This year’s holiday honouring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. coincides with the final week of the presidency of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, and the first African-American to lead the executive branch of the U.S. government in our 240-year history. Despite holding this tremendous honour, President Obama said in his farewell address last week that “race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. But we’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly 50 years after his life was tragically cut short, transcends race and serves as an example of what one person can do when he or she is committed to doing the right thing. He used non-violent means in the face of what many would call today racist, violent extremists. In his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King wrote “I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta [Georgia] and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham [Alabama]. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The future for Guyana is very bright. The economy has been doing well for a few years and is projected to continue on this path, although there are challenges in certain sectors. The already confirmed petroleum reserves guarantees that Guyana will have the revenue to allow it to develop industries and infrastructure and create a broad based economy with true value added, which means jobs and prosperity if done right. It also means that Guyana will have the money to fund activities that will allow Guyana to be even greener than it already is. In the spirit of Dr. King, I pledge to work with all Guyanese to ensure a secure, prosperous, and inclusive Guyana.
The mosaic of races, religions, and people of different ethnic backgrounds peacefully co-existing would make Dr. King proud. But, as President Obama says about the United States, all of us have more work to do.
I encourage all Guyanese citizens, and visitors like me who are fortunate to be here, to honour Dr. King’s memory today and throughout the year; and commit to acts of service in the community.
Whether it is helping an elderly neighbour, or teaching a child how to read, we can all make a positive difference, and collectively the result will be something we can all be proud of.