We can shape our destiny and make things better
Independence Messages
October 26, 2023
We can shape our destiny and make things better

Independence Address of
Dr the Honourable Godwin Friday
Leader of the Opposition

Fellow Vincentians and Friends,
Greetings, on this the 44th anniversary of our nation’s independence. Undoubtedly, it is a time for celebration and reflection.

We begin by noting that national independence is not a single act or specific moment, but a journey. We have been on that journey long before October 1979 and are still traveling. Long may the journey continue!

We must salute the resilience of our forebears and acknowledge their outstanding contributions that paved the way for us. Every step in that journey has been an act of faith and self-belief that has shaped our identity as a nation. Despite fits and starts, we have accomplished much along the way. Yet, I do believe our best days are ahead of us, and our future is brighter.

We are blessed with abundant natural beauty. Our people are generous and hardworking. Above all, we rely on our faith in God, who has entrusted to us this bountiful land we call our home, to enjoy it fruits and to be its stewards. Over the years, people have come from different cultures—many by force others by choice—and have shared a land held sacred and inalienable by our native ancestors. Together as one people, we now call it home.

Our cultural richness is a blessing and strength derived from our diversity. In our independence journey, we relish the freedom to embrace and celebrate the unique contributions of all communities that make up our country, for the sheer joy of it but also because we know that it makes of strong.

Since the attainment of formal independence in 1979, we have been on a journey to make our lives better, to shape our identity as a people, and to find our place in the world. There have been numerous opportunities for advancement, some we have let slip through our fingers, others we have happily put to good use. In future, we must do more of the latter and take full advantage of all opportunities.

There have also been severe challenges, some natural— as in the eruptions of our volcano– and others of our own making –as in gun crimes and poor governance. We stand together in facing these challenges, knowing intrinsically that unity is a most powerful asset, for in it we find strength, hope and courage to overcome adversity and plan for better days ahead.

As I traverse our beautiful country, I meet ordinary people–nation builders– who everyday make their communities better. Neighbours who lend a helping hand to one another, community leaders who sacrifice to initiate positive change, and individuals who protect the environment and preserve our natural beauty. They contribute yet seek no personal reward or praise, choosing instead to be faithful to the Christian teaching: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Earlier this month. I travelled with colleagues to New York and Toronto to meet fellow Vincentians living there. Their constant support for and commitment to building their beloved homeland loudly proclaim the unbreakable ties that bind us one to another as a people. We cannot do without them nor they without us. If our country is to succeed, all of us must work together.

While meeting present challenges require unity, we need more than that. We have been let down. Too many of our people, especially our youth, are out of work. Too many are poorly paid and form the working poor.

Young people are left out and neglected. Violent crime has spiralled out of control, making people feel insecure and forcing them to retreat into their homes. Our healthcare system frequently fails us, and too often, fatally. In short, our people are not enjoying the promised fruits of independence.

Therefore, to lift up our country now requires renewed leadership, redoubled in purpose and determination.

Our neighbours in the region have moved ahead, creating better paying jobs, reducing crime, and improving healthcare. We should not be left behind, vainly reaching for, but never attaining the promise of Independence.

There is much blame to go around. Those in power must take the greater share of it. While we may leave the finger-pointing for another time, let us at least acknowledge that we can do better. And, knowing this, let us resolve to do better. We must approach nation-building with greater urgency and renewed energy. Our objective can no longer be merely to make life better for the politically favoured few, but for all of us. That is the duty of anyone in public life, and it is my watchword.

Let the efforts of generations past be the strong foundation upon which we build and like voices calling out to us from bygone days, guide and inspire us as we go forward. It is for us to listen closely and answer the call. Any change that will come, can only be from our own efforts and of our own making.

That is our duty. Moreover, it is the respect we owe our forebears and the obligation we owe our children. We can do it! We will do it!
Happy Independence everyone. Enjoy and be safe.

May God continue to watch over us and bless us all.