His Excellency the Governor-General deeply regrets his absence from this morning’s awards ceremony of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Heritage Essay and Poster Competitions.

He has prior speaking engagements, and has therefore accorded me the very special privilege to speak on his behalf.

The Message

Each year I look forward to being at this awards ceremony because I’m guaranteed to be in the presence of young, brilliant and creative minds.

The opportunity to engage you is always a joy.

The mission of the JIS, though very important, can easily be lost on the younger generation. Mandated “to disseminate information that will enhance public awareness and increase knowledge of the policies and programmes of the Government of Jamaica,” the JIS have clearly devised a special formula to remain relevant over its almost 60 years of existence.

This annual Essay and Poster Competition is an important ingredient in that winning formula. It shows that you are moving with the rapidly changing times and that the youth have not been a blind spot in your target.

His Excellency the Governor-General often says that we must believe in and engage our youth in the transformation process for Jamaica to accomplish Vision 2030, the National Development plan, and this you are so ably doing through this competition.

I applaud you for fulfilling your mandate with sheer creativity and innovation over the years.

I readily recall your signature Jamaica Magazine Programme known by many children for shortening the time allotted for much loved cartoons. The act of switching would prove futile as both free-to-air television stations were airing it simultaneously.

Fast forward couple decades later; Jamaica Magazine seems no longer the exasperation of many children. The content is more engaging and presented in a manner palatable to their 21st century techno-savvy taste buds while not diminishing its usefulness as a teaching resource on civic matters.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is just one example of JIS’ dedication to actively pursue channels to reach young people.  

These Essay and Poster Competitions are magnificent tools for the personal and professional development of our nation’s youth and children. These competitions will equip them with skills not only to meet the prerequisites to win but for life in general. The diligence and passion competitors bring to the interpretation of research data, integrating it with creative expressions to yield original pieces is a reflection of your critical thinking abilities. Critical thinking is one of those tacit qualities employers veraciously seek. Therefore, never you take for granted the value of this competition to your development. Many of  you might not yet be aware, but this competition may very well be your springboard into a rewarding career. In the words of renowned scientist, Albert Einstein, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. In other words, it is admirable that JIS have been able, to over the past two years, add the poster component to this competition which started out only with the essay segment 5 years ago.

The fact that you have broadened the scope of the competition to encourage and facilitate traditional and computer generated graphics and illustrations, is a notable feature of progress.  The increase in number of entries seen this year is a clear indication that you are effectively engaging the youngsters.

Your Topics: “A Day in the Life of My Favourite National Hero” and “A Moment in the Life of a Jamaican National Hero,” convey with precision the valuable contributions of our seven outstanding nation builders whose sacrifices continue to impact us.

A legacy which must be preserved!

The Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey so aptly stated that, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

The onus is therefore on all of us to ensure that our unique heritage remains alive and relevant and is passed on to the younger generation. 

This competition is a winning formula to that end!

Certainly, the appropriateness of topics each year encapsulates our rich and diverse cultural heritage.  I again applaud JIS for adhering to its mandate, remaining relevant to the youth and children of our nation, cultivating life skills and creating much needed opportunities while heightening awareness of our Jamaican heritage.

My wish for future competitors is that, as you conduct your research you would have concluded that we are in need of some modern day heroes.

Men and women, boys and girls, youth with courage, fortitude and resilience who are willing to tackle the social malaise that exists in pockets of our society.

Yes you the youth can make a difference.

The DNA of our national heroes has been transported to us. Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, Nanny of the Maroons, George William Gordon, Norman Manley, Marcus Garvey, Alexander Bustamante made the difference they sought. Certainly, your participation in this competition will ensure that Jamaica remains firmly rooted in the best of its heritage.

You are all victors!

I know that this very meaningful initiative would not have been possible without the contributions of the various partners who have offered their time, energy and resources.

I applaud you all!

Thank you!