Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 1, 2009
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Patricia Allen continues to walk with God in her new role
This is a momentous, yet life-altering achievement for a woman who already had her plate full. She was Shepherdess International coordinator since 2000, in charge of the welfare of pastors' wives.

A Moneague Teachers' College graduate and a nurse, Patricia Allen has held several positions, including dean of women, at the Seventh-day Adventist-operated Northern Caribbean University.

But the new role has not changed who she is, and The Gleaner's Lifestyle editor, Barbara Ellington, sat with her to find out how she feels about the coming changes in her life as wife of the governor general.

There has been a lot of talk, particularly about your denominational beliefs, since it was announced that your husband will become governor general on February 26. How do you feel about it?

It is not something that we aspired to, so I truly believe that God had a hand in it because we do not know the prime minister, neither are we close to him. When he asked my husband to take me to speak with him, it was the third time I was seeing him. The previous times were all at functions that had to do with the work of the church.

So, how did the prime minister arrive at the decision to choose your husband to succeeded Sir Kenneth?

I asked him, I said, 'Sir, we are deeply honoured that you have considered us, but I have one question, 'Why us'?' He said: 'Maybe it is your God who put it in my head, I need someone who has moral authority to speak on certain issues.' But when my husband told me first I told him I knew him as a man of principle and asked him why he was lying. When he said he was going to meet the PM, I assumed it was a meeting of church leaders. He arrived home when I was sleeping. The next day he told me and I after it sank in, I told him we had to pray about it. He said he had prayed all night but we should take two weeks to pray some more.

He had received the PM's permission to discuss it with church heads. At first, the children were elated when they heard, but they later asked him if he realised what it would mean. They said everyone would not agree or be happy, so it was no surprise when the comments started. Throughout December, when the weight of the implications came over me, I was depressed.

My children gave me strength, but my daughter said someone once said when you are in a pit and you have a shovel, throw it away lest you dig yourself in deeper. My son, who lives overseas, reminded me that his father and I had taught them all along to be faithful and love country and with the opportunity to serve, don't let what others have to say daunt us. Stand up for what you believe in!

In the midst of all the talk, I told my husband that in the multitude of discussion, there is wisdom. I asked him if we had made a mistake and he said in light of all that was happening, now he was even more sure that this is what God wanted him to do.

So, you don't think the fact that the prime minister has close family ties to the Adventist Church had anything to do with it?

I don't think so, because it was the third time I was meeting him and we are not political, because I vote over the years for what I think is right for the country at the time. I believe that once you become political, you lose focus, because as a party person, you may love a party, but cannot support what they are doing.

So, do you totally support your husband's decision now, how do you feel about it now?

I totally support him; I am behind him 100 per cent. There is not a job description for the governor general's wife, but we have been taught certain moral principles and I am from the old school where parents taught us to respect everyone. There is not one set of rules for one place and different rules for another. Respect is due all over Jamaica.

One concern is that as head of state, but also a man of religious convictions, how will Dr Allen feel when his

AS A child growing up in the rural hamlet of Roadside in Ingleside, St Mary, the last thing on Patricia Allen's mind was that she would one day become the first lady of the land. But on February 26, the wife of Governor General-designate Dr Patrick Allen, the former head of the West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, will be just that.

'My children gave me strength, but my daughter said someone once said when you are in a pit and you have a shovel, throw it away lest you dig yourself in deeper.'

views conflict with the prime minister's?

I have heard the concern, but if he is appointed by the PM to be just a figurehead, he does not need such an appointment. He is supposed to be able to think clearly and I expect that if he disagrees with the prime minister, he can speak with him man to man. If he feels so strongly about something that means he would have to step down from the position, then he would have to. At the end of the day, you are in the position for the people of the country, not for one individual. You have to do what your conscience tells you is right.

Are you prepared for the glare and scrutiny of the press and wider public?

Yes, my eight years of living overseas, plus with my husband being in a public position, I have been exposed to what being in the spotlight does to you. Criticism is not always bad. You have to look at yourself, examine the criticisms and decide what to embrace and what to discard and use it in a positive way. There are times when some things need to be examined and changed.

How did you spend the eight years in America?

We went for five years, but I was studying and when he came home, I returned home every month. I did not save much because of that. I wanted to complete my master's degree, but I had to be mindful of my duties to my husband. I did not stay for graduation because I knew he wanted me to come home, so as soon as I handed in my coursework and exams were done, I was on the next flight home. The years were challenging, but we got through them.

There has been so much speculation about diet at King's House. When you entertain, are you going to make a rule that there will be no pork in the house?

Pork is never served there, I was told. This is because of all those guests from various cultures. It has never been on the menu at functions because they don't want to offend anyone. But it's not a sin to eat meat, so other clean meats will be served. My husband and I became vegans over a year ago. My daughter introduced it to us and we like it. However, I serve meat to my friends and I still miss fish. We use nuts as a substitute. So we are not going to impose our lifestyle on people. Meat-eating is not a sin. There is no salvation in not eating meat.

This is another big question from the public. You are Adventists who strictly obey the Sabbath. You know what the gospel of Mark says about man and the Sabbath and even performing good deeds on the Sabbath. Many of the functions that you will have to attend take place during the hours you are observing the Sabbath. What do Jamaicans need to know about clashes of official duty and your moral obligation to the Sabbath?

We asked that question during talks with the PM because we wanted it clear that we are Adventists who believe in the Sabbath. If there is an emergency such as a hurricane, we will be the first ones out there to help. I am a nurse and I have had to work on the Sabbath in the past. Events of the State are usually planned between Jamaica House and King's House and since I respect the PM's day of worship as Sunday, he ought to respect ours as a Saturday. We discussed it with him and I would not expect any significant events to be deliberately scheduled for a Friday night.

How can we get back a loving, peaceful Jamaican society?

There are not enough men at the levels where their influence is most needed. When I was a child, the home and the entire community raised us. In the home and school and community, these guides are now missing. The age of childbirth is now lower and the plight of the young is harder now more than ever. We were afraid if our elders saw us doing wrong and had to walk a straight path, but the social structure has broken down. The teacher is no longer the 'sight' in the community. So we have to get back to the days when the home and community did the parenting. I am not seeing the surveys that will get to the root causes of our problems and we need to find out why.

What will your main focus be as the GG's wife? What is it that you have always said, 'If I had the influence, I would do this'?

I would like to focus on the plight of children who are not getting positive affirmation at home. We have to find a way to teach them to love themselves. I want to look at issues, such as children being left at home alone to die in fires, yet nothing is done about the caregivers who are responsible for them. Of course, I have to bear in mind what the needs of the country are and some of the projects that Lady Hall started that I can continue.

(See tomorrow's Flair for Mrs Allen's views on parenting, fashion and more).

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