Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Calvo's 2016 State of the Island Address

Governor Eddie Calvo's 2016 State of the Island Address
Posted: Mar 31, 2016 5:21 PM Updated: Mar 31, 2016 7:21 PM 
State of the Island Address 2016

Lt. Gov. Tenorio, Madam Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, Congresswoman Bordallo, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, but more importantly…

Manelu’hu, manaina’hu, yan I man’hoben,

Welcome to the Guam Capitol District! Look at how beautiful this city has become. This museum will be open in a few months. Paseo renovations are underway. I can’t wait to deliver next year’s address in the Guam Congress Building next door. And I have to tell you, as a son of Hagatna, a resident of Agana Heights, and a worker in the capital, I’m so happy that some of the best restaurants opened up shop here. We welcome even more business. We welcome artists, performances, tours, and the return of the government of Guam to the seat of government.

We have even bigger plans for this place. I received the Hagatna Master Plan for consideration. And in it, this city really looks like the Paris of the Pacific.

I was inaugurated at the Plaza Kiosko over there five years ago. That’s where I laid out my goals as your governor. My agenda, in whatever we did with the issues at hand, was to restore confidence in ourselves, and to get us believing again in our ability, ingenuity, and place in this world.

I followed that speech a few months later by declaring the state of our island was fragile. Then in 2012, I said the island was improving. The next year, we were growing. And then we were strong, and growing stronger.

Today the state of our island is growing confident.

It’s time we confronted the fact that, for nearly 400 years, the state of the island has also been colonial. It is the unchanged and unrepentant shadow cast upon our unshackled destiny.

Confidence may be the one trigger that can change our colonial state once and for all.

Evidence of our collective confidence abounds.

More businesses expanded or opened shop the past year. That probably explains the additional 900 jobs and growing paychecks.

More people earning more money meant that the poverty growth rate would slow. It didn’t just slow. It reversed. In 2015, we recorded the first reduction in SNAP utilization in 10 years. The homeless count also went down, while more families moved into homes.

This improvement in the economic stability of so many on the fringes – seen just five years ago as unrealistic – is the result of your hard work and every pat on the back that you gave your neighbor to succeed.

Our focus on poverty and the middle class stirred a culture of empowerment. Once people got their heads above water, they began to exercise and make healthier choices. The data backs this up with the number of fitness centers, sports enrollment, and preventive care going up. This is in addition to data showing that we’re buying less alcohol. These dramatic improvements will translate into fewer diagnoses of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Healthy people are happy people, and happy people pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Our children and teenagers, whom we call iGen, understand that we prevent poverty by creating opportunity. This generation is paving its way to success. The graduation rate has been going up, while the drop out rate is on the decline. More students are going to college at GCC and UOG.

All these indicators of the state of our island are promising. But it’s the explosion of interest in the arts and the humanities that makes me beam with pride. Like never before, we are seeing young people picking up instruments, dancing, acting, protesting, singing, painting, sculpting, writing, rapping, filming, and debating. And for the first time since the 2,000 census showed a decline in Chamorro language use, we now have data showing that we’re turning the river back. Over the past five years, the Hurao Academy has produced 615 new Chamorro-language speakers.

I want to thank all of you artists and cultural revivalists. Because of your work, I get to hold my head up high when I open the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts right here in this city. Ladies and gentlemen, this will be a sight to behold. Over 3,000 Pacific artists will join ours in the world’s most beautiful display of solidarity, fellowship, and progress. This is a time for us, my dear people, to rediscover our roots and bond in the glory of our history and our customs. Celebrate the talent and courage of Guam’s greatest thinkers and masters of our traditions. Discover just how brilliant this Pacific Ocean shines with the cultures and talents of islanders throughout.

An event this size requires years of planning. For reasons we don’t need to dwell on, my office was informed less than two years ago that FestPac would fail without our intervention. So we took over the coordination. We raised the money. We organized the partnerships. And we managed the progress of 88 subcommittees that all pulled together to turn this story around. I want to thank everyone involved with this remarkable effort, especially my Deputy Chief of Staff, Rose Ramsey, who is the lady in charge of this whole thing.

What I described above is how the state of our island has improved the quality of life of many people. But there’s more to do, because there are more people whose lives need to improve as well.

These are my initiatives to improve the state of the island in the short term:

First, we’re going to put more families in affordable homes in two ways. One, we’ve brought a developer who will build beautiful, family-sized homes for below $100,000 on Chamorro Land Trust lots. Two, we’re going to infuse Guam Housing Corporation with the money to issue more mortgages for families who the banks deny. In order to do this, I will introduce a bill that assesses a fee on major real estate transactions… and I’ll be speaking with Sen. Barnes over the next few days to get this done.

