Christmas is a time when we reflect on what has occurred over the past year and also look forward.
In particular, we think with fond memory of those events which have brought us together with families and friends.
As ever, people enjoyed celebrating both the annual Bermuda Day Parade and, of course, Cup Match, two important events in the calendar which mark this island’s history and heritage and which are rightly much anticipated by families across the island each year.
We also had the chance to celebrate a new event in April: the World Triathlon Series.
This was a top-class event which I know included not just much professional organisation but also enormous voluntary effort. Athletes and visitors alike enjoyed a warm Bermuda welcome from the community.
And Flora Duffy made history with her wonderful performance earning the gold medal.
We can all be proud of her achievement and coming out of that successful event, Bermuda is scheduled to host further World Triathlon Series events over the next two years and in 2021 will host the World Triathlon Series Grand Final.
2018 also marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. A recorded total of 544 Bermudians served in that dreadful conflict.
They came from the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, the Bermuda Contingent Royal Garrison Artillery or joined the Allied Forces independently.
We remembered the contribution made by these brave soldiers through a number of events on 11 November — with church services of Remembrance, the annual Parade on Front Street and local church bells being rung across the island.
The day’s events culminated in a beacon lighting ceremony which took place on the grounds of Government House later that evening to mark the light that came into the world with the armistice following four years of war.
Bermuda is rightly proud of its veterans, both then and now.
They and their families deserve our respect for their service and for making, in some cases, the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our way of life.
I also know that we can learn a lot from our elders.
Intergenerational learning, as it is called, promotes greater wellbeing, understanding and respect between different generations.
It’s more than just a simple exchange of knowledge and skills between the young and the old. It also shows a commitment to collaboration and respecting cultural differences.
In my visits to the island’s seniors’ homes, I always enjoy speaking with the residents and hearing stories from their childhood about growing up in Bermuda.
I encourage the island’s young people to take a moment — indeed more than a moment — to sit down and speak with their grandparents, or great-grandparents, to learn what they can about their family history, the history of the island and the lessons they have to pass on.
During the year I attended many events involving Bermuda’s young people. I was especially pleased to join members and staff of the Mirrors Programme in the spring clean-up of Fort Cunningham on Paget Island.
I was able to discuss with a number of the participants their voluntary work both at Fort Cunningham and elsewhere.
It was fascinating to learn about the remarkable history of the fort and to meet so many people giving back to their community.
One of the issues which I find young people are passionate about is the environment and particularly the risks we face from pollution and climate change.
I was pleased to speak at the Ocean Risk Summit held in Bermuda in May.
The Summit was an opportunity to bring together leaders from business, Government and the scientific community to help identify risks to our oceans and to generate new and dynamic solutions to help tackle the environmental challenges they face.
One of the most significant risks to the oceans today is that of plastic.
The elimination of single-use plastics was an initiative which all of the team at Government House took to heart this past year. We have virtually eliminated all such plastics from events at the House and in our day-to-day operations.
As part of this initiative, I asked the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides to let me have their ideas on how to reduce pollution and, in particular, plastic pollution in Bermuda.
I received many letters with excellent ideas and I was pleased to host young people from the two groups at Government House and present them with wind-up radios, including mobile phone chargers, in recognition of their imaginative solutions.
I would encourage all of us to do what we can to reduce plastic waste and in 2019 look to reducing, recycling and reusing as much as possible.
By doing so we can help to protect this island and make our own contribution to tackling a global problem.
And going back to what we can learn from our seniors, many of them, like my own parents, grew up during the Second World War era where food was rationed, and “reuse” was not just the catch word of the day but an essential way of living.
Finally, this year I have again been pleased to visit parishes across Bermuda, meeting members of Parish Councils, children and teachers in primary, middle and secondary schools and attending churches.
Churches of many different denominations but filled with people who share their belief in God and a sense of service to others.
And I have been equally pleased to meet those of other faiths, from the Jewish community, the Muslim community and others of different faiths and indeed none, who also share that sense of service to the community and are an integral part of who we are.
I hope that at this Christmas we can all take a moment to give thanks for the values we share and the good things we have, living together with tolerance and respect on this beautiful island.
I wish all of you and your families a very happy Christmas.