A picture of Representative Donna M. Christensen
Donna C.
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    Nelson Mandela

    by Former Representative Donna M. Christensen

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    CHRISTENSEN. Thank you. I want to begin by thanking you, Congressman Fattah, for bringing us together to dedicate this hour to the life and legacy of an iconic leader, who has truly fought the good fight, has now finished the race, and always kept the faith, our beloved Madiba, President Mandela of South Africa.

    And to say to Congresswoman Fudge, as I was honored to join her and my other colleagues and our codel leader, Congressman Aaron Schock, at the funeral of President Mandela in Johannesburg on Tuesday, I am again, honored to join all of you to speak on behalf of my constituents, the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, in tribute to this great man.

    Behind me is a picture of the sign that marks the site of Mandela Circle in St. Thomas. It was given that name in jubilant celebration when he was released from prison after 27 years. And through it, the people of the Virgin Islands have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela every day.

    I want to especially recognize and remember someone who I honored several years ago, a gentleman named Dale Rodgers, who, from the time the circle was so named until he died, took it upon himself to sweep and maintain the area so that it would always be a fitting tribute. The St. Thomas St. John Environmental Association will host a community gathering at that site on Saturday.

    In the days since December 5, the people have gathered there with signs and flowers and have adorned the area with black and purple ribbons. There have been vigils and other ceremonial tributes.

    Our flags, like flags across the country, were flown at half staff. And our Governor, John P. DeJongh, Jr., in tribute said, and I quote: The people of the Virgin Islands have a deep love and respect for Nelson Mandela and all that he came to represent. Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to Virgin Islanders and to aspiring democracies and free nations around the world.

    Tomorrow, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands will host a public tribute. Our Senate President, Shawn Michael Malone, said in remembrance, and I quote him as well: The world has lost a civil and human rights champion and oppressed people everywhere have lost a splendid example of sacrifice, discipline, commitment and resolve to end injustice around the world.

    On Sunday, on St. Croix, one of our Senators, Senator Terrance Nelson, will lead a festive celebration of his life in Frederiksted's Buddho Park, which is the historic site where enslaved Africans seized freedom for my ancestors in the then-Danish West Indies in 1848.

    But even when these celebrations are ended, it is my hope and prayer that the essence of why we celebrate Madiba remains firmly planted in our hearts and minds, for it would be the real tribute to a man who taught us how to be resolute in our fight for justice and equality to the end, and that love, peace and reconciliation is a better path for us and for the world than hatred, conflict and retribution, in fact, the only way to true freedom.

    To his wife, his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, to his extended family and all the people of South Africa, we extend our deepest sympathy, but also our deep appreciation, for you have given us, the people of the Virgin Islands, our Nation, and the world, a beautiful gift that has enriched our lives and inspired us to be better human beings.

    I consider myself blessed not only to have met him, but just to have lived in the time of Nelson Mandela and to be able to personally bear witness to his life and legacy.

    Madiba loved the CBC. The CBC loved and will always love Madiba.

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