Second, we’re going to market and promote the technology, cultivation, and consumption of locally-manufactured products, starting with agriculture.

Third, we’re going to push even more resources into our wellness and health outreach programs, and into the facilities we need to encourage fitness. Those programs are working. They are convincing more residents to exercise and eat better, to stop smoking, stop drinking, and to stay off drugs. We’re going to match this vigor with more sidewalks, bikepaths, rehabilitated parks, sports fields and facilities in the villages, a new fishing platform, the new farmers’ market, and the renovation of the Paseo Stadium.

Fourth, Senators, I want to work with you to figure out the ways and means to build more athletic facilities and to pave more village streets. I’d also like to see how we can further support Dr. Judy Flores’s plans for Inarajan.

And lastly, the Hurao Academy’s success at producing hundreds of Chamorro language speakers says that immersion works. We’re going to work on a way to support our mayors so that they can provide immersion programs in every village. We must increase the number of Chamorro language speakers.

The state of the island is confident partly because the state of your government is strong. It is a government that manages its resources and finances responsibly, values its employees, and delivers services better as a result.

I could run through a list of agency achievements, but we don’t have all week. So let me summarize with some perspective.

We are now on the fourth year of paying tax refunds on time, without borrowing a cent. By the end of April, we’re set to release another $40 million in refunds. That will cover the next 13,000 refund checks.

You haven’t heard of a payless payday in the executive agencies, or the cutting of hours, or the trimming of services. As a matter of fact, we’re providing more services. Thank you, GovGuam employees.

If you want to know where the biggest increases in cost have come from, I’ll gladly tell you. EITC has doubled in just one decade. That’s an unfunded federal mandate. The solid waste federal receiver decided to stop paying debt service on the Ordot Dump bond. So we’re paying for it now. Another federal mandate. And, finally, Medicaid costs are ballooning.

Yet, we’re paying the bills, even the ones Uncle Sam left for us. And despite the occasional cash crunch or procurement problem or overtime that wasn’t budgeted, finances are no longer what cripples government. The financial condition of your government has bred progress in services.

How else could there be resources to fix potholes and pave village roads? From school buses to sanitary inspections and hot meals for the elderly – this government functions, and it prioritizes its resources to its three most important services.

You all remember the crime wave that started in 2011 and consumed us for the next two years? Lt. Gov. Tenorio made it his mission to rebuild  the Guam Police Department and shuffle resources. He hired more officers, increased patrols around your homes, established neighborhood watch programs. The police let the criminals know that they were watching. Indeed, thieves think twice about stepping foot on private property now that Sen. Tony Ada’s Castle Doctrine is law. The facts speak to a community that took back the streets. The numbers of reported burglaries and assaults have gone down. Of the reports that were made, the data shows a dramatic increase in the rate of arrest. This means that even with fewer reports of these crimes, our police officers are catching more criminals than they could just five years ago. That, my dear people, speaks to the commitment to excellence of the Pacific’s finest police force.

When I was a senator, the daily problem had something to do with the Department of Education. There were threats of payless paydays. Millions in salaries were withheld from teachers. The facilities were just rotting. No toilet tissue for the kids. Aircons breaking. Books gathering mold in storage rooms when there was a shortage. That’s not even 10 percent of the list.

We addressed many of these problems, and perhaps we can list those accomplishments another day. All throughout the country, states and territories that adopted the Common Core standards were warned: expect test scores to drop when you implement the Common Core. This is because the standards are higher. They’re more rigorous. And it’s true… test scores dropped throughout the country. But not in Guam. Almost every grade level tested with higher proficiency in English, reading, and math.

I’m sure there are many reasons for this upward trend in education, but allow me to focus on a few. First, it is proven that the biggest influence in a student’s success is the classroom teacher. Teachers, great job. Kudos go to the principals, parents, support staff, the mayors and community leaders, and to the students themselves.

The improvements that led to these achievements are the result of leadership that is inclusive and unafraid of change. When it comes to public education, I no longer worry like I did in 2011. Jon Fernandez, you and your team along with the Board of Education have really changed this island for the better.

The government has made some significant progress, but we still have our faults and failures. We still face the frustration of issues that persist, despite our hard efforts. Well, we’re just going to try harder.

