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Bermuda’s National Hero 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016
Minister of Social Development and Sports, The Hon. Sylvan D. Richards, J.P., M.P.

Ministerial Statement by the Minister of Social Development and Sports, The Hon. Sylvan D. Richards, J.P., M.P.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of this House and the people of Bermuda, I am most pleased to share with my fellow Bermudians and  residents the name of Bermuda’s newest National Hero – The Hon. Sir John W. Swan, KBE, JP. This title of distinction will be conferred upon Sir John during an induction ceremony scheduled to take place on Sunday 19th June 2016 at 4pm at Camden.

Mr. Speaker, Sir John’s contributions have significantly shaped Bermuda and her development; and his impact has been of such a magnitude that it is still being felt to this day. He has been recognized not only in the local business arena but internationally as well. His is a household name that is so familiar throughout all of Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, Most people know of Sir John as a real estate developer and a political giant since he remains the longest serving Premier of Bermuda. Sir John is also a philanthropist, and well-respected businessman. His business career in real estate began in 1962 when he founded John W. Swan Agency. Through this business venture Sir John was able to help many Bermudians own their own homes because his company developed so many houses. Some of his other noteworthy accomplishments include him becoming a founding member of the Bermuda Monetary Authority; Director of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce and the Director of the Bermuda Employers Council.

Mr. Speaker, Sir John’s political career began in 1972; and it spanned twenty five (25) years of active, energetic and relentless service to the people of Bermuda. He demonstrated tremendous political prowess during his tenure holding many portfolios including Minister of Marine and Air Services from 1975 to1976; and Minister of Immigration and Labour from 1976 to 1982. Sir John became Premier of Bermuda in 1982 and served in this capacity for thirteen and a half years. A most significant milestone was achieved in 1986 when the negotiations of the USA/Bermuda Tax Convention led by Sir John were completed. This agreement contributed to continuing the development of the local insurance and reinsurance industries while further establishing the island as a major offshore financial centre and strengthening the island's economy.

Mr. Speaker, Bermuda’s newest national hero has been recognized by numerous organizations over many years for his stellar service to his country and community. In 1969 he was named “Outstanding Man of the Year” by the Bermuda Jaycees. In 1985 he was admitted to the Freedom of the City of London, England and Honorary Member of Hamilton Rotary Club Bermuda. In 1986 Sir John was awarded the International Medal of Distinction, from the International Association of Lions Clubs, in recognition of his humanitarian endeavours. Sir John was the first recipient of a new international award, the International Medal of Excellence, from the Poor Richard Club of Philadelphia; the oldest press and advertising club in Philadelphia.

Mr. Speaker, In 1990 Her Majesty the Queen appointed Sir John a Knight Commander of the order of the British Empire hence the letters KBE that follow his name. In more recent years Sir John has had other titles bestowed upon him. In 2002 St. Paul’s A.M.E. church conferred the Outstanding Service Award to Sir John. In 2010 he was inducted into the Bermuda Business Hall of Fame; and was one of the first four recipients of this new and prestigious award. In addition he has been awarded several honorary doctorates including an Honorary Doctorate from West Virginia Wesleyan College; an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Atlantic Union College; an Honorary Doctorate of Law from University of Tampa, Florida; and an Honorary Doctorate, Humane Letters from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding all of the recognitions and awards that have been conferred upon him and his accomplishments in politics and business, Sir John has not lost his common touch. You can still see him interacting with people of all walks of life on the streets of Hamilton and up and down Bermuda. He is so well known for his warm and friendly wave and his very engaging smile. His friendliness, humility and concern for others are very much a part of who he is.

Mr. Speaker, Sir John’s contributions are legendary and he embodies many of the criteria that had been established under the National Heroes Guidelines: Criteria and Selection Process to help determine national heroes.

According to these guidelines, Mr. Speaker, individuals (or groups) must meet most of the following criteria:

  • The person must have made a significant and lasting contribution to Bermuda
  • The person has enriched the lives of others
  • The person’s legacy will stand the test of time and have continued relevance in the future
  • The person has contributed to the quality of life and destiny of Bermuda
  • The person is considered outstanding in their area of activity
  • The person has ready name recognition among the general public
  • The person is recognized by his/her profession
  • The person is reflective of Bermuda’s cultural heritage and diversity

Mr. Speaker, There is no doubt that the Hon. Sir John Swan KBE, JP meets most if not all of the above criteria. The nature of a person’s contribution to the development of society is the benchmark against which persons ought to be selected.  Bermuda has many persons of whom we can and are justly proud; and for whom recognition is due. Sir John’s significant contributions in the business arena and the world of politics make him most worthy of the designation of national hero.

I invite everyone to join us on Sunday 19th June 2016 at 4pm on the grounds of Camden when we induct Bermuda’s newest national hero – the Hon. Sir John W. Swan KBE, JP.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.