And Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to our Golden Jubilee Independence Award of Supreme Honour – an award with a grand title to reflect the grand achievements of our recipients this morning.
Fifty years ago, the founders of our nation realised their dream of an Independent Bahamas. In doing so, they opened the door to an even bigger dream – a vision of a proud and prosperous people, defined not by their colonial past, but by the ingenuity and resilience used to craft their future.
While we may take our present-day successes for granted, we must not forget that The Bahamas we know today was not a guarantee. In fact, at the time some opposing voices warned that our embrace of Independence would lead to a drastic drop in our quality of life and prospects. They did not think that we were sufficiently able to govern ourselves.
Over the fifty years since Independence, there have certainly been challenges. But there have also been great opportunities, and a glorious national awakening.
Perfection in human societies is impossible, but even our imperfect progress has seen us rise, excel, and have the world mark the manner of our bearing.
Even so, none of it was inevitable. We should never take the rise of our country for granted. Imagine a small island nation with the 3rd highest GDP per capita in the western hemisphere, with talent bursting at its seams, and a culture and quality of life that many other nations aspire to achieve.
The odds were stacked against us, but we’ve proven time and time again, that betting against The Bahamas is a losing bet.
But what exactly is it about us that is so exceptional that we have been able to accomplish as much as we have in just 50 years?
It is you, the Bahamian people, who have led the way.
Our journey over the past five decades has been one of remarkable achievement, spanning sports, science, business, education, politics, art, music, philanthropy, and media. In just about every field imaginable, nationally or internationally, Bahamians are excelling.
Bahamian men and women, young and old, from all walks of life, have shaped our national identity and propelled The Bahamas to its esteemed place on the world stage.
So, while the year may be coming to an end, our Golden Jubilee is not yet done. And before it is done, we are recognising and celebrating the contributions of our national heroes and heroines – our nation builders, our people – who made this nation what it is today.
A special thank you to the Independence Honours Advisory Committee Chair, Sean McWeeney, and the members of the committee. Thanks also to those who supported the work of the Committee: Head of the Secretariat Mr. Peter Deveaux Isaacs and the many researchers and members of staff. All your efforts combined have made this ceremony possible.
We pay special tribute this morning to the late Ed Bethel, who was a member of the Honours Advisory Committee, and is now himself, an honouree. His legacy continues to shine.
This morning, it was important to us not only to recognise those who are blessed enough to be here in person, but also to honour the contributions of those who are no longer with us.
Today we remember and celebrate them all.
We applaud each of 102 honourees as national standard bearers, champions, and examples of what we should all aspire to be.
These awards are separate from those conferred by the National Honours Society, created in this landmark year of the 50th anniversary of Independence, to mark the landmark achievements of those being recognised.
This is an award for the people, by the people. It reflects our collective gratitude for the shoulders on which we all stand.
We are forever grateful for the contributions of our honourees. With the granting of this honour, your names and the names of your departed loved ones will forever be remembered when we acknowledge the contributions of those who have defined Bahamian excellence.
It is now up to the rest of us to live up to their legacies, build on the foundation they left us, and take this nation forward for the next 50 years. We should do so with the same courage, dedication, and passion that they embodied.
Congratulations to you all and thank you, once again, for giving so freely of yourselves to this nation.
May God bless you all and may He continue to bless our beloved Bahamas.