For as long as I can remember we have been selling the Virgin Islands to tourists as America's paradise and I agree, for one or two short weeks, to an outsider, the Virgin Islands can be paradise. But for those of us that live in the islands, life here is no easy task. And yes, there are many challenges we face on a daily basis here in the territory; and unfortunately, many of those challenges are of our own making. What is clear is that more often than not, through our choices, we make our lives much harder than need be, and through our decisions we cause our lives to be more difficult than they should be.
I was born and raised here and, although I attended Xavier University, I returned home because I love the Virgin Islands. I love its beauty, culture and people. As a Virgin Islander who obtained my college education off island and has returned, I have observed, with great disappointment, that we have become our own worst enemy. Many have questioned my return and are puzzled as to why I passed up the many opportunities to live better and make much more money in the United States.
I am sure many others love the Virgin Islands as much as I do, yet we save our money, sell our land, mortgage our homes, take on additional jobs, and extend our working years to send our children away to school. Why do we do this, so that they can get better paying jobs in the States? They become attorneys, doctors, nurses, engineers, and leaders of large companies: all professions we need so desperately here in the territory. We sell our souls, yet are resentful when someone must fill the need. We deny qualified islanders high-paying jobs and contracts because they are of the wrong political party, come from families we dont like, or simply because we have personally decided they would make too much money. At the same time, we resent non-islanders we have had to bring in because we do not give our locals our high-paying positions for reasons that rarely have much to do with their qualifications.
Most know that returning home after college is hard because jobs arent paying enough. It is even harder for Virgin Islanders to return to low-paying jobs after tasting the wealth of the big jobs in the States. And we push them to stay and make as much money as possible. But, is this a wise path to take for the long run? I am troubled that we will continue to work hard to send our children away for a higher education and not expect or encourage them to come back to the Virgin Islands to improve our paradise. My concern is that by continuing to do this, whose paradise will our territory be in the future?
It has become apparent that if we continue to be blinded by our local prejudices our territory will never be in a position that will allow our families to see future generation remain. Without our young people to shape our future, we will have no future. We will lose our culture, uniqueness and our independence. This is not to say we should not have those from off-island working in the territory, but rather I want to stress that we cannot improve our territory if we continue on the path of unsound reasoning and unfounded resentment. How can we expect our young people to return if this is how they are valued? How can we expect our territory to progress, be competitive and respected in the world if we treat those that we must bring down with such contempt? We must open our eyes! Until we begin to make decisions based on the best-qualified individual to perform a job, we will never have an economy that is self-sustaining.
My difficulty lies with all the complainers who complain about individuals coming from the states or down-islanders taking away jobs. These individuals are doing the same thing we send our children to do in the States. These individuals come to the Virgin Islands because they see opportunities; which is exactly the same thing our children are doing: looking for a better opportunity. For those of us who believe off-islanders are taking our opportunities, we must look deep and accept that many of these opportunities are not being taken away by those from off-island; we are giving them away because we are pushing Virgin Islanders abroad to be educated and make a better life for themselves away.
Yes, it is true that the government doesnt pay the salaries necessary to lure these qualified individuals home and improve our Islands. The private sector has a few jobs, but not enough. Therefore, only a few options are presented to Virgin Islanders. Many are taught to get a good education so that you can go to the States or so they can work for the government and get a retirement check. I am not knocking working for the government, as the retirement system, I am told, is one of the best under the U.S. flag. However, as long as they work for someone else their salaries will always be capped, and they will never be able to live to their full potential, as someone else determines their value through their salaries, whether it is the government or a private company.
There is a third and little-discussed option and something that is rarely taught to children growing up in the islands — to open your own business. Kudos goes out to Jamilla Harris, who currently teaches children how to open, operate, and be successful in business.
Our overall goal should be to create a territory where the quality of life is better for all of us. To do this we need a balance of qualified individuals here in the territory. Yes, some will come from off-island and they deserve our respect. But we should also strive to kept our children home, value them, support their endeavors whether it be to open a business of their own or lead our large local companies. Therefore, it is wrong for any of us here to be resentful or negative about others achieving success, because those of us left behind struggling daily each had (and have) a choice. It is wrong for us to teach our children not to come back as there is nothing for them here, then complain when individuals come to the islands and open successful businesses, as we can choose to offer them greater respect, jobs and salaries when they do return. We are wrong to complain about others having businesses here, when we as Virgin Islanders dont support our own businesses. Finally, we are wrong to sell the illusion of paradise to the world when we have chosen to create a life of less than paradise for ourselves.
Candidate for Senator
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