The most important of these services is medical care. Guam Memorial Hospital provides life-saving services from the most caring doctors and nurses around. And no matter who you are or how much is in your pocket, they will care for you. That makes GMH the worst business model you can think of. That hospital is bleeding cash and needs a transfusion right away. It also needs new and renovated facilities, both for current services and for new services.

To make this all possible I am withdrawing my bill that appropriates the Legislature’s lapses to GMH and I’m encouraging a better solution. I am asking the Legislature to support Sen. Rodriguez’s partnership with us in financing $120 million in capital improvements, $30 million of which will be an immediate cash infusion. This is on top of revenue-generating programs we are implementing. We can secure a low interest rate if we do this now, and we identified the repayment source. If we do this, along with Sen. Rodriguez’s bill that authorizes public-private partnerships, we will stabilize GMH for the foreseeable future.

The next priority requires our Washington Delegate’s help. Congresswoman Bordallo, I’ve sent my support to Congress and the President for Puerto Rico’s EITC measure. That will fill the tax refund account to full capacity within just two years if it becomes law. I implore you to lobby that issue and follow up our push for Medicaid and TEFRA parity.

It’s also time for DOE’s third-party federal agent to pack its bags. And it’s time for the solid waste federal receiver to pay his bills and leave. We can free up $160 million if we just get some equity and justice on these federal issues.

But just as we get that movement going, another federal problem happens. Tourists are waiting 3 hours in line at U.S. Immigration at the airport. We have brought this issue up to the federal folks on the ground here, and their bosses in San Francisco. Nothing has changed. We even offered to pay for more officers to get the lines going. Still, nothing. And then they surprise us with the sudden drop of visas for skilled workers. This action will cripple our construction and medical industries, among others. Margaret Metcalfe will be knocking down some doors in Washington over the next few days. And I’m going to call the Secretary of Homeland Security and reason with him. The federal government is strangling us everywhere. Now, their actions are affecting our number one industry! It is unacceptable and, more importantly, it’s damaging to Guam.

While the root of many of our problems in government stem from federal law or regulations, we, too, are guilty of problems we either created or failed to resolve.

First is transparency. We came to office and we opened everything up. We rescinded gag orders. We took pride in giving the media the information they asked for. What we weren’t prepared for was the increasing frequency of requests for information, and the scrutiny that mounted with it. Reporters, I want you to know that I understand you are doing your jobs. I want you to know we’re committed to transparency, and we’ll keep working at it.

To help with that is another objective that has been painfully slow. And that’s our IT initiative to get more services and information online. I’d rather save everyone’s time  and put all public documents on the government’s websites. Instead of you waiting four days for a FOIA response, you can just click on a site and be on your way. We’ve got nothing to hide, and you’ve got every right to access your government.

And last, I know the negotiations are happening in good faith, but it’s taken so darn long to deliver a teacher contract. I promised I would sign it and I am eager to keep my promise. I want to thank the negotiating teams for the progress they are making. I just ask that we get that contract on my desk soon.

There are other problems that need greater attention, I understand. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.

A few days ago in that city, Pope Francis said this, “We see and will see problems both inside and out. They will always be there. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control our hearts.”

Some of my advisors lament the criticism we get in the media. Every now and then there’s the feeling that some people are being nit-picky about things.

Let me show you what the media was reporting in 2011, when we started.

Now let me show you some of our recent headlines.

I’m glad that teenagers have the drive to protest and stand for what they believe in. I think we are blessed that the daily story isn’t how we’re going to survive, but what we can do better with every little thing. Five years ago, we were worried about the government’s inability to deliver life-saving services that paying tax refunds on time wasn’t even on the radar.

Together, my dear people, we raised the level of conversation. The standard of living has improved to the point, where people can breathe with their heads above water and notice the imperfections of paradise.

We now have time and give attention to the environment we sacrifice in the face of development. We can have public discourse about a tree. We dissect the investment we make into the arts. These were not discussions we were having just five years ago. We were just trying to survive then.

Do we have problems? Of course we do. But boy have we solved a lot more problems than we have now. The problems that remain – they’ve always been there. We just now have the luxury of thinking about them because we’re not drowning in the others.

The criticism that I really like, though, is that we’re dreamers… that the things we want to do are just too far from the realm of possibility.

We were told we couldn’t pay refunds on time.

And that we couldn’t eliminate the almost-$400 million deficit.

Or that we couldn’t work harmoniously with Jon Fernandez to institute education reforms.

