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A Time for Endings and Beginnings


Dear Source:
It is January 2007. For all those who can read this, God has already blessed you because you have survived into the New Year. Further, where there is life there is always hope; and we all go into new years with great anticipation. January was named to honor the Roman god Janus: the god of gates and doors, endings and beginnings. This god was represented with a double-faced head — one looking forwards, the other looking backwards.
Similarly, for many of us, January is the time when we turn from old resolutions and make new ones. Interestingly, this January is also the time again in U.S. Virgin Islands history, when there is a changing of the guards. Not as panting, famished runners, but as graceful actors on a stage, moving to the rhythm of time's curtain call, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull passes the baton of leadership to Gov. John P. deJongh.
Whatever our positions were in the last series of elections, or however we feel about these two leaders, for one the leadership of these islands is past actions and facts. For the other, it is a future filled with hope and anticipation. As Olasee Davis, Senator Berry, the Daily News, and the members of Christ Church-Methodists have started to do, we can all look back, and list what can be considered Gov. Turnbull's legacy — whether one sees failure or success. He had eight years to touch our lives and to shape these islands. The debate on how he did will go on way beyond our time. But what Gov. Turnbull has written in the annals of the Virgin Islands is already there.
The greater challenge is to Gov. deJongh. He has a clean slate. He is charged to write and he must write. He is now the islands' leader. But as Gov. deJongh assumes leadership, it is still as Dickens noted years ago: "The best of times and the worst of times." When Gov. Turnbull took the reins of leadership in January 1999, the islands were staring at bankruptcy. The governor began his first State of the Territory address by noting: "The state of the territory is precarious." Today this is
not the case. Salaries have been increased and paid. There is a solid sense of hope on the islands. We now have two docking ports on St. Thomas.
Structural revitalization has taken place on St. Croix. Gas price on St. Croix is not as stifling as it is on the other islands. St. John is getting its docks. Ideas about a V.I. industrial park and a stock market are still alive. Home ownership remains a reachable dream for many Virgin Islanders. And, finally, although still with some reluctance, the islands are accepting their Caribbeanness.
At the same time, there is a lingering malaise haunting our systems of education and public safety. Too often children slip through the cracks by middle school and become crime statistics a few years later. Homeless and mentally challenged people in our communities can go unseen and unheard. Directionless parents at 14 and 15 years of age continue to raise directionless children. Despite our being surrounded by places of worship and a relatively good health care system, divorce, AIDS, greed and a growing sense of hedonism pervade our societies. The Virgin Islands remains one of
the most expensive places to live under the US flag. And, despite what is shown on the surface, these islands are still in search of real healing. For many of us there are still festering ulcers of hate hidden away until the next call to a radio station. For others, like the use of marijuana, it is a private high done quietly and in secret. But the telling stench lingers on the clothes and in the hair.
During the next four years everyone will expect the governor and the Legislature to take the lead making decisions that benefit, not burden their lives. Though coming from a financially supportive business sector, Gov. deJongh won the election largely through the numerical support of the
working class. Now, his challenge is not to fall into the trap of the money that sponsored and propelled his campaign. It will come at a cost if he ignores the cries and concerns of the poor and the powerless, and listen only to the claims of the wealthy and powerful.
Together they did. Now, let it be that together they all can!
Leadership is much more than the influence and power it affords an individual. It is also an awesome humbling experience, in that leadership allows one individual to receive the trust and confidence of thousands others as he or she acts. Further, as we move into the twenty-first century, a sobering view of leadership is that it can and should be a transforming experience for leaders and for those being led. As Adler (2002) noted, "It is not the desire for the position nor for the power per se that should motivate one to seek his/her country's highest leadership positions, rather, it is their commitment to a compelling vision of what society could be, or what society must be." May God grant all leaders in this new government a special compelling vision. And may each one, especially Gov. deJongh,rise to the challenge set out by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "We have a responsibility in our time as others have had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history, but to shape history." For the next four years this will be the overwhelming charge to all our leaders.
Whitman T. Browne
St. Thomas

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