My fellow citizens and residents of our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis, it is with an enduring sense of honour and duty that I address you as Prime Minister, but equally with an overwhelming sense of pride, as a citizen of this great land of beauty, a Country where peace abounds.
In three days, we will join together as our Nation celebrates thirty-seven years as an independent country. It is therefore indeed fitting, that we today celebrate National Heroes Day. I say this because it is on the “strength of will and love” of these and our unsung heroes that we not only achieved that most sacred right of self-determination, but have built our land of St. Kitts and Nevis into the shining example of prosperity, freedom and democracy that we enjoy today. We celebrate today, a day set aside to commemorate the noble, patriotic, and selfless contributions of our great forebears. We celebrate them with a deep and reverent honour, sober in the knowledge and conscious comprehension, that without their strength and resilience; their ingenuity and sacrifices individually and collectively, there would be no we today …children standing free.
OUR NATIONAL HEROES
Having been established by an act of Parliament in 1996, The National Honours Act honours individuals recognized to have made the greatest contribution to our Country’s advancement. Since its enactment in 1996, which made the late Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw our Country’s first National Hero, our Country has bestowed the title of National Hero on four other citizens. Our five National Heroes are listed in chronological order:
The Right Excellent Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw, first Premier of Saint Kitts and Nevis who was acclaimed on the first National Heroes Day on 16 September 1998, two years after being named posthumously as our first National Hero;
In 2004 former Premier and Chief Minister the Right Excellent Sir Caleb Azariah Paul Southwell, and former Minister of Social Services and Trade Unionist The Right Excellent Sir Joseph Nathaniel France were awarded the honour;
In 2013 the first Premier of Nevis, The Right Excellent Sir. Dr. Simeon Daniel joined the pantheon of National Heroes. All these awards were bestowed posthumously on these four heroes.
In 2015 The Right Excellent and the Right Honourable Dr. Sir Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds, the first Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis became the first living person to receive this honour. As Prime Minister, I was delighted to have had the opportunity to bestow upon Sir Kennedy this superlative honour while Sir Kennedy is still alive to experience the love, adoration and appreciation of our people for his years of service. I am proud too that this sacred site was inaugurated as National Heroes Park hosting the statues of all our national heroes.
It is not to say that no one else has contributed to the tremendous achievements we have made as a young nation. However, these five have been exalted above the rest of the citizenry because of their extraordinary contributions, and sacrifices for the advancement of the cause of an independent St. Kitts and Nevis. Lifted onto the shoulders of those who would have worked with and for them, we have attempted to immortalize them at our National Heroes Park commissioned in 2017. The hope is that we have expressed in a tangible way, the great respect and honour abiding in our hearts. Great they were, and are, to have so solidly laid the foundations of an emerging and subsequently new nation, in a politically hostile and tumultuous world.
What made them so different, that they would have done so much yesterday, to be so revered by us today? Surprisingly, at the base of it all … nothing.
We are born of the same stock; resilient citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis; these two islands “bound together with a common destiny”;
Born as they were, Patriots, with an abiding love of country, ever seeking to improve and advance ourselves as a people;
Born with the opportunities to serve the needs of our nation in varied capacities;
Born as they were in a time when St. Kitts and Nevis needed citizens to rise and build that springboard for the next generation.
But … they have done it!
They have nurtured, grown and exhibited that abiding love of country;
They have seized the opportunities to serve St. Kitts and Nevis
They have built that springboard on which we today must capitalize and improve for our continued advancement.
Daunting as it was, they persevered, and they achieved. What makes them different from us … everything! Because they have done that which they had been called to do, and that makes all the difference. It is on us now to try and (in the words of today’s youth) “level up”.
It befalls us now to raise up the next generation of heroes; even as we reflect inwards, contemplating whether we will provide them as good an example. Those of us in the late Summer and Fall of our lives are the bridge between that great generation and the one that will succeed us. We have the example and inspiration of our forebears, coupled with the cause of and duty to our successors. We are indeed well armed to succeed, and succeed we shall, by the Grace of God; and if we hold true to our creed, and “as stalwarts stand, for justice and liberty” with the wisdom of our elders and the truth of our shared existence. If we serve our country in the vein of the example so ably set, then surely, we will achieve the advancement we seek, and our successors will in turn honour us.
It is my hope that when the history of this period is written, it will catalogue the diligent work, and the sacrifices made on individual, personal, party and national levels that have brought St. Kitts and Nevis the best inter-island relationship in our history thus far. It is a relationship not monetized in dollars and cents, but a sense of shared history, ancestry, hope for a stronger and safer future, resilient family ties and a belief in the power of unity. The Treaty of National Unity embodies selflessness, service to country and the greater good. It is truly the embodiment of Country Above Self; and that is the ethos of heroism. May it reign perpetually and, “to posterity extend”!
MESSAGE TO OUR YOUNG PEOPLE
To our young people, who are in the spring of your lives, I say to you that a hero lies in you. It is your destiny as a citizen of this great land. But the hero will not emerge by osmosis. It must be nurtured. Nurtured with the values and traditions that we Kittitians and Nevisians hold dear. Self discipline and industry. Respect for Elders. Drive for improvement and advancement. Service to others. Embracing our shared responsibilities. Setting your dreams and aspirations as high as you choose, and taking the first steps towards them. You can achieve anything with the strength of your will and the love of a nation.
There are some of you who will doubt what you can achieve because of present economic and social circumstances. Hurtful as the economic and health crises are, they too will pass. Let us not allow such temporary circumstances to diminish our dreams, even as Government tries to alleviate as best it can any and all hardships being felt by our citizens and residents.
