Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, residents, visitors, friends:
On December 9th each year, we celebrate National Heroes Day, as a tribute to those outstanding Antiguans and Barbudans, who, by virtue of their exemplary service to our country, have been designated National Heroes.
It is said that a people without knowledge of their past is like a tree without roots. And without roots, trees wither and die.
I believe the flames of our freedom have been kept burning, and the foundations of our multicultural society preserved, through the work of those who helped to fashion the distinctive features that are uniquely Antiguan and Barbudan.
It is not mere coincidence that National Heroes Day is celebrated on December 9, the birthday of the Right Honourable Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, the first Prime Minister, former Premier and former Chief Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.
National Hero, VC Bird embodied the ambition, industry, resilience and dynamism that is reflective of the true spirit and essence of the Antiguan and Barbudan People.
Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards is not simply numbered among the all time greats of cricket. He is an eternal symbol of greatness achieved with hard work, consistent application of self, humility, gentleness and enduring decency. National Hero Viv Richards defines the very best of the Antiguan and Barbudan identity.
Today we pay tribute also, to National Hero, Dame Nellie Robinson, an education pioneer, who at the tender age of 18 years was among the first to bring quality education within the reach of non-white children in Antigua and Barbuda.
The ongoing efforts of the Government to provide first class educational opportunities to all our people, remains our most profound tribute to this great educator and humanitarian. We recall with love and respect that two days ago, December 7, marked the 130th anniversary of Nellie Robinson's birth.
Just as Dame Nellie Robinson made her mark in education and social service on behalf of the people, so too did Sir George Herbert Walter write his name in the annals of our history as an advocate of the working class. An extraordinary and committed trade unionist and political representative, Sir George was a tireless advocate of political independence for Antigua and Barbuda.
As the country's second Premier, he is credited with far- reaching and transformative social legislation, including the passage of the Social Security Act, the Labour Code, the creation of the Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank and the modernization of agriculture.
None of these social and economic advances achieved in contemporary times, would have been possible, had the vile and wicked system of slavery been maintained in Antigua and Barbuda. Among the earliest warriors who fought against this unjust and demeaning social, political and economic arrangement was King Court. So it is with gratitude that today we celebrate the revolutionary spirit of National Hero, King Court.
National Heroes Day provides an opportunity for all of us to salute the Antiguans and Barbudans who continue to give service to their country and to their fellow citizens in various ways. They too are heroes in their own right.
As we face the social and economic challenges of today, we remain fortified and inspired by the life and work of our National Heroes. They went before to illuminate for us, a clear path to national greatness, political maturity, social cohesion and economic prosperity.
The greatest tribute we can pay to these icons of our society is to be responsible citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, playing our part through our political, social and financial contributions to our beloved country. We must continue the legacy of building a better nation.
We owe it to our National Heroes too, to remain focused in our pursuit of national development. We cannot abandon the goals of economic growth, peace, tolerance and prosperity. We must keep our eyes on the prize as we labour in the vineyard of national progress.
May the contributions of our National Heroes to Antigua and Barbuda live in our hearts forever, and may their efforts be crowned by the work and gratitude of this and future generations.