Your Excellency, S.W. Tapley Seaton, Cabinet Colleagues, Excellences of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, Special Invitees, Children
My fellow citizens, residents and visitors, I welcome you to our National Heroes Park. I am pleased that so many of you have come out today to observe National Heroes Day.
National Hero is the highest honour that can be bestowed on any citizen of St Kitts and Nevis. Today we salute five such National Heroes in the personalities of:
1. The Right Excellent Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw
2. The Right Excellent Sir Paul Southwell
3. The Right Excellent Sir Joseph Nathaniel France
4. Dr. The Right Excellent Sir Simeon Daniel
5. Dr. the Right Excellent and Right Honourable Sir Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds
We acknowledge their contributions and we hope that their example of selfless and outstanding service will be emulated by present and future generations. These our sons came from humble beginnings and yet each one gave back to St. Kitts and Nevis much that has improved it and ennobled us a civilization. These men rose from a variety of circumstances. They refused to be constrained and pigeon-holed. Through discipline, hard work and ingenuity they made their mark indelibly on the national life of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Last year, we put to you the need to look at the pantheon of National Heroes and to see whether we could expand the list. At that time during my address to observe National Heroes Day, I pointed to the Buckley’s Riots of 1935, the seminal action of the Moyne Commission, which would follow, and how it established some guiding principles for the empowerment of an emancipated people in the British West Indies.
During the course of those Riots, three persons sacrificed their lives: Joseph Samuel, John Allen and James Archibald. Nine others were injured, including two women in Olive Allen and Virginia Greaux.
The question now is, should Buckleys be declared a National Heritage Site? Should any among the leaders of the rebellion be declared National Heroes? Is there a special place for Olive Allen and/or Virginia Greaux among the distinguished pantheon of National Heroes?
Additionally, as we look forward to the celebration of a significant Anniversary of Independence in 2018, your Government in partnership with the Saint Christopher National Trust and Museum, would wish to invite our fellow citizens, especially our youth, to undertake necessary research so that we can nominate a male and female enslaved person for due recognition.
We see the foregoing as likely to ensure that all of the citizens can recognize the outstanding contribution of our fellowmen and women upon whose shoulders we now stand in 2017. We must recognize these contributors over all of the years.
Our National Heroes have bequeathed a Nation that has progressed substantially overtime. The present and future generations possess the ability to take this great Nation to an even higher plateau of development and engagement. Let us not be shy in doing so. We recall the Parable of the Talents in Matthew Chapter 25 verses 14-30, in which we are reminded that increasing your talents brings even greater rewards, and that the servant who hid his talent, even that talent was taken away from him.
I encourage our young people to use your talents, your gifts, your ingenuity and skills to secure our nation’s prosperity. You must be faithful over a little, so that you can be set over much, and enter into the joy of your country.
The character of the people determines the character of the Nation
In this life, the human spirit is constantly tested as well as rewarded. We also see that regardless of one’s station in life and all that one has achieved, events that are outside of our control become a leveller, reminding us that we are all equal in the sight of God.
When we come to celebrate that which denotes a person as great, we are not assessing that person by what he/she has gained in terms of material wealth for their own personal enjoyment, but we are admiring the qualities of their character and human spirit which have set them apart. We hold them in high regard because they have risen out of a variety of circumstances with fortitude, commitment and focus, putting all of their energies and passion in service to our nation for the betterment of our people.
What our National Heroes have done individually and collectively has determined the character of our nation. Each of them has played their part in shaping this nation.
National Honours Awards
While not everyone will be recognised as a National Hero, there will be many who are deserving who would have also gone beyond the call of duty to demonstrate excellence in their field. I therefore want to salute those who have been selected for the National Honours Award and to commend them for their efforts and contributions.
I am pleased to advise that the Cabinet has accepted the recommendations from the National Honours Awards Committee and his Excellency the Governor General, Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton has graciously consented to confer the following wards:
For the Companion of Star of Merit:
Mr. Jacques Cramer for Commerce and Public Service
Mr. Melvin Edwards for Culture, Local, Regional and International Credit Union
Mr. Arthur Evelyn for Public Service and Community Action
Mr. Calvin Farrier, JP for Education and Public Service
Mrs. Agnes Morton for Education and Voluntary Service
For the Medal of Honours:
Mrs. Olvis Dyer for Education and Community Service
Mr. Elmo Liburd for Public Service and Education
Mr. Samuel Powell for Agriculture and Music
Let us give these fine people a round of applause.
Our parents and teachers should build on the pride they already have in our young people and inspire them to go further and faster in carving out their destiny and that of our nation.
Our young generation needs heroes who they can look to for inspiration and under whom they can receive tutelage. They should find their inspiration, discover and actualize their talents instead of hiding them and shine like a bright star against the canopy of a night sky.
National Heroes therefore are lights that illuminate a pathway through the darkness. They help to shape and develop a thriving and stable nation in which everyone can feel cared for, nurtured, protected and fulfilled.
Young people, you are waiting in the wings and the stage is now yours to come forward and play your part in nation building. Articulate your vision and bring it to life in what you do, how you act and in what you achieve both for yourself and your nation. It is for this reason that the theme for this year’s Independence celebrations is “Youth, Vision, Integrity – Securing Our Nation’s Prosperity.”
National Heroes Park – Creating History
Finally, a word on this our evolving beautiful National Heroes Park: Who one year ago would have thought that the beauty that now enthrals us would have been visible today? It was for some a barren land. Today, it is a most attractive site that we can enjoy and of which we can be abundantly proud. The dusty space has made way for verdant grass and the majestic palms wave to the sky. The aesthetics are near perfect for a people who are creating their own history and legacy. Our history of sugar cane is captured in the entrance and exit gates. The legacy of appreciation for our own people as contributors to our development is a reminder to all that all we have is us, us to appreciate.
And so we have created this home, which we will share with our nationals and visitors alike. When people travel to, or leave from our airport, they will be greeted by a visible symbol of our culture and history.
I am pleased that we have reached this far in our progress to make this park a reality. It is a magnificent feat what we have accomplished through an inclusive approach.
This success for which many have praised Team Unity is largely due to the dedication and commitment of many persons who have worked tirelessly to accomplish what is seen here today. On behalf of my Cabinet, I say thank you to all who worked on this project. The Committee responsible for the National Heroes’ Park deserves special commendation.
The members are;
1. Mr. Osbert DeSuza, Permanent Secretary,
2. Mr. Ron Fish – Private Sector
3. Mr. Calvin Pemberton – Chairman, Development Control
and Planning Board
4. Mr. Stanley Franks – Union Representative
5. Ms. Beverly Harris – Permanent Secretary
6. Mr. Calvin Edwards – Budget Director
7. Mr. Cromwell Williams – Director of Public Works
In conclusion, I affirm we have indeed been blessed with National Heroes who have shone a light in the darkness thus illuminating a path for others to follow. Their guiding light is an inspiration for us all, particularly our young people to help them actualize and bring forward their many gifts and talents to help develop the country, and to take it to the next level of development. We need them to rise to the occasion.
We have a strong foundation, and in this 34th year of Independence, we should continuously strive to move forward, to harness our God given talents and work individually and collectively for the enhancement and prosperity of our beloved Federation.
May God bless us all.