It gives me great pleasure to be here with all of you this morning as we officially recognize nine (9) outstanding Bahamians who are recipients of the 2008-2009 Organization of American States scholarship award.

The Organization of American States (OAS) Undergraduate and Graduate Scholarship Award Programmes date back to 1958 and are financed by the governments of the member states as a means of contributing to their integral development. This programme is therefore one of the instruments of the OAS that is designed to enrich the human resources of the member states.

This morning, I salute our 9 recipients and note that as an OAS scholarship recipient they are considered amongst the best candidates who possess the potential to make significant and profound contributions in this society. They are now joining some seventy-nine other Bahamians who have earned this wonderful distinction.

While our scholars are all different and possess different strengths and talents, they all possess some common traits. They have all distinguished themselves in terms of their consistently high academic performance, they have been very active in extra-curricular activities and they have shown leadership potential. These were all well-defined criteria in the OAS scholarship selection process and I salute them for the remarkable way they have developed themselves.

I wish to acknowledge the Bahamas/OAS pre-selection committee which is comprised of representatives from the Bahamas OAS office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the College of the Bahamas. I sincerely thank the committee members for their continued dedication and commitment to this programme. It is because of their hard work and the generosity of the OAS that these Bahamians will have their lives enriched.

This morning we are recognizing the award of three (3) undergraduate scholarships to Mr. Andrew Nottage in the field of computer engineering; Ms. Nikita Shiel-Rolle in the field of marine science and Ms. Saran Forbes in the field of economics.

The six (6) persons that are receiving the graduate awards are: Ms. Yvonne Hunter in the field of adult education (training and vocational); Ms. Sharnell Cox, in the field of educational instruction; Mr. Walter Stuart in the field of financial management; Ms. Antoinette Moxey and Mr. Ron Johnson both in the field of hospitality management; and Ms. Audrey Ann Sarsingh-Mills in field of Caribbean literature.

Scholarship recipients, as you pursue studies in your field of interest, I urge you to also keep your minds open to different perspectives and to cherish all experiences. You will study with other students, who themselves come from a variety of countries and backgrounds, bringing with them their own experiences that in turn will become part of your learning. This can only enhance your personal development.

Your personal development, therefore, is important to your roles in helping to shape the Bahamas as a leader in our region. It is within this context, that I would hope that you would see the education and the skills you will acquire, in your respective fields of studies, as a tool to assist in building our country’s economy, to enhance our social well-being and to safeguard our democratic values. With that realization, I am confident that, upon completion of your studies, you will all make lasting contributions to the Bahamas and gain great personal satisfaction from your careers.

I wish to express, on behalf of the people and the government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, my sincere appreciation to the Organization of American States for this scholarship programme, which contributes to the development of our most precious resources, our people, and to you, Mrs. Phillips and staff of the Bahamas OAS office for your visible presence here in our country.

In conclusion, I congratulate you once again, scholarship recipients, and I encourage you to strive for excellence. I look forward to each of you taking your rightful place in the development of this wonderful country of ours.

Thank you! And god bless!