David Salmon’s vision, just over seven years ago, of becoming a Rhodes Scholar is, today, a reality.
He topped the field of 11 Jamaican candidates – seven males and four females – vying for the globally acclaimed Rhodes Scholarship for 2023.
The past student of Wolmer’s Boys’ School in Kingston has an undergraduate degree in Public Policy and Management with a Minor in International Relations from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
He is pursuing a Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom (UK), consequent on receiving the His Royal Highness Prince of Wales Scholarship.
By virtue of being awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, Salmon will head to Oxford University in the UK to study for a Doctor of Philosophy in International Development.
He will join more than 100 scholars from around the world pursuing fully sponsored postgraduate studies and, ultimately, becoming part of a global community of people determined to make a positive difference in the world.
The 22-year-old’s dream began in 2015 after listening to and interacting with Jamaica’s recipient of the prestigious award for that year, Dr. Tariq Parker.
“This is something that I have aspired for… since I was 15, when my alma mater, Wolmer’s Boys’ School, had its last Rhodes Scholar, Tariq Parker. He came to our school and gave an address and I looked up to him, from then, and said, ‘I want to be like this person in the future’. So to be the next Rhodes Scholar from my high school, after that moment, it is a dream come true,” he says.
Salmon’s aspiration was fuelled by hard work, targeted research, and constant support from parents, mentors, and family members throughout his academic pursuit.
“My objective was always to be the best that I could be, and work towards the best,” he said in an interview with Jamaica Government news agency JIS.
The scholar points out that the opportunity afforded by the scholarship will better enable him to give back to Jamaica, particularly through his area of study- International Development.
“I’m particularly interested in International Development because I believe that, not only as a citizen of Jamaica but as a citizen of the world, I have an obligation to help… developing countries, including Jamaica, achieve a fighting chance in this world,” he says.
Having enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mr. Salmon transferred, after two weeks, to the Faculty of Social Sciences to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Public Policy and Management, with a minor in International Relations.
He encourages persons to dream big and put in the hard work to ensure their goals materialise.
“I think it is so important to dream. As a young man, I think, sometimes, we like to show people that the reality may not be as ideal as our dreams. But I think it is so important to dream and dream big and aim to be the absolute best that you can be in your dreams.
“I had a dream when I was younger, that I would be in a position to give back [to Jamaica] and to contribute to people. So, I think, in many ways, it is our dreams that keep us going; it is our dreams that keep us alive, and it is our dreams that really help to keep us grounded and motivated,” he maintains.
Mr. Salmon describes the other persons applying for the 2023 Rhodes Scholarship as a “phenomenal group of candidates” embodying all the ideals of the award, among these courage, excellence and leadership.
“It’s a very indescribable feeling; I am humbled being among such amazing individuals. We had the opportunity to interact, and I am confident that I have met several lifelong friends,” Salmon points out.
Sharing insights on her son’s aspiration, Donnahae Rhoden-Salmon, says he always wanted to receive the award.
“From third form, he… always wanted to be a Rhodes Scholar. Then when he was in sixth form, he got the Nethersole Cup for student most likely to be a Rhodes Scholar, and then he put up… a photo of… Tariq Parker, the last Rhodes Scholar [from Wolmer’s], in his room [with the words] ‘I am a Rhodes Scholar’. He did a lot of research, looked at the Rhodes Scholars from the beginning [and] what they did. We were very targeted,” she shared.
Academics aside, Mr. Salmon has an impressive résumé of accomplishments. These include founder of the New Jamaica Foundation, which is an organisation dedicated to promoting youth development.
He was a recipient of the Governor-General’s Achievement Award for the parish of St. Andrew in 2021 for Academic Performance and Community Involvement; the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Nation Building; and the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Morris Cargill Award for Opinion Journalism in 2019.
Salmon also represented the University of the West Indies as a debater and was the 2022 Valedictorian for the Faculty of Social Sciences.
In his remarks during the ceremony at King’s House to announce the 2023 recipient, Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, noted that the Selection Committee had difficulty choosing the winner from among “an outstanding group of scholars”.
“By far, for the past 14 years [that] I have been chairing the committee, it has never been so difficult. It was a walk in the park in former years, in comparison to what we had to do this year,” he shared.
The Governor-General encouraged Mr. Salmon to make the most of the scholarship opportunity.
“David, we wish you all the best and we hope that you will make maximum use of your scholarship at Oxford and plant our name there again,” he said.
The Governor-General encouraged the other candidates to try again, while urging them to “never give up”.
The scholarship was established under the will of Cecil John Rhodes, a British mining magnate and politician in southern Africa from 1890 to 1896, who died in 1903.
It aims to provide future leaders of English-speaking countries with an education that broadens their views and develops their abilities.
The scholarship has been awarded to a Jamaican every year since 1904, with candidate selection based on qualities of character as well as intellect.