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On Island Profile: Clifford Alexander Christian

Oct. 23, 2005 – Clifford Alexander Christian was born in a time when St. Croix was more like a close-knit family. He recalls those times with wistful fondness. There was more parental guidance and direction in the home. Dinner was a family affair, every day you were served your meals, prepared by your parents, and you made due with what you had. Young people carried their workload in the home and had to work at a trade during the summer. There was a lot of communication between church, home and school.
Today, things are different, he says. "Even the government lets the people down," Christian said. He is deeply troubled with the way things are in the Virgin Islands today. As a former educator – Christian is retired from the public school system after 31 years of service – he is most troubled with the education that the children get today. "There is mass confusion in the schools, the government is not taking a leadership role," he says.
"Where is the truth that produces hope," he asks. "My hope is dim, I have almost no hope at all."
Christian, 65, was born in Frederiksted on April 11, 1940. He attended St. Patrick's School and began teaching fifth grade at the Charles H. Emanuel School in 1963. That same year he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He did not want to go.
"They had to come and arrest me to make me go," Christian said. "It's my theory that American citizenship was thrust upon us." During the time of the 1916 transfer of the Danish West Indies to the USA, Danes could preserve their citizenship by making a declaration before a court. If you didn't, you were automatically deemed a U.S. citizen.
Christian said life in the Army had a profound effect on him. After serving in Puerto Rico and Fort Jackson, S.C. he was assigned to Panama..
"I learned how people could survive under communism and poverty, it had a tremendous effect on my life," Christian said.
After the army, Christian returned to his old job. He continued his education by studying in Puerto Rico during the summer and completed his credits stateside. Christian received his Masters Degree in Education Administration from New York University. He accepted a position as assistant principal at the Juanita Gardine Elementary School where Evelyn Williams was the principal. The school at Estate Paradise was later named after Williams.
"She was a master educator, " Christian said. He honed his skills at that school and was soon appointed principal at the Eulalie Rivera School in Grove Place.
He said at Rivera School he established a close bond with teachers, parents and students. He established competitive programs at the school.
"We were in every competition," Christian said. "Geography, math, spelling, science, we entered them all – and won." Christian said during his tenure the school formed a steppers group. "They were called the Clifford A. Christian steppers but later another principal changed the name." The steppers performed all over the Virgin Islands and traveled to the U.S., Christian said.
Christian said that the school often ran short of supplies. He said once there were not enough books for the students and he used his contacts in Puerto Rico to get them. He also said he bought two pianos on credit and the parents helped the school pay the bill.
"They said we had no money," Christian said referring to the education department. "We had to do something."
During the week you can find Christian at his usual spot under the gallery on the corner of Fisher and Prince Streets in Frederiksted, selling lottery tickets and collecting the rent for apartments he owns. People stop and talk and he even gives advice to the street people, the homeless and drug addicted.
Diabetes has diminished his vision but his fighting spirit is still as strong as ever. He is a regular caller to afternoon talk shows where he shares his insights on politics and other current events. Radio listeners know him by his deep authoritative voice and by his nom de plume, "Rumors, Predictions and Warnings." Christian said his most famous warning is "The worst is yet to come."
If you sit for a while under the shade of the gallery with Christian, he will share with you his views on life in the Virgin Islands, as it was and as it is. "The problem is the leadership, it's money versus honesty," he says. Which one wins out? Take a trip down to Frederiksted and find out.

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