A very good afternoon to all of you!
“There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.” This mantra of the “I Believe” Initiative, which is the theme for this ceremony, reflects my conviction that Jamaicans possess the innate skills and abilities which can transform our country into the place “to live, work, raise families and do business.”
The purpose for which we are here this afternoon supports this belief. We are recognizing 13 persons from this county of Middlesex, who have voluntarily used their skills, abilities and resources, to make a difference in their sphere of influence. These 13 individuals merit our warmest commendation for their achievements and service to the people of Jamaica. Please join me in congratulating them. I am pleased to be part of this celebration of their good work by bestowing on them the Governor-General’s Achievement Award (GGAA).
The GGAA has evolved since 1991 under the leadership of then Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke – who passed away on July 11. It is very important that at this time we pause in honour of this great leader and solider who has fallen (Moment of silence). May he rest in peace.
Since then (1991), the programme has sought to acknowledge individuals who have withstood the challenges in their own lives, and are making a positive difference in the lives of others. This prestigious award focuses not only on their contributions at the community level, but also honours young people who have coupled their academic efforts with excellence with voluntary service. Every two years, the GGAA also recognizes members of the Diaspora who use their initiative to support Jamaica while enhancing the status of Jamaicans in the Diaspora.
The GGAA has seen many changes in leadership over the years. Last year Mr. Hugh Morris retired and the National Committee selected Major (Retd) Effiom Whyte to carry on the tradition of Excellence. Mr. Morris, who is with us this afternoon, was recognized at a luncheon at King’s House and now, I ask that you show your appreciation for the great work that he did in his more than ten years at the helm of the GGAA. Major Whyte, whom some of you may have met during the parish committee meetings and has been given the responsibility of leadership, has jumped right in with energy, enthusiasm and commitment and I know that as time goes on we shall benefit even more from his experience.
No organization can be vibrant and effective if it remains at the same level, year after year.
The conditions that existed in 1991 are not the same twenty-three years later, and so guidelines which existed then for the programme will have to be revisited and correspond with the changing times. There are some criteria which will remain so that the character and integrity of the programme are maintained, but others will be revisited and revised, and you will be advised as soon as the National Committee has approved them.
To all of you today can be attributed the statement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that “all labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
It is our expectation and that of your community members that you will continue to be engaged in activities that will help to better the life and the lot of this nation – especially through your involvement with the youth. I need you to become “I Believe” Ambassadors. I need you to diffuse the positive messages that youth have the God-given potential to achieve their dreams and contribute to improving the welfare of their families and building a better Jamaica. That is what we are all about.
I have faith that each of you here today will remain steadfast and transmit the message of selflessness, good neighbourliness, honesty, perseverance and commitment to excellence at all times. Only the best is good enough. During a scholarship interview a young man said that in his estimation “one can only repay for the gift of life by doing something useful that improves the quality of life for others.” Needless to say, with that profound statement he made inroads and won the hearts of the panel. If more Jamaicans believe in and exercise our God-given potential to become part of the solutions to the problems our country faces, we would be well on the way to achieving the transformation we all want.
In this forum this afternoon, is the first group of Awardees since the merging of the GGAA and the ‘I Believe Initiative’ to create the Governor-General’s Programme For Excellence, known as the GGPE in February 2014.
- Both the GGAA and IBI will keep their distinct identities, but they coalesce for promoting and recognizing volunteerism and excellence among our youth.
- Two immediate indications of this are the theme of the GGAA ceremonies this year, and the requirement that all Awardees should have done voluntary service in the areas of family, youth and education and these are the three pillars for IBI activities.
- Additionally, the GGPE wants to know the philosophy of all awardees. We want to know their mind, their mindset and their outlook on issues faced by our country.
One method for doing this is the newly included essay component to the GGAA. We will have to spend time to refine how we get out of the minds of individuals what they stand for.
I wish to thank the Honourable Custodes of the parishes in Middlesex and their parish committees who were instrumental in selecting these Awardees. I especially thank you, the Honourable Jeffrey McKitty, Custos Rotulorum of the parish of St. Mary, for your dedication and effective leadership of your team which facilitated your successful hosting of this GGAA ceremony for the County of Middlesex.
The Jamaica National Building Society, one of the five corporate sponsors of the GGAA, has provided the team to support this afternoon’s ceremony and we thank them along with the members of the Gleaner Company.
Ladies and gentlemen, please help me acknowledge the JN Team!
To the remaining four sponsors-
- Victoria Mutual Building Society,
- Scotia Jamaica Building Society,
- The Gleaner Company, and
- our newest sponsor the Jamaica Broilers Group Limited
I deeply appreciate your support and partnership for this awards programme and for the GGPE as a whole.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we owe who we are as Jamaicans to the dedication and sacrifice of our forefathers who struggled to create this wonderful nation. I believe that we have not lived, until we too have contributed to improve our country. Let us serve so that others may enjoy the same or even better opportunities than we were afforded.
As John F Kennedy famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Congratulations to the 2014 GGAA recipients for Middlesex – you who through resilience and dedication effected change as you followed your dream to make a difference in your community.
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, and have a good afternoon.