V.I. leaders should follow Mandela's lead

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As we ponder the passing of Nelson Mandela and what he meant to the people of South Africa and to the rest of world, I thought about the many, many ways he struggled to help the most vulnerable among us daily in thoughts, words and deeds.

He cut his presidential salary when he came to power in 1994 and handed over a further third of it as a regular donation to a children's fund.

That led me to think about here at home and why our elected leaders might consider emulating this profound gesture as well.

While grateful and commendable that the 30th Legislature ended fiscal year 2013 with $17,100 of its annual appropriation returned to the treasury - by a number of means including eliminating senators' cell phones, reducing travel-related per diem expenses, eliminating senators' personal use of government vehicles and reducing our fleet of vehicles, reducing paper use and utility costs and sharing space on St. John with other governmental entities - I wonder if those same savings - or even one-third of a senate pay check - could be used to help support in some ways the many struggling nonprofit agencies and community programs in our territory, especially those that are dealing with homelessness and the mentally ill.

It would make a profound impact in some small way to those who are in need, even for just a short period of time.

We have a serious crisis on our hands that truly needs attention in every way possible.

However I understand that those "saved" funds will be used to address what the Senate called "serious" capital project requirements and upgrades to the Legislature's equipment.

Just a thought to ponder as we hear more and more about this great man in the coming days and weeks and about what Mandela gave of himself and to the world in every possible way.

I will be donating one-third of my next paycheck in his honor to Catholic Charities of the V.I., and I hope others might consider doing the same to the same or any other worthy organization.

- Jason Budsan, St. Thomas

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