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The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States has named a native of the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis, Hugh A. Rawlins, to be the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This is a singular and well-deserved honour for a man who has spent his life in public service.

In an interview with the Observer, the Chief Justice spoke about his upbringing and how it influenced his life:

“I was fortunate in two regards: first, I had a stable family environment. We were not financially prosperous, but on hindsight, that stable family environment was more than prosperity,” he said. “In the second place, I had a church upbringing. While I was on Nevis, my parents insisted that we attended church regularly. That shaped me as a person. It provided a set of moral values that were known and accepted by the whole community. It provided a beacon for the community to follow. . . Persons in the community looked out for and supported each other.”

This description echoes what many citizens of the Federation have said were the keys to an orderly and secure life in this nation – a stable family environment and adherence to a publicly accepted set of values and mores of behaviour.

These are the same things that many people lament are disappearing, being replaced by lawlessness and selfishness.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

This is a free society. Each person has the ability to choose between a path that leads to self-betterment and community betterment or a road that leads to some level of satisfaction and comfort that comes at the expense of others.

If you want to see an example of someone who followed the first path, look at Chief Justice Rawlins. He wasn’t born rich and he didn’t steal or harm others to achieve greatness. He worked, he learned, he achieved and now he stands tall and respected among all decent people.

If you want to see an example of someone who chose the second path, read the Police Blotter. Some of the people listed there committed only petty infractions, but many acted out of greed or malice and are now the shame of all decent people they know.

Except for those suffering from mental health problems, the people who chose the second path made their choice freely. And it is ridiculous to say they made their choice because of what is on television, at the movies or found in music. Pop culture is entertainment – only entertainment in whatever form – not the basis for making life choices.

Life in the Federation will never be what it was; the world changes and the Federation must change with it. That doesn’t mean the things that are of deepest value – stable families and common beliefs – must be abandoned. What needs to happen is for each person living in the Federation to become more deeply committed to doing what is good for each other and casting down destructive behaviours.

It is time to embrace, as Abraham Lincoln called them, the better angels of our nature.

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