JIS News

My fellow Jamaicans, when we observe Heritage Week which climaxes with the celebration of National Heroes’ Day, much of the focus is on the lives of our seven National Heroes, the sacrifices they made and the outstanding role they played in our development as a nation. The story of the battle against slavery cannot be recounted without prominent reference to the heroism of Nanny of the Maroons and the defiance of Sam Sharpe.
The struggle to secure the rights of the freed slaves – land for the landless, protection from brutality and respect for their dignity – would perhaps not have succeeded without the courage and tenacity of Paul Bogle and the selflessness of George William Gordon.
Our awareness of our equality as predominantly black people and our entitlement and, indeed, duty to take charge of our own destiny owes much to the vision and philosophy of Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
It was William Alexander Bustamante who awakened the power of the working classes, secured recognition for their right to collective bargaining, better wages, improved working conditions and the right to choose their government.
And it was Norman Washington Manley who led the process of shaping our modern democratic system and spearheaded the transition from colonial domination to self government and laid the foundations for independence.
But even while we salute our National Heroes we must also recognize the countless others who have helped to shape the development of our nation and whose sterling contributions have helped to define our character as a people.
As a people we are faced with many challenges but there is much in our heritage that can enable us to overcome these challenges. We have a rich history of triumph over adversity. We have demonstrated in so many areas of endeavour that we can be the best in the world. The name Jamaica resonates across the world to an extent far greater than our size would suggest. We are a great people with a proud heritage.
But we have a duty to protect that heritage, to build upon it, strengthen it, enrich it and use it as a powerful tool for economic and social development. We must be vigilant, for in a world in which change is so blistering and mind-boggling, a world in which communication is so instantaneous and interaction among different people so intense, there are many forces that can overwhelm our culture and our heritage and undermine our uniqueness as a people.
Our values are being buffeted by other values that are not part of our heritage. We are in danger of losing confidence in who we are, losing an appreciation for where we are coming from and losing sight of where we want to go. It was Marcus Garvey who declared that “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
We must be strong and we must be focused. We must return to our core values, those same values that guided our National Heroes, imbued them with a vision of what we can be and inspired them to lead us forward as they did. We must apply those values in tackling the challenges that confront us, in building a unity of purpose and unity in action.
And in all of this, let us find the hero within each of us. For each of us must play our part in building on the foundations of those heroes we revere and making the Jamaica of tomorrow worthy of their heroism of yesterday.
May God bless you all!

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