At first glance, Travis Robinson could easily have been mistaken for any of the other young delegates at the fifth annual Caribbean Youth Leaders’ Summit held recently at the Jewel Runaway Beach & Golf Resort in St Ann, Jamaica.
However, mere minutes into his keynote presentation, it was easy to see that the Member of Parliament (MP) and Parliamentary Secretary in The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism was no ordinary attendee.
For about half hour, the 22-year-old Nassau native, who holds the distinction of being the youngest politician in The Bahamas and the wider Caribbean, had everyone, including host Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith, hanging on to his every word.
It was a riveting presentation, in which he detailed his rise to political office and urged other young people throughout the Caribbean to put themselves forward to serve their communities and countries.
He said that for those not interested in politics, there are other areas of national life where they can advocate for the rights of the marginalized in the society. He cited the environment, community activism, media, and education reform, as some of the areas in which youth can play a role.
Robinson said that good governance must embrace the contribution of the youth.
But how, by his own account, did an inner-city product of modest means rise so quickly to now be seen as one of the fastest rising political stars in the region.
“A few short years ago in my late teens, I spearheaded a clean-up campaign in my community,” Robinson recalled.
“It was an area in the inner-city of Nassau. I led my small group in dialogue with the residents, and we found out what the needs were. We also found out ways to meet these needs.”
He said that resulting from that success, persons started approaching him, urging him to use his natural gift as an effective communicator to enter representational politics.
“I took it as a joke, until I was courted by the leaders of a major political party in my country.
“In 2016, I was nominated as a political candidate, and, by the end of 2016, I was ratified as the youngest candidate in the history of The Bahamas. In the elections of May 10 of this year, at age 22, I became the youngest member of parliament in the history of The Bahamas and the Caribbean,” Robinson said.
As to why he decided to enter politics at such a young age, he noted that “as a young man in my early 20s, I am at the height of mental and physical energy and vitality, and I want to give the best years of my life in service to my country. Why should I wait until I am 45 or 55, when I am older and more tired, to serve my country?”
Robinson said he learned early that in preparing for leadership, “I had to don the outward attire of leadership,” noting the importance of having a well-groomed appearance.
He said that being an effective communicator is also key.
“While we all have…our special dialects and patois, it is critical that we become fluent at switching codes where necessary and slip seamlessly into articulating English to convey our ideas,” he pointed out.
Robinson’s advice for young people who aspire to be leaders but who may be dismayed about their current circumstance is: “Don’t downgrade your dreams to match your reality, but, rather, upgrade your faith to match your destiny.”
A former junior minister of tourism, he is a university student and founder of the Rising Star organization, which is designed to train, empower and equip young boys to become world changers. (Caribbean360.com)