MIRIAM Emmanuel was the target of a lot of mockery over the past few days.
The MP for MICAL stumbled over her words during her speech in the House of Assembly last week, unable to wrap her mouth around a number in her budget presentation.
Soon enough, the video of her mishap was being circulated along with all sorts of unkind commentary. “D average in full swing,” said one commenter alongside much more, often far worse.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands was moved to stand up for his colleague, calling the commentary “nothing short of crass, mean-spirited, unacceptable bullying”.
He’s right. There’s hardly anyone who has done public speaking who hasn’t had a slip of the tongue. Could Mrs Emmanuel have gotten out of it more gracefully? Certainly, but it seems harsh to take one little clip from her speech and drag her down because of it.
Senator Renard Henfield also defended her, saying: “It’s as if for someone to serve their constituents or the country they are expected to be great speakers void of ever getting nervous or stumbling on a word.”
A stumble here and there should not be a reason to excessively criticise – although constituents should expect their representative to communicate effectively. That should be viewed in its entirerty though, not an isolated incident.
No, if one is to criticise Mrs Emmanuel, it should be on issues of substance – it is perfectly legitimate for example to criticise her for the stance she took in the House of Assembly last year on domestic abuse.
At the time, she was talking about her father when she said: “He said if there ever comes a time when you have to come back to this house and say to me as your father that your husband shook you, or give you a slap or punch you in your mouth, I will analyse while I listen to you. I will analyse the consequences that would have caused your husband to probably shake you, slap you or punch you in your mouth.
“And I said simply what my father was saying that we are to respect each other, have respect for your priest, your provider and your protector. So in this honourable House it’s no exception from a marriage relationship if you as a woman want to come up in your husband’s face and behave like you are a man, my father said then you will get manhandled.”
The comments prompted an uproar, with Mrs Emmanuel later saying she regretted the “unfortunate analogy” and claiming the comments were taken out of context – although she did not clarify in which context such comments would be acceptable. Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis was satisfied with her apology.
It is also fair to question Mrs Emmanuel in the wake of the story in today’s paper, in which a number of members of staff complain about her behaviour and her performance.
If the allegations are true, there is more reason there to be unhappy with Mrs Emmanuel than over a stumble in the public eye in Parliament. Stage fright can hit anyone. A failure to perform in a public speech is as nothing compared with a failure to perform in public office.
It’s easy to mock a moment on video – but don’t let that blind you to how the person behind the slip-up is doing the job they were elected to do.
Let’s leave ‘D average’ in the past
SPEAKING of that “D average” used as an insult to hurl at the MICAL MP, our eyes turn to the world of education – and one of the jobs at hand for the re-elected president of the Bahamas Union of Teachers, Belinda Wilson.
“I win big, big, big,” she said on Friday as the results started to come in – well, it’s long past time for Bahamian parents to win big, big, big.
First on the table for Mrs Wilson is a new industrial agreement. We hope equally high on the agenda is ways in which her members can help students to excel.
The news last week that just 46 percent of students who leave high school qualify for a diploma is no ringing
endorsement of the status quo. The biggest criteria to graduate is just four Bahamas Junior Certificate examination passes at a minimum grade of a D in Maths, English, Health or General Science and Social Studies or Religion – and yet less than half succeed at that.
So as Mrs Wilson sits down with ministry officials to talk about a new agreement, we hope any such deal will include terms designed to improve those results.
Let’s work together to lift our standards – and put that “D average” insult in the past for ever.