Fri | May 25, 2018

RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Education: Floyd Morris - Truly a faithful visionary

Published:Monday | January 22, 2018 | 12:46 AM
Floyd Morris
Floyd Morris
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The biggest barriers to achieving success are often ourselves and those around us. However, identifying your challenge, fuelled by your commitment, passion and dedication towards your goals can assist you on your road to success.

According to Dr Floyd Morris, Jamaica’s first blind senator and former Senate president, he was driven by the desire to succeed because he recognised early in his life that being from a humble background and having a disability was a recipe for hopelessness.

“I did not want to find myself in this situation, as I heard of the sufferings of a number of my colleagues with disabilities. So I put in place a number of mechanisms to achieve the level of success that I have had,” Morris said.

FULLY BLINDED AT 20

Fully blinded by glaucoma by age 20, Morris overcame anger, depression, postponed ambitions, and the ignorance of people who did not know how to deal with blindness, to achieve his dreams.

Morris, who hails from St Mary, left St Mary High School without a single subject, because his sight had deteriorated to the point where he was unable to complete his Caribbean Examinations Council exams.

“Graduating in 1986 would have been my first formal school-leaving exercise. However, owing to my academic performance I left the school unceremoniously, and under difficult and trying circumstances,” Morris said.

“It was a really bad time to be going blind. My teenage joys had turned to sorrow as I watched my friends and classmates move on to college and other endeavours,” he added.

In 1991, Morris came to Kingston and received assistance from the Jamaica Society for the Blind. He learned Braille and completed his high-school studies to attend college. He then enrolled at Mico Evening College, and after two years applied and was accepted by the University of the West Indies (UWI).

“At the worst times, I knew how to summon up from deep in myself the determination to go on. I had to tape all the classes. I was focused and I knew what I was about and what I wanted to accomplish. I understood very well that for a blind person, the work was twice as much as that of a sighted person and so discipline and focus were critical,” Morris said. 

“I studied diligently and did my assignments. I was never late for class and was always getting good results in my exams,” he added.

In Morris’ final year of undergraduate studies at UWI, former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson visited the university and Morris openly criticised his education policies during a question-and-answer session.

“My activism on campus had brought me great admiration among the student body. Many of them wondered how a blind man could operate so effectively. I have been told that it was out of that encounter that Patterson developed an interest in recruiting me for the PNP,” Morris said.

ENTRY INTO POLITICS

This was the beginning of his baptism into the political sphere and Morris joined the People’s National Party Youth Organisation. Through this association, he attracted attention as a skilled public speaker and began advocating in support of the PNP as part of the 1997 general election.

He was first appointed to the Senate in 1998, becoming its first blind member. He served in the Senate until 2007, and also served as the minister of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. He regained his Senate seat in 2012 and was appointed president of the Senate in 2013.

“The day I was sworn in as a senator brought feelings of nostalgia. A little country boy from Bailey’s Vale, having suffered so many setbacks, had metamorphosed and evolved. This was a whole new ball game for me, and the enthusiasm and jubilation was tremendous,” he said.

Morris completed his Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in government in 2001 and again this achievement brought to the fore his personal struggles in coming to terms with his blindness. However, earning his Doctor of Philosophy degree from the UWI last year was the icing on the cake, having fulfilled his goals despite unimaginable challenges.

“There were discouraging moments along the journey, but with the appropriate encouragement and support, I pressed to the mark and achieved ultimate success. If a blind person who hailed from humble beginnings could have accomplished this tremendous feat, so can anyone,”Morris said.

Dr Morris also launched his book in 2017, By Faith, Not By Sight, yet another significant milestone in his lifetime. The autobiography chronicles his life from humble beginnings, his personal struggles and his uncharted path to success, propelled by his faith and personal conviction to succeed.