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Trinelle Corbin.

Barbadians have been admonished to return to their roots as they focus on the true meaning of Independence.

The advice came from Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley as he addressed hundreds of Barbadians who turned out for last night’s annual Sagicor Life Lighting Ceremony in National Heroes Square – the official start of Independence Celebrations.

Following is the full text of the speech, which coincided with the theme of this year’s celebrations, Craftsmen of our fate: Inspiring Pride and Unity.

As you know, there are three major national events organised by the Community Independence Celebrations Secretariat within the ministry. The first one, the Official Launch, which took place on August 25, today’s Lighting Ceremony and Bajan Folk Brew, and the final event, Spirit of the Nation Show, on November 17.

These national events represent the culmination of a entire year of hard work on the part of the Community Independence Celebrations Secretariat, the Parish Independence Committees the Parish Ambassadors and members of communities across the island.

During the year, they all work together to encourage Barbadians of all ages, of all walks of life, to embrace the concept of what it truly means to be independent.

Even from the earliest years of its history, Barbados developed a reputation for its individualism, for its unique way of doing things. Historians record that this island became very different from the other colonies around us. In more recent times, you will recall that in December, 1966, our first Prime Minister, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, National Hero and the Father of Independence, declared to the international community that in Barbados, we would be “friends of all, but satellites of none”.

In other words, we would chart our own path, mindful always that, as the saying goes, there is often as much independence in not being led as in not being driven.

This is a philosophy that we need to remember more than ever today, when we are bombarded from all sides by foreign cultures and foreign practices. Our own national identity is constantly under threat. Our understanding of what it means to be an independent nation may often become blurred.

It is vital, therefore, that as we go into this Independence month of November, that we pause, and reflect on who we really are, as Barbadians. We should reflect on what it was that, not so long ago, allowed us to be able to boast of having strong, close-knit, productive communities, at the core of which was, of course, the extended family.

As we celebrate Independence, we must not only understand what it is that we mean by being independent, but we must do everything as citizens to protect that independence. We all have a responsible to live up to the ideals of nationhood, to take prudent decisions based on what is real rather than what is imaginary.

At this time our country, like countries all over the world is experiencing the worst recession ever.

You know they are no quick fixes. No ‘pie-in-the-sky’ promises will return us to high productivity and resilience. We have to clothe ourselves in our national flag and believe that it is only by dint of hard word and belief in ourselves and in God that we will ride out this economic storm.

This Government has laid out a responsible and sustainable plan to recovery. Let us all play our part as we reflect on all that this great country represents. And as we reflect, let us pray for the recovery of our family members and our brothers and sisters in the United States following the passage of hurricane Sandy.

So Independence for us must be a state of mind. Independence has to be understood in relation to how we see ourselves, how we see our families, how we see our country. The extent to which we are prepared to accept responsibility for our own lives. It is true that in today’s world, sometimes referred to now as the “global village”, there is growing inter-dependency.

For us as individuals it is our responsibility to avoid being dependent on others. Our children, our homes, our faith, our health, our work ethic – as we mature, we should accept that these are all our responsibility. We must not sit and wait for others to do things for us.

We owe it to ourselves to learn as much as possible about our history, to come to understand how incredible our achievements have been in a relatively short space of time, and to ensure that we continue on the path forward.

For instance, we often take for granted the fact that we live in a democracy. Some of us treat this privilege very lightly, failing to look around the world and see how much blood is shed every day, as people fight, often prepared to give their lives, for the privilege of being able to live in a democracy.

We have to treasure our democracy, and guard it carefully. Remember the words of Mahatma Ghandi, who counselled that “To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self-respect, and their oneness”.

And so, as we enter into this month of Independence celebrations, I encourage you all to spare a thought for what Independence means to you. I know that increasingly, celebrations of Independence are being overwhelmed by early preparations for the celebration of Christmas. While Christmas is indeed a most important occasion for us, let us nevertheless take the time to celebrate the blessing of independence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I could not end without saying very special thanks to Sagicor Life, Inc., title sponsor for this Lighting Ceremony and Bajan Folk Brew. Your continued generosity is very greatly appreciated. Thank you helping us to strengthen our communities.

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