Examples abound where others have lifted themselves out of poverty by their sheer determination, and a little assistance from others. I myself can testify to that. I was born into poverty, one of some thirty-three children sired by my father. I worked hard, and studied harder in school, did all that was in my power to do for my advancement. And that which I could not do, by the Grace of God, fell into place, and today I am fortunate enough to be addressing you as Prime Minister of this proud and blessed country. My heroes helped me, so I in turn may be a hero to someone. I pledge I shall use every working moment to advance the cause and welfare of the people of St Kitts and Nevis. With God’s grace working together we shall make St Kitts and Nevis a better place.
It is still true that the greatest gift to give to our young people is the gift of education and next in line is the gift of opportunity. The opportunity to be, to become, to learn, to do.
Our new Ministry of Entertainment, Talent Development and Entrepreneurship will be a legacy Ministry. We will look back in time to realize so much good would have come to our young people from its work. The opportunities forself-actualization, income generation and fame would have been magnified through this Ministry.
Being heroic is not the absence of doubt or fear. It is finding, in the presence of such, the faith and courage to do what is needed and what is right. We cannot (and indeed will not) all be named National Heroes. But any of you can be. Though it currently holds that all five National Heroes were politicians, it is not the defining criteria. One can be awarded for achievement and service to our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis in whatever field one’s talents and passion lie. It can be in the field of science or sport; military or music; education or economics; internal or international. Whatever you love, resolve to be the best you can, and you will set yourself apart. But to do so you must begin the journey. There is tremendous talent and drive being exhibited by our Nation’s youth. From music to robotics, from sport to academics, our St. Kitts and Nevis is on the verge of an impressive explosion of creativity, industry and talent that will rock the region and the world. We have some of the most enterprising and creative young people in the world.
I carry joy in my heart at the performance of our young people in the United Arab Emirates at the first global robotics Olympics. I commend Dr. Ricardo Neil. I am pleased that our young people have performed well at the international special Olympic games. I commend teacher Clarice Cotton for her work in this regard.
While our National Heroes rightly serve as an inspiration to us all, the achievement of such a status must never become the goal. Heroism by definition is selfless, rooted in the service, protection or assistance to others. A self-centered pursuit will prove self-defeating, and will leave you impatient of your rate of success, arrogant with your own achievement, and disdainful of others who are seemingly on par or getting ahead.
Instead, focus on being someone’s hero.
For the single mother trying to adequately provide for her children, can you help her and her children? Yes, you can, because a hero lies in you.For the troubled teen in need of a mentor. Can you volunteer? Yes, you can, because a hero lies in you.
For the shut-in who is lonely and needs someone for a weekly chat. Can you spare the time to care, share, and hear? Yes, you can, because a hero lies in you.
For the community team that could use some coaching help. Can you help? Yes, you can, for a hero lies in you.
For the depressed coworker, colleague or neighbor in need of some encouragement or a listening ear and a shoulder, can you reach out in a sensitive way? Yes, you can because a hero lies in you.
For our family, wife, husband, child or children who need just a bit more of our time, can you spare a moment? Yes, you can because a hero lies in you.
You our pastors, guidance counsellors, bankers, our police officers and all who took on the risky task of conceptualizing and implementing the alternative pathway programme for our at-risk youths, you are the heroes and heroines to many of them. You gave them hope, an opportunity to be and to experience the revelation that a life of crime and violence is not worth it. It always ends up too brutal and short. On behalf of all experiencing this calm and quiet in our land, I say thank you to our young people for reforming their lives.
That is the necessary focus… self-improvement, service to others and service to country. Service to humanity is service to God, and service to God will prosper us.
The 2020 National Honours Awardees
I wish finally to ask you to acknowledge by your applause the 15 nationals whose meritorious work has led to them being recognized for the following awards under the National Honours Act.
|Dr. Burnell Nisbett||Medicine||Companion of Star of Merit|
|Ms. Viola Jacobs||Education||Companion of Star of Merit|
|Archdeacon J. Rudolph Smithen||Religious Service||Companion of Star of Merit|
|Ms. Shirley Browne||Education||Companion of Star of Merit|
|Dr. Hazel Laws||National Service in a crisis||Companion of Star of Merit|
|Dr. Cameron Wilkinson||National Service in a crisis||Companion of Star of Merit|
|Mr. Abdias Samuel||National Service in a crisis||Companion of Star of Merit|
|Ms. Mary Nurse||Community Service||Medal of Honour|
|Ms. Pearline Mussenden||Education||Medal of Honour|
|Mr. Joseph Benders||Arts||Medal of Honour|
|Dr. A. Linton Liburd||Medicine||Medal of Honour|
|Ms. Pamela Brookes||Nursing||Medal of Honour|
|Mr. Charles McMaster||Community Service||Medal of Honour|
|Mr. Brian Dyer||National Service in a crisis||Medal of Honour|
|Dr. Judy Nisbett||National Service in a crisis||Medal of Honour|
Let us recommit ourselves this National Heroes Day to that oneness of purpose.
If we all resolve to engage that hero in us, each of us lifting a little, we can move mountains. Working together in earnest and in unity, we can usher in unprecedented growth and advancement of our people and our country. And with these successes, may it be that when the next generation is honouring the best of us, the rest of us smile, content in the part we would have played in the successes of our Nation.
A happy National Heroes Day is wished to all. May God bless you; and may He in his infinite wisdom, continue to bless the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. We shall remain focused on developing St. Kitts and Nevis as the best example of a well-managed state.