Or that a Republican governor would open the statute of limitations in favor of sex abuse victims, and agree with the Democrat vice speaker to raise the minimum wage

And even when we accomplished what the cynics said we couldn’t do, the so-called experts said that making the once-impossible a reality was just wrong. Here’s an editorial that says building a museum at Skinner’s Plaza would ruin Hagatna:

I don’t know. Look at it. It’s here. What do you think?

I chose this place and I’m standing this way for a significant reason. Because behind you are the remnants of our past…

In front of you, on this wall, is a message for the ages ascribed on this edifice of our enduring heritage, our commitment to the liberty, achievement, and contribution of the people of Guam, starting with the exercise of our inalienable right of self determination.

I have been reading the Prayer of St. Francis in Chamorro. It was my daily prayer during Lent. The Chamorro inscriptions here inspired me… this from Chief Hurao, and the monument to the welcome we made to the Catholic Church when Chief Quipuha gave that land to Rome. And so I thought to strengthen the blessings of our ancestors tonight by joining the foundations of our heritage today. (PALE JOSE VILLAGOMEZ READS THE PRAYER).

Thank you, Pale Jose Villagomez, for blessing us tonight.

Behind us are the ruins of our colonial past. In front of us, the promise of our future, determined by us.

So what are we waiting for?

Self-determination is a powerful path for a people to take. It waits for no one, and requires the collective control of the conscience and choice of the community. Years ago, as the military buildup was hot in the news, I dreamed that one day, our community could come together and build our own vision of Guam. I didn’t want us to peg our future to someone else’s dream. We needed to come up with it, and we need to make it happen with the work of our hands and the genius of our children.

A singular, long-term vision of Guam has never been created. All the planning and operations have happened in silos. No plans pegged to a vision. Not even the last Guam Master Plan, adopted in 1967. How does the government know what to plan without knowing what the people want in the end?

So last year, we started the Imagine Guam initiative. And we involved students from the get-go. The public was invited to join a group of thinkers, mainly educators, to put into words the foundation of any vision that would be created: the values of this community. After much debate and public input, they said that the vision of Guam must value Chamorro culture and language and the sustainability of our environment. From these roots grow strong families that blossom with health, education, self-reliance, and sustainable development. The team also adapted the Hurao Academy’s Sisteman Kostumbre to help guide the understanding of our culture and its core values: aguaiya, agofli’e’, a’umitde, afa’måolek, arespeta, amamåhlao, ageftåo, yan a’adahi.

From there, a major effort went underway to identify residents from all walks of life and every corner of this island. About 400 students, teachers, artists, homemakers, professionals, academics, business people, single mothers and fathers, activists, and more – all very different people with very different views about things – came together three times this year. We hosted three conventions, open to the public, where strangers came to volunteer their thoughts… no one was turned away. In these conventions, these 400 islanders got into 17 teams, each representing different disciplines of society’s makeup. They had one main objective: design Guam in the year 2065 – 50 years from now.

They were lively in their debates and discussions. You could see their passion growing about Guam as each hour passed. And finally, every team emerged with a vision. We compiled that vision to produce the island’s first singular, long-term strategic vision: Guam 2065.

It is a beautiful vision that says this about your grandchildren and the place they will live in 50 years:
- The Pacific will look to us as the leader in renewable energy development, sustainable practices, shipping, agriculture, science and research, medical care, education, the arts, tourism, and athletics.
- We’re going to be 100 percent free of fossil fuels and we will generate zero waste
- Our grandchildren will be the healthiest and happiest people in the world, ranked first in the index of Gross National Happiness
- The technology and practices we invent will lead the Pacific in adapting to climate change
- We will be multilingual, and we all will know and speak Chamorro
- And no matter how modern things get, we will always have abundance of green space, time for family, and faith in God.

These are just six points I’m highlighting. I encourage everyone to visit imagine.guam.gov to read the full vision. For those of you here tonight, we’re passing it out for you to see.

To make this official, the people of Guam, through this Executive Order, are adopting this strategic vision with my signature tonight. (SIGN)

Thanks to the imagination of the hundreds who contributed, we now have the basis for a major planning effort that will transform this government and our community. Transform into what? This vision.

I announced at the end of the last convention that I was ordering the creation of the Guam Master Plan, to be based on this vision. The executive order I just signed also officially charters the Guam Master Plan under the direction of my office through the Bureau of Planning. All agencies and instrumentalities of the executive branch are now to coordinate all planning efforts with the Bureau. All existing master plans are being overlaid. And everything we do from here out must be done in open collaboration and coordination.

