Basseterre, St Kitts; 16 October 2017: I am pleased to use the opportunity provided by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission to greet my fellow-Jamaicans at home and abroad as we celebrate Heritage Week 2017 under the theme “A great heritage, a great legacy”.
We constantly need to remind ourselves of our ability to treasure and build on the legacy left to us by those who have been engaged in the shaping of our nation.
It is important to celebrate the inspirational leadership of our National Heroes and recognize other citizens whom we have honoured over the years for contribution to community and country. It is equally important to recognize the individual responsibility which each of us bears to help our country grow.
We recall significant events in our past history when concerned individuals with little formal authority played major roles in our country’s development.
It was private citizens who conceived of the Great Exhibition of 1891 which put Jamaica on the international map and initiated our hotel and tourism industry by building five hotels. It was workers who took collective action in 1938 to highlight social inequities and put us on the road to establishing more enlightened labour laws, to the creation of a Parliamentary democracy and ultimately achieving national independence.
The fact is that throughout our history we have had to be visionary, to persevere, to convert challenges and setbacks into opportunities for radical change or the adoption of new approaches. We have learned not to deny the wrongs, the suffering, or the failures which we have experienced but to act with determination and a sense of purpose in pursuit of our goals.
We have proved over and over that faith, wholesome family values, and our creative genius can indeed move the mountains of despair, divisiveness and underachievement. Those enduring qualities are an important element of our national legacy which we must consciously cherish and apply as best we can, each in his or her own corner of the vineyard we call Jamaica, land we love.
We reaffirm our confidence that we have the means to overcome what is undesirable in our society by what is right and good within us as individuals and as a people.
If we can truly appreciate and draw inspiration from the heritage of which we boast and if we earnestly seek to enrich the legacy which our forebears have left us, then we would ensure that their living, their service and the worthy causes for which they died were definitely not in vain.
May the events of National Heritage Week be successful and inspirational. And may God’s guidance and blessing be upon us all as we move our nation forward.