‘Never in my wildest dreams’
Nurse Sandra Lindsay says Presidential Medal of Freedom testament of J’can values
Barbara Feinstein, deputy assistant secretary for Caribbean affairs and Haiti in the United States Department of State, has hailed Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee Dr Sandra Lindsay as a nurse who gave hope to the world in a time when it was most needed.
She was speaking at a dinner in honour of Jamaica-born Lindsay, hosted by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks, after she received the nation’s highest civilian honour from US President Joe Biden.
Feinstein described Lindsay’s selflessness and her willingness to lead in a time of crisis as being “just incredible”.
“On behalf of Secretary Anthony Blinken and US Ambassador (to Jamaica) Nick Perry, who is so proud, we want to laud you as a great American. We are all just in awe of your work in the time of our great crisis and congratulate you on your example, not only confined to the United States, but all around the world including Jamaica,” Feinstein said.
In congratulating Lindsay, Marks emphasised the significance of the brave nurse being one of “the awardees of the Presidential Medal Freedom for 2022, the US highest civilian honour accorded to individuals who have made exemplary contributions in various spheres of life”.
“I would like to specially commend you, Dr Lindsay, for leading your team of critical care nurses through many days and nights while risking your own lives in the early days of the COVID-19 battle. We also commend you for being the first of more than 300 million persons in the United States to take the vaccine outside of a clinical trial, amidst heightened uncertainty, becoming the face of the COVID-19 vaccine and inspiring others to take the courageous step,” she continued.
“It may be argued that your offering to take this first bold step marked an important turning point in the fight against the virus; for the first time, many, including myself, felt a sense of hope, and quite frankly, relief, that the end of the pandemic was finally within reach with a trusted vaccine,” Marks said.
“I am thrilled that you are now among a prestigious group of persons who have been bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including Neil Armstrong, Jesse Owens, Martin Luther King Jr, the Reverend Billy Graham, Jackie Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Mother Teresa, Lucille Ball, Audrey Hepburn, Nelson Mandela, General Colin Powell, just to name a few.”
In proposing a toast to Lindsay, renowned Jamaica-born economist and father of US Vice-President Kamala Harris, Professor Donald Harris, pointed out that “there is so much about your personal accomplishments that stand out as iconic and make it clear that this award is warranted and well deserved”.
“Your professionalism as a healthcare provider; your devotion to duty on the front lines of the struggle to provide healthcare to the needy; your active role as a fierce advocate for public health of underserved communities; and your courage and willingness to be the first person to publicly submit your body to the jab for the vaccine, at a time when many people, especially those in the minority community and among your fellow healthcare professionals, were reluctant or resistant to do so,” Harris highlighted.
He also commended Lindsay for maintaining the Jamaican work and study ethic, which saw her embarking on academic pursuits that culminated in March 2021, when she completed a Doctor of Health Sciences degree with a concentration in global health, leadership and organisational behaviour.
In her response, Lindsay said she was overjoyed at the honour bestowed on her. Her first reaction to news of the honour was one of disbelief. She said when she received the call that the US president “would like to talk with me, I thought it was a prank call”.
“Why would the president of the United States want to talk to me…? A wonda wha im ha’ fi tell mi seh?” she shared of her reaction. “I did not retrieve the call from my voicemail until two days later! I am happy that the president saved my space in the line and did not give it away! Today, I am proud to be standing here and to wear this award with pride!” Lindsay said.
“I am so proud as a Jamaican to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I was born and raised in Clarendon, Jamaica. When I came to the US in 1986, I did not just come with my suitcase, I did not have any money but what I came with were my Jamaican values: hard work, humility, gratitude, respect and determination. I have always carried them with me all my life.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be here today wearing the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the proud nurse admitted.
Among those attending the reception were Lindsay’s mother Hazel Morgan, her siblings and other members of her family, as well as co-workers and friends.