Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson collects his thoughts after receiving an honorary degree in April.
Patterson, who received an honorary degree while on campus to deliver the keynote address at the sixth annual Northeast Regional Caribbean Students Conference, stressed the importance of this Caribbean unity and solidarity. He also urged the students at the conference - especially those of Caribbean ancestry - to understand and share their history with the rest of the world. "We need to learn more about each other," he said, "not just how others see us."
Fitting the Caribbean countries into "a credible economic and social niche" is perhaps the region's most daunting task, Patterson explained. The Caribbean Basin is filled with thousands of islands of varying sizes, each with a distinct history that combines colonial influences with those of the African slaves who were brought into the area during the nineteenth century.
Negotiations have long been under way to consolidate Caribbean economic interests, Patterson said, but economic reform, trade agreements, and diplomatic negotiations must exist alongside social equality and stability. "Economic development cannot be sustained in an atmosphere of social degeneracy," he added. "We strive to build a market economy - not a market society.