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Danish Ambassador Joins Senator in Addressing Transfer Day Crowd

March 31, 2009 — The 92nd annual Transfer Day commemoration Tuesday at the Lawaetz Family Museum in Little La Grange, Frederiksted, was more about the future than the past.
Danish Ambassador Torben Gettermann, down from New York for the occasion, said the Virgin Islands and Denmark need to face two pressing challenges: economic crisis and global climate change.
Sen. Wayne James, who gave the keynote address, talked about the importance of celebrating the 100th anniversary of Transfer Day in eight years.
"Do we want to celebrate the last 100 years, or do we want to celebrate our first year of independence?" James asked.
The senator also told the audience of approximately 300 people about a speech he gave earlier this year before the Danish parliament. He asked the Danish lawmakers whether the Danes wanted the relationship between the Virgin Islands and Denmark to grow stronger or to diminish. This is a critical time in the relationship because many who understood the original relationship are dying off, James said.
Gettermann, who spoke before James, said global climate change is an issue that needs addressing because changes are already taking effect. He pointed out that in December Copenhagen will be the site of negotiations to develop a treaty to follow up the Kyoto Accords.
The St. Croix Landmarks Society and the St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society sponsored the event, which also included remarks from Soren Blak, consul general, St. Thomas; Lt. Gov. Gregory A. Francis; Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of Tourism; Anne Thurland, St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society; Robert Merwin, chairman of the St. Croix Landmarks Society; and Ullmont James, from the office of Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
The delegate's representative gave a brief history of the negotiations to transfer the islands from Denmark to the United States. He said negotiations began in 1864 and had on-again, off-again status up until the final deal was made in 1917.
Sen. James said that he has sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting that the Virgin Islands and Denmark be able to negotiate independently without going through the U.S. State Department. He said he had avoided the bureaucracy of going through the State Department to speak before the Danish lawmakers by simply representing himself instead of representing the Virgin Islands.
"This was a great event," said Hans Denkov, a visitor from Denmark. "I enjoyed the speakers, especially Wayne James — he really gave food for thought."
Besides the speakers, the festivities included performances of the national anthem of Denmark, the "Kobenhavner March" and "Hvor Smiler Fager." The music was performed by St. Croix Central High Band and the Santa Cruz Brass Ensemble. Elementary school students from the Pearl B. Larsen Quadrille Dancers performed for the crowd, which included a number of Danish visitors.
"The celebration was wonderful, as usual," said Ellen Kuhlman, a local resident. "It is always good to see so many different people get together."
Her husband, Phil Kuhlman, said the couple has a special feeling for Denmark.
Along the road outside the entrance to the grounds were lined up more than 20 representatives of school support staff and paraprofessionals, protesting offered pay increases.
"We are essential workers," said Karen Quinn, administrative support staff. "It is an insult to offer less than $1 a day increase."
Signs held by the protesters called the government's recent offer "insulting."
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