Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our nation. It was a memorable night 48 years ago when we respectfully lowered the Union Jack and proudly hoisted the Black, Green and Gold as the symbol of our nationhood. With that flag was also raised our hopes and expectations as a people.
What were those hopes and expectations?
- That we would entrench and deepen our unity as a people so well expressed in our motto, “Out of Many, One People”;
- That we would develop our economy through investment, trade and the creation of jobs so that we could enjoy a quality of life as good as anywhere else in the world;
- That we would eliminate the social and economic inequalities that differentiated us, not by pulling down those at the top but buy lifting up those at the bottom;
- That all our people, no matter how poor or humble their circumstances, would have the opportunity to build a better life through access to education and proper healthcare and by their own hard work;
- That every community would enjoy the infrastructure and basic services that would make them places where people would want to live, work and raise their families.
We have come a long way over these 48 years. Much has been accomplished but the dream of independence has not yet been fulfilled as much more remains to be done. We have made mistakes along the way. There were times when we took the wrong turn and there were many opportunities that we missed.
The spirit that inspired us to achieve independence, the belief that we are a people who can accomplish great things, must never be allowed to die, for it is the spirit that will propel us to make up the lost ground and achieve the goals that our founding fathers laid out for us.
We have been through changing times and the times are changing even more rapidly now, but despite the external forces and influences that affect us, our future and our fortunes lie in our hands.
For many of the pioneers that have gone before, achieving independence was itself, a dream and on the journey to independence, there were setbacks and disappointments; but they never gave up hope and never lost sight of that dream. For us today, building on that independence and the hopes that it generated, is more than a dream; it is the task to which history has called us for the dream of independence is refreshed and renewed every time a Jamaican child comes into the world.
As we celebrate our 48th anniversary, let us recommit ourselves to that task. Let us demonstrate the will and energy to make up the lost ground, fill the gaps that have been left behind, overcome the challenges that face us and go forward to break new ground and conquer new frontiers for the spirit of independence can never die.