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Christmas Message from His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes, GCMG, Governor General, 2010

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My Fellow Bahamians: It is with a grateful spirit that I greet you during the Christmas season, a time of generosity and gift-giving. It was at the first Christmas that the angels sang, "Peace on earth to men of goodwill". Christmas is a time to renew our commitment to peace: peace in our personal lives, peace in our communities, peace in the world. It is a time of hope: hope for a new beginning, hope for a better way of life, hope for a brighter future.

As we look back on the year 2010, let us not allow the individual or collective challenges we may have experienced cause us to lose hope.

The worldwide economic downturn, the slow recovery from that downturn, and increased levels of crime, have all had a negative impact on the quality of life of many around the world and here in the Bahamas.

The year has also brought individual challenges to many who suffered the loss of loved ones, illness or some other personal challenge or disappointment.

It is during our more difficult times that we urgently need to recall both the symbolism and the reality of the Christmas message and the Christmas spirit.  That spirit includes the great joys we have experienced this year, despite the challenges, despite the setbacks. 

In this, my first year in office, I have experienced this joy in countless ways and in innumerable kindnesses.  Through many contacts and visits around our country, Joan and I have been moved and inspired by the goodness and generosity of spirit of the Bahamian people.

The opportunity to host various occasions such as awards ceremonies honouring outstanding citizens and members of our uniformed branches gave me an opportunity to see firsthand the dedication to duty and service by Bahamians in every walk of life.

There are so many kind and generous people who contribute daily and mightily to our common good and commonwealth.  These ordinary heroes do extraordinary things, not for recognition or reward.  They do these things because they are the natural outpouring of hearts flowing with generosity in gratitude for the gift of life and the blessings of our beautiful Bahamaland.

I thank the many churches who have invited us in fellowship and friendship to worship with them in their communities of faith and love.  I thank these churches for their outreach to those whose spirits, bodies, hearts and minds thirst for renewal and replenishment. 

Fellow Bahamians,

Despite the antisocial behaviour of some, the overwhelming majority of our young people are alive with promise, yearning for opportunities for growth, and eager to develop their talents.

I felt his eagerness as I returned to Inagua, the island of my birth, for the graduation exercises at the Inagua All-Age School.  They say that Inagua is one of our country's best kept secrets.  

Be that as it may, I have little doubt that the talents of the young people I met there will not remain a secret for long.  In the years to come, they will contribute generously to our national life.

They will be joined by other young people such as the students from Mangrove Cay, Andros, whose Crabs for Computers burst onto the national stage with exuberance and creativity.  Our visit to Mangrove Cay to help to present computers to those young Androsians thrilled my spirit and also replenished the crab pen at Government House.

We cannot forget the delight we felt as the young people from the Tara Project and students from primary, junior and senior schools from New Providence and from the Family Islands visited with us at Government House.

Inspired by those visits, I can make the bold claim that our young people are not just our future.  They are contributing to our national development today, like the girl in Grand Bahama whose talent has already attracted international attention, like the boy in Spanish Wells who taught himself to play the steel pan, and many others around our archipelago. 

They have captured our hearts as I know they will capture yours when you come to know them.  They will brighten your hope in the future of our country as they have brightened ours.

To them we express our admiration and dedicate ourselves to help by encouraging them and highlighting the wonderful and good things they are doing, good things which often go unrecognized.  To this end, we look forward to visiting with many more in the New Year, both in New Providence and the Family Islands.

I have no doubt that most of our young people will continue to prepare themselves to seize the archipelago of opportunities of a Bahamas that is moving confidently into the second decade of the 21st century.

I also wish to acknowledge the spirit of a One Bahamas which is broader and stronger than any differences we might have.  In the midst of those differences there are common, loftier goals and a commonwealth of principles we share across a far-flung archipelago whatever the circumstances of our birth and our lives.

The One Bahamas celebration I attended in Grand Bahama some weeks ago moved me deeply.  It was a magnificent demonstration of a Bahamian Imagination which combines the gifts and the diversity of The Bahamas into a single purpose and a common cause.

That cause and purpose is to inspire all Bahamians to share in the richness of a land overflowing with opportunities and promise, to imbue every Bahamian with the spirit of unity, and zealously to guard the territorial and spiritual integrity of our One Bahamas.

In this spirit I recognize and thank those who help to make the many promises of The Bahamas a reality.  This includes hard-working public servants in various departments, business people, union leaders, leaders in civil society, as well as those in the creative community.  All of you enrich our lives today and nurture a future that we also share in common.

I especially acknowledge and express gratitude for the extraordinary work of the men and women of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force who daily put their lives on the line to maintain the peace and security of our Bahamas.

I thank the parents, teachers and youth leaders who mentor our young people.  Rather than simply criticizing our young people, more of us might consider how our own behaviour either contribute positively to their growth or set a bad example for them.

I thank the various government officials, including the staff at Government House, who have been so generous in their service, including the organizing and hosting of events for Bahamians and visitors at Mount Fitzwilliam.

Fellow Bahamians:

As we approach 2011, let us rekindle the message and the spirit of the Christmas Season.   The Christ of Christmas went about doing good: he healed the sick, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless, and preached Good News to the poor and lowly of heart.  May we do likewise in a spirit of generosity and gratitude. 

Even as we engage in this season of gift-giving, may we always remember that respect, civility and service to others never go out of season.  They are the perennial demands of good citizenship and personal discipline.

In the spirit of gift-giving perhaps we can ask ourselves what gifts we can share with each other beyond Christmas and throughout the New Year.  What more can my neighbourhood or community do?  What more can my church do?  What more can my sorority, fraternity, civic club or service club do?   What more can my business or union do?   What more can I do?

As I close my Christmas message, I ask us to continue to pray and to respond generously to those in need, especially the less fortunate in our community.  Let us remember the children and young people in the care of various agencies and institutions.

Let us also respond in charity and compassion to those who are sick or dying, those who need healing of body or mind, as well as those separated from their loved ones for various reasons, including those overseas who cannot be at home with us.

My Fellow Bahamians:

Joan and I join with our entire family in wishing each and every one of you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

May God bless you and your families, and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.