My fellow Jamaicans…
Today, we honour the heroes of our land. We celebrate, in particular, the lives and accomplishments of the six men and one woman we have declared as our National Heroes. Theirs was a vision that saw in us and for us, what we may not have been able to see ourselves. Theirs was the courage that challenged all obstacles and conquered all fear. Theirs was a loyalty and dedication to their people that knew no bounds. Theirs is a legacy that now and forever belongs to us.
Decades and centuries after they have left us, we remember them and we remind ourselves that we could not have been who we are, we could not have come this far were it not for them. We have a duty not just to them but to ourselves to remember them. Marcus Garvey was so right: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture are like a tree without roots”.
It is in this vein that today we honour 105 persons for the significant contribution they have made to our country in so many different fields – in the arts, sports, business, agriculture, the public service, education, law, human rights advocacy, community service and acts of gallantry. They have followed in the path of our National Heroes. They are heroes in their own right. And so can all of us be. So, indeed, should all of us be, for we have it in us – each of us – to be a hero for Jamaica.
We may not make the headlines; we may not receive individual awards; we cannot all be declared national heroes. But each of us can be a hero in how we live our lives and in the simple but important things we do:How we raise our children and how we treat other people’s children;How we help and care for those who can’t help and care for themselves;How we respect the rights of each other and act justly toward each other;How we build our communities so that we can live peacefully, safely and happily together;How we keep our environment from which all of us must draw sustenance;What we do and how we contribute to making Jamaica the greatest place on earth to live.
Last week, Parliament commenced debate on a new Charter of Rights. It is an important measure to strengthen and guarantee the rights of every Jamaican for which our National Heroes fought so hard and for which some of them sacrificed their lives.
The fight for freedom may have been won and our rights may have been secured through the toil and sacrifices of those we proclaim as our national heroes but the price of freedom is eternal vigilance and the cause of justice can never end.
Today we salute Nanny of the Maroons, Samuel “Daddy” Sharpe, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, William Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley.
They remain not just a memory of a distant past but our hope for the future because they symbolize the spirit of which great nations are made and they embody the qualities of the great people we can be.
Amid all the challenges and difficulties we face, “look inside you and be strong and you’ll finally see the truth,.that a hero lies in you”.
God bless Jamaica.
My fellow Jamaicans…