THE HON. PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS QC
AT STATE FUNERAL FOR
HIS EXCELLENCY THE MOST HON. ARTHUR D. HANNA
AUGUST 26th, 2021
Your Excellencies, Members of the Clergy, ladies and gentlemen:
The highlights of A.D. Hanna’s life are too well known to bear recounting.
That he was the Deputy Prime Minister of our country for many years and later our Governor-General is known to all. By much the same token, it is already widely known that his name is writ large on the great, defining events of the modern Bahamas – events such as the General Strike of 1958; the Constitutional Conferences in London of 1963, 1968 and 1973; Black Tuesday in 1965; the attainment of Majority Rule in 1967; and the achievement of Independence in 1973.
What may be less known, however, is what a powerful, galvanizing, uplifting force for good A.D. Hanna was throughout his seven decades of service to The Bahamian people.
He was the personification of patriotism in its purest form; a patriotism that is perhaps best summed up in that old hymn that he, with a hundred contemporaries, would have sung every day, at the old Government High School:
“I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice”.
For A.D. Hanna, those lyrics encapsulated what was, for him, the noblest of secular virtues and the highest of worldly duties: to give fully of oneself to the service of one’s nation and people; and to do so with neither thought nor expectation of personal reward.
Such was the patriotic impulse that drove Arthur Dion Hanna throughout his long and storied life of public service.
His love for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas; his passion for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; and his loyalty to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas were unsurpassed.
The finest demonstration of that love, that passion, that loyalty, took place, I think, in the years leading up to Independence.
To the end of his earthly days, it was a matter of special pride for A.D. – a pride which, out of modesty, he seldom expressed publicly – that he had not only played a leading part in the struggle for Independence but that without his agitation in the ruling councils of the government and governing party, Independence would likely never have become a reality as early as it did.
But he saw to it that it did.
He was at the absolute forefront of the movement, pushing and pressing his colleagues, and later the Bahamian people, towards Independence. He was intolerant of the idea of procrastination, making neither apologies or excuses for his insistence on “Independence now!”
For those who might have been counselling patience and a slower pace towards that goal, he had a simple retort : “How can it ever be too soon, or too early, to insist upon freedom?”
In his personal and political ethos, Independence was quintessentially about freedom – the freedom to govern ourselves; the freedom to be the masters of our own destiny; the freedom to be the builders of our own country with, as he would so famously put it, “with our own hands”. And for him, that quest for national freedom was inseparably bound up with the dignity of the human person against an historical background of colonialism, slavery, systemic racial injustice, social degradation, and crushing impoverishment.
And it was not just rhetoric either. A.D. Hanna meant it when he talked about building The Bahamas “with our own hands” and with ourselves as the decision-makers. He took no backtalk from anyone when it came to that, least of all arrogant foreigners who thought presumptuously that they could dictate terms to what was still then a young, fledgling government made up of mostly young men in their 30’s and early 40’s like himself.
The story is told of how one such group of prominent foreigners in the financial services sector made an appointment to see A.D. Hanna in the early 70’s. At the meeting, they demanded, in effect, a greater role in the governance of the sector and greater freedom to bring in who they wanted from the outside. At the end of their presentation, the lead spokesman asked: “So, Minister, how can we help you make a success of the country?”
His answer was this: “Gentlemen, I’m so glad you’ve asked me that! My answer to you is also my advice to you: you can leave the country”.
With that, he got to his feet, and without another word, left them to find their own way out.
Few may have actually left The Bahamas, but they had learned something important. They had learned to sit small and mind their manners – at least around A.D. Hanna, who would never leave you in any doubt that Bahamians were in charge of The Bahamas and running the country.
Indeed, it should not be forgotten that even before his calls for “Independence Now!” were beginning to resonate ever more loudly in the land, A.D. Hanna, as a government minister, had already earned the trust and admiration of the majority of the Bahamian people for his courageous and far-sighted policy of Bahamianization.
As far as A.D. was concerned, no foreigner should be given a work permit for any job that a Bahamian was ready and able to do. No exceptions!
It is hard to imagine it now but “back in the day” you had Englishmen in Freeport serving as hotel doormen — and as waiters and bus drivers, too, and there were hundreds of English, American and Canadian secretaries and personal assistants and glorified bank clerks with work permits throughout the country.
A.D. Hanna, as the Minister of Home Affairs, with responsibility for Immigration, brought all that to a grinding halt. To the dismay of some of his own colleagues, over the objections of nearly all of his political opponents, and to the horror of his numerous detractors in the media and in the tourism and financial service sectors, he instituted a level of strict immigration enforcement that has never been replicated. Others after him may have talked a better game, but none of them ever matched A.D. Hanna’s record of ensuring that jobs were reserved for qualified Bahamians.
Make no mistake about it, it was the policy of Bahamianization, as conceived by the Honourable A.D. Hanna and administered on his ministerial watch, that was, with his earlier pioneering groundwork as Minister of Education, the twin-catalyst for the emergence of a large and authentic black middle class in The Bahamas in the 1970’s.
A.D. Hanna would go on, in the ensuing decades, to deepen and diversify his contributions to Bahamian nation-building. However, there is no doubt in my mind that future generations will look back and hail his contributions to the attainment of national sovereignty and his policy of Bahamianization as the major reasons why he deserves to be held aloft, for our collective praise and thanks, as a true National Hero.
So how do we honour his legacy, now that he has come to end of his earthly sojourn?
We must do so, I submit, by committing ourselves afresh to the values and virtues that drove His Excellency the Most Honourable Arthur Dion Hanna in his service of our nation and its people.
Let us be especially mindful of the need to emulate:
· his patriotism;
· his belief that Independence, once achieved, has to be earned every day by taking pride in ourselves as a free and sovereign people;
· his determination to put Bahamians first;
· his insistence that we build our country “with our own hands”;
· his compassion for the poor and downtrodden and his insistence that they be put at the head of the line, before all others;
· his conviction that the power and wealth of the government are meant to be used for the advancement of the many, especially the needy, not for the aggrandizement of the few and the greedy;
· his belief that politics should be in service of others, not of oneself;
· his belief that politicians needed to inspire public confidence in the integrity of government by personal example.
For those of us who aspire to serve, either for the first time or by way of renewal, the best way to honour the memory of A.D. Hanna is to solemnly commit ourselves to practice in our daily lives as public servants the virtues I have just described; virtues that were found in such great abundance in A.D. Hanna’s own life as a public servant of the highest order.
To be sure, the passing of this great Bahamian is at once an occasion of celebration for a life that was so heroically led and an occasion of sadness over the loss of someone who meant so much to our nation and to so many of us personally, including myself.
We have the consolation of knowing, however, that God so ordered the life of A.D. Hanna that he was granted what a poet once described as “the gift of years”.
He lived a long, long life.
And for much of that long life, he had the love and companionship of his dearly departed wife and political comrade, Beryl; his children and his siblings and the wider Hanna-Heastie-Tynes family, and the love and gratitude of our nation and its people.
To all those he leaves behind, especially my dear colleague, Glenys, I offer my sincere condolences and those of my wife, Ann, and all our family, including my wider family of the Progressive Liberal Party, which was the only party that A.D. Hanna ever belonged to from the time of his entry into frontline politics in 1955 to his death 66 years later.
This good man shall forever be accorded a seat of high honour among the greatest of the great that ever walked among us.
May he rest in peace.