My Fellow Jamaicans & our Diaspora Brothers and Sisters:
National Heroes Day always provides us with an important moment for reflection. We use this occasion to remember the bravery, courage, resilience and persistence of those who struggled, in various ways, to ensure that today we can enjoy the fruits of freedom and Independence.
Today we pause, once again, to salute the exemplary and extraordinary lives and contributions of our National Heroes and Heroine.
The theme for Heroes Day this year, “My Expressions, My Traditions, My Jamaica” speaks to the celebration of our distinctive history, culture and heritage. It encourages us to use those expressions and traditions to make our great nation even greater.
Every age and generation faces unique challenges.
However, there are some things that remain common to us regardless of changes in time and space.
Our ancestors taught us to galvanize our uniqueness to bravely and creatively face all our challenges. The bolstering courage of our Heroes and heroine runs in our genes.
Their constant reminders to unite as a people to face the challenges that confront us as a nation, are replayed in our consciousness from generation to generation.
It is undeniable. At every major moment in our history, when faced with challenges that have tested our individual and collective strength, patience and determination, we have emerged stronger and better.
I know many persons face the tests of our time. Many are, understandably preoccupied with issues of daily survival.
A significant number of Jamaicans have either already experienced, or are even now, feeling the severe pain and discomfort of the ChikV.
The ChikV health emergency presents all of us with the opportunity to be modern day heroes and heroines in our own right. In this regard, the fight to ensure the health of the nation, can only be won if we all display personal responsibility in our homes, work places and communities.
I sympathize with those persons who have come down with this painful illness and who continue to feel its effects. For those who have already been through it, I am happy that you are feeling better, and for those persons who are still ailing, I wish you a speedy and full recovery.
We continue to manage and monitor the situation.
There are also real concerns about the global Ebola threat to Jamaica. At this time, the Government continues to put systems in place, and to do all we can in an effort to prevent the Ebola Virus from getting to Jamaica.
We are committed to keeping all Jamaicans informed at every step of the way.
Let us, all as critical stakeholders from every sector of our society, stand together, and work together to defeat these health threats.
Even as we deal with the health issues, as a Government we have to continue to safeguard our economy. We are going for growth with job creation.
Even though there is more distance to cover in the journey to prosperity, we have already seen some encouraging signs of growth, investments and we are making a start in creating new jobs.
It requires united action to make life better for those families facing difficulties and those Jamaicans who are having a hard time coping.
National Heroes Day presents an opportunity for us to recapture the fighting spirit of our ancestors as we work as one people shaping a better future together.
No matter what the challenges are that confront us, as Jamaicans, it is not in our character to allow hopelessness and despair to overcome us. We never give up hope. We never have and we never will.
In the past, faced with the most brutal conditions of enslavement, our ancestors never lost hope.
Instead they boldly confronted their struggles, planned diligently and drew on all their inner reserves of fortitude. They carved out a better future for themselves and for the present generation.
Like our ancestors, our heroes and heroine we have to stay focused and strong.
The popular anthem reminds us to:
Rise up, stand and take our place,
Shine like the sun,
Rise up, stand like the brave,
Rule our destiny, and be the best that we can be.
We have to remain resolute. We must remain responsible and calm. We must look out for each other, caring for those who are most vulnerable, checking in on those who live alone.
As a people we stand today on our proven practices of community spirit, and planning steadfastly for success.
It is the great and noble traditions of fortitude and resilience that we celebrate on this Heroes Day.
Each year as we catalogue the struggles and victories of our National Heroes and Heroine, we are reassured of the appropriateness of our decision to cement their place in history in the consciousness of our people.
We think of….
- ….the courage of Sam Sharpe, the educated Baptist Deacon, who chose to die on yonder gallows rather than live enslaved.
He could not quench the fire for justice that raged in his heart in his quest to see every man, women and child live in freedom and dignity that was their God-given right.
- Paul Bogle did not have to take up the struggle of his people. He did not have to march the many miles from Stony Gut in St. Thomas to SpanishTown to demand audience with the colonial masters on behalf of the poor farmers, who needed land and better social conditions. Yet, he chose to put the interest of the community over his personal safety.
- George William Gordon could have kept himself sheltered in privilege, but he stepped out and identified with the black masses, and, like Sharpe and Bogle, paid with his life.
- The enduring legacy of Nanny of the Maroons, is the fire of bravery, grit and determination that burns deep within our hearts. It is the courage to confront the greatest adversity and to emerge undefeated.
- Marcus Garvey remains today our most powerful inspiration that we are a mighty people who can accomplish what we will.
Garvey knew that this great land of ours could not progress unless Jamaicans were united and cared about one another, irrespective of class and colour or politics.
The decade for People of African descent, which starts in January 2015, will provide further opportunity to revisit the relevance of his life.
- Norman Washington Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante chose lives of public service and nation building.
- They built on the dreams of Marcus Garvey and both left legacies of important national institutions, including political parties that continue to work to improve the lives of the Jamaican people.
As we reflect on National Heroes Day, we need to ask ourselves: What legacy will we leave for future generations? How are we helping to build this great nation of ours? What are the good deeds that will be remembered long after we are gone?
The answers are to be found in the various contributions we all make to our nation, whether large or small.
- When we give of our best in any job we do, we are helping to build Jamaica.
- Whenever we share with our neighbours and care for the less fortunate, we are helping to strengthen our communities and society.
- When we make sacrifice today for tomorrow’s progress, we are helping to make our country stronger.
- When we lift each other up with our expressions and respect our positive traditions, we are truly building our Jamaica.
Today, I salute all those who stand in the tradition of self-sacrifice and service that our National Heroes and Heroine handed down to us.
I salute all Jamaicans from all walks of life who prove every day that they are true heroes and heroines.
Let us arise and build this great and beautiful land of ours and turn challenges into opportunities.
We are a great people. Our best days are still ahead. Our National Heroes and Heroine have left us a solid foundation.
Let us build on it.
May all of us use this National Heroes Day to reaffirm our commitment to Jamaica, this land we love so dearly. Through our expressions and our traditions let us build this nation…
From riverside to mountain
From cane fields to the sea
Our hearts salute Jamaica
Triumphant proud and free…
Have a happy and safe National Heroes Day.