My fellow Jamaicans:
As we pause to celebrate forty-four years of political independence, let us give thanks to the Creator for the blessings we have received and the valuable lessons we have learned along the way.
Let us give thanks for the founding fathers and mothers of our nation, who were driven by the deep conviction that Jamaicans had both the right and the capacity to govern ourselves and manage our own affairs.
As we have been discovering over the years, Independence is about much more than the formal transfer of authority to the people of Jamaica.
Independence opened the way for us to begin designing and building our own first class nation, in keeping with our own experience, culture, values, strengths and aspirations.
With the opening of the way, we came face to face with the real challenge of our political independence. The hard painstaking, continuous work of fashioning and building our nation, day by day, year after year.
The key to our success is in the theme of our celebrations this year, “Together with dedication, we build our nation”.
That word, “Together” refers to the absolute necessity of strong partnerships and excellent teamwork in our approach to the tasks.
We must take the concept of independence to the higher level of interdependence for we need each other to survive and to take our country forward into a new era of prosperity.
With the dynamic blending of committed persons, representing the full range of skills, abilities and points of view, fired up by a shared vision and working together in synergy, we cannot fail to achieve our national goals.
Of course, there will be differences of opinion, but conflict is only healthy when it serves to stimulate new thinking and creative solutions. What we must avoid at all cost is destructive, paralyzing hard-line positions based on selfishness and personal agendas, with total disregard for the best interests of the nation.
In the months since taking office, I have diligently pursued a process of building relationships, both here at home and abroad. I see no other way to be successful in tackling the challenges that face our nation.
As worker, as management, as Government, as Opposition, as persons living in different sections of a community; as members of rival political parties; as public sector; as private sector; as urban or rural folk – we all need to learn to work together effectively, with true caring and respect for one another.
Let us pledge to improve the relationships inside our communities. Nation-building as a team effort, starts in the communities. We have to build from the base up.
This is why I have given a solemn undertaking to place greater focus on community development, with special emphasis on practical steps for the economic empowerment of residents particularly in our inner-cities and rural communities.
Forty-four years is a short time in the life of a nation, and especially so when seen in the historical context of the centuries of injustice and degradation that went before. Yet, as we reflect on the years, we can all recognize that Jamaica, given its size, has made significant progress, with many notable achievements.
Despite the rocky roads and rough passages, in education and skills training; physical and infrastructural development; communications technology and utility services (just to name a few of the areas), Jamaica is preparing itself for the new world now taking shape.
There is also a new stirring of hope as well as understandable impatience for change and transformation. My wish is for that impatience to be converted into passionate, sustained involvement in building our nation.
To mark the 44th year of our Independence, I invite all Jamaicans at home and abroad to commit to building the positive relationships that will transform our land. Together, with the spirit of resilience for which Jamaicans are well known, dedication and unity, we will create the caring society of quality and endless possibilities for human development, for which we all yearn.
May God bless you all and continue to shine his Grace on Jamaica, Land We all so dearly Love!