Lady Allen and I are delighted to be in the parish of Hanover on this the latest stop on our journey across Jamaica.

Since February we have travelled to several parishes and had meetings and conversations with:

  • Church leaders,
  • Leaders in business, industry and commerce;
  • Educators,
  • Members of the security forces,
  • Members of civic groups et al.

We have also met:

  • Students and young people from various backgrounds,
  • workers,
  • the Jamaican Youth Diaspora

We’ve met in various fora including:

  • At concerts,
  • Church meetings,
  • National ceremonies,
  • Youth breakfasts,
  • At agricultural shows and
  • Roundtable brainstorming sessions.

Today we are in Hanover, in this important Church Hall at this propitious moment, to participate in the opening of an exhibition on the life, times and work of the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley.  It is a great moment and I want to commend Custos Stair for the work he has been doing in the parish since his appointment.

Louise Bennett
The Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, whose life and work will be commemorated by this exhibition, is affectionately known to many generations of Jamaicans as “Miss Lou.” She is hailed as a cultural icon of Jamaica.  Her influence on Jamaican cultural is wide ranging, and she had a poem to satirize most if not all situations.

As I prepared for this afternoon’s opening ceremony, the words of ‘Dutty Tough’ came readily to mind, given the severity of the times through which we are passing.  In the last stanza she wrote:

“Sun a shine an pot a bwile, but
Things no bright, bickle no nuff.
Rain a fall, river dah flood,
But water scarce an’ dutty tough.”

In many respects I believe the residents of Hanover will agree that ‘dutty tough’, very tough, due to the downturn in the global economy and its impact on Jamaica.  I recall that at my inauguration in February I urged you not to sink in despair when I expressed the following view,

I believe that despite our challenges, our setbacks and our despair, we are a nation which has been blessed with a rich heritage, abundant resources and the prospect of a bright future.”

I believe that statement rings true for Hanover, based on your abundance of cultural and natural resources and the potential for the parish to contribute to national and economic development.

Miss Lou, whose legacy we remember today, has not only demonstrated the importance of acknowledging and promoting culture as part of the nation’s resources.  She has shown us that when our culture is shared with others, it increases in value and becomes sought after by locals and visitors alike.  Also, when you “believe” in what you are doing, if you are energetic and contagious and stick with it long enough, others will also “believe” it and accept it.  That is what happened with Miss Lou and her work!

In May I attended a meeting with leaders of business and civil society in Hanover and one of the issues that was highlighted, was the huge potential for tourism at Dolphin Head and other areas of the parish where the pristine beauty of the natural resources are still intact.  I believe that within this economic crisis there is an opportunity for the residents of Hanover to develop the potential which the parish has for tourism, by promoting its culture, products, cuisine and places of interest.

I applaud the Hanover Historical Society for its efforts to preserve the heritage and culture of the parish through the Hanover Museum, and urge other organisations to join in preserving and promoting the culture and natural resources of the parish.   We must preserve for our heritage for future generations.  It should not end with us or left non-chalantly for archeologists to guess what transpired here.  Leave a legacy for the next generation!
Transforming Jamaica
In my conversations so far with the people of Jamaica, the common cry from everyone is ‘transform or perish’I believe the nation can emerge triumphant from the socioeconomic challenges that confront us.  We cannot lose hope! We must believe in ourselves and that by working together, we can take back Jamaica one community at a time. To do this we have to get back to the basics of life!

I believe the family needs to be re-established as the basic institution in which both parents inculcate values and attitudes in children.  A loving, caring family where “pickney grow like pickney” and are taught that “please and tenk yuh nuh bruck no square”! I am sure the older folk are familiar with that!   Jamaica needs a model of a basic family unit, one that supports youth development and which encourages them to strive for excellence. 
We need families in which our young people are taught the ingredients of success and are able to apply themselves, and “believe” that like our Olympic and World Championship athletes, they too will achieve their goals.  A family that teaches them the principle of hard work and that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!”

I believe the family, supported by the Church, school and community must work together to educate our young people and help restore basic values in the society.  Values such as:

  • respect,
  • fairness,
  • punctuality,
  • forgiveness,
  • honesty,
  • sharing and caring.

We have to use the agencies, institutions and resources at our disposal for the development of self and society.  Many of those institutions are already functioning in communities across Hanover and do not have to be recreated.  They include:

  • Service Clubs
  • Police Youth Clubs
  • The Cadet Corps
  • The Jamaica 4-H Clubs
  • Boys Scouts
  • Girls Guides
  • Pathfinders and many others

I encourage the children and students gathered here this morning to remain focused on your school work.  Keep your eye on the prize of a good education because.  Silver and gold will vanish away but a good education will never decay.”

Youth and community development
I believe that once we have established a solid foundation with the family as the primary agent of socialization and education as it main focus, we will be well on our way toward empowering our youth.  I believe that the values and principles that are instilled in them, must serve to motivate them to achieve excellence.  They must be motivated to take charge of their lives, set realistic goals and believe in themselves and what they can achieve and contribute to building a better Jamaica.

Word for Justices of the Peace
I am depending on those of you who are leaders in the parish of Hanover, business, teachers and especially Justices of the Peace. You are expected to hold high standards and work closely with your neighbours and other stakeholders, to protect your communities from social decay and the scourge of crime and violence.

You are appointed Justices of the Peace because you have the confidence and respect of the citizens of the parish.  Use that trust to influence individuals and solve petty disputes before they engulf the entire community!  Hold Petty Sessions Court on your verandahs and solve community problems there!  Don’t let them escalate to point where they reach the Resident Magistrate Courts.  Can we get a few “village lawyers?”

I believe that reconstructing the social and economic life of Jamaica is well within our grasp.  I believe the time has come when as a nation we must state that we are no longer prepared to accept and embrace crime and violence, disrespect and other social malaise as the norm and retreat in silence or be fearful.  Everyone must understand what is wrong with Jamaica and unite to fix it.  Parenting and education are fundamental areas that we must all work to address, every one of us:

  • Civil servants, carpenters and cooks
  • Farmers, fathers and firemen
  • Lawyers, lay preachers and landscape workers
  • Nurses, nuns and nannies
  • Police, pastor, professors and parents
  • Teachers, tailors and taxi men et al.

We must keep on believing that we can help make a difference and never give up on Jamaica. Rest if you must but never lose your commitment to Jamaica and never quit no matter how much the “Dutty Tough”.

Leave a legacy for the next generation.  Hold out your candle for all to see.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  Won’t you take that step today?

I thank you and God bless us all.