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Sir John, a quintessential giant

Sir John Swan, pictured with his Legacy Insights Award, was Premier of Bermuda from 1982 to 1995 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The following poem was written in honour of Sir John Swan, the former Premier of Bermuda, receiving the Legacy Insight Award at Leopards Club on Friday:

As we preserve our history for posterity

The name Sir John will reverberate through the ages

For this man, this giant among many

Created a legacy that should stand the test of time

Years ago, Sir John impacted me

And consequently, I hypothesise that

This icon must never be forgotten.

Chimamanda Adichie once said

That to present one side of history is to lie

Dr Eva Hodgson and Mrs Florenz Maxwell agreed

That unless we write our story

“We must prepare to accept a biased account of the past”

Thus, those who delve into the intricacies of his story

Who analyse the time when Sir John lived

Will unearth more than I have time to tell

But I am persuaded, that he, like Sir Winston Churchill

Will remain “splendidly unreduced”

Because you, Sir, are a giant of a man.

I hope that when students study Sir John

They will understand that through using brick and mortar

He demonstrated that hard work and determination are worthy attributes

Thus, in the deepest recesses of the Bermudian psychic

Will be branded his blueprint for success

Perhaps the study of his life will advance a higher consciousness

And teach us to value people

To meet them where they are

Because he truly connected with those he served

He acted on what he believed

And spoke his truth with strong resolve

And we learnt that simply smiling

Can change the world.

Those who study Sir John’s story

Will undoubtedly uncover layers of complexity

Solidifying that nothing is simply black or white

I hope that the illumination of his past

Will enlighten our future

We applaud his tenacity which produced more than an ideology

But concrete, viable options

That propelled Bermuda into the spotlight of the world.

Students may highlight on their pages that he served

Without reservation

With deliberate dedication

And seeking a higher aspiration, catapulted to a meteoric rise

Elected to parliament in 1972

Premier from 1982 to 1995

His service in ministerial capacities, his business acumen

His service and giving on so many levels

Resulted in his appointment in 1990

As a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

But, in spite of his fame and fortune

This giant, lacking pomposity

Remains my mother’s lifelong, kind and trusted friend

He wrote my sister’s college recommendation

Purchased my juvenile paintings

Employed my uncle Mac

And helped Stan and I purchase our first home

He enthusiastically, without hesitation or reservation

Spoke to my students at the Berkeley Institute upon my request

And spent hours answering their questions

Unapologetically sharing his challenges

Acknowledging his imperfections

As he inspired them to reach out and grasp their dreams.

My hope is that when people read his story

They will appreciate his vision

And resolve to do what they can to improve our world

Perhaps those who read his story

Will be more comfortable with difference

Realising that everyone has the capacity to serve

Yes, this poetic rendering, I offer as my perspective

Requested by Dale Butler

To celebrate a man who did so much and for so long

It is with great satisfaction that I submit these words with love

To a quintessential giant, a national hero

To Sir John, I simply say

Well done!

Shangri-La Durham-Thompson

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Published February 22, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated February 21, 2022 at 5:46 pm)

Sir John, a quintessential giant

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