To build the Guam Master Plan, I have commissioned the creation of eight component plans. They are to be developed from the ground up – engaging the grassroots first. The eight components are
- The Guam Land Master Plan
- The Guam Capital Improvements Plan
- The Guam Tax Code Plan
- The Government of Guam Modernization Plan
- The Guam Social Stabilization Plan
- The Guam Workforce Rehabilitation Plan
- The Guam Career Paths Plan
- And the Guam Education Blueprint

In five years, we turned our island from an era of despair to a state of confidence. I know that we can figure out how – in 50 years - our grandchildren will be the healthiest and happiest in the world. The reason we’re doing all of this is more common sense than make-believe in CandyLand. If you’ve ever run a successful company, then you know how important strategic planning is. You know that it’s based on the values and vision of your organization. You know that its most important asset is its workforce. And you know exactly how to train your workforce to do the job that achieves your vision.

Imagine Guam is about building that workforce, so that it is our children who build and benefit from the industries of the future. It is a creation of the people of Guam, and not someone else’s design.

I know that we can do this. We can determine for ourselves the course we will take to achieve the dreams we set. In a sense, that truly is self determination.

But it is incomplete until we exercise our right of political self determination.

Are we ready to determine our future? Are we mature enough to decide for ourselves? It’s funny that no one asked us these questions when they took our determination from us.
- We survived a wave of disease, war, and genocide brought by the Spanish conquest. Of course we are ready!
- We adapted 300 years of cultural and political change, together with a Catholic heritage that runs through our veins. Of course we are ready!
- We sacrificed our identity throughout the 20th Century so that we could be patriotic Americans. We’ve paid our dues, and our time has come.

There’s this thinking among some that Guam is not ready. That we need a guiding hand because, all too often, we fail at what we’re supposed to do. Ask yourselves this, though. What was it that we failed to do? What rules did we fail to follow? And then ask yourselves, who made those rules?

I get it. I understand that we failed as a local government to do some important things in following federal laws. But could it at least have been a partnership for improvement and progress, rather than a parent slapping his child? Could there have been a conversation of two people at the table, instead of a command from the master to his subject? Better yet, could we at least have had a say in those federal laws – laws that we are paying for - with even one vote in Congress? And how about a check mark at the ballot box that counts to elect the President, who sends our sons and daughters to war?

These inalienable rights have been denied us. Yet, even if granted a voice in the U.S. political process, one inalienable right remains and blankets all others. Before you include us, can you ask us if that’s what we want? Because, it has been nearly 400 years since anyone asked us that. It’s been centuries since we had a choice.

Colonial sympathizers are now hopping off their seats to point out that we made a choice in 1949 when the elected Guam Congress petitioned President Truman and Congress for citizenship. Let me explain this for those of you who don’t know the history of these things.

Before the Organic Act, the Chamorro people did not have the freedom of speech or religion in three centuries. The supremacy of colonizers over what we could say and where we could say it was so great that the very language we spoke was forbidden and systematically brought to the brink of extinction. All it took was a paragraph on a piece of paper signed by a Naval captain, and his will be done. But these weren’t the only rights deprived from us. We neither had rights to privacy, trial by jury, property, education, nor the plenary power of local law established by a legislature of our election. We were subjects.

What the Guam Congress of 1949 petitioned the federal government for wasn’t a political status choice. It was recognition of our human rights and dignity, and the application of the law to protect our rights. For what is an island of people and no citizens? It is a colony of subjects.

President Truman, at the will of Congress, transformed us from a colony of subjects to a colony of citizens with human rights. The key part there is, ‘at the will of Congress.’ So, as things go in this world, we should be thankful that in 1949 Congress was populated by enough progressive thinkers, who determined that the Indios of its outlying possession deserved human rights. It was possible then, as it is possible now, that a majority of its members can press a button in the House and Senate chambers and take all our rights away. We are not citizens by virtue of the Constitution. We are citizens by virtue of a benevolent Congress. And what Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away. Some people want to build a wall to keep non-Americans out of the country. I’ve oftentimes wondered whether that wall already exists, and we’re the ones stranded outside the fort. What more if another wall goes up? Will we be considered Americans when we knock at the gate?

The progressive movement of 1949 was seven decades ago. We’ve since established local governance. We manage our finances far better than our federal parent. As measurements of maturity go, we care for one another, we carry the burdens of the downtrodden on our shoulders, we are masters of industries that sustain our economy and propel our workforce, and now, we are confident. Manelu’hu yan manaina’hu… man’mapos manaina’ta… ekunguk yu yan in komprendi este todu i Linala’ta… after almost 400 years, it is time we make a choice.

