Friday, April 3, 2009

Thoughts on optimism 3. – I Believe

I have decided to make my third piece of commentary in this series a borrowed piece from the sixth Governor General of Jamaica. This borrowed piece is such a perfect continuation of the sentiments expressed in the second piece. But I also wish to share parts of the speech because of its relevance, timeliness, and certainly because it reflects so much of what optimism is about.

The news have made headlines from this speech, the talk shows have done their spin, the verandah talk will have its time, and editorials and opinion pieces will make reference to how much it reminds them of past locally and internationally famous charismatic leaders and speakers. But I am afraid, that’s where it may just end if we ignore the essence of this great speech which when delivered was missed by most Jamaicans – including myself.

Having read the speech though, I felt so inspired, so motivated – just like the feeling I get from participating in the various projects we do with and on behalf of the children. This is not just a speech asking Jamaicans to believe in ourselves. More importantly for me is its call for all of us to do everything we can to write the words I Believe across the hearts of every man, woman, and child and to “echo the certain sound that we are one” from all corners of this beautiful land to which we so pledge our love and loyalty.

Here are excerpts of the speech delivered by His Excellency The Most Honourable Dr. Patrick Allen, ON, CD on the occasion of his installation as Governor General of Jamaica at King’s House, Thursday February 26, 2009.
…Although it may seem to many persons in Jamaica today that we are in the night of our deepest despair with nothing before us, the night of weeping will not last forever and I prefer to think that we are approaching the morning of hope with everything before us. We have the tomorrows of opportunities and limitless possibilities ahead of us. The possibilities of achieving our God-given potential with creativity and success – despite the odds.

Our history as a people and a nation beckons to us from within the darkness and reminds us to be steadfast, resilient, and cling to hope for we have overcome much and we will do so yet again. I firmly believe that within the crises of our contemporary experiences lie the seeds of opportunity and renewal.

As St Francis of Assisi urged, all of us should ‘act as if everything depended upon [us]’, and ‘pray as if everything depended upon God’.

At the end of the day, every one of us has to participate in the healing, the restoration, and ultimately, the prosperity of this nation. ‘There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.’

…We must return to a value system which ensures that no one is deprived of their God-given rights; where the measure of a real man is not the number of guns he slings, the number of persons he kills, nor the number of children he sires, but the extent to which he cares for and supports his family.

We must engage the youth and adapt to a changing world and the maturing consciousness of our young people. We must believe in them, train them, and have the faith that they will not betray the values of fairness, morality, and justice that we have instilled in them.

I believe that despite our challenges, our setbacks and our despair, we are a nation which has been blessed with a rich heritage, abundant resources, and the prospect of a bright future.

I believe that each of us is placed here by our Creator to enhance the quality of life of those around us.

I believe that the decent, dedicated, hardworking members of our society are in the majority, despite the violence, vulgarity, declining values and economic vicissitudes that confront us.

I believe that Jamaican men and women of every race, color, religion, creed and political affiliation can embrace each other with ‘one love, one heart’ and solve our differences without violence.

I believe that every Jamaican at home and in the Diaspora can say with sincerity, “I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens”, in this Island that we call home.

Every Jamaican must know, think, internalize, personalize, and actualize the theme “I believe.” It must echo from the Blue Mountains to the Dolphin Head Mountains. It must ring from the Liguanea Plains of Kingston to the St Georges Plains of Westmoreland.

I believe must be etched in every classroom, the screen saver on every computer and cell phone; it must be internalized in the heart of every student, until dreams are born in the hearts of our children as to who they can become and the contribution they can make to the development of their nation.

Businessmen and entrepreneurs, Professors, Pastors, Politicians, and teachers, Managers and Workers, Employers and Employees must echo the certain sound that we are one nation under God. Let it ring from their lips and let them declare that they believe in the destiny of Jamaica.

I believe must adorn the T-shirts we wear, the sports gear that we brand, the cups from which we drink; it must be the theme in the morning papers, and the optimism of the evening news until the waves wash away our shame and we evolve into a nation ‘destined for greatness’.

When we examine the global canvas we see lines, brush strokes and hatchings that are distinctively Jamaican. We have produced great thinkers and scholars, artists and musicians, the best athletes, sportsmen and women, and have ensured that the rest of the world believe in this island nation. Others believe in us, we must believe in ourselves!

I believe in Jamaica. I believe in the people of Jamaica.

I believe we can and we must. I implore all of us to get a hold of the full text and do what we can to spread confidence, hope and optimism which come with the declaration, I Believe!

As optimists we could not want a better call than this at a time when we must make greater effort at fulfilling our Mission for Tomorrow in this Hi Five Year.

Patrick Prendergast
March 1, 2009

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