SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday delivered the congratulatory remarks on August 6 on the occasion of the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Philipsburg Mutual Improvement Association (PMIA).
His remarks are as follows:
Ladies and gentlemen,
And a special good evening to the President, Board and Members of the Philipsburg Mutual Improvement Association.
As a people we are the sum of our history.
Tonight, we celebrate part of the sum of the history of our Sint Maarten people, that is 90 years of the Philipsburg Mutual Improvement Association, PMIA.
I am pleased to address you this evening for the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the PMIA. There is an African proverb which reads, and I quote:
“We desire to bequeath two things to our children;
the first is roots and the other is wings.” unquote
As an organization the PMIA continues to give content to words of this African proverb.
Established in 1932, the PMIA was founded on the idea of promoting the social and cultural interests of the people of Sint Maarten through self-reliance. This anchored on its motto of: Friendship, Love and Unity. In its ninety years the PMIA has sought to realize its mission by providing educational and other social programs and by offering its facilities for use for social, cultural, commercial and government tasks. This Hall has hosted dances, concerts, movies, weddings, and currently serves as one of the chambers for court sessions.
Through its leadership I have a significant connection with the PMIA.
- I am the grandson of the PMIA Cofounder and first President, LB Scott;
- I am the great Nephew of the PMIA’s second President, Mr. Alexis Arnell;
- I am the son of the PMIA’s third President, Mrs. Leonie Holiday-Marsham; and
- I am the brother of the PMIA’s fourth and current President, Ms. Glenderlin Holiday.
It should therefor come as no surprise when I tell you that as a boy, I spent many Sunday afternoons in this PMIA hall attending PMIA meetings. That under the guidance of another PMIA stalwart Mrs. Mildred Scott. At the time I must admit, I was not always happy about having to attend those meetings. I would have rather spend my Sunday afternoons on the Baseball field. During those meetings we were taught the principles of the PMIA, self-reliance, friendship, love, and unity. Special emphasis was placed on important values and skills such as, being punctual, on being respectful, on speaking clearly, on paying attention when others are speaking, on how to organize and conduct orderly meetings, and on public speaking to name a few. Important principles, values, and skills for the building of cohesive communities and a strong country. These lessons in civics played an important role in preparing us to be active and responsible citizens. Looking back, I am thankful that my mother insisted that I attended those meetings along with my brothers. For in the words of the African proverb we were given wings. When I listen to and read the nature of the public discourse or should I say discord, it is evident that these lessons and these wings are still relevant today. In this age of social media and electronic networking, the interpersonal and civic education programs of the PMIA can play an important role in improving interpersonal interactions and fostering greater civility and cohesion in our society.
In preparing for this speech I came across the program for the PMIA 45th anniversary meeting held on August 7, 1977. It consisted of two parts:
- A Religious Part and
- A Social part.
There were prayers, scripture readings, hymns, recitals, songs, and addresses. At the time 45 years ago, I addressed the gathering in my capacity as Vice President of the Junior Section of the PMIA. Seeing the document, prepared with an old fashion typewriter, with many of the names of senior members of the PMIA, and especially the names of the other junior members brought back fond memories of yester year.
In 2003 I was, therefore, happy to give back to the PMIA when I developed the idea for the Annual Lionel Bernard Scott Memorial Lecture series and proposed that the PMIA host the Lecture as one of its Programs. To launch and set the tone for the Lecture Series I therefor volunteered and delivered the first LB Scott Memorial lecture on the topic: Economic Self-Reliance and Sint Maarten’s Quest for Country Status. Sint Maarten’s Economic self-reliance was a relevant issue when the PMIA was established 90 years ago, it was important during our quest for country status and remains critical today.
The lecture series I believe fits nicely in the founders’ vision of holding town-hall meetings to discuss, inform and educate the population about social, economic, and constitutional issues which are important for our development. I trust that the PMIA will continue to offer these valuable educational lectures to our people.
I say that because it is evident that education gives us wings and helps us grow as individuals and as a people. In addition to its educational role, PMIA fulfills a significant cultural heritage function.
Today as we celebrate the 90th anniversary of PMIA, I believe that we can draw some important lessons from the longevity and resilience of this historic and true Sint Maarten institution. We should ask ourselves how many of our original organizations and traditions that represents our Sint Maarten roots still stand today.
In a recent conversation with some of my staff at the Cabinet of the Governor we were reminiscing about the people and buildings in Philipsburg, Bush road and around the island and about our foods and customs. I was surprised at how much some of them remembered and at the same time concerned about how much no longer exists.
The PMIA with its building, the PMIA hall, is one of those original Sint Maarten organizations that has stood the test of time. This PMIA 90th anniversary reminds us that we can preserve our heritage in the face of external pressures and amidst the challenges of an everchanging environment. And for doing this I commend the past and current members and boards of the PMIA. A study of the membership of the PMIA will show that many persons have passed through the association. They or their children therefore have a story to tell about the association and their participation in its activities. The PMIA at 90 has deep roots and is as such a part of Sint Maarten’s cultural heritage. And cultural heritage is the root that anchors and causes us to grow as a people. Today’s 90th anniversary celebration is therefore a call for us to place more emphasis on preserving our Sint Maarten heritage. It is an encouragement for more of us to take up our responsibility to preserve, document protect and pass on our cultural heritage.
As we celebrate this 90th anniversary I, also on behalf of Marie Louise, hereby commend and congratulate the President of PMIA, Glenderlin Holiday, the other board members and the members of PMIA on achieving this significant milestone in the life of the association. You have built on the works of those that went before you to maintain and preserve this original historic Sint Maarten Institution. You have answered the call. You are continuing to bequeath our children with roots and wings. And I am sure that the founders of PMIA, past board members, and members who are no longer with us are smiling on this proceeding with pride.
Once again congratulations and may God bless the PMIA and its members.
God Bless you
And May God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.