Marie-Louise and I are pleased to welcome and host you for this New Year’s Reception. Moreover we wish to acknowledge and extend a special welcome to the members of Parliament of Aruba and Curacao who are here with us this evening. To all present we hope that the evening will be an enjoyable one; one that will form part of your 2016 memorable moments. Tonight, as we gather here, we wish everyone present and across our sweet Sint Maarten land best wishes for the year ahead. May our country’s new year, in keeping with our motto on our national court of arms, be one of “Semper progrediens” for all.
It is in the spirit of our motto that I shall drawing from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., center my message on the topic: Bending our Arc towards Progress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many of us have spent the end of the old year and start of the New Year reflecting on the events and experiences of the past year that have influenced and shaped our lives. I have heard a variety of persons from a cross section of our community express their reflections. Some have done so privately and several others have done so publicly. While these reflections differ in elements and substance there seems to be a common thread that nationally experiences fell short of expectations. This expectations gap is in large part because experiences in the past year have been:
a. dominated by intense debates in regard to regulating integrity;
b. impacted by serious concerns in regards to violent crime, including the shooting and loss of police officer Benjamin in the line of duty; and
c. overshadowed by intense political differences and constitutional questions.
Recognition of this expectations gap is important, but even more important is: what do we do with it going forward? Will we use our expectations gap as a ground to complain and blame each other or will we use it to take purposeful action to pursue our motto to always progress? I encourage you to and trust that we will take purposeful action. That is action to bend the arc of our experiences towards our expectations for the further progress for our people. This is what we have always done and what we must continue to do in light of the challenges we face today. Challenges ranging from social-economic concerns – such as the quality of life of the elderly, the level of youth unemployment and the level of crime – to governance issues – such as financial constraints, political discord and constitutional differences. These are all issues that, if left unchecked will threaten our nation’s continued progress.
These observations in regard to our collective challenges and experiences, brings the following inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to mind, and I quote:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, ..…; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."
Placed against our reality I am sure that you would agree that Dr. King’s reflections on the correlation between progress, justice and effort are useful for our own considerations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In our context it is fair to say that, while we have our challenges, we are fortunate to live in a comparatively peaceful and prosperous Sint Maarten; a condition we cannot and should take for granted.I say this because too often there is a tendency by some not to recognize the progress we have achieved. I also say this because in highlighting our challenges and the urgency to address them, we sometimes fail to appreciate and celebrate the dedicated efforts and contributions of those – such as police officers, teachers, nurses and social workers – who day in and day out work on the frontline to make our nation’s progress possible. And in the case of officer Gamali Benjamin even giving his life for our progress. Efforts and sacrifices which should serve as the building blocks for purposeful action going forward.
Going forward there is, considering the expectations gap due to the challenges we face, good reason to take heed of the words of Dr. King that progress is not automatic or inevitable. And that there is work to be done if we are to continue to realize progress for all. Going forward you and I are therefore obligated to be unrelenting and committed in promoting a more just society anchored on the real potential of an educated, healthy, employed and devoted-to-country population.
The promotion of a more just society with improved opportunities and privileges based on the pillars of education, health care, employment, and devotion-to-country:
- calls for us to reexamine and invest in the educational preparation of our people;
- calls for us to continue to invest in the quality and access to health care for all;
- calls for us to invest in improved employment and economic opportunities for our people; and
- calls for us to strengthen our and to instill in our youth the values of mutual respect and appreciation for our nation’s cause.
The collective power of the interaction of these four pillars of a just society has the potential to bend the arc of our experiences towards further progress. This because of their collective impact on greater and equal opportunity for all and thus on the creation of social harmony, on decreasing crime, on increasing economic growth and on fostering unity.
Ladies and Gentlemen
To do so we must remind ourselves that achieving our national motto of always progressing cannot be achieved by one or two individuals. We must instead stand devoted and shoulder-to-shoulder.
It is in that spirit that I as your Governor hereby offer my shoulder and call on all to join me to use this year to dedicate our actions to the further building of the pillars of education, health care, employment and devotion-to-country for a more just Sint Maarten.
For it is only through such united and purposeful action that we can continue to bend our arc towards further progress and maintain Sint Maarten as a beacon of hope and opportunity for generations to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with that challenge and depending on us to tirelessly put our shoulders under the tasks ahead that I close, and hereby also on behalf of Marie-Louise, wish you and your family a year of peace, health, happiness and continued progress.
Thank you, God bless you, and May God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.