Prime Minister Davis’ Tribute to the Life of Eldred Bethel

Your Excellency the Governor-General…

The Very Reverend Dean Harry Bain…

Reverend, Honoured and Distinguished Guests…

Good morning.

As we celebrate this 50th Anniversary year of Independence in The Bahamas, we have already begun to reflect on many aspects of nationhood and national development: our identity, our progress, our culture and our institutions.

And while we take stock of who we are, and debate our best path forward, none of it really makes sense unless we put front and centre, the personalities, efforts, and sacrifices of the many individuals who helped to lift us up to where we are now.

In this pantheon of nation-builders, the life and contribution of Ed Bethel stands tall.

I am happy that during the course of his life, his works and achievements were already being recognized.

Too often, we leave these things until after our heroes are no longer with us.

Since his passing, many others, here in The Bahamas and around the world, have paid added tribute to Ed’s exceptional qualities: as a journalist, a broadcaster, a diplomat, a colleague, a friend, and family member.

I heartily add my voice to this chorus of acclaim.

We can all learn from his example of what it is to be a nation-builder.

Ed Bethel was a Great Bahamian.

He fearlessly devoted his talent, experience, and expertise to the public good.

He was a pioneer. 

He was prepared to go into unchartered territory: to build things, to do things that hadn’t been done before. 

It required not just the boldness and clarity of a vision, but the resilience and determination to make it into a reality.

Building a national broadcasting network from nothing required more than technical skills.

It is also to appreciate at a profound level, that the charge to inform, educate and entertain a nation is a critical building block toward knowing, reflecting, and understanding who we are.

And it all succeeded because it was founded on a bedrock of trust.

Ed’s voice was trusted.

To hear him, to see him, was to know that you were receiving an accurate version of the first draft of history.

This is no small thing in an age where cynicism and doubt prevail.

While Ed’s political affiliation was well-known, the public also recognised that this did not affect his integrity as a journalist.

He did not shape the facts to fit his own preferences.

He did not allow his perspective to be narrowed into party politics, or to distort his account of what was fair or right.

Whether it was the cut and thrust of politics, the thrills and spills in sport, or the charm and quirks of community life, we knew that we could take what Ed said at face value.

This was especially important when radio was the only national broadcast medium.

It was Ed Bethel who painted the picture in our own imaginations, who provided context and meaning to great national events.

We shared his uncontained excitement that night in Paris when Elisha Obed won the Welterweight Championship title.

We danced along as he described Chippy bursting into the Le Cabaret Theatre with his junkanoo group, just after Sonia Chipman was crowned Miss Bahamas.

Indeed, at midnight on July 10th 1973, as the Bahamian flag was raised for the first time, we choked up and gave tearful thanks as Ed Bethel announced that the Commonwealth of The Bahamas was born.

I am sorry that he did not live to see July 10th 2023.

He still had more to offer.

Up until recently, he continued to contribute his knowledge and advice to the planning for the Independence Celebrations.

His instinct and generosity to share his experience with others remained strong.

As he had trained generations of young journalists, so he continued to offer the wisdom of his years.

I am pleased that on Monday past, the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas re-named its main Studio A, the Ed Bethel Studio.

Future generations who broadcast from there should know in whose footsteps they follow, and on whose shoulders they have been raised.

Ed’s crowning glory was to represent The Bahamas on the world stage.

His career as a diplomat was stellar.

As Consul-General in New York, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and Ambassador to the European Union, he worked tirelessly to advance the interests of The Bahamas.

At the same time, he also brought together the many disparate elements in the Bahamian diaspora.

In the diplomatic home of Ed and his wife Dawne, every Bahamian was welcome.

It wasn’t just the bigwigs and the so-called important people, they worked hard to make Bahamians feel that they had a home away from home, to keep them connected.

I say again, he was a Great Bahamian.

Sadly, this did not mean that in turn that Ed was always treated well, or indeed, treated right.

He endured some difficult times, when he was punished for reporting the truth, or persecuted because of political affiliation.

And yet, he continued to move forward with all the compassion, integrity and strength of character which so distinguishes him.

This fact alone goes to the heart of what I believe to be the essential characteristics of Great Bahamians.

To be, at the same time, both a nation-builder and a wonderful human being, to triumph in good fortune and adversity, to be among the best of who we are.

Apart from his great strides in public life, I was also happy to know Ed as a friend.

And so I was pleased to have had the opportunity to visit him a few weeks before he passed.

Even though the illness was already taking its toll, he was, with Dawne, still the consummate host: dignified, gracious, thoughtful, forward-looking and in good humour.

We shall miss him.

The broadcasting and journalist fraternity will miss him.

Our Diplomatic Corps will miss him.

His Lunch Bunch family will miss him.

Our Progressive Liberal Party family will miss him.

Our country will miss him.

On behalf of my wife Ann, and my family, and on behalf of the government and people of our beloved Bahamas, I offer condolences to his wife Dawne, their children Lisa, Bianca, John, Wayne and Christian, and to all the family and friends of Ed Bethel.