Editor's note: Following is the full text of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's second inaugural address, delivered on Jan. 6, 2003, in Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas.
Reverend clergy; Senate President Almando Liburd and Mrs. Liburd and other members of the 24th Legislature; members of the incoming 25th Legislature; Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, former Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II and Mrs. James; Presiding Judge Maria Cabret and other members of the Territorial Court and the judiciary; members of the cabinet and senior staff; visiting heads of government; Director Nikolao Pula and Mr. Edgar Johnson representing the deputy assistant secretary of Insular Affairs, Department of the Interior; other distinguished guests; members of Turnbull and Richards families; my fellow Virgin Islanders. On behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands, I would like to thank Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II for his service to the people of the Virgin Islands during his tenure in various capacities.
Today, this sixth day of January 2003, I stand before our Creator and you, my fellow Virgin Islanders, in this historic place where so many of my predecessors have stood, as I do today, to be sworn into office as your governor, but, more so, as your humble servant. You have conferred on me the high privilege of appearing for the second time to take the oath of office as governor.
With a grateful heart and deep humility, I acknowledge the confidence and trust that you, my fellow citizens, have vested in me. It is my solemn pledge to commit every resource of mind, body and soul to this endeavor and to continue to work unceasingly to improve the quality of life of all Virgin Islanders.
As an historian and an avid student of the history of our beloved Virgin Islands, I am well aware that all of my recent predecessors, and many before, have made various contributions to the advancement of our society and of our people.
It is for me to continue to build on the accomplishments of this and past administrations to leave a legacy upon which those who follow us can build.
My administration has led Virgin Islanders through the sunset of a century and a millennium and through the sunrise of the next. We have made a number of advancements in various areas. We avoided a federal takeover. We initiated an Economic Development Authority, which has attracted an ever-increasing number of investors, especially on the island of St. Croix, thereby growing our economy. We have made significant improvements in our infrastructure and I can go on and on.
However, we are not here to boast about past accomplishments, but to look ahead to the brighter tomorrow that will come. A brighter future will, to a large extent, rest on our ability to grow and sustain our economy.
It is our duty to give hope to those whom we lead and serve. We have been entrusted by this generation of Virgin Islanders with the responsibility to be compassionate, honest and fair in the application of public policy. We will respond to the needs of our seniors, the physically challenged and disabled and our most precious resource, our children.
Fiscal responsibility is the cornerstone of good government and achieving a balanced budget. Revenue collection, responsible taxation, expansion of the tax bases and accountability at all levels lead to a more responsive and open government. This administration will continue the path begun and will implement those policies that will result in a government that is fiscally responsible and responsive to the critical needs of the people of the Virgin Islands. We recognize that economic progress fulfills the promise of equal opportunity. An improved quality of life depends on a high-performance economy.
To meet the challenges of our anticipated economic growth, we will continue to focus on the education of our youth as our top priority. An educated society is a productive and progressive one. Quality education is the key to economic and social opportunities and effective participation in a democracy. We shall improve our educational system from kindergarten through secondary school and beyond.
High standards for achievement are a shared responsibility of family, school and community. Our children come first. Mandating rigorous assessment and evaluation at every grade level will be implemented to push performance levels and to create the environment in which learning and teaching become the driving force for positive change. Let us continue to work for a Virgin Islands that focuses its resources and energies on the education and training of our people.
Affordable health care is a basic human right. Every Virgin Islander is entitled to quality medical treatment, from prenatal to long-term care for the elderly, including mental health services and early detection and prevention of disease. To achieve these goals, we will develop state-of-the art mental health facilities on both St. Thomas and St. Croix, and construct the much-needed cancer center at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and the cardiac treatment center at the Juan F. Luis Hospital.
We must continue to pursue making our streets, homes, schools and communities safe and work tirelessly to protect residents from being victimized by a small, ruthless gang of unscrupulous criminals. To them we say: We will not give in, and we proclaim with a unified voice that we are unwilling to witness or permit the undoing of the peaceful lives and pursuits to which we, as a people, have always been committed.
We are resolved to develop moderate home-ownership opportunities and to improve the overall conditions of our towns and neighborhoods. We will aggressively advance long-planned capital improvement projects to energize economic activity and pursue repairs and replacements to our aging infrastructure. We will work for and achieve lasting solutions to our traffic, solid-waste and waste-water problems.
We must work together in hope and with unity of purpose to establish a sound financial base whose objective is providing our people with opportunities that will foster a business-friendly environment designed to bolster our struggling economy while putting our people to work.
Special emphasis will be given to growing the economy of St. Croix. We will continue to attract investment opportunities to build new industries and additional hotels and resorts in St. Croix. We are committed to broadening our partnerships between the public and private sectors.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards and I believe that effective representation can be achieved through greater self-determination. This administration supports and will advocate convening a Fifth Constitutional Convention to draft a constitution that addresses the future political, social and economic development of the territory. This will allow for more effective government and a structure that is responsive to the needs of all residents and enhances and empowers local autonomy for the islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas through municipal government.
We Virgin Islanders take great pride in being Americans. We have paid every price in war and in peace, in good times and in bad, that other Americans have been summoned to bear. We will always do thus. It is only fair and just that we be entitled to all the benefits of United States citizenship. This includes voting for president and vice president, as well as full voting privileges in the Congress. We should also enjoy the symbolic recognition granted to the states and have a naval ship named after the Virgin Islands in respect for the sacrifices of our servicemen and women.
In addition to being proud Americans, we are people of the Caribbean. The rich cultural heritage of the Virgin Islands is part of that of the wider Caribbean. We advocate participation in regional meetings directed at establishing stronger cultural and economic ties between our neighbors to the east, from the British Virgin Islands down to Aruba, and our neighbors to the west, from Puerto Rico, inclusive of Vieques and Culebra, the Dominican Republic and beyond.
It is my hope that when fut
ure generations reflect on this day and the journey that Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards and I undertake, that they will recall this as the continuation of the voyage to better government which was begun four years ago.
I intend to continue to be a humble servant of the people and to keep faith with the life's mission of one of my mentors, Jose Antonio Jarvis, one of the most insightful Virgin Islanders, whose motto was, "I try to make my sojourn here a useful interlude."
My fellow Virgin Islanders, I close this address by reminding myself and you that despite all the changing scenes of life, in sunshine and in shadows, in high point and in low point, of the dying words of a great man of faith, John Wesley: "The best thing of all is that God is with us." Working together in unity and respect, with the help of Almighty God, we can and must make the desert bloom.
May God bless us all as we go forward to achieve His work here on Earth. God bless the United States of America and God bless the United States Virgin Islands. Thank you.


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