March 25, 2014

Most of you might know that as Governor-General I am an Honorary Member of various service Clubs. I do not get distracted by the difference in Mottos and Symbols, as there is one unifying feature which cements my attachment to each and that is, their undeniable commitment to altruistic service.

Tonight as a proud Kiwanian, I am happy to join with you in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Kiwanis Movement in Jamaica and to celebrate the birthday of this club!  There was not a moment’s hesitation on my part when I received Secretary Christopher Robinson’s invitation not only to attend, but also to be your Guest Speaker.

One thing we can say for sure is that since the Kiwanis Club of Kingston was formed in 1964, you have been moving!  There is absolutely nothing moribund about this Club which has not only grown internally, but has fathered several clubs in Kingston and in other parishes.  Because of your exemplary commitment, there are now fifty seven Clubs which blanket our island with the objective of “Changing the World, one child, and one community at a time”. And this is not just talk: your actions declare that objective.

I have to say how impressed I am by the fact that a few months after the Kingston Club was established, you were planting other Clubs in Curacao and Aruba and a year later, in Puerto Rico. Ten years ago, you made another missions trip and out of that came the Kiwanis Club of Kingstown in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  I think we would all agree that the very name proves that this act of paternity was sort of overdue.

Next year, Kiwanis International will celebrate its centennial of service, in which context our fifty years seem young. However, when I contemplate this Club’s achievements, I am convinced that you have been working overtime to catch-up with Kiwanis International.  It is evident that members took very seriously the six “Permanent Objectives” of the movement and were therefore strongly motivated to invest in the lives of children and communities. You have so much of which today you can be justifiably proud and I commend you!

I have seen in many of your projects similarities with what we do under the Governor-General’s Programme for Excellence.  Your Youth In Excellence programme, your community outreach projects, as well as educational and skills training activities, all align with my Programme.  It seems to me that when I need additional volunteers for my Programme of Excellence, especially for the impartation of good parenting skills, mentoring young people and fund-raising, there is a well-experienced cadre of Kiwanians on whom I can call.

Incidentally, I heard that a Past President of this Club decided to volunteer to entertain children in the Bustamante Children’s Hospital.  He took his portable keyboard along, told the children some jokes and bravely sang some songs.  When he was about to leave he said: “See you soon! I hope you get better.”  One little girl replied, “I hope you get better, too.”

In our national context, the Kiwanis Permanent Objectives are particularly relevant. If every member in the 57 Clubs across Jamaica were to faithfully pursue these objectives, Kiwanis would be an unassailable force for positive change in our country.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

We do not have to be Kiwanis to accept that these objectives are founded on values which we need to restore in our country.  In fact, there are several initiatives whose primary goal is to combat the moral decay which threatens the stability of our families, communities and the nation as a whole:

  • The Government’s “Values and Attitudes” programme is being re-launched.


  • Several private sector entities are already implementing values-based programmes;


  • The Ministry of Education’s “Respect Agenda”will be formally launched at King’s House on Friday.


  • You would also be aware of the “I Believe” Initiative which I launched in May 2011 and whose mantra is “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica”.


One of the things we also need to do is to give primacy to tackling some of the problems in Jamaica.  We must work together to solve the problems that confront us as a nation.

Jamaica is in an unenviable position among countries with the worst crime rate in the world.Clearly, it will take much more than law enforcement to curb the crime monster.  We need all hands on deck to take Jamaica to the levels of peace, security and prosperity which we desire, but for greatest impact, collaboration is essential.

Let us therefore give primacy to cooperation and partnership in tackling Jamaica’s problems.  Let none of us fool ourselves that we have no role in forging solutions. Government cannot do it alone.  Nor can the Church, the school, the family, nor any other institution acting on their own, reverse this negative tide.

This problem did not begin yesterday. Bit by bit, like the proverbial frog in the pot of cold water, we became increasingly tolerant of indiscipline and unwholesome behaviours. Some took vain comfort in the mistaken belief that our worst problems manifested themselves in situations of economic deprivation.

Enough has happened to remove the veil from the eyes of all who really want to understand how we came to this point. The question is whether we have learned, under God, how to combine our intellect and best efforts to place Jamaica firmly on the path to being the country we envision for 2030: a place where we choose to live, work, raise families and do business.

This is why together with the Most Honourable Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, I issued an appeal for Jamaicans to use this Lenten period as a time for reflection on how with God’s help we can overcome the many challenges which tend to weaken our society.

You can safely deduct that I am among those who acknowledge the fact that we cannot do this on our own. We Kiwanians know that God’s leadership empowers us to successfully pursue the six Permanent Objectives, including for the “increase of righteousness, justice, patriotism and goodwill”.  This principle holds equally true at the national level as in God’s hands our best will achieve the seemingly impossible.

Jamaica’s Service Clubs share this belief. I have had several meetings with different Service Clubs whom I have challenged to unite around one far-reaching national project for greater, more sustainable impact. Not only would the project benefit, but the Service Clubs would be doing their part to build unity.

You might know the saying: “Sound travels slowly. What you say to a teenager might not reach their ears until they are in their forties”. I have to believe sound travels faster to my fellow Kiwanians.

Some of you might remember that the 2013 State of the World Population Report which was presented in Kingston last October, focused on Adolescent Pregnancy. The gripping title of that report was “Motherhood in Childhood,” identified as a problem which demanded urgent solution. From what I have experienced in my travels across the island, I agree with that perception.

I believe that the combined talents and expertise of all Service Clubs could accelerate a solution to this problem of teenage pregnancy.

As I look around this hall, I am happy to see that I shall not suffer the fate of the Pastor whose church-member asked for a set of his sermons since she needed something to make her sleep.

Tonight, we recognize the men and women who have been true examples of the Kiwani spirit in these past fifty years. We remember in particular, and pay tribute to the memory of Mr. Frank Melhado, Charter President of the Club in 1964. Stalwarts such as Carlton Levy, Godfrey Dyer and others demonstrated a selfless commitment which enhanced the lives of thousands of our people, particularly our most vulnerable: the children.

To those who will receive awards tonight, I extend my heartiest congratulations and my best wishes for your continued good health, happiness and the joy of seeing the results of your good work reflected in the lives of others.


Thank you!