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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, February 6, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesGreat Things Happen When People Take a Stand

Great Things Happen When People Take a Stand

March 25, 2005 – In May of 1787 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, fifty-five of the most distinguished and respected Americans met at a meeting called the Constitutional Convention. Among them were Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin. At the time, delegates from the former British colonies had questions and concerns surrounding the issues of taxation, slavery, and the establishment of a strong central government. Many of the delegates openly argued and debated among themselves, but in the end they were able to create a Constitution that has existed for over 200 years.
The people of the Virgin Islands are once again embarking on establishing a Constitutional Convention, and in so doing charting a new direction for these wonderful islands. There will be debate and compromise, and during this very difficult and time consuming process, civility and respect must always be demonstrated. In forming a Virgin Islands Constitution many questions will need to be asked and answered. What role will the various political parties play in adopting a V.I. Constitution? Will the issue of St. Croix self governance be addressed? Will a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights section be included in the Constitution? Will personalities and egos divide the Convention? I do not have the answers to these questions, but I do know that the people of the Virgin Islands must be included in the process for the Constitutional Convention to be successful. I commend Governor Charles Turnbull for having the courage to tackle this very complex issue in his last months in office. I commend Sen. Ronald Russell, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone and the other senators of the 26th Legislature for presenting different opinions to the general public. Without differences of opinion, we can never move forward as a people, and to those who say that a V.I. Constitution will never become a reality, I would like to point out some recent events that have taken place here in the Virgin Islands.
First, many people have vehemently decried Delegate Donna Christensen's position on establishing a Chief Financial Officer for the territory. The delegate was told publicly on several occasions by high ranking government officials that her CFO legislation would never pass through the United States Congress. However, the people of the Virgin Islands are just weeks or months away from a CFO managing our financial affairs.
Second, there has been an inaccurate perception that has existed in the community for decades that parents in the Virgin Islands do not care about the quality of education provided to their children. Recently, though parents, teachers, and students of Central High School have debunked that perception. They took a stand, and asked that the needs of Central High School be more closely examined by the Turnbull administration, so that Central could once again become an accredited school.
Third, I remember when people told former Sen. Carlton Dowe, that his bill to establish a V.I. Supreme Court would never gain the support of other senators. Fortunately, members of the 25th Legislature had the wisdom to unanimously vote on approving the bill to create a V.I. Supreme Court.
And finally, I was brutally informed by family and friends that the White House and Senator John Kerry would never respond to my 12 day nonviolent crusade for the Presidential vote, but on August 10, 2004, Senator Kerry, the White House, people around the world, and people throughout the Virgin Islands acknowledged my conviction and commitment to the cause. My family and friends were wrong and the people who dismissed the creation of a V.I. Constitution are also wrong. Great accomplishments can occur when people take a stand.
In conclusion, all the different leaders, organizations, and political parties must assist in the creation of a Constitution that will bring people together regardless of their political, social, or economic position. When Hamilton, Madison, and Jay published the "Federalist Papers," they understood the importance of educating the populace about ratifying a Constitution. These are historic days for the people of the Virgin Islands, and every Virgin Islander should take a moment to educate himself or herself about the Constitutional process. I have tremendous hope that a consensus can emerge that will ultimately result in the creation of a document that will also last for the next two hundred years.
Editor's note"Edward Browne is a guidance counselor at Positive Connections Alternative Education School. He is also the executive director of the Edward L. Browne Center, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing illiteracy in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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