HIS EXCELLENCY DR. MICHAEL LOUIS
Ambassador of Saint Lucia to the
United States of America
and Permanent Representative to the
Organization of American States
Church Service in Commemoration of
Saint Lucia’s Thirtieth Anniversary of Independence
National Wesleyan Church
Sunday, 22 February 2009
Reverend George Bassey, Senior Pastor, National Wesleyan Church;
Excellencies, Ambassadors, members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Former Ambassadors of Saint Lucia to the United States and Permanent Representatives to the OAS, Ms. Sonia Johnny and Dr. Joseph Edsel Edmunds
Members of the St. Lucia Maryland/DC Association;
Fellow Saint Lucians, friends.
Good morning, welcome, bien venue!
On the 22 day of February 1979, the people of Saint Lucia started out on a new journey. For the first time in our small nation’s history, its people won the right to charter its own course towards a rendezvous with its own destiny.
We are gathered here this morning to celebrate in a very special way the 30th anniversary of this date that ushered in Saint Lucia’s independence.
The story of our Independence is one that many of our sister nations in the Caribbean can readily attest to, as we all broke from fetters that for generations hindered, but never subdued, the sons and daughters of our land.
On this special day, I would like to invoke God’s blessing on our beautiful country … on our Prime Minister and members of his cabinet, on our Parliamentarians, and on all our citizens, at home and abroad.
An occasion like this is also a time to pay tribute to those men and women of Saint Lucia who, though their commitment, dedication and sacrifice, helped to lay the foundation for the social and economic development of our nation. And there could be no better fitting a place than here in this House of the lord, where we have come today to worship, to call to mind the late Prime Minister Sir John Compton on whose shoulders it fell to remove Saint Lucia from colonial dependency to a full sovereign state. For this, a grateful people often refer to him as the father of the nation.
The theme for this year’s Independence celebration “...a journey to be proud of…a future to look forward to” beckons us to reflect on the journey we began thirty years ago with tentative steps. For the rest of the world, Saint Lucia may be one among the designation “Small Island State.” For Saint Lucians, whether they may be in the homeland or settled in other climes, this land signifies many a different facet.
It is a place with a vibrant culture that weaves the experiences of our past journey into a powerful and motivating force helping to move with purpose, onward to new milestones in an uncharted future.
It is a place with a strong sense of community, optimism and confidence that calls on every Saint Lucian wherever he or she may be, to come forward and play an active part in our nation’s development.
It is, above all, a place of beauty and inspiration. For those who have gazed at the majesty of the Pitons, rising straight out of the sea as two sentinels ready to thwart all intruders to our scenic town of Soufriere, I am sure almost instinctively, you wanted to proclaim, “This is indeed a place that the Lord has made, let us give him thanks.”
Indeed, the rest of the world has recognized this, for in 2004 UNESCO designated the area as a WORLD HERITAGE SITE. They said what many of us have always known: Saint Lucia is one of the most beautiful places on earth. My modesty prevents me from saying any more in this regard!
Nature can endow a land with only so much. It is we, the people, who must at all times be willing to undertake our individual responsibilities and ensure that we contribute towards the common good. And here on my own behalf and on behalf of Prime Minister Stephenson King, I wish to acknowledge the valuable contribution that you, our nationals who are overseas, continue to make towards Saint Lucia’s development. Prime Minister King, in his Independence Message to Saint Lucians Overseas, reminds and commends you of this important role. As the Prime Minister states:
“There are those of you abroad, who we must be proud of, for your level of patriotism, national pride, commitment to nation building and your consciousness as proud Saint Lucians, ever as you pursue your aspirations in your adopted homeland. You, by your own personal achievements and advancement in the World environment, in academia, commerce, culture, entertainment, sports and enterprise, have lifted Saint Lucia’s flag even higher than the great nations of the World.”
In the long sweep of history, our 30 year journey is still a relatively short one and cannot claim the maturity of some in our own Caribbean region let alone of those long settled nations. Yet within this period we have seen bold and dramatic changes that have transformed the social and economic landscape of our nation in a way which makes us proud.
It is true that the journey has not always been smooth sailing. Like many in our region, we have had to weather many storms along the way - both literally and figuratively - but together we have surmounted those obstacles as one nation. We are not yet able to say, with the confidence that the Jamaican songster would sing “I can see clearly now the rain is gone” but like him we can look forward indeed to a bright new day in the future.
Traditionally, many of us have found out that when some others sneeze, we readily catch a cold. Mindful of this prescription, let us all do our part, wherever we may be, to so buttress ourselves, that the global economic and financial crises will not lead us to the intensive care unit and erode the painstaking and hard won achievements of the last three decades.
Nearly fifty years ago, a young poet, gazing at the total destruction of his native city from the flames of an unstoppable fire, penned this enduring line in his poem, A City’s Death By Fire:
“Why should a man wax tears when his wooden world fails.”
Derek Walcott, another Saint Lucian Nobel laureate, saw in these crumbling structures of the age not despair or defeat, but the possibilities for rebirth, renewal and hope for a better future. Fellow Saint Lucians and colleagues, in the spirit of our independence theme, let us all look to the future with a renewed sense of confidence, conviction and commitment.
Let us look to the future with the confidence that God will guide us, bless us and keep us safe. Let the words of our Anthem always continue to inspire us.
For we know: we shall never be alone on our journey.
May the good Lord bless our Island
Guard her sons from woe and harm
May our people, live united,
Strong in soul and strong in arm
Justice, truth and charity
Our ideals forever be.
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