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Speech

Let me use this opportunity to greet Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora, as we celebrate National Heritage Week.
This year we celebrate National Heritage Week at a time when Jamaicans and indeed the world face tremendous challenges. As we celebrate, let us draw strength and determination from our National Heroes who rose to the occasion of their time and demonstrated the capacity of Jamaicans to be resilient.
Each year Heritage Week and National Heroes Day afford us the opportunity to contemplate the journey that we have taken since the earliest times of our history.
The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey states that: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots”. He went on to say: “History is a landmark by which we are directed into the true course of life”.
As a result of this recognition, we pause to celebrate the contribution of each Hero and to be reminded of our history.
Nanny of the Maroons is acknowledged as the first person to have led a band of freedom fighters against the British in this Hemisphere.
That victory and the result as contained in the Maroon Treaty, stand throughout time as tangible evidence that Jamaicans are able, not only to withstand and overcome challenges that may seem insurmountable, but are prepared to fight for what we believe.
A defiant Sam Sharpe declared: “I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery”. His fight against the dehumanising conditions of slavery reminds us that with strength and pride, we can stand up as agents of change for the greater good of the nation.
The achievements of Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Bustamante, and Norman Manley stand today as legacies to us and our children.
These seven National Heroes are representative of who we are, of our heritage, our past accomplishments and the promise of greatness that is born within each of us as Jamaicans.
In addition to these seven Jamaicans immortalized by our gratitude, there are hundreds of Jamaicans, who each day, quietly demonstrate heroism beyond compare.
These are our unsung heroes, whose achievements we should also celebrate. Norman Manley described them as, “the little people, the poor, the humble and the seeming weak who first began to blow on the still living but small and hidden flame of freedom and blew, till it soared like a torch and the land began to light up around us”. They too are our heroes.
As we celebrate Heritage Week, let us not forget the many Jamaicans today who are also heroes.
The achievements of our educators, who, despite less than optimal resources, remain committed to the academic and scholastic development of our nation’s children.
The achievements of the fisher folk, the farmers, traders and vendors in our markets who contribute to the well-being of our people.
We should celebrate the achievements of our health care professionals who on a daily basis set aside their personal concerns, to ensure that the best possible care is given to our elderly, our young, our injured and the weak.
Heroic, best describes the service of the men and women of the fire services and the security forces, who are on the frontline protecting the national family from the growing wave of crime and violence which seeks to reverse our progress and hold hostage our dreams.
Heroes you are, when, despite the challenges that seek to paralyse our society, you are able to set aside your own concerns and help those in need.
Our cultural icons who, through the various cultural expressions, symbolises our heritage and reflects who we are as a people.
The sportsmen and women of Jamaica who have kept the flag of Jamaica flying high.
My fellow Jamaicans, we must embrace the vision of our heroes which is manifested in the life and work of many today.
Let us not surrender to despair when the companionship of hope and unity chart the pathway for a brighter future.
Let us recapture that courage, determination and resilience of our Heroes.
My fellow Jamaicans, belief in our people provides the source of my own commitment to continue to stand up for justice, peace and love.
Let us all work diligently and creatively, let us think generously and honestly, let us ensure that Jamaica may increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity as we all play our part in advancing the welfare of all Jamaicans and indeed of the whole human race.
The theme, “Believe in Jamaica. Embracing our Heritage” is a fitting call to a consciousness about who we are, our capacity to overcome and our ability to remain triumphant, proud and free.
May God continue to bless this our island home, Jamaica Land We Love.