NOTE: The following is the full text of Governor Calvo’s fourth State of the Island Address. You can also watch the Governor’s address in its entirety by clicking here. This email is just part of a series of news we will release in the coming days about the address, and the work the Calvo Tenorio administration is doing to help our people.
State of the Island Address
By Eddie Baza Calvo
Lieutenant Governor Tenorio, Madam Speaker (absent, in session), Chief Justice Torres, senators and mayors, distinguished ladies and gentlemen… welcome. But let me now address the real VIPs of my administration:
My dear people of Guam,
Thank you. That’s where I want to start. It’s because of you that we can be proud of how far we’ve come… and excited about where we’re going.
I want you to see that you are the difference. And, boy, what a difference you’ve made. It was three years ago that I took my oath right here. Somewhere around the island the lone working ambulance was responding to a waiting list of 9-1-1 calls. The small emergency room lobby, with its broken chairs and blinding fluorescent lights, was packed. There wasn’t enough blood supply in the back in case someone needed it to live.
Your relatives and friends raised money for heart surgery in the Philippines. Putting aside your pride, you wondered why you felt like you had to beg just to get the government to pay even part of your tax refund. It’s not like you could have bought a plane ticket with the I-O-U the government gave you that year, and every year before that. The government that was four years delinquent to pay you, was the same one cutting your power for the very same thing: non-payment.
Imagine the lights going out for an unpaid bill, while it’s the government that actually owes you enough money to pay your rent for a year. Seven thousand dollars. That’s the average GovGuam owed to each and every taxpayer the day I took office. That’s also enough to go to college for two years at GCC. Or you could have traded in your car for the one you really want. For some of you, GovGuam owed more than that, and still cut off your power. What an irony of injustice.
And just before I took office, you wondered how GovGuam could hold your refunds but afford pay increases. You were right. GovGuam couldn’t afford it then. Not while it was floating $17 million in outstanding checks at the bank right down the street.
For every 100 Guamanian adults who wanted to work, 87 of them had a stable job. The other 13 couldn’t get hired. That was 10,000 Guamanians out of work and looking for a better way. Imagine two UOG Fieldhouses packed with people. That’s how many were unemployed at the start of 2011. The last time that many of us were jobless was in the year 2000.
And if you thought it was bad that 10,000 people couldn’t find work… at that time, nearly twice as many were struggling without a high school diploma. And just six months before that night, 600 more had just dropped out of high school. That’s the size of an entire school. That many 18-year-olds had just walked away from the chance of completing an education and getting a good job.
The picture in our minds right now is true. Guam was darker. Our villages looked more empty. And if we can remember what we thought about our future back then, the idea today may be melancholy and, worse, mediocre.
That night, three years ago, I asked you to believe again in the greatness of Guam… I asked you to accept nothing less than our God-given right to conquer our struggles and become more than we had ever known. And where do we stand today?
More Guamanians are working, while unemployment has been trending down… and today’s classified section still has several openings. These are higher-paying jobs for many, in companies where you can grow. More than 4,700 Guamanians picked up new business licenses for all kinds of ventures. People are opening shops because they look at Guam and see something remarkable happening. Record numbers of tourists are visiting. Where we once saw only Japanese couples, we now see entire Russian families, more Koreans, Taiwanese, and Chinese visitors. Within three years, our hotels, restaurants, stores, theatres, and shops started buzzing and filling with customers and workers.
We rolled out the bulldozers, filling potholes and fixing roads. Empty lots became construction sites. We’re showing our investors that with or without the military buildup, Guam is going to build, build, build. We started by turning run-down projects into clean neighborhoods with pride. Then, brick by brick, we built homes that more families could afford to buy or rent. By the end of this year, the number of families who will move into their new affordable and modern homes will outnumber every public housing subdivision in Guam, combined. If you want some perspective of what that looks like… think of Liguan Terrace. We have built enough affordable housing units to nearly fill all of Liguan Terrace. Affordable homes are rising throughout our villages. We won’t stop until every Guamanian who dreams of homeownership wakes up in their new bedrooms to the smell of fresh paint and breakfast cooking in the kitchen.
To complete our neighborhoods, new bus stops are going up and old ones are getting face lifts. We’re filling potholes on village roads. The Lieutenant Governor is a juggernaut, leading an enormous partnership that is cleaning up the trash and graffiti, tearing down abandoned buildings, cleaning up our parks, and teaching young Guamanians about respect for Guam.
