“Moving forward in turbulent times”

Lady Allen and I are pleased to extend greetings to you all.  Special thanks to the Custos of Kingston the Very Reverend Canon the Hon. Weeville Gordon, as well as Justices of the Peace, civic leaders, business representatives and other citizens from the parish of Kingston who have come out to participate in this function.

This office is a new experience for Lady Allen and I.  However, we are bolstered by the goodwill and encouragement which we have received from the people across Jamaica and Kingston in particular. We thank you for the expressions of goodwill and your support.

At my inauguration on February 26th, I promised the nation that I would travel across the island to meet and dialogue with Jamaicans. Since that time, Lady Allen and I have met with: Church leaders, Government officials, leaders in business, industry and commerce; educators, legal practitioners, members of the security forces, members of civic groups et al.

We have met students, young people from various backgrounds, workers, the Jamaican Youth Diaspora; – at concerts, church meetings, ceremonies, breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, banquets, at agricultural shows and roundtable brainstorming sessions. We have met a wide cross section of people who believe in Jamaica and want to see the nation move forward toward its goal.

In the conversations so far, people have spoken from the heart and have told us what they consider to be wrong with Jamaica and how they think that we can help to give leadership to the transformation process which must take place.  The common cry from everyone is ‘transform or perish’.

Three fundamental areas of concern were repeatedly expressed:
1. The state of the family,
2. Education and
3. Youth and community development.

People are convinced that these are the primary areas in which the country is underachieving and are the root causes of other problems including crime and violence, poverty and social malaise.

Moving forward admits the challenges
The global economic meltdown has affected Jamaica immensely and the effects are evident in the parish of Kingston and its environs.  But Kingston is no stranger to the social and economic turbulence associated with this downturn in economic activity.

In fact, the history of the 1938 riots which culminated in the birth of a nation in 1962, is a confirmation that the parish has the resources, the people and the determination to overcome adversities.  You just need to make the right choices and use the creative geniuses of the residents of the parish to identify and implement the ‘right mix of solutions’ for Kingston and by extension Jamaica.

Story: The story is told of a young lad living in a village at the foot of the Himalayas who was fascinated by the insightful wisdom of the wise old man who lived in those mountains.  This youngster therefore set out, as only a young boy would, to find a way challenge his sagacity and in the process determine the extent of his reputed wisdom.

So, the next time the old man came down to the village the young boy presented himself to the sage with this challenge:
“Tell me old man, what is it that I have in my hand?”
“Why a bird!” he replied
“You are correct,” responded the youth.  “So tell me is the bird alive or dead?” he asked.

“If I say the bird is alive,” observed the old man, “you will snuff out its life by crushing it.  If I say it is dead, you will release it and let if fly away.  The destiny of the bird is in your hands.”

Like the young lad in this ancient story, the destiny of Kingston is in your hands.  The choices you make today, the way you treat the opportunities resting within your hands, will determine the quality of economic, social and spiritual future of the parish and the nation. 

Family, Education, Youth and Community Development
As the residents of Kingston contemplate the choices they will have to make as you chart a course forward, I believe the three fundamental areas of concern by Jamaica: family, education, youth and community development should be given priority attention.

I believe the family needs to be re-established as the basic institution in which both parents inculcate values and attitudes in children.  Jamaica needs a model of a basic family unit, one that supports youth development and which encourages them to strive for excellence.  A model of ‘the family’ as an example with which parents across Jamaica can identify and that can be adapted to their own environment and circumstances. 
The remarkable success of Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser and other athletes at the World Championships in Berlin did not happen overnight.  It was within the family that they were taught the value of discipline, which is so critical to becoming a successful athlete.  They were taught the value of hard work and humility.  These are but a few of the fundamental values and principles that have helped them to be successful athletes who are admired and talked about around the world.  Our young people need to apply themselves, and believe that, like these athletes, they too will achieve their goals.

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.  We have to use the agencies, institutions and resources at our disposal for the development of self and society.  Last week I met with the leaders of churches and umbrella groups in Jamaica and encouraged them to be more visible in the community, and engage in programmes and activities that not only promote a change in attitudes and behaviour, but also transform the circumstances in which people live.   We need to get back to basics! The education process must begin in the home with the values and morals we inculcate in our children.  The community must once again become involved in child rearing and be the ‘eyes and ears’ of parents when their children are not within sight.

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 support, we will be well on our way toward empowering our youth.    It must be embedded in them that the world owes them nothing.  The values and principles that we instill in them in the family and through education, must motivate them to take charge of their lives, set realistic goals and believe in themselves.  Our youth must appreciate the value of hard work, commitment, dedication and discipline.  In empowering our youth, we must ensure that we surround them with positive role models, whom they aspire to mirror.

Word for Justices of the Peace
I am depending on those of you who serve as Justices of the Peace to uphold high standards and fight with all your might against crime and violence, by working to build unity and togetherness within the communities that you serve.  You have the confidence and respect of the citizens, use that to build trust among contending factions or to solve petty disputes before they evolve into something unmanageable.

As Justices of the Peace you have to exercise multiple roles in the parish and within your respective communities as: pedagogue, pastor, politician and physician.  You will have to give an account of your stewardship, and you must therefore do what is right at all times.   Always take advantage of every opportunity to motivate and encourage the people around you to do the right thing.  Be strong and continue to uphold the principles and values of honesty, hard work discipline and commitment to service.  Guard your integrity and be a part of the positive solution for Jamaica as the nation moves forward.
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 while retreating in silence or being fearful.

I believewe can bring back the country from the precipice of social destruction if we speak with one voice about things that are wrong with Jamaica and commit ourselves to using what is right with Jamaica to fix them.

We must take some tough decisions and I believe that now is the time for that to happen.  I believe that we can take back Jamaica community by community and one person at a time.  If I help one person as I pass along then my living would not be in vain.

We have to keep the message of hope alive.  And that is the message of the ‘I Believe’campaign.  I believe that every Jamaican can make a contribution to national development and I invite everyone to come on board.  Together we can motivate each other to believe that they can achieve whatever their goals, dreams and visions of what Jamaica should be and where they fit in.

Imagination is the beginning of good things to come. If you imagine what you desire you will create what you will.  I thank you.