This year, Jamaicans are again observing Heritage Week against the backdrop of prevailing global economic challenges which have served to deepen national socio-economic difficulties. In my inaugural address in 2009, I had urged Jamaicans to regard the economic downturn as an opportunity to explore new approaches to economic wellbeing, using what is right about Jamaica to fix what is wrong with our country. I therefore welcome the theme for this year’s Heritage Week celebrations: “Our History…Our Strength”. It implies a call on each Jamaican to draw strength and inspiration from the lessons of the past- our accomplishments and failures- and from the sterling examples of our National Heroes and ordinary Jamaicans who have triumphed over adversity.
The theme reminds us that as a nation we have it within us to grow ourselves out of economic malaise and to resolve the issues which bedevil the security and safety of our people. It reminds us of the importance of restoring the traditional values of mutual respect, honesty and integrity, a caring concern for our children, youth and the most vulnerable among us and the faith in God of which our National Anthem and Pledge so powerfully speak. It also reminds us of the journey we have traveled; the ancestral origins which make us “Out of Many, One People” and calls us to do our part so that generations to come will honour the achievements of our times.
The potency of our heritage and the performance of Jamaicans here and abroad have made Jamaica attractive to people from all over the world. We welcome them to our shores to experience the richness of our culture, the warmth of our people and the beauty of our natural environment. Yet right here at home, we need to internalize that cultural wealth, that warmth and that beauty to build more caring communities and relationships which uplift, empower and encourage each other to strive for excellence. We must commit to acting in ways which will build stronger families, boost national unity and promote the wellbeing of our people. We must use the resources with which the country is endowed to improve their quality of life and standard of living in these harsh economic times.
Heritage Week affords us the opportunity to reflect on past achievements and plan for future successes. This will require new options, approaches and strategic directions in every sphere of national life if we are to realize a cohesive and just society where every Jamaican has the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential.
This Heritage Week, I urge Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora to focus your energies on achieving individual, family and national goals. Let us pull on the combined intellect and skills of a people whose strength has been forged by the adversities, challenges and triumphs of the past. In the words of National Hero the Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, let us “create a future that will astonish the world.”
I congratulate all Jamaicans who will be honoured for their contribution to nation building, whether at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony at King’s House, in your parishes and communities or in our Diaspora regions. May the honours that are being bestowed serve as an inspiration to others to engage in unselfish service for the benefit of their community and country and of humanity as a whole.
May God bless you all.