To the USC board and in particular to your chairlady Ms. Melisa Gumbs, thank you so much for inviting us to your 1st annual Christmas Gala Event. It is wonderful to be with you tonight. It's good to be with my fellow Sint Maarteners and friends of Sint Maarten here in the Netherlands. Congratulations to the USC Board with this wonderful initiative and thank you for all that you do towards fostering the unity among Sint Maarteners here in the Netherlands.
It is my understanding that the theme for your Gala event is "Stronger Ties, Stronger Kingdom," and that you are paying special attention to the Kingdom Youth Parliament held in St. Maarten earlier this year. Your theme is both timely and fitting in light of the celebration of 200 years Kingdom and given that we are on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Kingdom Charter. As a result I have prepared a few words to share with you. Considering recent development I have enough material to talk about to keep you entertained or bored all evening. However, given the purpose of the evening I have limited my remarks to three main points on the theme, which I hope will inspire you.
On a first level, stronger ties and stronger Kingdom requires interaction and connection. In that context being here with you this evening reminds me of my student days in the Netherlands. When I first came to the Netherlands in 1979 there were few Sint Maarteners living and studying here. It was therefore always wonderful to connect and meet with persons from back home. By the mid-1980s that had changed and pockets of Sint Maarteners were forming throughout the Netherlands. As a result my brother Clayton, Marie-Louise and I organized a Sint Maarten get together at my home in Tilburg and friends came from all over the country to get together, fellowship and share experiences with each other. On another occasion, I learned of another initiative in Arnhem from a younger generation of Sint Maarteners in the Netherlands at the time. I had not been invited and was quite interested to meet them, thus I kind of invited myself (for the record that is not a habit of mine). It was clear that the number of Sint Maarteners studying and living in the Netherlands were on the increase. And while we were seeking ways to keep connected, our ties and connection with this part of the Kingdom and vice-a-versa were also increasing. Today almost 3 decades later the USC is carrying on the tradition of bringing our people together and keeping us connected away from home amidst our interaction with this part of Kingdom. I applaud your individual and collective efforts and encourage you to keep on doing so. I say so because you cannot realize stronger ties and a stronger Kingdom without securing strong connected parts – in this case Sint Maarten – within the Kingdom.
On a second level, stronger ties and a stronger Kingdom requires a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other, both as Sint Maarteners and as respective citizens of the Kingdom. I therefor trust that you, in keeping with our Sint Maarten values of respect for self and for others will not only be exemplary representatives of Sint Maarten in the Netherlands but that you will also serve as examples for addressing the challenges we face today within Kingdom. And while that may not be easy, I recommend that you have faith and draw from and build on the concept, that a stronger Kingdom must be about brothers and sisters being in it together as each other's keepers. That is in keeping with the iconic words of Queen Wilhelmina: "Steunend of eigen kracht, doch met de wil elkander bij te staan". And what better time to promote the idea of being your brother's and/or sister's keeper than during the Christmas season.
On a third level, stronger ties and a stronger Kingdom requires the further building of Sint Maarten as a strong brother, country and equal partner within the Kingdom. The building of Sint Maarten is a work in progress and in the past four years since obtaining the Status of Country within the Kingdom we have made progress. But we've got more, much more work to do and we need more people to continue the work. And who better to do so than you. Thus as you continue to study, work and build your connections and ties in the Netherlands, I wish to remind you that a stronger Sint Maarten and a stronger Kingdom depends on your contribution in the public, private and civic development of Sint Maarten. My brothers and sisters I say this because I believe that we won't get where we need to go as individuals, as Sint Maarten or as a Kingdom if we as Sint Maarteners don't take the wheel and travel down the road together. Sint Maarten needs you, you, you, yes all of us. It is because of that belief that I graduated from university on August 24th, 1987 and flew back to Sint Maarten on August 26, 1987. Now it does not have to be that extreme but I am sure you get the message.
In summary, it is imperative that you continue make connections, prepare and take steps to build a stronger Sint Maarten as a key pillar for a stronger Kingdom.
In closing, I commend USC for this wonderful initiative and remind you as Sint Maarteners and Friends of Sint Maarten present that the future rewards those who press on for good and for the progress of their own and others. For that is the spirit of the Christmas message. It is with that prospect to press on for a stronger Sint Maarten with stronger ties and a stronger Kingdom that I hereby on behalf of my wife Marie-Louise and myself wish you Ms. Gumbs, the chairlady of the USC board, all USC board members and all present a wonderful evening and a joyous, safe and peaceful Christmas!
God bless you and God bless Sint Maarten.
The Governor of Sint Maarten
Eugene B. Holiday