Celebrating the people who make Jamaica the great, iconic, and internationally known powerhouse, is the essence of our National Heroes Day Celebrations.
Indeed, our national heroes, our academics, athletes, artistes and musicians, political forefathers, security forces, civil servants and front-line workers contribute to making Jamaica a better place.
In the words of our first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey: “A people without the knowledge of their past, history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots”.
Our heroes of the past have built a legacy for us today that we must acknowledge and be grateful for. We must never allow their contributions to be forgotten. We must teach our young people the history of our nation, so that they can take pride in the resilience of our ancestors and be inspired to emulate their greatness.
As we celebrate Heroes Day 2020, we must also recognize our modern-day heroes and salute the country’s front-line workers for the critical role they play as we unite to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, on behalf of a grateful nation, I say thank you.
As a nation, we first celebrated National Heroes Day on October 20, 1969, in honour of the heroic Jamaican stalwarts who, through pride and resilience, sacrificed their blood, sweat, tears, and lives to ensure that all Jamaicans today enjoy political independence, and freedom to strive for our economic independence.
On this day, we hail the first-named National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, whose advocacy and ideas gave birth to the Universal Negro Improvement Association that sparked revolutions globally.
We remember Paul Bogle, the great advocate and resistance leader who led the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865; Sam Sharpe, who led two slave rebellions in the western section of the island, whose actions no doubt led to the end of chattel slavery in the western hemisphere. We also hail Norman Washington Manley, George William Gordon, Nanny of the Maroons, and Sir Alexander Bustamante, for the sacrifices they have made.
We also recognise the individuals among us who have been galvanising forces contributing to our community and country at large. Persons who have inspired true heroism and nationalism through gallantry, innovation, and service.
Persons like George Jon-Andrew Bryan for an act of courage and bravery in saving the lives of two children on April 20, 2020, in Boston Portland; District Constables Basil Fitzroy Fuller and Sean Conway Pierre who bravely fought raging seas in stormy weather and risked their lives to retrieve a stolen Police Boat from Honduras. And District Constable Lothan Roshane Richards who suffered serious injuries when he was shot during a deadly operation conducted in Horizon Park, St Catherine, on June 12, 2020.
Additionally, as we focus on transforming the Jamaican education system, we acknowledge the work of Professor Orlando Patterson, Chairman of the Education Transformation Commission, upon whom the Order of Merit, the country’s third highest honour, has been bestowed.
It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the more than 120 honourees of our annual Heroes Day Honours and Awards Ceremony.
Finally, I offer a perspective of hope for all Jamaica. While the onset of COVID-19 has temporarily set back our progress, your Government is optimistic about our recovery. We are resilient, strong, and together we will build forward stronger.
As we celebrate National Heroes Day 2020 under the theme, ‘Celebrating a Heritage of Resilience and Pride’, I remind all Jamaicans to display the resilient spirit we are known for by continuing to observe COVID-19 protocols – wear your mask, wash your hands, sanitise, social distance.
While we have to maintain physical distance, let us not distance ourselves from keeping in touch. Call your elderly relatives, check in with family and friends.
Happy Heroes Day, Jamaica!
The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP