A Journey of Purpose and Dedication Towards Public Office

Indeed, the road to public office is a journey that has shaped me into the man I am today, and I’m eager to share that with you. However, before delving into that aspect, I think it’s important to shine a light on my upbringing, spread across Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, and the UK. It was this eclectic mix of cultures that equipped me with the skills and broad perspective I hold today. Born and raised in a tight-knit family that valued education and resilience, I learned early on to deflect the discouraging voices of naysayers. I am the third of four children in a vibrant home, in fact we lived in different parts of our country. I enjoyed a modest yet nurturing middle-class upbringing. Our home was a vibrant hive of intellect and talent, with a statistical chartist, seismic administrator, classical pianists, teachers, diplomats, chartered accountants, media professionals, and lawyers. Their stories, along with those who worked to federate the Caribbean and to secure our independence and republican status, made up the soundtrack to my youth.

In the UK, my early penchant for community involvement found me coordinating projects for the Mayor’s Office in Lewisham at just 14 years old. I also engaged with the Mandiani Project and the Young People’s Health Project with funding from the British National Lottery throughout my teenage years. The Summit of the Americas, where I was the youngest freelance journalist, was the site of many monumental meetings, including those with the late Hugo Chavez and President Obama. My time living in the Asia/Pacific region, including Taiwan, Fiji, Kiribati, and New Zealand, further broadened my outlook on life, public policy, culture, and governance. Later on, in 2018, I also attended the Ecumenical School on Governance Economics and Management organised by the WCC in Mexico City, Mexico. Out of this, my colleagues and I presented a paper, which we proposed to the United Nations, a more equitable and fair International Financial Architecture, ideas and strategies which are only now being globally adopted.

Both of my parents have made remarkable contributions within the United Reformed Church (URC). My mother, Revd. Dr. Tessa Henry-Robinson, is a womanist practical theologian, who has over 30 years of service and experience. She is a minister of the Word and Sacraments with responsibility for four congregations, and serves as an Associate tutor at Westminster College, Cambridge. She has been elected as the first Black woman Moderator-Elect who will soon become the Moderator of the URC’s General Assembly., and this is quite an achievement.

My father, Revd. Mark Robinson, is an extraordinary individual. He holds the distinction of being the first Black moderator to the General Assembly and the first Black convener of URC Business. Furthermore, he leads three churches and the first Black male minister in Yorkshire Synod of the URC, and later in his pastorates in Southampton and Hertfordshire. His diverse accomplishments include being an avid cartoonist and holding degrees in film and media, as well as an MSC in marketing and a theological degree from Cambridge University.

My siblings embody diverse talents and pursuits, each excelling in their respective fields. My brother’s pursuit of knowledge has led him to John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where he is currently pursuing a doctorate degree. Meanwhile, my youngest sister is immersed in the world of academia, pursuing her own doctorate at De Montfort University. My eldest sister, her expertise lies in the realm of retail specialties, architecture, bespoke high fashion, fine art and cosmetics, and interior design. Together, we form a dynamic and accomplished family, each contributing to our respective fields with passion and dedication.

My passion for driving positive change knows no boundaries. I have led impactful projects across the globe, transforming underprivileged communities and fostering economic growth through strategic partnerships. From sustainable development programs to empowering marginalised populations, my initiatives have made a tangible difference in countless lives. As a sought-after consultant, I navigate complex political landscapes, craft effective policies, and drive inclusive growth. Guiding parliamentarians, advising governments, training the Saudi Royal Courts and shaping governance practices have all contributed to my impactful mark on a global scale.

More recently, I’ve had the privilege to address the House of Lords on Brexit, becoming the first Trinbagonian to do so, winning the debate convincingly with 113 votes in favour of perspective 1 (My Perspective). I was a panelist on the BBC World Service documentary “Truth & The Commonwealth” with Sir David Spiegelhalter OBE FRS, a British statistician and Winton Professor (2007-2018) of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University. Served as a Strategic Advisor with Commonwealth Secretariat’s CYC, Panelist and Adjudicator for the Commonwealth Awards Programme among several other leadership roles. My local leadership, management and international programme delivery, experience and attendance spans over 19 years, contributing greatly to my extensive knowledge and experience.

Some of the most significant programmes include: The Scarlet41 Masterclass Programme & Graduation, Trinidad & Tobago (2020-2022); World Economic Forum (2022-2023), Diplomatic Week, Federation of St Kitts & Nevis (April 2019), UN Blue Economy Conference, Nairobi, Kenya  (2018), World Bank Group Youth Summit, (May 25-26th, 2023); World Youth Forum (WYF), Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (January 2022); UN Human Rights Council 42nd Session, Geneva Switzerland (Sep 2019), among many others. Through these experiences, I’ve grown, learned, and honed my leadership skills, preparing me for the journey to public office. My upbringing and experiences have shaped me into the man I am today, and I carry these lessons with me as I strive to better our beloved nation.

