Good afternoon,

Lady Allen and I are very pleased to be with you for this special event in your programme this week.  We extend a warm welcome home to our people from the Diaspora.

Let me join in the welcome to that which has already been expressed.  I can assure you that it is no less sincere than it has been on previous occasions.

In the two years since the last Conference and Awards Ceremony, all three of the principal jurisdictions represented here have experienced political changes. It is to your credit that you as leaders and members of the Jamaican Diaspora community have maintained your stability, preserved your principles and remained focused on your commitment to this country, the country of your ancestors.

Thank you for all that you continue to do for Jamaica, and thank you for preserving the Jamaican character of enterprise, energy, creativity and cooperative endeavour in your countries of residence.   

This afternoon, we recognize and pay special tribute to six outstanding representatives who embody the values that we as Jamaicans hold dear.  I congratulate them most heartily on their achievements.  For us here, their lives also mirror what is right with our country and encourage us to use those virtues and initiatives to help us overcome the difficulties which we face.

For 26 years The Governor-General’s Achievement Award (GGAA) has been recognizing individuals who have been serving quietly and consistently. Allow me to take a few minutes to highlight aspects of the pride we have in the achievements of our people at home and abroad.

We are developers and manufacturers of products and services of world class quality, contributing to improving the world economy as well as our own.  

Underpinning these achievements is the work of volunteers and the organizations devoted to improving the discipline, knowledge, skills and attitudes of our young people in particular.  These institutions accomplish their objectives with the encouragement of a range of leaders, mentors and supporters sharing the vision of a Jamaica that is destined for greatness.

Since we last met, The Governor-General’s Programme for Excellence (GGPE) has continued to benefit from the generosity of our sponsors in the Private Sector – The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, Jamaica National Group, Victoria Mutual Building Society, Scotia Jamaica Building Society, Jamaica Broilers Group of Companies and FLOW.   

We are constantly receiving volunteers who have joined with the Private Sector entities to engage over three hundred young persons in Youth Consultative Conferences last year.  These future leaders were exposed to innovations in career choices as well as to the imperatives of integrity in public and private life.

Jamaica can point to the legacy left us by its standard bearers in a wide variety of fields.  Apart from our National Heroes, we can cite a representative selection of outstanding Jamaicans who made indelible marks both on our development and on our psyche.

I remind you as a representative body of Jamaicans at home and abroad:

  • That you do have a legacy to leave;
  • That an ethics-free post- modern way of behaving can be calamitous;
  • That we must restore a basic respect for the sanctity of human life;
  • That we must honour the confidence and the courage of National Heroes, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante by doing more to protect the integrity of our people and our institutions;
  • I want to remind you that we have to do all we can to preserve hope in times of pressure.

I believe that the most critical intervention point for Diaspora support at this time in our history is with the youth of our country.  The great need that Jamaica has today is not with governance structures and institutional capacity building. But more than ever, we need enhancement of our human capital and engagement with our millennials.  

Our young people hold the key to the prosperous and secure future of which the baby boomers dreamed.  They need not only to be heard but to be nurtured.  They look around and notice the scarcity of moral imperatives, the lack of trust, the breakdown in family life and in community responsibility. They are becoming tired of an unproductive selfishness and unnecessary competition which rears its head too often to be ignored.

Our challenge now is to prepare Generation Next by example, by nurturing, by training and by listening to them, and we need to do so deliberately and purposefully.

I have seen at close quarters the potential and the activism of our young people, I know that they are ready for the transformative role which the nation needs.  Let us not frustrate them, but bring them into the process.  This is what the GGAA and the I Believe Initiative (IBI) are about.

As the successors to those who now hold office in the state apparatus; the judiciary, the Parliament and in public and private enterprise, we need to give them our full support.  Let us come together and do all that we can to make them in Jamaica and across the world a Jamaica that is truly triumphant, proud and free.

I close with the words of a poem from H D Carberry:

The mould is not yet made, perhaps

That can unite and make my people one

But more important than the mould

Is the temper of the steel;

The spirit of my people.

And when that steel is smelted,

And when that steel is tempered,

And when that steel is cast,

Oh! What a people shall my people be.

The time is near.  The time is now. 

Ladies and gentlemen, let us go forward and build now and leave a legacy in every life that you touch.