My Fellow Jamaicans…
In the life of a nation there are those periods when we turned a crucial corner, when we took a giant step in our journey as a people. Invariably, there were individuals who made this happen – persons whose exceptional leadership, courage and sacrifice, transformed struggle into success and turned the darkness of despair into the light of hope. Although they passed on decades and even centuries ago, their achievements live on and form part of the foundation on which our nation is built.
That’s why we observe National Heroes Day- to honour their memory, to reflect on where we are coming from, how far we have come and those extraordinary Jamaicans who made it possible. It is about more than just chronology of spectacular periods and events. It is about who we are and what we are.
It was the bravery and superb organizational skills of Nanny of the Maroons in leading slaves to freedom that humbled the British army and made the first significant dent in this abominable practice of human exploitation.
It was the defiance of Sam Sharpe that inspired the slaves to reject the notion that enslavement was their inescapable destiny. It was the sacrifice of Paul Bogle and George William Gordon that redefined our struggle, highlighting the fact that the removal of the chains without being able to claim our entitlement, was not and could not be the end of the matter.
It was the philosophy and mobilizing energy of Marcus Garvey that reconnected us to our African roots and awakened our consciousness of who we are and what we have the capacity to accomplish.
It was the leadership of Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley that took us to the final frontier to secure political power and assume control of our own destiny.
Today, we honour them. We marvel at their indomitable spirit. We cherish the vision that inspired their extraordinary deeds. We celebrate what they enable us to accomplish.
We must never take these achievements for granted. There are many countries that took much longer than we did for their people to gain their freedom and declare their equality. Some are struggling even to this day to do so.
And we must remind ourselves that the ideals that inspired them are as relevant and as needed today as they were when our National Heroes stepped forward to lead the way.
The fight for freedom has long been won. Political power and political independence have been secured. But our journey has not ended. We must strive to make our country a land of peace where love, tolerance and respect define our relationship with each other. We must find within ourselves the spirit of Nanny, Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey, Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley, so that we can create a new horizon of peace and prosperity for all the people of this land.
We can all be heroes in our own right and in many different ways:. in our homes, especially as good parents to our children;. in our communities as citizens who respect and obey the law and respect and protect each other;. at the workplace as employers and workers who work together for their common good.It is this unity, this singleness of purpose, this firm commitment and this willingness to sacrifice that brought us this far. It is the same spirit that will enable us to advance our cause and complete our journey.
May God bless the people of Jamaica and may He lead us to be heroes in His sight and in everything we do.
My Fellow Jamaicans…