Earlier in the year I aided my students in their very public anti-corruption movement. You see, the Belizean government has been suffering from internal scandals and international upheavals. Certain members within the inner-workings of the nation are not only corrupt, but are known for being corrupt. Starting with a strike of the teachers, the people rallied and demanded that the government change its ways.
As their rhetoric professor, I worked with these young revolutionaries to unify and strengthen their nation. We spent countless hours writing press releases and public demonstration speeches. We read the words of Pope Francis to make certain that our view we were proclaiming was informed by Truth and not mere emotion. We couldn’t let ourselves fall victim to mob mentality. Because our student body was the first in the nation to stand with the teachers and spark the movement among the youth, the media came to school requesting interviews. Guiding them to remember their principles and noting how those against them can most definitely skew their words, I watched on as they stood in front of the cameras and declared that the State should not only be just, but those within it should serve as models of excellence for the young people of Belize. Inspired by these interviews, they were asked to appear on national television.
Driving to the studio that night, I prepped them for what could be a very difficult situation. We were on our way to a program that took call-ins. My young rhetoricians would be allowed a couple of minutes to present their reasons as to why they were taking such a public stand, and then the phone lines would be opened. I watched from the wings as they spoke, oh with such grace and confidence, and then I rather anxiously waited for the first comment from the nation. To my surprise, every call was a gesture of support for these students. The country was moved by the young people who stood before them fighting for something greater than themselves.
With whoops and hollers we ended the night with food from the nearest taco shop and ate standing in a circle in the parking lot. Eating garnaches and drinking shilling water, we discussed the meaning of it all.
The strike continued for some time, and the papal nuncio made a visit to Belize about it all. I can write about it now as the Prime Minister finally agreed to the terms of the movement and on December 9 signed onto the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
I thank you for your continued support as the young people of Belize stand in solidarity to unite their nation as one. I end with an excerpt from one student’s public demonstration speech:
“Pope Francis writes that ‘We are moved because we have seen and heard. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is the form of power.’ See that this is what is happening in our country and do not allow this illusion to persist any longer . . . My fellow Belizeans, know that what we do today will affect what is accepted and tolerated for our children and therefore accept nothing less than justice.”