Leopold James, social activist and public figure, celebrated his 80th birthday on Tuesday, July 25. To mark the occasion, he asked the public for feedback – good, bad or anything in between – memories of him and the impact he has had on the community.
This week, in addition to some feedback from the Sint Maarten community; we share Leopold James’ own personal reflections as he looks back on his long and eventful life.
REFLECTIONS BY LEOPOLD JAMES
First of all, thanks for this privilege to commemorate my 80th birthday. I thank the Lord for giving me the ability to look back at all my challenges in life with peace of mind. There is no anger, no sense of vengeance, no bitterness – just pure gratitude, understanding and love.
What past achievements are you most proud of?
The following are a few concrete achievements I feel blessed to have contributed towards:
1. Setting up the HAVO and VWO schools at Milton Peters College. This made it possible for our students to have direct access to all universities in the Netherlands and the United States.
2. Formulating the concept of NATION-BUILDING for our island.
3. Helping many people set up various organizations, such as political parties, foundations and radio-programs.
4. Seeing many of my students become outstanding citizens and professionals. They include parliamentarians, ministers, engineers, CEO’s, lawyers and surgeons.
5. Having a very diverse family. We might – and do – have challenges from time to time. But I am super-proud of all my three children, six grandchildren. They mean everything for me.
Have your views changed between then and now?
As far as my views in general, I do not think that I have gone through any fundamental changes. However, for sure, I have grown to be more accepting and even loving towards others who were once very unfair, or hostile, towards my outspokenness. That makes me feel even attracted to assume a role as mediator or facilitator.
What nugget of knowledge would you like St. Maarteners to consider when thinking about the island's future?
I honestly believe that the most serious problem facing nations is balancing the interests of natives/cultural-heritage with all aspects of immigration, i.e., the “us” versus the “them” time-bomb. I have invested more than anyone in conceiving and expanding the concept of SXM nation-building. I am convinced that with our “blueprint”, we as SXM can teach the world how to achieve this coveted dynamic socio-equilibrium.
From Dr. Jay Haviser:
Hi Leopold, I am honoured you asked my opinion! You have made an enormous contribution to the conscious awareness of St. Maarteners, that there must be a valid recognition and support for those who hold our island close to heart, yet those who have heritage blood-line must have a distinctly significant role in our community! Please do not “get out of the way”! For me, your voice is one of the few reasonable and objective opinions for the island! Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will do further for SXM!
From Dr. Nilda Arduin:
Leopold is a critical thinker I learned to respect whether I agree with him or not. This impacted me to the extent that it must be possible – also on SXM – to speak your mind whether one likes it or not. The important role Leopold should play is mentoring and grooming youngsters to speak their mind respectfully and stand for something, even if the masses don't agree. But be persistent and yet open-minded to listen to others.
From Elsje Bosch-Wilson:
I got to know and respect Leopold James over the past 45 years as an educator, a caring family man, activist in "We for We" and overall a nice, outspoken guy who wants the best for this island and its people. Happy birthday, Leopold!
From Will Johnson:
A quick response would be: “Do not give up.” For your own good, keep on being Leopold, and your comments on international affairs is appreciated. We are living in a world of cowards who are afraid to give an opinion on anything. A couple of weeks ago, Alan Busby and I passed by your house. There was a car in the yard and we shouted out, but there no response so we left. Anyway, I for one appreciate that there are people like you still around. And, of course, you helped me immensely with directing Teddy on the right path to move up to VWO and then to Holland. He is in Madrid at the moment. Have a great birthday and God bless you with many more.
From Ilonka Heisterkamp:
Meneer, you taught me a lot about rules and regulations; about discipline and respect. These kinds of teachers nowadays are hard to find – teachers that treat the students like their own. Keep on sharing your point of view, keep on bringing important subjects to light – subjects people are afraid to talk about or share.
From Mathias Voges:
Leopold, I have known you since 1981 as a person who loved and always wanted the best for his country and people. You remind the St. Martiners where they came from and how our ancestors had to struggle in the past to make the best out of life. Leopold, 80 is not the end of the world. Continue to do what you love most.
From Emil Lee:
Receiving my St. Martin identity card was a moving and meaningful event in my life. The fact that Leopold and I could look past our differences and find common ground in the interest of a better SXM, really helped to shape my belief that real change in St Maarten is possible. Sadly, I believe that the real reform necessary is a radical political reform. Again, I believe that Leopold and I would find more common ground than anyone... everyone might suspect. Leopold, like every citizen, has a role to play in our community. He has the experience and time to contribute to SXM. Additionally, being retired also gives him the freedom to speak his mind without fear of retribution. Unfortunately, fear has silenced many voices in SXM.
From Keith Franca:
I will never ever forget your involvement in “We for We” SXM. People wish there was a “We for We” movement today. You were feared by the establishment and politicians. Eldridge van Putten, Rollocks, Krolis and you – a tremendous force at that time. What you cautioned for then is a reality now. We are not for We!
From Warno Kartokromo:
Please receive and accept our congratulations and best wishes on your special day: 80th birthday. You took a very priceless decision 35 years ago for our family, especially our two daughters, Suzy Ninon and Joan Sukina Kartokromo, by enrolling them to be part of the MPC school community. May our good Lord God continue blessing you with great health and a long, happy life, Sir; also on behalf of my better half, Paulina.