“Setting an Agenda of Hope for Jamaica”

Greetings
Thanks for accepting my invitation to join us here at King’s House for this luncheon.  It is probably not the best time of the day for media practitioners to attend a function, but you have responded nonetheless and I sincerely appreciate the effort. 

It is just a little over a month since my swearing in, and I must begin in earnest the task I outlined in my inaugural speech.  I need you to journey with me in the difficult process of transformation which is necessary to rescue us from the brink of despair.  We did not get here overnight, we gradually slid down a slippery slope, on which we must now retrace our steps.

Despite the fact that the Media are the connoisseurs of communication and purveyors of information, it is still a difficult time for many Media Houses and Journalists.  You have not escaped the effects of the global economic situation.  The news last week was that 32 persons from one Media house will be leaving for various reasons, and since the beginning of the year, journalists at media houses in Canada and the USA have also experienced separation from their jobs and closure of some entities. 

I would encourage you, however, not to regard the ‘pink slip’ with despair,  but instead realize that as one door has closed,  another door will open with glorious possibilities as you move on to another phase of your life.  I commend the leadership of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) for being proactive in organizing a self-employment workshop and a series of seminars to equip media practitioners to weather the turbulent economic storm, whether it is by starting a small communication company or some other related pursuit.

COMMENDATION
We are at a cross road and a critical time in our country’s progress and development.  We can either allow the present situation to overwhelm us or we can do something about it.  I have seen evidence that Jamaicans are serious about confronting the challenge. The ‘captains of industry’ have realized that there is strength in unity and that their individual organizations cannot help the current situation while operating in isolation from each other.  They have formed the Council of Presidents which will examine the national economic situation, seek solutions, make recommendations and hopefully implement these recommendations.

The Police Youth Clubs have said they want to ‘take Jamaica back’ and so the Youths Clubs in the Western Kingston area are also joining together.  I hope they will be joined by other Police Youth Clubs around the country.

AFFIRMATION
√         I commend those media houses which have picked up on the “I Believe” --- message and are indeed making it a part of the morning news.  There has been a definite move to have more positive items on the front pages of the daily newspapers to inspire hope in our people.

√        I commend the various Media houses for the positive special features which I see being highlighted, such as helping others, being  good neighbours, positive parenting, healthy lifestyles etc.

WHAT THE MEDIA CAN DO
The media houses can rise to the challenge and join forces together in a concerted effort to take our country back from crime, violence, social degradation, debased morals, cleaning up the lyrics of the explicit songs, reeling in out-of-control disc jockeys etc.?

The media is like our BFF (Best Friend Forever) providing us with information, entertainment and comfort.  Morning news crews wake us up and tell us what’s happening in Jamaica and the rest of the world; inform us about sports, the weather, and the current traffic situation; keep us company on the way to work; most times is in the background while we are at work; takes us home in the evening, and then puts us to bed.  With such a pervasive role, are you aware of the awesome powers which you have, and the awesome responsibilities?

The Media really sets the agenda and plays a critical role in shaping the minds of individuals.  The Media should therefore not allow people to drive the agenda.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, I challenge you today to set an Agenda of Hope for Jamaica. And as you do mentor young journalists to curtail what in their eagerness to release to the public would cause irreparable damage.  They must count the cost.

Today I seek the help of the Media in carrying the I Believe message. It is a message of hope intending to build confidence in every Jamaican at every level, race, age or stage; in every line of endeavour, church, politics, business; or wherever they are planted, to be the best they can and then to do the best they can for their country. 

To be and to do – are action phrases which we need to zero in on and understand.  All categories of persons, in every strata of our society, must believe in what they can become. You will recall that in my Address at my Swearing-in Ceremony a little over a month ago, I called on various groups to become involved and play their part to envision what they can be, then proceed to accomplish their vision with the courage of their convictions.

As I meet with various categories of persons in my travels around the country, I propose to share this message and really seek to get ‘buy in’ and motivate persons not to live lives of hopelessness and ‘quiet desperation’ but to believe in their God-given talents, gifts and strengths; believe in themselves and this blessed country, and not to let go of the confidence that they have in Jamaica.’

NATIONAL VALUES
There are initiatives and programmes documented which we must not allow to gather dust on shelves (Values and Attitudes and National Transformation Programme).  These Programmes need our full support so we can establish a template where we can build values such as of:

  • Kindness                 -respect for each other and authority
  • Caring           -courtesy
  • Sympathy               -integrity
  • Love                       -honesty
  • Truth            -hello
  • Morality                  - thank you   -obedience

These are undeniable values which have been etched in the lives of Jamaicans, but have become frayed over the years.  For example, last week 15 persons were killed in five days and Jamaica is not shocked.   We have so accepted violence as a way of life that we are not even moved any more.  But I am sure everyone in this room has either been affected by the violence, or knows somebody who has been seriously affected by loss of life or other event.

My heart aches for Jamaica, when I see what it has become in spite of what it can be. I implore the Media not to highlight violence – deprive the wannabe television ‘stars’ of their 15 minutes of fame.   If you portray people behaving and speaking properly and respectfully, those who want to be seen on TV will behave that way.  It is so embarrassing to see the beneficiaries of tertiary education who know better copying the outrageous conduct which is portrayed.

How can our Entertainers raise the bar and not think that only sex-laden lyrics and videos will make them stars?  How can we get the persons responsible for cultural programmes and those areas which are critical to defining who we are, ‘to believe’? 

How can we highlight our Teachers, who are painting values in the hearts of Jamaican children?  How can we encourage young people to get back to farming, or be more involved in producing art and craft, making novelty items for the tourist industry, or doing things Jamaican, branding us and our products? Now is a good time if any to move in this direction

BELIEF & HOPE
The Media can walk with me or go ahead of me in inspiring hope and confidence in Jamaicans.   

  • I Believe we can take Jamaica back - one town at a time, and we can restore hope and pride in the hearts of our people. – Accentuate the positive
  • I believe if all the thought leaders in Jamaica, the leaders of the youth, the Church, women’s groups and others combine to change, we can change. – challenge the will
  • I Believe the Church has to rise up and play its part because it has the moral authority. The church must fulfill its mission and stay above reproach.  It must use its resources to mend broken people – restoring body, mind and spirit.
  • I Believe the leaders in the parish and community level can lead the charge in building and restoring pride in a people suffering in this brutal economic climate.
  • I Believe if we all rally together and decide with our hearts that we must change it will happen and gradually our nakedness will be covered and we will be reclothed in our rightful minds.

Help us to continue in our trek for greatness.

I BELIEVE YOU CAN

Thank you.