This King's Day Celebration is the first following 123 years of Queen's Birthday Celebrations.
It is also the fifth time that the Kingdom of the Netherlands has a King and a Queen. Hence the theme for this King's Day reception: Kings and Queens.
The theme Kings and Queens also come from my observations during the recent visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in November of last year. I can still see the enthusiasm of the people in general and of our kids in particular.
As I observed I wondered what our people were thinking. And as I wondered, it was clear that the King and Queen bonded with and bonded the people. And in doing so King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima brought out the best in our people.
The response of the people to the presence of the King and Queen reinforced my conviction of the importance of unity and shared values.
Our gathering tonight at Fort Amsterdam to celebrate the first King's Day is a moment to reflect on and renew our commitment to the factors that has the potential to strengthen our unity and shared values.
In that regard we can think of factors which through their preservation and longevity represent the spirit of Sint Maarten such as – the Oranje school, the Methodist Church, and the Court House - as displayed during the monument walk of the King and Queen through Front Street.
It is in this light that I encourage and applaud initiatives to establish national parks and national museums to conserve and preserve our heritage for everyone to experience as truly Sint Maarten places; as places that represent the spirit of Sint Maarten.
While such places are critical to strengthening unity and national values, they are not enough. It is equally important to continue to make investments towards the nurturing and development of the significant talent of our youth.
Talent that embodies the beauty and potential of our nation as displayed at the youth manifestation in the festival village during the visit of the King and Queen.
As I enjoyed the spectacular performances of our youngsters, I thought if ever there was proof that we need a modern National Center for the Performing Arts as I had stated in January of 2012, it was that evening. I say this because I believe that the investment in and focused deployment of programs such as a modern National Center for the Performing Arts or the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex have the potential to inspire our people. And in doing so they motivate our people to strive to realize our full potential as a nation. The realization of which fosters national pride and unity.
Ladies and gentlemen, in short to strengthen unity and shared values it is imperative that we increase our investments in the creation of national vehicles of unity and shared values, such as national parks, a national museum, a national center for the performing arts and national sports programs.
It is wonderful to see and know that several persons in our community are making significant contributions towards the realization of these national vehicles. Some of these persons have been invited here tonight to showcase their work and others to be honored for their work.
Having mentioned the performing arts and recognizing the Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performing arts ongoing investments in that important area, I have requested them to organize the artistic part of this evening. Their artistic performance, as you will see shortly, is in keeping with the theme of this evening: Kings and Queens.
Moreover, as is customary during the Sovereign's Birthday Celebrations, Royal Decorations are bestowed on persons for their prolonged outstanding service to the community.
Receiving a Royal Decoration is a special honor. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, this is the first King's Day celebration in 123 years.
As a result the six persons selected to be awarded a Royal Decoration here this evening are part of a special group, namely of the first group of persons to receive a Royal Decoration Decree signed by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander. Together they make up the Royal Decoration Class of 2014.
A class of six persons who will be decorated as Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau or as member in the Order of Oranje Nassau.
These six persons have distinguished themselves in diverse fields ranging from:
• nature and monuments preservation,
• economic development,
• health care and nursing,
• working with and counseling of our youth,
• the development of the performing arts,
• the spiritual development of our youth,
• care for underprivileged youths, for homeless persons and for the elderly, and
• working with the physically and mentally challenged in our community.
This overview is but a summary of the variety of fields in which these individuals standout and do not fully do justice to their contributions.
Contributions towards the strengthening of our unity and of our shared values. They have over a prolonged number of years dedicated a significant part of their life and talents towards the improvement and development of the lives of others and our community.
The further development of St. Maarten is dependent on such giving, commitment and community involvement and serves as an inspiration for all of us.
An inspiration to aim for and apply ourselves to bring about a more community focused and as a result a more unified, stronger and more sustainable Sint Maarten community.
I therefore extend my appreciation to each of you, who in a few moments will receive Royal Decorations for your exemplary service to our community.
It is an honor and special distinction to be awarded a Royal Decoration. I thus hereby – in advance – convey my congratulations to each of the awardees individually and to your family and friends.
Moreover in closing, I express special words of appreciation to my staff for their work to make this evening possible.
Esteemed Guests, as we Honor His Majesty King Willem-Alexander with his first King's Day Celebration, I extend a warm welcome to you and I wish you an enjoyable evening.
Thank you and God bless Sint Maarten