Prime Minister, The Hon. David Thompson received the enormous weight of national leadership at a time when his political philosophy was still in the making. It was a time, for sure, when his youthful, caring spirit was still uncomfortable with wearing and wielding a sharpened machete within the political culture he had eventually mastered.
It was a difficult time for him, not being sure whether to foreground and fast track the acquisition of generous maturity and laid back wisdom, or to acquire quickly the mastery of Machiavellian machinations. While learning the art of choosing options, he stood out at the centre as one to be watched. No political leader in the history of modern Barbados democracy underwent such a rigorous public examination. This, of course, is not without good reason. No politician entered the arena so entirely burdened with a full bag of blessings.
But he was his own man, uniquely blended, unlike any leader who had gone before, except perhaps Samuel Jackman Prescod, whom he politically resembled, the greatest professional politician and representative of public opinion the country has yet produced. Grantley (Adams) was the Moses who delivered the masses, but was feared by the Pharaohs; (The Right Excellent) Errol (Barrow) rolled out the road into the Promised Land. He was the Joshua who lived apart from those he cared for in his heart. Tom (Adams) was a bright light, possessed of considerable might, but too many did not wish to be in too close a range of his sight. Owen (Arthur), the masses kept going, but part of the elite within his clan continually held back its blessing. Sir Harold (St. John) and Sir Lloyd (Erskine Sandiford), good men to the core, were uprooted before their seeds could grow. But David, alas, was the king with the one ring. He held the respect and loyalty to bind them all. And therein is the cost of the loss, too large to charge. Destiny has driven us to despair in the dark; prospects pulled as nature ravished our reason before our opened eyes.
Like Charles Duncan O’Neale, founder of his clan, David was a gentle soul who cared constantly for the poor and unfortunate. He deeply desired to help them. This I know. I was there with him in 1994 when we tried with all our might to remove from national consideration the option of an IMF programme that would punish the poor and drive wedges deep into the soul of the nation in desperate need of social healing and self confidence. I journeyed into the trenches with him and saw his mind close up. His heart was steady though his skills were not ready. He held true to his values, and in defeat remained kind and courteous. Like Prescod, he built bridges across race and class divides and did not take erratic risk that could reap chaos and calamity. He believed in the ‘steady as you go approach’, and was convinced that if he communicated sincerity to society it would rise and find the confidence to lead itself. He feared that because of his office people would fear him. He understood this as the way of the plantation overseer. He wanted people to trust him, respect him, and find him approachable. In this regard those who took time to know him walked away satisfied that he had done enough to be entitled to what he desired.