My commitment to nurturing future leaders drives me to actively engage in teaching and mentoring. Leveraging my positions as an MBA instructor at prestigious institutions like London Business School, an associate trainer on Government & Parliamentary Politics at the University of East London with the Centre for Regional and International Development (CRID), and a Business Communications Associate Trainer at the London School of Public Relations, I contribute to the development of aspiring professionals. Additionally, I have been sought after as a trainer at David Game College, a renowned private boarding school, and continue to provide consultancy services with a private firm Kirkwood Consulting Ltd. These roles allow me to empower individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their chosen fields.

This is but a summary of my journey so far. But the passion for serving others, while it started from a very young age, was ignited into a determination to make a difference. Let me set the stage and tell you how I found my call to action.

As I strolled along the scenic path home from Kent University in 2010, feeling a bit low and a little bit ill, the beauty of the surroundings enveloped me and was my only solace in that moment. The lush, meticulously manicured grass and towering trees provided a tranquil backdrop to my thoughts. Little did I know that destiny had a surprise in store for me on that day. Amidst the serenity of my walk, my phone rang, the caller ID flashed an unfamiliar number ending in “2020”. Intrigued and curious, knowing that the county code was +1 (868), I knew the call was from Trinidad & Tobago. But WHO???!!! I answered the call, unaware of the transformative conversation that awaited me. On the other end of the line was the unmistakable voice. A voice that carried the weight of leadership and the warmth of wisdom. It was none other than Patrick Manning, the former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. At this stage, it was several months after he had lost the election to the People’s Partnership Coalition.

“Hello,” a stern yet warm voice echoed. As I greeted Prime Minister Manning, clearing my throat, with a mixture of surprise and anticipation, he wasted no time in posing a question that would forever alter the course of my life: “What do you propose to do when you return to Trinidad and Tobago?” The weight of his inquiry hung in the air, prompting me to dig deep within myself and respond with conviction. Stunned yet resolute, I found myself rising to the occasion, the words tumbling out with a fervour and determination that surprised even me. “I want to continue the work you started, sir. I want to reignite the Vision 2020. I want to give back in service to the people of Trinidad & Tobago.”

The words hung in the air, my pledge echoing in the silence that followed. But then, the silence was broken by a firm, approving “AHHH!!! That is what I wanted to hear” from the other end. The next phase of our conversation was a commitment by Patrick Manning in that moment to follow my progress over the next few years and call me regularly to check in and most surprisingly, he offered to be my mentor as he prepares me for political leadership in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. What then followed were a series of conversations that transcended the ordinary and was the beginning of a 6 year mentorship journey that became a defining factor in my walk toward Public Service in the land of my birth.

I recall I had a deep and insightful conversation with Prime Minister. Manning about Leadership one day, a conversation, that I remember to this day. He said “the mantle of leadership, my dear friend, is not for the weak at heart, it calls for us to have strong and determined leadership, but not at the expense of our moral and spiritual values. We have to be courteous and not descend into the gutter with our opponents. Yet we must do this with a sense of conviction and humility, recognising that Trinidad & Tobago is a very difficult country to govern and that humility does not mean you must shy away from taking decisive action when required, because being timid has no place in politics, because they will eat you up like a pan salmon.”

He said self aggrandisement and arrogance in our politics must be avoided and people must also understand that there is a difference between arrogance and strong and determined leadership. He said piccong is a fundamental part of our culture as a people, but that we must be mindful not to allow it to cross the boundary into foolishness and bacchanal. The public must be respected and informed, so activities like the sessions at the University of Woodford Square are an important part of accounting to the people of Trinidad & Tobago who you seek to represent. They should be part of the journey as much as the government.”

But as we all know, Vision 2020 was never realised. Despite the promise it held, our nation grappled with shifting priorities, lack of focus, and a failure in leadership. Our hopes for safety, quality education, and a progressive, technologically advanced nation remained unfulfilled.

But it is at this juncture of the story that things take a turn. Manning’s initial question “What do you propose to do when you return to Trinidad & Tobago?” ignited a fire within me, which still burns to this day, prompting me to undertake a mission to bring that Vision Statement back to life. The next few years were a whirlwind of action as I advised governments, organisations, and individuals worldwide and brought high-level diplomatic engagements to Trinidad & Tobago, with further plans for the near future, taught at the London Business School, and used my role as a journalist to shine a light on critical local and global issues.

Today, as I stand at the precipice of public office, I am more determined than ever to fulfil the pledge I made during that fateful phone call. As I prepare to serve the nation I love, I carry the flame of Vision 2020, ready to light the way towards a future that is prosperous, united, and equitable for all. The tale of Trinidad and Tobago is far from over. As the next chapter waits to be written, I leave you with this question – the same one that Manning asked me: “What do you propose to do for Trinidad and Tobago?” Our beloved nation stands at a crossroads, and its future is in our hands. Together, let’s write a story of resilience, unity, and prosperity. The pen is in our hands, the page is blank, and the story is waiting to be written. So, I ask you again, “What do you propose to do?” Are you ready to write the next chapter of our nation’s story?

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