Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting Bill To Broaden Self-Government in the Virgin Islands
I am pleased to transmit with this letter draft legislation which would confer on the people of the American Virgin Islands much greater rights of self-government than that territory now possesses, including the basic right to elect their governor.
Local self-government is among the most cherished of American democratic traditions. This basic concept has persisted in our country from the town meetings of colonial days to the present pattern in which counties, cities, towns, boroughs, parishes and villages have vested in them the broadest authority to manage local affairs through instruments of their own creation and officials of their own choice. This nation is committed to the principle of self-determination and will continue to support and encourage responsible self-rule throughout the world and particularly in those territories under the jurisdiction of the United States.
The proposal to strengthen the control over local affairs by the people of the Virgin Islands is consistent with this Administration's earlier actions in proposing to the Congress legislation to restore to the people of the District of Columbia the fundamental right of home rule--legislation which I hope can be acted upon promptly. Our commitment to local self-rule is further evidenced by the Executive Order I issued last month substantially increasing representative self-government in the Ryukyu Islands. The special problems of other territories under the jurisdiction of the United States are the subject of continuing studies and appropriate recommendations will be made to the Congress as a result of that study.
It is clear that the American Virgin Islands is capable of exercising enlarged dominion over its own affairs without further delay. This community of more than 30,000 American citizens has demonstrated a maturity and capacity for stable, responsible government. Almost exclusively by local effort, it has capitalized on its magnificent natural features to build a promising economy. Dedicated leadership has instilled in all walks of life a responsive loyalty to our values and traditions. The demonstrated abilities, needs and desires of the people all point toward greater control over their local affairs.
A substantial measure of self-rule is already embodied in existing Federal policy and legislation. But the Organic Act of 1954 and certain related laws still withhold from the people some powers essential to full political maturity and some of the economic tools necessary to self-rule. I therefore recommend for early consideration the following changes in the Act designed to carry out the objectives discussed above:
1. Authorization for the people of the Virgin Islands to elect their own executive officials--the Governor and Government Secretary.
2. Apportionment of legislative representation to assure the most equitable citizen voice possible in the law-making body.
3. Transfer of the assets and activities of the Virgin Islands Corporation to the Government of the Virgin Islands, under terms equitable to both the Federal and local governments.
4. Authorization of the territorial government, under controls customarily applied in other American communities, to finance capital improvements such as schools, highways and other nonrevenue producing facilities through sale of full faith and credit bonds.
These changes will, when enacted, provide the people of the Virgin Islands with the means to attain that high degree of political and economic self-rule which we are convinced they are capable of achieving.
JOHN F. KENNEDY
Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In the third paragraph the President referred to Executive Order 11010 issued on March 19 "Amending Executive Order No. 10713 Relating to the Administration of the Ryukyu Islands" (27 F.R.
John F. Kennedy, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting Bill To Broaden Self-Government in the Virgin Islands Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/236340