Rodger Foster, CEO of Airlink, yesterday became the latest recipient of the National Order of the Southern Cross and only the third South African in history to receive this honour. The previous two were President Thabo Mbeki and Judge Albie Sachs. This is the highest symbol of recognition and gratitude that the Brazilian government awards exclusively to foreign citizens who have proven to be active and committed friends of Brazil, the Brazilian people and their institutions.
The presentation took place at Airlinks offices at OR Tambo International Airport. His Excellency Sérgio França Danese, Ambassador of the Federative Republic of Brazil bestowed the honour on Roger and commented, ”I wish to thank you all for being with us today for this simple, although highly symbolic ceremony. Just a moment ago, I was most honoured to impose the badges of the National Order of the Southern Cross, in the grade of Commander, to our dearest friend Rodger Foster, CEO of Airlink.”
Ambassador Danese added “As you may know, the beautiful celestial image of the Southern Cross, which we share with South Africa and all countries in this beautiful hemisphere, is present in every symbol that relates to the Brazilian sovereignty and identity, starting with our flag. For Brazilians, the Southern Cross relates directly to our soul, our place in the world, our history, and our vision of life.
Ambassador Danese added, “It is most proper and fitting that it be now awarded to Rodger Foster, a friend and a committed associate of long-standing of Brazil’s in the area of civil aviation, especially in his position as CEO of Airlink, by far the largest user of Brazilian Embraer aircraft in the whole of Africa.”
The award was originally known as the Imperial Order of the Cross (Ordem Imperial do Cruzeiro), the National Order of the Southern Cross (Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul) was created by the first Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro I, on December 1st, 1822, less than three months after our independence, and recreated in 1932, under the Republic, by the former Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas.
Embraer created as a State and now a privately owned company of which the Brazilian government keeps a “golden share”, is not only a great accomplishment of the Brazilian air industry but also one of the flagships of modern Brazil.
Originated in the 1960s as a deliberate effort to endow the country with an air industry that would help us respond to the challenges of integrating and defending a territory of continental proportions, Embraer now bears testimony of Brazillian technological and industrial capacity.
It grew to what it is today – the third-largest civil aircraft builder in the whole world – thanks to the confidence that its many partners entrusted it, making it possible that thousands of Brazilian built aircraft daily criss-cross the aerial routes in the whole world, transporting millions of regional, national and international passengers.
Airlink and its leadership, of which Rodger is both head and a symbol and example, are among the air companies that trusted Embraer and the Brazilian air industry as their tools for operating a successful and growing network of national and international air transport.
All South Africans should proud to see a prosperous and promising South African company operating and growing well beyond South African borders as a truly African airline, at a time when the whole Continent embarks in a consistent effort of integration and modernization. Through its aircraft, Brazil is proud to be a part of those accomplishments.
Rodger is part of that recent history and, as I said, a symbol of his company, an inspiration to all its dedicated workers, a leadership that is helping Airlink fly beyond limits in African skies and – who knows – maybe in other continents’ skies not far from now.
By awarding this national decoration to Rodger, Brazil wishes to salute and pay tribute to all of Airlink’s team, the people who literally fly this company into a promising future.
In a personal message to Rodger Ambassador Danese said, “The badge you have just been awarded reads ‘Benemerentium premium', which simply means ‘an award for merit’. And the rules governing the National Order of the Southern Cross state that it is awarded to foreigners ‘as a token of gratitude and recognition for those who have rendered significant service to the Brazilian nation’.”
“You did it, you do it, and you will keep doing it, I am sure, in the interests of your company and your country, looking for excellence and performance in your field of activity. But also making real the promise that our countries’ friendship brings to our peoples – to better their lives.”
“Now, we ask you to wear that badge proudly and with the certitude that, in doing your job remarkably, you are also doing a great deal in fostering those wonderful relations that our countries enjoy, a truly South Atlantic partnership and, most of all, a beautiful friendship between two brotherly peoples in Africa and South America. Please accept my heartfelt congratulations and thanks, Rodger”