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27th Legislature Sworn In with Raucous Celebration, Reverence

Jan. 8, 2007 — Marching in to the music of the Charlotte Amalie High School Symphonic Band, members of the 27th Legislature took their places on stage Monday for swearing-in ceremonies at Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas.
Well wishers and supporters packed the garden, along with government officials and members of the Legislature's central staff. As the ceremony progressed, a large number of tourists drifted into the crowd, drawn by the soulful voices of individuals chosen to sing the national anthem, "Virgin Islands March" and other musical selections.
While a group of residents stood solemnly in the background, protesting raises recently enacted by the 26th Legislature, the mood throughout the event was joyous, with the audience frequently erupting in long bursts of applause, accompanied by cheering and shouts of congratulations to the senators onstage.
The cheering crowd reacted with enthusiasm to dignitaries such as Gov. John deJongh and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, along with former Senate President Lorraine L. Berry, who responded with bright smiles and waves.
Before the ceremony began, senators took time to talk to audience members, shake hands and pose for pictures. Many sported large smiles, excited to participate in Monday's ceremony. Others, such as St. Croix Sen. Figueroa-Serville, kept the mood light by making funny gestures for the camera.
The tone changed, however, with the invocation, presented at the beginning of the ceremony by the Rev. Dr. George A. Franklin, principal of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School. Franklin asked the group to "put people before party, progress before politics … wisdom before ignorance and courage before cowardice."
"Let them come together on the essential things and disagree on the petty things," he said. "We pray that the meeting of the mind, body and spirit be the binding force of the 27th Legislature."
The audience met Franklin's words with a loud sigh of agreement, many residents shouting "amen."
Politics still played a part in the ceremony, however, as members of the Senate's new majority — a coalition of 10 senators dubbed the People's Majority Caucus — noticeably distinguished themselves from minority senators, wearing dark navy or black suits with gold ties and handkerchiefs. Senator-at-large Carmen M. Wesselhoft, also part of the majority, wore a yellow shirt under her blazer, with yellow flowers pinned to the lapel.
While members of the Senate's minority did not coordinate their outfits, all senators stood as one unified body while taking the oath of office, administered by Judge Darryl Donohue, presiding Judge of the V.I. Superior Court.
Senators were serious as they took the oath, standing straight with right hands raised as they promised to "support, obey and defend the laws of the Constitution of the United States … and the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Donohue, after administering the oath, left the group with a hearty "congratulations."
Monday's ceremony was also interspersed with various musical selections provided by representatives from St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. While the CAHS band played at the beginning and end of the event, St. Thomas resident Malvern Gumbs moved the audience with his rendition of the national anthem.
St. John resident Shekima Jones had the audience clapping with her version of the "Virgin Islands March," and St. Croix residents Ellery and Sasha Evans received a standing ovation for passionately singing "Lift Evr'y Voice and Sing," the black national anthem.
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