Governor-General’s Message for National Heroes Day Celebrations 2009

“Believe in Jamaica…Embracing our Heritage”

The theme of this year’s National Heritage celebration, “Believe in Jamaica. . . Embracing our Heritage” reflects and embraces our hope and faith in Jamaicans. It is appropriate, especially during this time when we are faced with difficulties all around, to identify how we can believe in Jamaica and why we should.

We have seen the changes in the global and local economy, the decadent way which we treat our children and each other, and the specter of varying disappointments, which has led many to lose hope in our country.

However, in spite of all these negative influences, we have bright spots along our journey as a nation. We can draw lessons from our athletes who performed so well during the recent World Championships in Berlin. They worked assiduously to train their bodies to go to the very limit, and even exceeded their own expectations. They also believed in their abilities and respectfully and diligently took the advice of their coaches. These are but some of the ingredients of their success which can be adopted by all, especially our young people.

The euphoria that exploded over the land during the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships was reminiscent of time past when Jamaicans displayed pride, care and belief in their country. Our achievements are not only marked by a day in history, it is something that we should maintain in our hearts and minds to keep us going through difficult times. Just as a camel stores water in its hump for use during periods of drought, so should we be led to keep our memories of positive achievements to encourage us when there is turbulence.

At this time, I believe Jamaica is at a point where we need all hands on board to carry this responsibility. Our National Heroes fought very hard for us. The poignant stories that are retold over the years are not only etched in our history, but they are meaningful accounts that spur us on. The strength of Nanny, the passion of Sam Sharpe, the advocacy of George William Gordon, the struggle for justice by Paul Bogle, the vision of Marcus Garvey, the principles of Norman Manley, and the fair-mindedness of Alexander Bustamante must serve to inspire us.

Marcus Garvey once told us: “Always try to look beyond the present by calling upon your past experience when you are looking at the future.” Our successes of the past can be repeated and our significant rise to being the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ can again be realised. We are continuously watched by the world and sometimes, just when it seems we are down and out, we surprise our counterparts, but moreover ourselves with a show of resilience and fortitude.

Our heritage holds both lessons and guidance for us. This is the time for introspection, as the solutions to our problems can be found in each individual:

  • The individual who starts a community group to mentor young people
  • The individual who begins a small business to create paper out of banana tree bark
  • The individual who cares for the elderly and feeds the indigent.

We can recover from the social and economic malaise, one person at a time, one community at a time, one parish at a time. I urge you to not lose hope but to review our history, hold fast to our heritage, and believe that better is ahead, just as our ancestors did. I believe we can leave a legacy for the next generation so they can confidently say, “The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places, yes, and I have a goodly heritage.”

May God bless you all.