Sir John named national hero for 2016
Sir John Swan has been named Bermuda's 2016 national hero for his lasting contributions to the island and her people.
Sir John said yesterday that he was “deeply honoured” to have been chosen. “I am particularly honoured because this is coming from my country, which I have tried to serve as best I can,” Bermuda's longest-serving premier said. “That recognition I consider to be something not just of myself but the many, many, many people who have lifted me on their shoulders and helped me to become what I am.
“I hope I can continue to be of service to my country in whatever capacity that allows me to look out for Bermuda's best interests.”
Michael Dunkley was grilled by journalists at a press conference announcing the news yesterday on why the public were not officially invited to submit nominations this year, to which he replied that the nomination process is open year-round. Asked how many members of the public nominated Sir John, the Premier responded that he was the only one and his recommendation was approved by the National Heroes Committee and then by Cabinet.
Mr Dunkley described Sir John as a political luminary, a philanthropist and real estate entrepreneur whose impact is still felt today.
One of his biggest contributions, he said, was in the negotiations of the US Bermuda Tax Convention Development, which launched the island's insurance and reinsurance industries.
Speaking at the press conference, Mr Dunkley said: “I am genuinely delighted to announce that on June 19 there will be an addition to the distinguished list to Bermuda's national heroes — a man who has undoubtedly done so much for Bermuda and Bermudians.
“His contributions have significantly shaped Bermuda and its development. He has been recognised not only locally but internationally as well for his work. Known for his entrepreneurial mind, Sir John began his business career in real estate in 1962 when he founded the John W. Swan Agency. Through this venture, Sir John was able to help countless Bermudians secure their own homes because his company developed houses.”
Mr Dunkley highlighted other noteworthy accomplishments made by Sir John throughout his career: that he was a founding member of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, a director of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce and a director of the Bermuda Tourist Council.
Mr Dunkley continued: “Sir John's political career began back in 1972 and he spent 25 years of active and relentless service to the people of Bermuda. He demonstrated tremendous expertise during his tenure holding portfolios first as a Minister of Marine and Air Services, and Minister of Immigration and Home Affairs. He became the Premier of Bermuda in 1982 and served in that capacity for 13½ years.
“One of his most significant milestones during his political legacy was achieved in 1996, when he pioneered the negotiations of the US Bermuda Tax Convention to its completion. This agreement resulted in the development of the insurance and reinsurance industries and established the island as a major offshore financial centre, thus creating a foundation for the island's stable economy and a well-developed infrastructure and regulatory framework. Sir John's contributions have been profound; moreover he embodies the criteria that had been established under Bermuda's National Heroes guidelines to help determine national heroes.”
Sir John will become the first living person to be inducted as a national hero.
He joined a distinguished list that includes Dame Lois Browne-Evans, Dr Pauulu Kamarakafego, Dr E.F. Gordon, Sir Henry Tucker, Sir Edward Richards, Gladys Morrell and Mary Prince.
There were no other nominations made this year in a process that traditionally has solicited the nominations of the public.
As for the unprecedented decision to nominate a living person as a Bermuda national hero, Mr Dunkley added: “In this case, Cabinet believes it is fully appropriate and I fully support it. National heroes should come from the ranks of the living and those who have moved on to a greater reward.”
Mr Dunkley invited the public to the induction ceremony on the grounds of Camden on June 19 at 4pm.