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Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding congratulates President Barack Obama

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding gives a statement to Parliament on the assumption of office by Barack Obama as President of the United States Of America:

On Tuesday, January 20th, Mr. Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. He is the first Afro¬American to assume the presidency, a historic feat which, until his election on November 4th last year, many thought to be unlikely, if not impossible. No other American presidential election has so commanded the attention of the world and excited people all over the world.

President Obama’s ascension to the highest office of the most powerful nation in the world may not precisely have fulfilled the prediction of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who, in 1964, declared that America would have a black President in less than 40 years but it is undoubtedly a product of and a monument to the work and sacrifices of Dr. King and countless others who fought and struggled and suffered to secure equal rights for black people and persons of colour in the United States. The image of Nelson Mandela watching the ceremony on television with tears streaming down his face said far more than any words can express.

Watched by millions of persons who crammed the US Capitol and hundreds of millions who watched on television screens allover the world, Barack Obama took the oath of office reaffirming his commitment to the process of change on which he had campaigned, exhorting the American people, individually and collectively, to take greater responsibility for the state of their union, portraying to the world an America with a different face and promising an America with a kinder heart and a warmer embrace.

We must recall history to appreciate the profound significance of the civil rights process and President Obama’s achievement. There are at least a dozen of us in this House who were eligible to vote in Jamaica prior to 1964 when black people in America were not allowed to vote. It is a truly remarkable, historic moment and we in Jamaica celebrate this moment and rejoice in the achievement of Barack Obama as if he were our own.

We are encouraged and we have reason to be hopeful. President Obama has signaled that his presidency will make a difference. Consistently in his utterances and his interaction with the American people he has inspired in Americans and in people across vast oceans and continents the belief that the world is on the threshold of something new and something good. The world is at a turning point…the world is at a moment of change.

We must not, in the excitement and euphoria of the moment, underestimate the enormity of the challenges which confront the new US President. The world is caught in the grips of the worst economic crisis we have seen in our lifetime. There are seething political conflicts in parts of the world which threaten peace in the world and its chances for prosperity. Armed conflict which should have no place in modern civilization rages in troubled parts of the world.

Barack Obama has been called to lead the most powerful nation in the world when the world faces its most awesome challenges. But President Obama has demonstrated a profound understanding of these challenges as he shared with us his vision of a new world of peace, a world in which our preoccupation must not be on the accumulation of its weaith but on the reach of its prosperity.

It is our fervent hope that, despite the crowded agenda which President Obama must have, the interests of developing countries like Jamaica, so often left on the periphery of the global agenda, will be part of a US policy framework which recognizes that shared, broad-based development is the surest way to secure and maintain peace throughout the world and ensure global prosperity and stability.

Jamaica has already taken steps to engage the new US administration on issues of concern to us, the Caribbean and the wider Latin American region. We look forward to pursuing these issues with President Obama at the Summit of the Americas which will take place in Trinidad April 17-19. I will be meeting with a number of Caricom leaders in Barbados next week and we will begin to develop the agenda of issues for a new engagement between the United States and the Caribbean.

I have conveyed to President Obama the commitment of the Government of Jamaica to the strengthening of the long, friendly and productive relations that have existed between our two countries.

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