Jamaica, a nation that through adversity has demonstrated that we can excel even when the odds are against us. Today we celebrate our success as a people. A country so small that it would appear irrelevant on the world map has impacted the world we live in today beyond what anyone could ever imagine. Our historical footprint demonstrates that the determination of Jamaicans has surpassed racial, social and geographical boundaries.
Jamaicans are leaders. It is Jamaica that gave the world Marcus Garvey, a man whose work and ideology changed a generation, and contributed to the Civil Rights movement for African Americans.
Jamaicans value family. Throughout our history we have seen numerous Jamaicans leave home to seek better opportunities abroad for their family. With a strong work ethic and a can do spirit, we now have a Jamaican diaspora with children of Jamaican parentage who have left an indelible mark on this world. We celebrate icons like Collin Powell, Harry Belafonte, and Patrick Ewing.
Jamaicans are determined. As a people we strive despite adversity. We eliminate barriers and open pathways for others to excel. We will never forget trailblazers like Robert Southerland, regarded as the first known graduate of color at a Canadian university and the first black man to study law in British North America. Or David Panthon the second black president of the Harvard Law Review.
Jamaica understands its importance to the international community and the continued fight for human rights. In as early as 1957 Jamaica became the first country to declare a trade embargo against South Africa, and was one of the first voices in objection to apartheid.
We continue to set new standards everyday. Our athletes have taken brand Jamaica to the four corners of the earth. Usain Bolt, Merlene Ottey, and Shelly Ann Fraiser are just a few of the numerous athletes that have made Jamaica proud on the international scene. Barrington Irving recently became the first person of color and youngest person ever to fly solo around the world.
Our people, and our nation cannot be overlooked in the world community. Our national flag, introduced as our official national insignia just over 51 years ago is among the world’s most recognizable. We have since given the world reggae music, a genre often recognized as the music of the century. Bob Marley continues to be one do the most iconic musical figure the world has ever known.
Today we celebrate our history as a great people and country. We don’t fail to recognize our mistakes and our continued struggles; we acknowledge them. However in so doing, we also acknowledge that we are a force to be reckoned with. Jamaica is a nation of firsts. Our people are determined to excel in every aspect of life. We remove barriers where they exist and we are convinced that no matter the circumstance, we can and will be the best in whatever we do. Happy Birthday Jamaica, and may all my Jamaican family, at home and abroad, have a blessed Independence Day.
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