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We've witnessed Premier's generosity, jokes and tears

To get a flavour of the man behind the public face, <B>Tim Smith</B> spoke to some of Premier Ewart Brown's closest contacts from the past four years.

He might have done everything at a frantic pace, but those who have worked closely with Ewart Brown say he has always found time for a good laugh.

"The most disciplined bloke you ever met," according to former Chief of Staff Wayne Caines, Dr. Brown never swears, doesn't eat junk food, drinks alcohol extremely rarely and works out feverishly with his personal trainer.

He puts great emphasis on the way he looks — donning make-up ahead of TV appearances and with a strict personal rule of only wearing black socks with gold toes.

But while he has little patience for people who slow him down, colleagues and friends say he likes to liven up almost any situation by telling funny stories and cracking jokes.

And although he takes pride in his combative nature, it's not been unknown for him to break down in tears over emotional issues such as young black males or the intense public pressure he's faced.

Friends also point to his ability to be charming away from the public eye and his generosity, often digging into his own pockets to help those in need and keen to give advice to young people.

Mr. Caines, Chief of Staff for the first 18 months of Dr. Brown's term, recalled: "The Premier, what I learned immediately, had an insatiable desire for working at an unrelenting pace.

"He would see people at 15-minute intervals, always took a working lunch, and would start at five or six in the morning. It was a level of intensity I'd never seen before.

"All day, every day. He had the ability to keep five balls in the air at all times, never dropping one.

"He was shrewd and not one to be trifled with. He taught me a lot in a very short space of time. He loved a good laugh. We had some very, very hilarious times.

"He doesn't eat junk food between meals, he has a personal trainer twice a day, only drinking water and juice. He's always going to be fighting fit, always ready, always up for a battle.

"Very rarely did I ever see him drink alcohol, maybe three times in 18 months. If he was out on Government business, he wouldn't drink.

"I never heard him use profane words. I think he felt using profane words was a sign of weakness and lack of vocabulary. But he could sure find words in the English language to voice his disquiet that were not profane.

"I think the Premier is a man of action. If there's something in his way, he's not going to bellyache about that; in his way, he's going to get around it.

"He's not the average Bermudian; he does not work at the typical average pace. The Premier is frustrated by that, not with the person. He's committed to action and oftentimes became frustrated with the lethargy of how things move in Bermuda."

Mr. Caines is known for his eye-catching dress sense but says the Premier wasn't impressed.

"When I first started I used to be flamboyant: bright shirts and ties," he said.

"He told me, 'You are going to have to tone that stuff down.' He wanted me to wear white and blue shirts, and regimental ties."

To underline his point, Dr. Brown bought Mr. Caines a regimental striped tie for his birthday.

"He wanted people to have the benefit of my knowledge without creating the wrong impression. When we work for the people, we should always have a subdued demeanour.

"He wanted me to be the everyday man as opposed to Joe Cool. He has a tailor. I offered to lend him mine to bring him to 2010, but he turned me down.

"He was almost Rainman-ish. He always had black socks with gold toes. He would search New York high and low but would only wear those gold toe socks."

Mr. Caines said he saw an unexpected side to Dr. Brown at a pre-election meeting in front of about 50 young men.

"In the midst of questioning, one young man asked the Premier what's it like to be under so much pressure and so much criticism when you believe you're doing the right thing," he said.

"During the conversation, the Premier broke down and cried. At that point, I had not seen him cry before. I think it was a moment when everybody saw his humanity, saw he was indeed vulnerable."

Press secretary Jamahl Simmons said that wasn't the only time the Premier's emotions were on show.

"I think the thing that most stood out to me is the side the public didn't get to see," said Mr. Simmons. "The time during a Mirrors graduation when he was overcome by the way some of the young men had committed to turning their lives around and began to unashamedly weep.

"The times he would visit primary schools and the children would literally leap into his arms to embrace him. The times when people came to him in need and he would go into his own pocket to help them. That is the Dr. Brown I know and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know."

Echoing those sentiments, Dr. Brown supporter and Progressive Labour Party central committee member LaVerne Furbert said: "Dr. Brown is very caring and compassionate and it is not unusual for him to dig into his pockets to help those less fortunate.

"Dr. Brown has helped many, many young Bermudians in many, many ways. He responds immediately to e-mails. There have been many times that I have suggested that Dr. Brown take a certain course of action, and he will often take my suggestion. Even though he is retired from medicine, he is still called on for medical advice."

Mr. Simmons described the Premier as tough but fair, saying he constantly seeks to challenge people, especially young black males, to exceed their expectations of themselves.

"For me personally, working with him has not only been the opportunity of a lifetime but a life altering experience," said Mr. Simmons.

"The leadership and character lessons I have learned from working with Dr. Brown have been invaluable."

Ms Furbert said: "I have two adult sons who both admire Dr. Brown and they often look to him for advice which he readily gives. My sons are not the exception to the rule, there are many young people who call on Dr. Brown for advice."

She also backed up Mr. Caines' assessment of the Premier's sense of humour, saying: "Dr. Brown is witty and funny and a great story teller. I meet on a regular basis with Dr. Brown and his brothers Philip and Vincent and before we get down to work I could be assured of a good laugh as the three of them together are better than any comedy team.

"Earlier this year I had a party for Dr. Brown in my backyard — not a special occasion, but there were many people that I know that just wanted to thank Dr. Brown personally for what he has done for Bermuda. The people that came were from all walks of life, and yes there were some whites in attendance. It was a wonderful evening."

Mr. Caines said the Premier came into his own at meetings overseas, where he was a "giant among his peers".

"He was able to evoke a sense of presence in a room of men," he said.

But his Americanised style could have been a turn-off to some Bermudians, noted Mr. Caines.

"We can see the North American psyche in how he ran himself and governed," he said. "It was not a traditional Bermuda style. It's aggressive. It's bright lights, big city.

"I think the Premier has created some leather for his own back, but he has something he wanted to accomplish in Bermuda during his tenure. A lot of people didn't share that vision that he had.

"He knew he had a finite amount of time, four years, and had a lot to do. He knew what it took to get it through the party: push, push, push.

"I think our relationship would not be described as perfect. We disagreed on many issues but I'm not the type of person to dwell on anything besides the positive.

"I think that party politics in Bermuda is a huge challenge. I think Dr. Brown's era in Bermuda will have a lot of successes and a lot of controversies. I will not be the judge of his leadership and the impact he's made in Bermuda. History will judge his success and failures."

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Published October 21, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 10:07 am)

We've witnessed Premier's generosity, jokes and tears

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