This letter is in response to the May 22 statement of Nathan Simmonds, the director of the Office of Fiscal and Economic Recovery Implementation, allegedly justifying the salary increases for top government officials. Mr. Simmonds suggested that asking top governmental officials to accept financial concessions somehow sends a discouraging message to future generations. He reportedly stated, "Are we suggesting to our youth that they should prepare themselves to assume leadership roles in this government, but once they get to the top they will be subject to financial sanctions?" (See "Senators send governor's bills to committee".)
This statement reflects a philosophy of entitlement that serves only to cripple what could otherwise be a progressive community. When individuals are motivated primarily by power, money and prestige, they are concerned only with themselves. These are the values of a dying world.
Instead, when people are motivated by service, the focus is on others. On the contrary, Mr. Simmonds, the message should be that leaders, as public servants, should be committed to the well-being of the whole community. These leadership roles should be reserved for those with nobler pursuits, including but not limited to fiscal integrity. Individuals who are primarily driven by their own financial agenda should be encouraged to pursue their goals in the private sector.
There is a marked difference between a politician and a leader. A politician's agenda is often motivated by money, prestige and power. In pursuit of their own personal agenda, politicians lack the vision of the community's interrelatedness. On the other hand, a leader seeks to serve — whether or not he is getting paid. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were leaders who considered themselves as public servants.
Coretta Scott King said that it was not a personal agenda but "the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King's character and empowered his leadership." (See the Web site for The King Center.) As a presidential candidate, when confronted with the effect his religious beliefs might have on his ability to be president, John F. Kennedy promised that on the day he could no longer be a conscientious public servant, he would resign his office.
This philosophy is not reserved only for elected public officials, but is for all of us as individuals. In President Kennedy's inaugural speech, he emphasized, "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country." The present-day philosophy of entitlement is directly contrary to the principles embraced by both Dr. King and President Kennedy.
The Virgin Islands is experiencing a crippling fiscal crisis — some say we need a miracle to survive. Very few, if any, politicians have been credited with changing the world. Nevertheless, instead of finger pointing, perhaps this latest fiscal crisis provides the Virgin Islands community with the valuable opportunity to change its perception from a philosophy of entitlement (What's in it for me?) to one of service (What can I do to help?).
When cancer strikes, a normal working cell no longer functions in contribution to the whole, but goes off to build its own little world, resulting in a malignancy that threatens and sometimes destroys the whole. We, as Virgin Islands residents and government officials, can no longer afford to attempt to escape responsibility by pointing fingers and imposing judgment upon others. Instead, it is time for our governmental officials to commit to working together for the benefit of the people.
Further, although there are many individuals who volunteer their time and resources for worthwhile causes, as individuals we each have our own responsibility to ask ourselves what we can do to help
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