuda.

As my father often reminded me growing up: “The only place where success appears before work is in the dictionary.” Similarly, in politics, I am reminded of what Adlai Stevenson once said when someone shouted out to him: “Don’t worry, all right thinking people are behind you.” “That’s great,” he shouted back, “but what I need is a majority.”

That’s where the work and hard work comes in. It won’t be easy. I know from experience, some 20 years now in the political arena.

But tonight people this is your moment. This is our moment. Let’s seize it and seize it together, and through the new One Bermuda Alliance give what Bermuda it truly deserves: Better Government.

Change: John Barritt, outgoing leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, speaks to the media at the official launch of the party held at the Vasco Da Gama Club in Hamilton earlier this year.

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Published September 14, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 14, 2011 at 9:54 am)

People are looking for real change

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