Winning Essay below
Cayman Brac High School student Brendan Wahler won the inaugural Adventures in Citizenship essay contest conducted by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman.
Mr. Wahler was announced the winner of four finalists during the Rotary Club’s regular weekly luncheon meeting at the Westin Casuarina Resort on Thursday.
Alphasoft’s Vicky Wheaton presented Mr. Wahler with a laptop computer as the grand prize for his efforts.
Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford was on hand at the Rotary meeting to congratulate Mr. Wahler and the other finalists, who were also in attendance.
Other finalists included Krystal Hydes from Triple C School; Erin Hislop from Cayman Prep and High School; and Chanelle Ramoon of John Gray High School.
All of the essayists were asked to write on the subject ‘My Cayman’.
Rotary Club president David Kirkaldy said all of the finalists’ essays were very good, but that Mr. Wahler’s stood out as the best.
Mr. Wahler’s essay spoke about how the Cayman Islands was a place a person can make a difference.
In addressing the finalists and Rotarians, Mr. Clifford said one is never too young or too old to make a mark in whatever endeavour he or she chooses to undertake.
‘This, I believe, was part of the thinking when the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman challenged our youth to write about ‘My Cayman’,’ he said.
Mr. Clifford noted that, even when looking at the same thing, people will experience variations in perception and interpretation.
‘The young often have an entirely different perspective on matters that concern us all and it is important to garner their thoughts, particularly as they relate to this country that we all share and love,’ he said.
Mr. Clifford recognised the Rotary Club for initiating the competition and for giving the students a chance to see the inner workings of government, which was a reward for all four finalists.
‘I have to say, that just a few years ago, I myself would have been grateful for such an opportunity,’ he said.
On Thursday and Friday of last week, the four finalists visited the Courthouse, where the Chief Justice explained the court system; they toured the Legislative Assembly with the Speaker of the House; met with the Chief Secretary, who explained the functions and roles of Cabinet; and had lunch with Governor Stuart Jack, who spoke to them about his role in Cayman’s government.
Mr. Clifford acknowledged the Rotary Club for its many projects on the island.
‘This organisation continues to contribute to the Cayman Islands with unfailing dependability,’ he said. ‘We cannot thank them enough.’
By Brendan Wahler
There are many people who have more of a claim to the Cayman Islands than I do. I cannot say that I have done anything particularly spectacular for this country or even that I was born here. But what I can say is that I have lived most of my life on these islands, and have come to love this place and think of it as a home in a way that goes beyond the insignificant fact of a birthplace.
Above all else, these islands are not a place that make you feel obligated to be a part of a massive entity, to sacrifice your soul and become just another mindless automaton in service of the massive homogenised entity of the People. The Cayman Islands are a place that a person can be of significance, and actually matter; these islands satisfy one of every person’s fundamental needs: the need for a purpose. A person can live here and know that they are making a difference, not simply filling a post identical tot eh other ten thousand like it, and be the one to make at least a part of the world, no matter how small, better for everyone.
Of course, there’s more to these islands than a purpose for their people. These islands are among the safest, most beautiful, most untouched places in the world today. There is more life in a square mile here than many sprawling cityscapes covering hundreds of square miles elsewhere. We are truly blessed to have a chance to live in a place that, while forever changed by the modern world, is also still the same place, for the most part, that it has been for thousands of years, and, if we are lucky, will be for thousands of years to come.
The seas, the land, the air, all are undeniably and completely Caymanian, in a way that goes beyond the people. The people are as Caymanian as anything else here, but they have become a part of the life here and have merged seamlessly with the world around them and have forever become a part of it. The term Caymanian doesn’t merely mean a person from the Cayman Islands; it means a person who is part of the islands, cooperating instead of trying to control.
As a person who many would hesitate to call a ‘true’ Caymanian, I have found myself in need of a place here, but, once again, our country has not let us down. The Cayman Islands are a family, and the kind of family who would let a traveller have dinner and a place to sleep for a night, a family that gives all it can because it should, without ever stopping to think why, or indeed, why not. We live in a place where any person, no matter who they are, can find a place, a niche into which they fit as though they were born into it, and, if they can’t, they find that they can make one of their own and become a member of the Caymanian family and feel just as happy and welcome as any other.
One of the greatest qualities of the Cayman Islands, and, of course, the Caymanian people, is the way we, as a whole, have made a place for ourselves in a harsh and coldly unforgiving world, and, despite our size, risen to greatness. The Caymanian people, through history, have toiled continuously for all the things we enjoy today. Unfortunately, many people still fail to realise what this means, or to truly understand what it means for even a single person to devote their life as a cause, even when they know that they will never see the future they have built.
That we will not take their sacrifice for granted and render it meaningless, and that we will see why they chose to live their lives the way they did, not for themselves, but for what they believed was right, is the prayer that now, and forever, remains in my heart.