Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.
I often reflect on these words, the words I grew up saying so often I can never forget them. They are so very a part of my life and psyche that I believe my world view is partially shaped by them. Recognising this as a possible truth is something that is relatively recent, within the past five or so years.
Repeating these words throughout my primary and secondary education was simply by rote. I knew and recognised it by its poetic rhythm but not the meaning. It was simply a ritual. In Prep School we said it at the beginning of every week of school, in High School only at the first and last assembly of the semesters. The words, were just that, words. They had no meaning and held no significance to me, my heart, or my life. Just words said by tradition.
As time passed, I could recall the words when needed, with a fumble here and there. I was able to say them with the crowd at various national events and even when hearing school children say them. They were undeniably a part of my mind, permanently placed there by years of repetition. Then something happened…
Visiting my fabulous sister in Texas, I decided to teach my niece the superstar about the other side of her culture – Jamaica. I taught her the National Anthem, went on to the National Song. Half-way through the National Song, I started to buck and realised I had forgotten the words! I felt SO ashamed. I looked them up, and proceeded to teach her all these national songs and prayers of Jamaica.
Subsequent that moment, I entered a discussion with a friend, AJ, about our symbols as he was most curious about Jamaica. (Like many Americans, he had not left the US with the exception of his military deployments.) When listening to our Anthem he was amazed that it is a prayer, and said maybe that’s why his country is always at war because theirs celebrates war. (Bombs bursting in air etc…)
The whole direction of the conversation after that got me thinking about the words we all repeated religiously growing up. If we understood the meaning of the words, we would see them differently, see our nation differently, see ourselves differently. Specifically, it says two things:
- I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens
- I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race
The selection of symbol may be selfish, because it pretty much sum up how I look on life, the world and my role in it. First it asks that we pledge to serve one another, it then asks that we promise to stand up and work together for the advancement of mankind in all that we do. I believe not only is this my duty, but the duty of every human being on this planet. I strongly believe in the greater good, and standing up for those who are unable to stand for themselves. I believe we as individual can be better, we can choose to not discriminate, to love each other, to be kind, to be honest, to be tolerant, to be just. I however accept that not everyone sees the world as I do. I do believe that by my actions and my choices I can influence those around me to be better people. They can influence those around them, and so on and so on. This has been summized in two statements that now influence me daily:
Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Ghandi
I’d rather influence the influencers. ~ Rick Warren
Let us daily choose to “Play OUR part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”