Lady Allen joins me this morning in greeting each one of you and saying to our ‘Diasporans’, “Welcome Home!” We are pleased to have our citizens back where your “navel string is buried”, to use the Jamaican parlance– either figuratively or literally. Alternatively, if you prefer a more delicate anatomical reference, “Home is where the heart is.” Therefore, whether you are ‘Jamaicans in the Diaspora’ or permanently ‘on the Rock’, I hope this closeness and celebration of common purpose will continue for a long time.

For the past 28 years, we have recognized deserving individuals from all walks of life, across all parishes and the Diaspora regions of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. These awards focus on recognizing excellence in academia, volunteerism, individuals’ impact on their communities and beyond.

The selection of award recipients is based on strict criteria which ensure that the individuals recognized have impacted the country in a positive way and are themselves successful in their undertakings. This kind of selection is never easy, but we have very good support from our Custodes, Ambassadors, and High Commissioners along with their staff and Committees to lead the process in their respective jurisdictions. Award ceremonies are conducted in the three counties in Jamaica annually, and biannually during the Diaspora Conference, for the awardees from the Diaspora. Today is the culmination of the hard work done voluntarily through our High Commissions and Embassies. I am truly humbled and grateful for the tremendous support given to bring this event to fruition.

The Governor-General’s Achievement Awards (GGAA) Programme was founded in 1991 by the late Sir Howard Cooke for individuals 35 years and over who were working assiduously to build their communities, but they were never recognized nationally. The Youth and Diaspora awards were added by my predecessor Professor Sir Kenneth Hall. I am committed to continue the legacy through the I Believe Initiative (IBI), the service-oriented pillar, which seeks to empower young people to achieve their goals of being successful in life, and in return help others to achieve their goals as well. In this way we develop a tradition of transmitting service to succeeding generations.

This year, the theme for the GGAA is: “Engaging, Encouraging and Inspiring Jamaicans.” It does not distinguish between Jamaicans at home or abroad. What it does is encapsulate what The Governor-General’s Programme for Excellence and specifically The Governor-General’s Achievement Awards is all about.
• We engage people and impact them.
• We empower individuals to do more and to be more than what they presently are, and,
• We inspire them to dream more, learn more and become more.

Many of you sitting in this auditorium today were inspired by someone with a word of encouragement, or a helping hand, which was your ray of hope to see you to your successes or out of your failures.
Those whom we honor this morning are exemplars of the simple ways that we can execute our duty of care to others:
1. They volunteered.
2. They donated their time, talent and money.
3. They initiated and conducted community projects.
4. They mentored young people.
5. They listened, helped and encouraged others, and many other good things, which time will not allow me to articulate now.

I use this opportunity to congratulate you, Ms. Cherine Johnson, Mrs Erma Lewis, Dr. Wayne Golding, and Mr. Paul Barnett whose awards are well-earned and well-deserved. I am confident you will continue to inspire and pull others along with you. We are encouraged by:
• Your adaptability.
• Your spirit of enterprise.
• Your capacity for hard work, and,
• The value which you place on Education.
These qualities all combine to place you in the rank of high achievers, and among the distinguished group of persons who are deserving of the GGAA Diaspora Awards. In your own ways, you have sought to “Engage, Inspire and Empower Jamaicans.” We thank you and congratulate you.

Your contributions also embody the overall theme of this Eighth Biennial Diaspora Conference “Jamaica and the Diaspora: Building Pathway for Sustainable Development.” One of our National Heroes, the Rt Excellent Marcus Garvey, was on point when he told us: “A race that is solely dependent upon another for economic existence sooner or later dies. As we have in the past been living upon the mercies shown by others, and by the chances obtainable, and have suffered there from, so we will in the future suffer, if an effort is not made now to adjust our own affairs.” We cannot depend on others solely for the sustainable development of our country. We are impacting the human resources and this is what the GGAA are all about.

The achievements of these recipients are some of the reasons I still believe in Jamaica and Jamaicans, as having the capacity under God to develop holistically; and there are many others who are convinced and committed to achieving our goals.
Sharing this commitment for the last 28 years through the GGAA are:
• The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited
• The Jamaica National Group
• Scotiabank
• The Victoria Mutual Foundation
• The Jamaica Broilers Group of Companies, and,

They have provided not only funding for the GGPE but also personnel to assist in the successful execution of the program. We are deeply grateful for their contributions.
I also thank:
• The Custodes.
• The dedicated staff at King’s House.
• The IBI Ambassadors, and,
• The Minister and Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade who have allowed us this space in their program.

I trust that the inspiration of today’s event will remain with everyone here for a long time. My wish and prayer is that Jamaica, this blessed land and people we love, will indeed fulfill the pledge to do our part to make Jamaica “Increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”

I thank you. God bless you all, and God bless “Jamaica, land we love.”