ON this date 50 years ago, Jamaica stepped forward as a sovereign nation with much acclamation, celebration, and pride.
It is therefore fitting that today we not only celebrate that decision to govern our own affairs, but recognise its importance.
Sovereignty gave us not only a much greater degree of control over our own destiny but also confidence, pride and identity as a people and provided the conditions for enhanced respect from the international community, a forum in which Jamaica has excelled.
Even before political Independence, back in 1957 while still a colony of Britain, Jamaica was at the forefront of the global campaign against apartheid in South Africa and was the first country to declare a trade embargo against that racist regime.
That willingness to stand for what is right and principled and to turn our face against injustice has defined us as a nation in the eyes of the international community. It's a reputation for which Jamaicans should all be proud and should seek never to betray.
We can reflect with pride on the pivotal role played by Jamaica, through its then Foreign Minister Mr P J Patterson, in forging the agreement that led to the original Lomé Convention in 1975.
Over the years, Jamaica has played an outstanding role as a member of the United Nations, directing international focus to important issues such as human rights, decolonisation, economic co-operation and, most commendably, women's issues.
We readily acknowledge that the past 50 years have presented us with serious and ongoing economic and social challenges, some of which were created by us. However, we also accept, and are proud of the fact, that this country has made significant forward strides since August 6, 1962.
This column does not provide enough centimetres for us to list all our accomplishments, that is why, with your indulgence, we will use this space today to commend our athletes for their magnificent performance over the years and, particularly, at the Olympic Games now under way in London.
We watched with pride the tremendous effort by young swimmer Miss Alia Atkinson last week, through to the gold and bronze medal victories of Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Mrs Veronica Campbell Brown, respectively, on Saturday.
Then yesterday, we, like all Jamaicans the world over, were exhilarated by Mr Usain Bolt's historic defence of his Olympic 100 metres title and the blistering silver medal run of his teammate Mr Yohan Blake.
We, of course, expect more medals from these games, and when they do come we will celebrate them.
Until then, we will continue to reflect on those who opened the doors for this generation of athletes, champions like Messrs Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, George Rhoden, Leslie Laing, Keith Gardner, George Kerr, Donald Quarrie, Bertland Cameron, and David Weller, as well as our incomparable women Ms Merlene Ottey, Jackie Pusey, Juliet Cuthbert, Lilieth Hodges, Grace Jackson, and Deon Hemmings, to name but a few.
Combined, they have contributed to this country's rich history and have given us much to celebrate.
We really couldn't ask for a better birthday present than that given to us by Mrs Fraser-Pryce, Mrs Campbell Brown, and Messrs Bolt and Blake over the past two days. It was indeed a well-timed gift for which this country is most grateful.