If we are committed to our self determination, then there’s no reason to wait for another election to pass. There are two triggers to conduct the political status plebiscite, according to Guam law. The first is that an education campaign should be conducted before the vote happens. But in order for the vote to be scheduled, the law says 70 percent of the native inhabitants eligible to vote must be registered to vote.

We can certainly conduct a massive registration drive, but it won’t matter. How do you determine 70 percent of the eligible voters if 100 percent of them aren’t already registered? There is no mathematical way of determining how many native inhabitants must register to vote to meet the 70 percent requirement.

If the Legislature would like to change this law, I welcome it. But this has been a known problem to all of us who served as senators. It is just too controversial an issue to touch. We have to get over that. We need to do what is right. It’s been 20 years!

As the Chairman of the Commission on Decolonization, I have ordered its staff and my office to design a massive education campaign. We will not create any content. We leave that to the academics at UOG, in partnership with the three status task forces. But we will do something that we do well: carry out a winning campaign. Our strategy starts with a major information campaign that helps people understand what self determination is, why it’s important, our history, and the facts and myths of the different status options.

If, by mid-July, indications are strong that voters will be ready to choose, I will ask the Commission on Decolonization to release equal portions of funds to the task forces. The task forces then will have a four-month period, with equal resources, to make their case. This is a realistic timetable for an education campaign. We just have to be committed to it.

As for the changes needed to law in order for the plebiscite to take place in the November General Election, I will not hold my breath. There’s an old saying that if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain. And go I shall.

Tomorrow morning, I, registered native inhabitant Eddie Calvo, will submit, a draft measure to petition for the referendum of the political status plebiscite. I have organized a campaign to secure the required signatures. I’m not changing any of the status options or even the wording and order of the plebiscite question and choices. A second question will appear below the status choices. It will ask the voter whether he or she was made a U.S. Citizen by virtue of the Organic Act of Guam, which is the definition of “Native Inhabitant.”

We will aggressively seek the required number of signatures, making this a grassroots decolonization effort. If, by mid-July, we determine that the education campaign is succeeding, I will file the petitions, and we will vote – FINALLY – on our political status.

Some may fear this issue or feel removed from it. Look at me, and look at my name. I am the great grandson of an Scotch-Irish-American named John Francis McDonald. The Calvo name? It came from my great great great grandfather, Felix Calvo, a Spanish officer in Manila, whose Philippine-born son married a Chamorrita. Baza didn’t come from the Chamorro language either. I am proud of my heritage as a Filipino, a Spaniard, and an American. I do love America, very much.

But I’m also the descendent of Hurao. His words here, spoken in this city to Chamorro warriors who did not submit to their colonizers, reverberate through my heart. While we all claim pride in heritages and cultures throughout the world, we all owe our lives in paradise to the Lord and to the ancestors of this land. Self determination isn’t about loving or hating the United States. It’s about our right to be part of something, or to be on our own. It’s a choice that was taken from us with the blood of this great man and all those who died so that we could choose. This unfinished business looms upon our heritage. It is our legacy.

The burden of this duty looms heavily on my conscience. I would like to recognize that there are many leaders, past and present, who have taken this mantle. Besides our former governors, the late Speaker Ben Pangelinan – for all that we disagreed on – I bow my head in prayer and reverence for his leadership on this issue. It is something that Speaker Won Pat and Sen. Respicio have been lobbying me to focus on.

But I came to this idea after I had a meeting with Victoria Leon Guerrero, Melvin Won Pat Borja, and Moneka De Oro. They were upset with me a few months ago because of my statements in support of the military buildup. Their point was that if we, as an island community, were to embrace the buildup of a sovereign power in our land, should we not – at the least – determine that this was by the consent of the governed? Should we not at least self-determine how this should move forward in the context of a political status?

Here’s the part that weighs on me, and I’ll never forget it. They said, “You are our Maga’Lahi. You are the one we look to first, who should be standing at the front of this.”

They are right. I’m not simply the governor of Guam. I am the descendent of Hurao – I am the Maga’Lahi. And while my duty is to the administration of government, my allegiance belongs to Guam and the inalienable rights of her people.

What I’m saying, my dear people, is that, I love America, lao hu guiaya Guahan mas.

Si Yu’os ma’ase yan Hita I man taotao tano!

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