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The President reflects on her first year in Office

In an exclusive interview with Altos, President Christine Kangaloo opened up about her first year as President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The anniversary on March 20 marked one year since her inauguration into the nation’s highest office.

When asked to describe the journey in one word, President Kangaloo chose two – “challenging” and “rewarding.” She explained, “The challenging aspect came from the change in my life, in our lives, my husband’s as well. There are things that we had to adjust to…The rewarding? And I have to say, I said challenging first because the rewards have been tremendous and outweigh the challenges. It’s a privilege to be in this office, to hold this office.”

A key goal for her presidency has been increasing accessibility and demystifying the role. “I talked about the Office of the President being more accessible. I talked about young people and the focus on young people. I talked about reviewing the protocols that accompany the Office and try to make sure that the protocols don’t make the Office inaccessible,” she said.

Initiatives like opening President’s House for tours and visiting schools across the country have helped achieve this. As President Kangaloo described, “We have tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Children from different schools all over the country come for those tours…We also offer the tours, not just the school children.”

Engaging and inspiring young people is one of President Kangaloo’s top priorities. In her inaugural address, she emphasised “the focus on young people” as a key goal of her presidency. She finds her interactions with youth to be “tremendously exciting and encouraging.”

President Kangaloo understands the importance of educating Trinidad and Tobago’s younger generations about the role and functions of the presidency to demystify the Office. She relayed how students often confuse the responsibilities of the president versus prime minister. By visiting schools across the country and hosting tours of President’s House, she aims to increase youth’s understanding while sparking their interest and aspirations.

When speaking to students, her advice is simple: “Work hard, do your best. Don’t worry about the outcomes.” She hopes to inspire the nation’s youth to pursue their ambitions through dedication and perseverance.

Throughout the challenges, President Kangaloo draws strength from her faith, family, and personal experiences. “My faith is a part of me…It’s the operating system in my life,” she explained. As a cancer survivor who lost siblings, she has developed an “empathy” that allows her to “identify with people and identify the brokenness in all of us as human beings.”

President Kangaloo spoke fondly about the support and strength she receives from her husband throughout the challenges and rewarding aspects of her presidency. “I have the strength of my husband. He is my support,” she stated. Her husband’s role was even highlighted in her inaugural address, where he “was tasked with the responsibility for all the cultural and artistic endeavours.” While the presidency required major life adjustments, including a loss of spontaneity, and moving into the President’s residence, President Kangaloo says her husband has been by her side.

She joked about him serving as a good “guinea pig” whenever she finds time to relieve stress through cooking and baking in their new home.

President Kangaloo, a strong advocate for the steelpan as Trinidad and Tobago’s national instrument, detailed the various ways she sought to promote the instrument while in office.

In her first address to Parliament, she raised the issue of officially declaring the steelpan as the country’s national instrument. Her presidency has actively promoted and celebrated the steelpan through various initiatives.

For official functions, a steelpan fanfare has been incorporated to greet her, including on International Steelpan Day. The Office of the President also hosted its first concert featuring steelpan music for Mother’s Day in collaboration with the BP Renegades Steel Orchestra.

President Kangaloo expressed satisfaction at seeing increased female representation and youth involvement in steelpan music, especially during the recent Carnival celebrations.

Moreover, she voiced support for the disciplined “panyard model” and a desire to showcase and emulate this model in communities across Trinidad and Tobago to provide focus and discipline for the nation’s youth.

She highlighted the nation’s rich cultural diversity, stating, “We are such a wonderful country, a rich country when it comes to culture and diversity…We are out of Carnival. We’re into Lent. The Hindus just celebrated Phagwah. We are now into the month of Ramadan as well. And everyone is respecting the different religions and participating as well.”

In her final words, she shared, “Love your country…Understand that you have challenges, be upset about the challenges, but don’t bad talk your country. Love it. You live here, and whatever you do, continue to want to live in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a beautiful place.”