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Every year at this time we pause to reflect on the progress we have made as a people in this great country we call home. In our National Anthem, we ask for the blessings and guidance of the Eternal Father on this land.
We know so well that God helps those who help themselves, but that none but ourselves can free our minds. We realize that it is by our own efforts we can rid ourselves not only from the obstacles of the past, but also dissipate the inertia that would prevent us from overcoming present difficulties. We have to create our own path to the future of which we dream – the future which we would want our children and their children to inherit.
More and more we have come to appreciate that Independence is not simply a single event that took place in August 1962 but a process which allows us to build a nation for ourselves.
Our Founding Fathers based the pursuit of Independence on the firm conviction that we can be the creators of our own destiny. In this changed, and still rapidly changing world of this twenty-first century, it becomes even more urgent that we hold on to that conviction.
We are, after all, a people of proven grit and resilience whether we reside at home or abroad. We must use these attributes to creatively explore our potential and the opportunities that exist for economic, social and spiritual growth and development. To do otherwise, is a defiance of commonsense and a devaluation of the gift of life we have been given.
Fellow Jamaicans:
You have a right to expect from your leaders and the society at large:
proper healthcare;affordable housing;a sound education that can facilitate and ease the journey from childhood to adulthood.
You are right to expect opportunities for gainful employment which is sustained and adequate to meet the vicissitudes of life.
And it is right that you should want to have the assurance of individual safety and collective security since all such rights herald the great freedoms from hunger, from ignorance, from disease and from fear.
But none of these can be achieved without the strategic alliances we must make between each other with all the caring, trust and compassion that a civilized society demands of all who inhabit it.
Forty three years in the life of a nation is short compared to the four and more centuries of degradation and deprivation. Through the struggles, the wisdom, foresight and example of our Founding Fathers, we have developed, and continue to develop, even greater self-esteem and self-confidence.
We have seen over the years that, despite the challenges and inherited disadvantages, we are not only fit to rule ourselves but also able to make a remarkable contribution on the regional and international stage.
In today’s competitive global economy comparative advantage rests on intellectual skills and the mastery of technology. It is for this reason, that I have been stressing the importance of investing in our human resources – in ourselves – through education.
Today, education is the most effective means of shaping values, attitudes, behaviours and skills. Education is the key driver of economic transformation. It is our solemn responsibility to equip the future generation with the thinking skills that will assure their individual growth and development and the creation of a habitable society.
It is for this reason, that I have been stressing the importance of investing in our human resources – in our young students and adults – through education and training
To do so, we are harnessing the resources to create an education system that is viable and relevant in the global marketplace.
The challenge is immense!
It is indeed a challenge for all Jamaicans:civil society;our private sector;the Church;the family in whatever form;our energetic and talented youth population;our workers and their trade unions; and,of course,our elected representatives.
Let us view ourselves as custodians of our nation’s resources which we must invest in a broader purpose -the betterment of all our people.
This is a time for both celebration and renewal.
On this 43rd anniversary of our Independence, I once again summon every Jamaican in town or country, at home or overseas, to re-commit yourselves to giving to this our beloved country the loyalty, caring, dedication it so richly deserves from us all.
I wish everyone a peaceful and reflective Independence.
May God bless us all and bless Jamaica, this beautiful land we love.