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Speech

On the occasion of the celebration of Heritage week and National Heroes’ Day 2010. “I believe in Jamaica… Our People, Our land, Our Heritage”
My fellow Jamaicans, each year on this day, we pause to review our journey, remember our National Heroes and Heroine as we celebrate their contribution to the freedom and independence which we enjoy as a people.
National Heroes’ Day presents an opportunity for us to reflect and learn from the experiences of those who have gone before us.
It reminds us of their courage in the face of tremendous odds and must fortify our resolve to continue the journey to a brighter future.
As a nation, we have been blessed with leaders who rose to the challenges of their time to give voice to the aspirations and the struggles of our people.
It was Nanny of the Maroons who personified courage in her fight for freedom from the cruel and unjust system of slavery.
Today, her legacy lives on in our women who struggle daily to keep their children liberated from the bondage of illiteracy and poverty. Women across Jamaica are able to hold Nanny as an example, of the “Strength of a Woman”.
Sam Sharpe was a firm believer in peaceful protests and passive resistance.
He was certain that slavery was unjust and he knew it could not last.
As a Baptist Deacon, Sam Sharpe found no compatibility between righteousness and injustice.
He lived, as we are called to do in our time, to honour God, to love our country and to be selfless in our approach toward others.
George William Gordon stepped boldly away from the comfort and prestige to which he had been born.
He became a martyr in the campaign to uplift the lives of less fortunate Jamaicans.
His spirit lives on in the countless Jamaicans, here and in the Diaspora, who continue to give selflessly of themselves to build a better Jamaica.
Paul Bogle was the embodiment of courage.
He believed that there was more to life than impoverishment and servitude.
He believed in the greatness of his people and this drove him to strike out against the establishment, in order to eliminate their pain and suffering.
Today, we continue that famous march for equal rights and justice – fighting in our time to ensure that all our people are provided with opportunities to lift themselves from systems of oppression.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey by his words: “Up! Up! You mighty race. You can accomplish what you will!” confirmed and challenged the greatness in us.
He was fixed in his conviction that prosperity was possible for Jamaica and that all Jamaicans should have an equitable stake in that prosperity.
It was Garvey who fueled our belief in ourselves and showed us that we could achieve greatness as a people and shape our own destiny.
Today, Garvey’s contributions live on in every people-owned business, in every people-driven enterprise and in every country; not just Jamaica, but in the wider Caribbean, the Americas, Africa and the rest of the world.
Norman Washington Manley was the chief architect behind our achieving Universal Adult Suffrage Independence.
He built on the foundations laid by our other Heroes and Heroines – those named and unnamed.
Sir Alexander Bustamante, the first leader of Independent Jamaica stood with the workers of Jamaica and defended their rights so that respect and justice would be theirs to claim.
He set the stage for the vibrant Trade Union Legacy that we enjoy in Jamaica today.
Both Norman Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante laid the basis for our development through the struggles of the Labour Movement and the birth of our Political Identity.
Today we also pay tribute to our unsung heroes and heroine described by Norman Manley when he said, “Some there be that have no memorial, but their monument is around for all to see and their names liveth to all generations.”
CLOSING
At every stage and in each chapter of our national journey, our ancestors and leaders distinguished themselves as selfless patriots who believed that we were created a proud people with a noble destiny.
The lessons that we extract today from their toils and triumphs are the lessons which must undergird our quest for a more just, peaceful, progressive and prosperous society.
The passion for freedom, the commitment to fairness and equality, the spirit of courage, sacrifice and selflessness, the unflinching belief in ourselves and our people, and integrity in our political processes, are the only true and abiding foundations of a progressive society.
We owe much to our heroes for the pride and dignity we have as Jamaicans among the nations of the world.
I believe in Jamaica.
I believe that there is an adequate supply of the qualities and characteristics of our National Heroes in all of us.
My belief is reaffirmed each day when I hear of the simple acts of kindness and heroism that abound within our society.
Good neighbourliness, altruism and patriotism are manifested every time we lend a helping hand to someone in trouble, to someone in need.
This Heroes’ Day, as we recall with pride the struggles of our National Heroes and Heroine, along with the contributions of our unsung heroes, we must also celebrate our contemporary champions of freedom, democracy and justice.
Let us all recommit to this island Jamaica, and to our people, that we will do all that we can do to be the best that we can be.
Let us continue our journey to greatness. Together we will achieve; together we will succeed.
I believe in Jamaica, I believe in you.
God Bless Jamaica, God Bless you all.
Portia Simpson Miller ON, MP – Leader of the Opposition