'Social problems worse than economic challenges'
The following is an excerpt from a speech delivered by John Issa at the 2010 Duke of Edinburgh's Awards Function.
It is always uplifting and inspiring for me to participate in these events. The 143 young Jamaicans, who are receiving bronze and silver awards today, are good examples for our nation's youth.
The awardees today are members of an army of 2,325 young people who are currently registered in the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards Jamaica. All these participants are guided by 255 generous volunteers in this great personal-development programme.
I say it is uplifting and inspiring to be here because this wonderful group of young Jamaicans gives us hope for the future of our beloved country. For a number of years, the social environment in our small, proud nation has been sliding down a slippery slope to anarchy. The daily slaughter of Jamaicans by Jamaicans clearly demonstrates the extent to which anti-social behaviour has taken root in Jamaica. Less violent examples of anti-social behaviour are seen in the levels of corruption that infect almost all corners of our land.
So the young awardees who we are here to recognise and honour today have to face the challenge of reversing these trends and changing Jamaica for the better.
I know that this is a great burden to place on the shoulders of these fine girls and boys. However, if they can influence their schoolmates for the better, and then those who they influence do the same, there will be hope that the next generation of Jamaicans will do better than the last. These young people, infused with sound values, will also have a positive impact on their families and communities.
Jamaica's economic difficulties have dominated the news for the last many months. And, yes, the economic situation is a serious problem. However, I put it to you that the social problems are far more damaging to the quality of life of our people than the economic problems. Additionally, they are far more difficult to solve.
Therefore, any economic recovery programme which does not have, as an essential component, a recovery programme to deal with anti-social behaviour and illiteracy, among other social ills, will not improve the quality of life in our country in the long run.
This great programme could not function without its leaders. We must, therefore, show our gratitude to the 255 volunteers who give freely of their time to the participants in the programme. They are heroes who are quietly working to make Jamaica a better place.
Now, I am not saying that this programme alone can solve all our social problems. But it can contribute greatly to the solution. Therefore, I ask all our sponsors for their continued support, while I thank them for their past support of the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards.
I also want to thank the Government for its ongoing support in the schools and institutions, and use this opportunity to ask that this support continues and grows.