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Speech

Jamaicans at home and abroad…

National Heroes' Day is a time for celebration, a time to celebrate the achievements we have made because of the extraordinary contributions of those men and a woman who, in such a remarkable way, helped to shape our destiny.

It is a time, too, for reflection, for, even as we face the enormous challenges of today, we must remember that they, too, faced monumental challenges but, through their selflessness, determination and noble defiance, we were able to overcome.

Over 200 years have passed since Nanny of the Maroons confronted and confounded the British army to defend the slaves who had claimed their freedom.

Over 150 years have passed since Sam Sharpe was hanged in Montego Bay because he dared to stand up for the rights of those still kept in bondage.

Almost 150 years have passed since Paul Bogle and George William Gordon, too, were hanged because they protested the slave-like conditions in which the former slaves were still being forced to live.

Over 75 years have passed since Marcus Garvey ignited the consciousness of black people here and across the world and unveiled to them their inalienable rights and the boundlessness of their potential.

Over 50 years have passed since Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley challenged the colonial authorities in the cane fields and at the docks which then led them to the negotiating table to secure the rights of workers and our sovereignty as a people.

These many years have passed but the lessons that these heroic sons and daughter taught us have not faded. The sacrifices they made, the risks they were prepared to take, the unrelenting passion with which they did what they felt they had to do,  are the essential qualities that we must emulate if we are to overcome our challenges, if we, as they did, are to make Jamaica a better place for all of its people.

Our preparations for the celebration next year of 50 years of independence are well underway. In looking back at the journey we have travelled over these 50 years, we will recognize that that journey began hundreds of years before and that each of our national heroes led us through various stages of that journey and were there at the helm at critical turning points.

In looking forward beyond those 50 years of independence, we must recognize, as well, that the journey continues and, though the road may not yet be straight and smooth, the various legs of the journey must remain fresh in our minds for that is what will inspire and guide us to continue that journey and to make the right turns at our critical turning points.

We have a proud heritage, one formed in struggle and adversity but, because of this, it is one that assures us that no matter how difficult the path may be, how formidable the odds may be, we have the capacity to triumph.

We thank God for that heritage. We thank Him for the heroes he raised up among us and we pray His continued blessings on our nation and its people as we continue our journey.