Your Excellencies, Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen
I must say it is a great joy to have this opportunity to be with you this evening. And to have met at least some of you I hope. Although I find that a lot of Yorkshire cricketers seem to be very thick on the ground here this evening, which reminds me of a time when I was here with the Royal Navy in the West Indies. It was seven months in 1973, and to my absolute astonishment I found myself being volunteered to join the ship’s cricket team. And we played against many of the teams in many of the islands, and as I was explaining to them I don’t think I have ever been so frightened in my life. These very, very concrete like wickets, but somehow though I survived. So to be with you this evening is a particular pleasure and to have had this opportunity to visit both St. Kitts and Nevis during the same day despite the rain . Above all, I wanted to say The Queen asked me to convey her warmest greetings to you all. And I need hardly say how very touched we have been by the welcome we have received on both islands and, for my part, it has been particularly special to return to places that I have such fond memories of visiting when I first came here some forty-six years ago during my time in the Royal Navy. Indeed, I have seen one or two people whom I first met all those years ago who remembered absolutely everything, including my best jokes which is always very encouraging.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, coming here today has reminded me of the outstanding beauty of these islands and I have been particularly struck by the evident strength of your society. We have heard about so many wonderful people doing marvellous things in their communities. People like Dion Browne who is working to tackle anti-social behaviour among young people; or Trevis Belle who founded ‘Making A Difference Everywhere’ to improve the local environment and help students struggling in school; or Javon Liburd who established J3H to recognise outstanding students from village areas – all of whom were appointed Queen’s Young Leaders; or indeed William Kenrick Evelyn who, for twenty years, has worked to preserve cultural and historical sites for future generations, and has been honoured as a Commonwealth Point of Light.
Over all these years, Ladies and Gentlemen, I know that St. Kitts and Nevis has had such remarkable influence, in this region and beyond, punching, as they say, well above her weight and belying the fact that she has the smallest population of any country in the Western Hemisphere. As a consequence, the voice of St Kitts and Nevis is heard, and listened to, on so many of the most pressing issues of our time, not least on the immense and alarming challenge of Climate Change, which poses nothing short of an existential threat to Island Nations like yours; or, indeed, on so many other questions of sustainability.
I know, too, that St. Kitts and Nevis has offered a compelling example to others in its clear commitment to the environmentally sensitive development of its tourism industry. And St. Kitts has also taken a lead on the protection of the precious marine environment that surrounds your islands, and against the scourge of ocean plastics which are causing such devastating harm in the Caribbean, as indeed elsewhere. I must say I have long thought of Small Island States as being, in reality, Large Ocean States, and, it seems to me, the continued leadership of countries such as St. Kitts and Nevis is absolutely essential in terms of protecting the health of our oceans – something which is absolutely critical to our shared survival. I therefore applaud the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis for having declared all your coastal waters as a Marine Management Area and for being committed to protecting the marine environment for the benefit of both current and future generations of Kitians and Nevisians.
Ladies and Gentleman, for these, and for so many other reasons, St. Kitts and Nevis is a much-valued member of our Commonwealth family of nations, as we celebrate the Commonwealth’s seventieth birthday this year — as we celebrate it this year, it seems to me that this family of nations remains as vital today as it has ever been – bringing us together to address some of the most urgent issues facing us all.
As I’ve mentioned the Commonwealth faces the immense challenges posed by climate change, but also rapid urbanization and youth unemployment, with sixty percent of the population of the Commonwealth under thirty years old.
So helping young people achieve their potential is something about which I have minded greatly for many years. That was why I started the Prince’s Trust in the United Kingdom forty-three years ago, to help young people who may have experienced the most challenging circumstances and difficulties in their lives. It has always seemed to me vitally important to give young people the skills, the self-confidence and the self-esteem to achieve their potential, whether by equipping them for employment or by empowering them to start their own businesses. I am delighted that we are now able to take the experience of my Trust to a growing number of places around the world through Prince’s Trust International. From a base in Barbados, we are expanding the work of Prince’s Trust International across the Caribbean and I can only hope that in St. Kitts and Nevis, as elsewhere, my Trust might be able to make some small difference by helping young Kittitians and Nevisians achieve their true potential.
Furthermore, I was keen to find a way of marking my 70th birthday last year, as well as that of the Commonwealth this year, by empowering talented young people from across our Commonwealth family of nations to address some of the most fundamental issues facing their countries, and indeed our whole world.
That is why it gives me the very greatest pleasure to announce that, over the next three years, The Cambridge Commonwealth Trust – of which I became founding patron back in 1982 and has since awarded 19,000 scholarships to international students – will offer twenty more scholarships, that will bear my name, to students from across the Commonwealth to study at my old university, Cambridge. These ‘Prince of Wales Commonwealth Scholarships’ will focus on subjects about which I have cared so deeply for many years, such as climate change, the blue economy and sustainability. It is my sincere hope that these scholarships will equip their recipients to find creative solutions to the most critical challenges facing our planet.
Your Excellencies, Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It simply remains for me to say, once again, just how much my wife and I have enjoyed our time in St. Kitts and Nevis and just how much we appreciate the very special hospitality that has been extended to us today. I can only say how terribly sorry we are that we cannot stay here longer on this occasion, but how much we look forward to returning to your beautiful islands before too long and to see all of you once again.