My Fellow Jamaicans:
On this Heroes Day, our nation pauses to recognize the fact that our society works because there are citizens who have been prepared to go beyond the call of duty and beyond the reward of wage to ensure that we maintain a sense of peace, decorum, civility and productivity.
As a society, we have formally acknowledged seven National Heroes. These six men and one woman championed the struggles for freedom and equality. They led the fight for Emancipation and better workers rights.
Their names have been carved indelibly into the fabric of our national history and heritage. Today, as we have done each year, we celebrate their contributions to national development and we joyfully salute their memories.
National Heroes Day also reminds us that Jamaica still needs individuals who are conscious of the fact that no society can survive without that cadre of patriotic citizens who have evolved beyond their own personal needs.
These contemporary patriots, men and women, are the glue which holds our society together. They can be found scattered across the Jamaican landscape in every community. “They are the light of the world and the salt of the earth”.
They are the parents who set their own needs aside and sacrifice to give their children opportunities that they did not have.
They are the domestic helpers and ancillary workers, the casual workers, the farmers, the gardeners, taxi-drivers and transport operators, who toil daily to send their children to school and support them through college or university.
They are the security guards, the policemen and women and soldiers, who answer the call to serve and protect, even at the risk to their own lives. They are the teachers who put in the time and spend the extra hours, simply out of commitment to their students.
They are the medical and legal professionals, public servants and members of our business community, large and small, who go the extra mile to ensure that our people’s needs are met.
They are the social workers, the civic leaders, the youth leaders, the community volunteers and the members of our churches and charitable organizations who find the time and make the time to lend a helping hand to be good neighbours.
They agonize over the needs of others. They concern themselves with the development of their communities and their country.
Today, I want to pay tribute to these committed Jamaicans – the persons who because of religious faith, social conscience, family upbringing or patriotic pride believe it is their calling to make a positive difference.
Today, I salute charitableness, patriotism and community pride. I salute volunteerism, commitment and sacrifice. I salute morality, civility, peacefulness and godliness.
Let all of us who mean our country well rebuke corruption, selfishness and self- indulgence.
The progress of our people and the success of our nation have been established on the legacy of our heroes and heroine of the past. The advancement of our country depends on the involvement and investment of this generation in the future of our nation.
The road ahead may not be smooth, but it is by our own resolve and industry, that we will overcome the challenges of the present time.
It is only insofar as we are able to create, nurture and actualize a spirit of heroism and generosity in our time that we will be able to move forward as a people.
Our heroes encountered great obstacles. One does not become a hero or heroine by doing the easy thing. It is by confronting and overcoming the tough challenges that we qualify to be named heroes and heroines. It is by doing the extraordinary things.
Today we have serious challenges to face and overcome as we seek to put Jamaica on the path of sustainable growth and development. This will not happen by itself. We have to unite.
All of us will have to work together in making our contribution to our country’s progress.
Let me end by paraphrasing the words of our first National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey who said:
Let us in shaping our own destiny, set before us the qualities of JUSTICE, LOVE, CHARITY, MERCY AND EQUITY. Upon such foundation let us build a nation, and I feel that the God who is Divine, the Almighty Creator of the world, shall forever bless this nation of ours – Jamaica Land We Love.
May we all enjoy a peaceful and inspirational Heroes Day, in this our Jubilee Year – as we pursue the mission to build on the foundation of our great heritage.
God bless you all.