E kui ma, e koro ma e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
Ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Kate Young and Noreen MacMahon, Treasurer and Co-ordinator respectively of the Wellington Down Syndrome Association; Irene van Dyk, our guest speaker today, MC Jason Pine and most importantly our four award recipients – Alexander Walsh, Ben Taylor, Amy Lewis and Verree Henderson.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House today. This is the fourth time we have hosted the Frances Clarke Memorial Awards and we are delighted to once again take part in this very special ceremony.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most during my time as Governor-General has been the opportunity to meet outstanding young people from all around the country. New Zealanders can feel very proud of the talented, engaging and determined young people who are making their mark on our society.
Alex, Ben and Amy, the three young people who are receiving awards today, are part of that cohort. Their achievements in the arts, entrepreneurship and sport teach us important lessons about overcoming challenges and succeeding on your own terms.
Each of you has discovered areas where you can shine. By doing so, you are role models for others in our community. You are also helping to redefine the expectations of those who think that life with Down Syndrome is one of limitation rather than one of opportunity and excitement. Congratulations on your successes.
None of us achieve our successes alone. Alex, Ben and Amy will have had help and support along the way. That includes from their parents and caregivers, siblings, tutors, teachers and friends. They also deserve congratulations for the part they have played in supporting Alex, Ben and Amy, and helping them do their best.
We all have special people in our lives who help guide and teach us during our life-journey. While it may be their professional field, these are people who give a lot more than just professional care. They are people who make a reality of the statement “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Today we are recognising Outstanding Contribution Award recipient, Verree Henderson. The care, concern and hands-on help she has offered over the years have been a blessing to many local people with Down Syndrome and their families. Volunteers like Verree give many thousands of unpaid hours caring for their communities and it’s great to see their work and her work acknowledged here today.
I’m looking forward very much to hearing more about our recipients as they receive their awards this morning. When I think of their achievements, I am reminded of the words of former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
I hope you all feel proud of what you have achieved so far and continue to seek out new experiences and take up new challenges.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa