We Are Stronger Together
Merry Christmas Virgin Islands. As we come together with family, loved ones and friends, let us reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon us, despite a very challenging year.
Christmas brings with it a time for reflection and renewal. We reflect on the life of a child born in a manger to parents with no bed to lay his head. We reflect on the journey of Mary, Joseph and those wise men that came with commitment, to greet their new King.
We observe this season of peace and spiritual dedication at a time when our Territory is facing the challenge of our lifetime. Many of us are uncertain about the future and look towards 2018 with great trepidation. We look to our leaders, be they spiritual, community and yes, political, to provide some direction, guidance and importantly, to provide some hope. Hope that will inspire us to make the right decisions for our lives, and for our families.
Many of us are still struggling to make sense of our existence following Hurricane Irma. In less than 24 hours our entire lives changed. But in seeking understanding, I am reminded by our historians that the Virgin Islands was once before, almost 200 years ago, at a similar place where we find ourselves today.
Following the passage of the great hurricane of 1819 over 100 lives of our ancestors and slave owners were lost. The entire economy collapsed as slave-owners left the Territory and our ancestors were left with the ruins of the land and their lives.
I imagine that in the days and months following that storm, they too had similar emotions to those we experience today. Faced with the decision to seek new lands or to be overtaken by the rubble that remained, our ancestors knowingly or not, chose to pave the way for you, and for me. They chose to look deep within themselves and began to lay the foundation for who we Virgin Islanders were to become – independent, tenacious, hardworking, and yes, resilient. With that ancestry, we have been able to achieve great things, together.
Together we pushed for greater independence and the managing of our affairs. Together we moved successfully from an agricultural economy to a service based economy. Together over the years we opened our homes to visitors and ushered in a unique and at times even intimate tourism experience for our visitors on land and on sea. Together we built a formidable financial services sector. And together we built a community and economy that welcomes citizens from as far as Asia and as close as the Caribbean. Our solidarity is the lifeline on which our accomplishments have been achieved and it must be the hope on which we rebuild.
As your leader, in the last few months following Irma I have worked tirelessly on your behalf, but will endeavor to communicate better, my vision for our Territory; a vision that you the people of the Virgin Islands voted for.
Despite the challenges brought on by our recent devastation, our shared vision continues to see the people of this great Territory live a prosperous life, a life protected by law and order, and one that allows social and economic inclusion. It is a vision that seeks to empower each Virgin Islander, and a vision to build a Territory with a profound and unyielding pride in our history, our culture and our possibilities. It is the sense of pride that should make all of us, from school children, to parents, to teachers, taxi drivers, public servants, contractors, and to our political leaders work earnestly to do right by this Territory.
On my own, I know that I cannot rebuild the Virgin Islands and restore it to the prominence we all once shared, but together just like our ancestors following that Hurricane of 1819, I know we can prepare the way for the next generation of Virgin Islanders and residents to realize a life we cannot yet imagine. And this is the moment and spirit we must seize to do this.
I speak to all of our political leaders and also our civil servants when I say that there is a duty that is calling on us, to do better. I myself must do better as your leader and to you the civil service of the Virgin Islands, from the custodians to Permanent Secretaries, we must all do better to build and maintain the systems on which this Territory will thrive. I call on all of us to work with a sense of urgency in whatever job description to perform dutifully, with humility and with great reverence for the charge we have as protectors of the prospects of these islands.
Our family members, our neighbours, our young people are depending on us to get the rebuilding of the Territory right. We will be concentrating on restoring services, rebuilding our schools and securing a strong local economy. However, at the same time, we must look to the future and imagine and begin to engineer a Virgin Islands with green energy being provided to all homes, with students innovating and using technology to help us solve problems, one where each home is connected to affordable and fast internet, one that has a public service that is as much online as it is personable and agile, one that stands united with authorities in saying we will protect the lives of all of our children and weed out those that threaten our peaceful existence, and a Virgin Islands that is a beacon of hope for those looking for a better life.
Virgin Islanders and friends, as we reflect on this year and offer thanks for the many blessings we still have, as we stand on the eve of 2018 please consider all that I have shared and let us all recommit ourselves to being just like that baby, born in a manger thousands of years ago, and rededicate ourselves to serving our community and serving the Virgin Islands.
As we close this year and look to renew our commitments for the year ahead, I ask that God will be in the midst as we make decisions on the future of this great Territory, may his teachings guide our hearts in our interactions with one another, and may we remember always the promise that God gave us in the birth of his son, Jesus Christ.
On behalf of my wife Lorna, my family and my Government, I wish the entire Virgin Islands, a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad and best wishes for 2018.