Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening and thank you for this immense honour. 

I am deeply humbled to be standing here tonight. As a young boy growing up with my grandparents, who were never taught to read or write, and were pothole farmers, in a settlement of Old Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas, my early days were humble but hopeful. 

I was fortunate to grow up with a family, a community, and a nation that poured into me, empowered and inspired me to become what I am today.

Throughout the course of my life, I was blessed to see my country transform itself from a fishing village, a British Colony, to an independent nation that has achieved many successes in the past 50 years and is still a nation in progress.

That was the lived-history which inspired me, and many other Bahamians, to believe that real and significant change was within the realm of possibility – not only in our personal lives, but to become global citizens making significant contributions within our nation and our world.

Today, The Bahamas stands strong as the country with the third-highest GDP per capita in the Western Hemisphere with double digit real GDP growth for the past two years. We have become a magnet for foreign direct investments, as others have recognised the ripe opportunities for profitability within our borders. As the government develops new ways to reimagine our investments framework and diversify our economy, we expect to continue to sustain robust levels of economic growth while taking steps toward greater economic equality and paving the pathway to prosperity for future generations.

As leaders in our various fields, we have a moral duty to inspire and embolden the next generation of dreamers, innovators, and changemakers to have an impact where they are planted with confidence that they can grow as “tall trees” rooted in their convictions and supported by us.

That is why I’ve always strived to use whatever platform I’ve been granted to make a meaningful difference. 

As the leader of a Small Island Developing State, I stand here as a voice for nations throughout the world whose very existence are threatened by climate change. Nations who did very little to contribute to this problem but will now bear the full weight of the consequences. 

There is an urgent need to act on Climate Change and expand the amount of resources and technical support being directed toward Small Island Developing States where lives and livelihoods are being lost every day due to the more frequent, stronger storms, changing weather patterns  and rising sea levels.

Since coming to office two years ago ,I have made it my main focus to get leaders across the globe to take the climate threat seriously and to take action. 

I ask you to stand with me as voices in your communities and in the world as we call for significant changes to be made before it is too late.

As I look around this room, I see men who have faced adversity, who have stood alone at times, and who, despite impossible odds, have continued to overcome and reach for the sky. 

Our personal narratives are part of a larger story. We exist in a framework of community, of family, and of partnerships between nations. Just as each tall tree in a forest is a part of a thriving ecosystem, each one of us is part of a community, bound by the thread of human experience. 

As great as the individual stories of the men assembled in this room tonight may be, imagine how much will be accomplished when we unite our efforts for the common good.

That is why what Onyx Magazine has accomplished this evening – bringing us all together to share in this moment – is so powerful.

To Onyx Magazine, its Founding Partner, Orlando Health, Editor and Chief and Publisher, Rich Black and the rest of the Onyx team, I thank you for the privilege to be here with you tonight.

This award is not a recognition of my individual effort but a testament to our collective struggle and shared dreams. 

It belongs to the people of Cat Island, Rum Cay, and San Salvador and many others throughout The Bahamas whose support continues to uplift and inspire me each and every day; 

And it belongs to the men and women I work with to promote change and make an impact on the global stage as we dare to dream of a better world.

Once again, thank you, and let’s continue to live up to Dr. Mary Mcleod-Bethune’s words, exemplified in tonight’s theme: to be tall trees standing upright for change and empowerment.