There are those who decry the absence of family structure in the lives of many Jamaicans for the plight in which the country finds itself – rampant crime, a profusion of single parents, little support for teenagers and young adults making their way in the world, little respect for civility, graciousness and manners.
Throughout his career as a corporate lawyer, investment banker, politician and government minister, new People’s National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding has consistently proclaimed the importance of his family to both his life and how it helps to shape his approach to his responsibilities.
He is married with three grown children – a son and two daughters. When one looks across Jamaica’s political leadership landscape, it is not characterised by those who ardently subscribe to the unitary family or regard family as the primary social construct. Many are on their second or third marriage, some it is said have children from other relationships and the familial backstory can be ambiguous.
This is not the case with Golding. He has a clean cut, wholesome image, placing great stock in the importance of family.
In an exclusive interview with Our Today, Golding, who earlier this month beat out Lisa Hanna to win the party presidency, spoke about what family means to him and its place in Jamaican society.
“Speaking personally for me, family is very essential to who I am as a person and the achievements I have had in my life,” said the man who has become the sixth leader in the PNP’s 82-year history.
“I attribute a lot to my wife and the solid rock she is in our family. We give each other space but support each other fully. We have grown together, and our children have come from that union. We try our best to be good parents and good examples to our children and I hope we can be an example to the wider society.”
Said Golding: “In Jamaica we have a culture where the unitary family is seen as an alien construct. What I would say to the men out there is, if you build life with a compatible partner, the sum of the parts is greater than the individual parts and you will get strength from that.”
He added: “You can then focus on developing yourself and your economic base together through sharing and complementing and supporting each other. It is a better environment for raising your children who ultimately are your legacy in life and who can help you further if you develop and invest in them.”
The former minister of justice does hold to the belief that the family is the ideal construct for the society to move forward. He would like to see the strengthening of family values and Jamaica deal with some of the problems it has had emanating from weak family arrangements, with children not getting the full input that they need. He will be encouraging that kind of thinking and dialogue which he says has worked for him.
“I came out of a small but strong family. It helped to enhance my output and productivity and what I have been able to achieve as an individual. So I commend it to anybody asking how they are going to move forward in life. Start in a family but do so in a way that is respectful of your partner and do not do things that are hurtful to that partner. Do the things that Christ taught us within your own relationship and you will see the benefits,” Golding said.
GOLDING A PROUD DAD
Married to Sandra since 1990, Golding is a proud parent and his children are doing well. His son has finished his degree and is now doing an internship. One daughter is starting a business after completing a degree in Fine Arts and the other is into photography and travel.
His father, Sir John Golding, was Jamaica’s first orthopaedic surgeon who dedicated his life to persons with disabilities and tried to uplift that community and empower it. His mother, Lady Patricia Golding, dedicated her life to public service. They both left a big impression on him and helped to shape his outlook.
So, who else has Golding looked to as a model? Who are the other people who have inspired him?
“In the legal profession, I continue to be inspired by my senior partner, Hugh Hart. I have admired his approach to the practice of law and the delivery of service to clients. He takes a creative solution-orientated approach to the practice of law. We have been together since 1993. I regard him as very talented and an exceptional person.
“In the area of politics, it is Sista P [former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller] for me. She has been so loving and embracing of me and is a mentor. We come from different backgrounds, but we connect and there is a chemistry between us. When she was prime minister and I was in her Cabinet, she was very supportive of me even though I was a relatively junior member of the Cabinet at the time. She got behind what I was trying to do and what I had to say.
“Michael Manley was always inspirational. I got to know him particularly well in the early ’90s when he was championing the Employee Share Ownership Programme (ESOP) in his reassessment of how socialism could operate in a free market economy. I was a young lawyer at the time, and I had bid for doing the legal work on that programme and was engaged by the government to do so. He and I would meet at his home every month and he would get to talking about politics with me on the progressive side, so we had a connection there.
“I remember he once looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You have to get onboard with the people and the process of politics. You can’t live your whole life just in the private sector’. At the time I listened and thought about it. Little did I know that within 10 years I would start to follow where he was directing me.”