Once again as we celebrate National Heroes Day, it is a time for us to recognize and celebrate our cultural heritage and to pay tribute to all those who in the past and those who today have made their contribution to establishing our country’s cultural, economic and political foundations.
I would like at the outset to extend heartiest congratulations to all those who are receiving national honours this year.
They, like the thousands of ordinary Jamaican citizens from all walks of life help to maintain Jamaica’s fine traditions of nation-building. They gave their time energy and effort to help build our nation.
These include our teachers, who with their limited facilities continue to give of their best above and beyond their call of duty to educate our children.
The members of the security forces also put their lives at risk and work extraordinarily long hours, often without the necessary resources as they make their effort to serve and protect the public.
Our health workers who every day are operating in the most challenging environment strive to deliver effective healthcare to Jamaica, despite often substandard facilities.
Nor should we forget the thousands of other Jamaicans giving service in neighbourhood watch groups, youth clubs, citizens associations and community development committees as they work to keep the body and soul of our nation intact. I have always said, nation-building is for nations; it should involve all the people and is not a task to be left to governments or just political parties. Citizens who every day give all of themselves on behalf of others are the real national heroes and heroines in our midst.
This year we are reminded to celebrate heritage week by celebrating the real legacy of our heritage.
We must remember that this heritage that we are able to celebrate now includes:
The right to vote.
The right of workers to a just wage and to organize in Trade Unions.
Freedom of speech and association.
The right to move about freely, and protection arbitrary arrest.
These and all the other rights enshrined in our Charter of Rights are the inheritance of the struggle of those who have gone before.
Our National Heroes have collectively provided the example and inspiration which have enabled us to come this far as a country. We must never squander any of these rights which we now enjoy.
We can honour our heroes and heroines by emulating the qualities which define them.
They embodied patriotism, always putting country before self.
Those of us who are privileged to lead must always put the needs of the people and the country first.
Our national heroes were willing to put their lives on the line for the public good. Political leadership today must demonstrate this level of commitment to the country.
Our national heroes demonstrated iron-clad integrity and stood strong in the face of oppression and hardship. The present wave of rampant corruption and criminality is contrary to what they stood for.
They knew that corruption would destroy the foundations of our nation. Corruption not only undermines public morality, but the billions of dollars, tax-payers money diverted into private hands for personal use will only set back the economy and retard our progress as a country. When you rob the public purse, you rob the people.
My fellow Jamaicans, we must embrace the vision of our heroes and celebrate our heritage as a great legacy.
We must protect this heritage and indeed strengthen it. We must pass on to future generations a legacy that is even more enriched and inspired.
Let us recapture the courage and determination of our heroes.
Let us draw from their wellsprings of integrity and decency.
Let us summon their consciousness, their empathy and their vision to advance nation-building; and
Let us demand leadership that will build a progressive, successful and just Jamaica for all our people.
God Bless you, and God Bless Jamaica Land We Love.