We are here today to honour a woman who has served in so many capacities – and with such dignity and grace – that she earned the name “Mother”, a name that reveals the affection and gratitude of the many, many people she has cared for and helped throughout her storied career.
The lives she has touched number in the thousands. I am not alone in believing that she has a special calling – an anointing – to be a protector and comforter for the Coconut Grove community and for many others throughout The Bahamas.
She is the living embodiment of a servant leader. We are reminded of how Christ described the path to true leadership: “Whoever wants to be great among you, must become a servant.”
Cynthia “Mother” Pratt has served her way to greatness.
As she now rises as our nation’s Governor-General, it is my distinct pleasure to speak in support of an unparalleled nation-builder, community leader, and civic icon. Cynthia “Mother” Pratt’s life is a testament to the capacity for love within the Bahamian spirit. Hers is a career marked by selfless service, rooted in a profound commitment to conveying hope to people who need it the most.
She has inspired our youth as an educator, tended to our sick as a registered nurse, lifted the spirits of the lost as an ordained minister, and, of course, served the residents of St. Cecilia as a Member of Parliament for fifteen years. In each of these roles, compassion was the hallmark of her approach.
Her time as the first female Minister of National Security was marked by a visionary, holistic approach to policing. Many point to her tenure as the point in which community policing really came into full force, as she drove the development of Urban Renewal, which made an important difference to so many in our communities.
While we often speak of her nurturing nature as the “Mother” of a Nation, I also wish to emphasize her strength. You see, she isn’t just a comforter, she is also a defender of those who cannot defend themselves. And there can be no mistaking her kindness for weakness. Cynthia “Mother” Pratt is a force of nature with a passion for people.
Her own story is a testament to her resilience, but even as she relied on that strength to move forward and to overcome hardship, she also shared it, to uplift the people around her. There are countless stories of young women whose only pathway to a college came through Cynthia “Mother” Pratt. Take a walk through the Grove and you will meet young men who will tell you that it was “Mother Pratt” who helped them to get a job, turn their life around, and break a cycle of poverty and imprisonment.
Indeed, I have my own personal testimony to add here.
Many years ago, Mother Pratt was among the first to encourage and support me. She reminded me that even though many thought him the least amongst his brothers, a lowly shepherd, David was chosen by the prophet Isaiah and rose to be King. To this day I carry that lesson, that encouragement, and that inspiration with me.
There could only ever be one Cynthia “Mother” Pratt.
Walking the path to greatness through servitude requires love, strength, and humility.
When she served as the first female Deputy Prime Minister, and became the second woman to serve as acting Prime Minister, I was proud, not only because the PLP government of the time had the foresight to place such a dynamic woman in the highest levels of leadership, but also because she remained the same person, with the same clarity that our purpose on earth is to help others.
It is not only her humility that inspires, but her confidence and spirit. She believes her greatest accomplishment is succeeding when nobody believed she could, and she is fond of saying, “I’m stronger when you say I can’t do it.” What a lesson for all of our young people – to turn any discouragement you receive into rocket fuel!
As the thirteenth of sixteen children, raised on West Street, the odds were certainly stacked against her. And yet she did not relent.
She served with dignity from Coconut Grove to Mount Fitzwilliam, or as she says in the title of her autobiography, From the Pit to the Palace.
Cynthia “Mother” Pratt is proof that the circumstances of one’s birth need not determine one’s lot in life. She is, my friends, the embodiment of the indomitable Bahamian spirit.
As we swear her in as the nation’s twelfth Governor General, we do so with a profound appreciation for her legacy of service and commitment to country.
Her remarkable public career, her contributions to her community, and her sterling character make her the ideal choice for the office of Governor General.
Cynthia “Mother” Pratt, I am confident that you will perform your duties with distinction, as you always have.
I look forward to seeing you build on the legacy of your immediate predecessor, The Most Honourable Sir Cornelius Smith. You will walk in the footsteps of Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling and Her Excellency Dame Ivy Dumont as the third woman to serve as Governor-General.
The Bahamas is still a young nation. Day by day, we have the opportunity to grow stronger. I am certain your principled leadership will serve as a guiding light.
May God guide you in this new role, and may He continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.