Good morning everyone.

It gives me great pleasure now to propose a toast to the nation, on this, the occasion of our 61st year of independence.

61 years ago, the red, white and black of our national flag flew proudly in the forecourt of the Red House for the very first time. What an eventful 61 years they have been. They have brought with them successes which have caused us to smile, and challenges which have sometimes caused us to cry. But, as that gifted son of the soil Helon Francis reminds us in his song “Mighty”, when we have cried, it has been for a short time; and when we have smiled it has stretched from mile to mile.

Today, we celebrate the smiles which nationhood has brought us over the last 61 years. In 61 short years, we have built ourselves a nation of which we can be justifiably proud. No other nation on earth has, in 61 years of independence, invented a musical instrument to which the General Assembly of the United Nations has seen it fit to pay homage, by declaring a World Day in its honour. No other country, in that time span, has produced artistes or authors the calibre of Denyse Plummer or Michael Anthony, both of whom we remember with gratitude today. They are among the hundreds of gifted daughters and sons who have, by their efforts and by their courage, helped shape and define who and what it means to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. No other place can boast of the spirit, the vitality and the hospitality of its people, that combine to make us as unique and as distinctive as we are.

This is the Trinidad and Tobago that we celebrate today, 61 years on. This is the Trinidad and Tobago that I have the signal honour of toasting. A Trinidad and Tobago to which I invite us all today to recommit, and in which to reconfirm our undying belief.

Join me, then, in toasting our beloved country, Trinidad and Tobago.