Chester Francis-Jackson, Outlook Writer
For many here in Jamaica, the United States of America, our big neighbour up North, represents not just the land of opportunity and hope and dreams in so many spheres of life. Whether it be accessing higher education, social upward mobility, the moniker 'Uncle Sam' represents the absolute reality in terms of our bilateral relations over the years, as many Jamaicans see America not just a political ally, but as beloved aged relative, who despite his quirks is still the family favourite!
And when it comes to American ambassadors here in Jamaica, the Jamaican social elite has always placed a very high social premium on access to and relationship with the United States first citizen here. In this respect, there are very few social events that are as anticipated here in Kingston like the American Independence celebrations.
There are many who can and do trace their 'affiliation' and/or family's attendance at the US Embassy's July 4th Independence commemoration back to then Vice-President Lyndon Johnson's visit to Jamaica in 1962.
Well, my daahlings, there is indeed a new US ambassador in town, but she is not new to Jamaica. Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater first served in Jamaica during the 1980s and during her stint at the time, established many friendships that have endured over the years. Those bonds have not only kept her in good stead, it has afforded her the unique perspective and understanding of Jamaica and its people.
And, so it is, that on the eve of the United States 236 year as an Independent nation, the ambassador hosted a pre-independence reception at her St Andrew residence on Paddington Terrace. It was indeed a celebration of the friendship of both people, and done beautifully under the theme 'Celebrating The Ties That Binds: Fifty Years of Friendship'. And dears, it was quite a fabulous celebration too.
The evening began with Ambassador Bridgewater and embassy officials welcoming guests, à la red carpet. It was then on to the spacious lawns of the official residence, decked with marquees to facilitate an entertainment lounge, fare and libations and the eventuality of inclement weather.
With libations flowing and guests mingling, the early evening soirée made for a charmingly elegant do. For many guests, however, the question utmost in their minds was: "Why celebrate July 4 on June 21? That, however, was soon explained as the imminent departure of Deputy Chief of Mission Isiah Parnell and his wife Tammie, who were leaving the very next day en route to Kenya, where he was taking up duties as DCM.
My dears, it was a fine evening, punctuated by fine society, fabulous pomp and ceremony, and a repast that was truly a cross-cultural celebration of the American and host cuisine - from popcorn to fillet, and everything in-between - and it made for a fabulous outing.
And then there was the Trooping of the Colours - pomp and circumstance at its very best as members of the United States Marine Corps did the honours, and beautifully so.
Now, there are two national anthems in the world of nations that really has soul - and not surprisingly, they are the Jamaican and American. Both Anthems, performed at their best, can move one to tears. So little wonder here that indeed some teared up during and after the rendition of the anthems.
And there was no escaping the poignancy of the message of friendship conveyed by Bridgewater. But the gem of the evening was the fabulous parting gifts, presented by embassy officials - a fabulous full colour magazine done under the theme of the occasion, documenting the 50 year of diplomatic history between Jamaica and the United States.
Dears, a fab page-turner, that is a keepsake representing as it is, a historical perspective, with a listing of Jamaican prime ministers and US presidents, since our Independence, as well as photographic gallery of US ambassadors to Jamaica.
Dears, we are talking substance here, not fluff and it all made for a truly illuminating outing. Among those out, sharing in the occasion, were Junior Minister and MP Arnaldo Brown; Professor Oswald Harding and wife, Custos of St Andrew, Marigold Harding; Greg Christie and his wife, Janice; Zia Mian and the elegantly lovely Mitsy Seaga; Emil George, QC, and wife Pamel; Robert MacMillan; Professor Carolyn Cooper; Las Chin; Myrna Hague; Kenny Benjamin. Also out were Captain Michael Lyn and his wife Thalia; Henry Rainford; Lois Sherwood; Paul Issa; Jimmy Moss-Solomon; Douglas and Michelle Orane; Anthony Lindo; the elegant Jennifer Lim; Brian and Lisa-May Pengelley; Valerie Juggan-Brown; Evroy Chin; Eran and Tina Spiro; Paul Issa; Carrole Guntley; Arnold and Trish Foote; DCP Fitz Bailey; the lovely Donna Haynes; George and Debbie Cumming; Justine Henzell; Peter and Nicola Melhado; Rachel Matthews; Steven Woodham; Nancy McLean. Roger Hinds and the fab Marisa Benain; Robert Scott; USAID Mission Director Denise Herbol; and the charming Rosalee Strudwick; plus several others.