Another 117 Chamorro families are a big step closer to building their dream homes with their new lease to Chamorro Land Trust property ready for construction. We’re investing in power and water connections on the remaining lots so more Chamorros can build homes. On top of these leases, 700 families now are the proud owners of land that once belonged to their ancestors. If you combine the total land area we returned, it would be bigger than either Hagatna, Agana Heights, Sinajana, or Disneyland. I’ve seen what this means to our people. I kissed the hand of a woman in her old age. They were strong, rough hands because all her life she worked hard to give her family a life better than she knew. With the stroke of justice, the land that once belonged to her father became hers to give to her son.
In three short years — because of your hard work and undying belief in the esprit de corps of the Guamanian people — thousands of struggling Guamanians improved their lives and became proud wage earners, homeowners, landholders, new entrepreneurs, and citizens who have more now than ever before. But, we have more families to help. There’s no rest for Ray and me because we’re excited to help more job seekers qualify for job openings. And we want businesses to grow so employees can make higher wages and longer hours. We’re going to move more Guamanians out of public housing, substandard homes and apartments, and crowded family houses… and we’re going to welcome them into homes of their own.
We did get that military buildup going… thanks in large part to Congresswoman Bordallo and the Guam Chamber of Commerce. In just a few short years, we will have the opportunity of a lifetime… to help our country by hosting the Marines. We get to usher in this era with most of our sons and daughters back home from war for the first time since it started.
May I just say, I will never, ever forget the faces of children as their mothers and fathers landed on Guam from the war… and ran to their kids. And I will always carry in my heart the pain of the parents and loved ones of our men and women who didn’t make it home alive. God bless America, and God bless Guam’s sons and daughters of freedom and peace.
With Christine and I tonight are our special guests. We wanted you all to meet the command team of the recent National Guard deployment to war: Lt. Colonel Michael Tougher and Sgt. Major Mel Hennegan (PLEASE STAND). Soldiers, I’ve asked you here to represent the heroes of your battalion and the heroes from the Army Reserve and the active armed forces from Guam who’ve served our country bravely. We salute you. We ask you to relay our gratitude to Guam’s sons and daughters. And we join you in prayer for the ultimate sacrifice of the men and women of Micronesia who gave their lives for our freedom.
We are honoring our veterans by prioritizing their job and school placement. Thank you to the partnership of the Keep Your Guard Up Program that made this happen. We secured better medical services at the clinic in Agana Heights. We secured unemployment insurance for veterans returning from war. The Legislature several times has prioritized government services for veterans. We’ve developed affordable homes strictly for veterans. And we’ve done more to develop and offer behavioral health services for veterans and their families.
There’s a new and modern Emergency Room with more doctors and nurses caring for anyone who walks into the hospital. Last year, 7,500 of us took our children to the ER when we didn’t know where else we could turn. I’ve done that, too. And the GMH staff cares for our children, even when it turns out that their pain isn’t an emergency and treatment can wait for their doctors in the morning. It never makes it to the news, but I want to tell you just how much you can count on GMH when your life is on the line. Last year, there were 494 car accident victims with injuries serious enough that they had to go to GMH. 16 of them died before they even got to the hospital. 45 were hospitalized for injuries that weren’t really life-threatening. They were released in good shape. The rest of the victims had more to lose. Their lives depended on the care they got at that hospital. Three of them had injuries too great to survive just shortly after they arrived at GMH. The other 430 lived to return to their families and friends. We can go on and on about the lives saved and the care that the sick and the dying get when they have nowhere else to turn.
And by the end of this year, our people will have a second place they can turn to for care. When Guam Regional Medical Center opens, there will be two civilian hospitals for the first time since 1978. There will be more medical services provided on Guam than ever before. Many of our loved ones no longer will have to go off island for care. And it doesn’t matter what you can afford. When GRMC applied for its QC, we negotiated a provision that requires the new hospital to treat indigent patients as any other patient. And this includes over $1 million to MIP.
We can expect a future where fewer Guamanians get as sick as we do today. And that’s because of the rapid increase of Guamanians trying to quit smoking over the past three years. I don’t know what the obesity rate is, but it’s obvious to me that thousands more of us are exercising.
There’s so much more we can go over that will just reinforce the point we all can feel about Guam: the state of our island is better than it’s been in a long, long time. But we can’t be satisfied. We may have overcome enormous odds, but we have new challenges and more mountains to climb.
One of them is a speeding freight train called poverty that’s on a collision course with society. In the short 10 years before we came to office, the number of families on food stamps doubled. The number is triple if you go back another 10 years. That is how quickly we devolved, and it’s why we needed to take control. We needed to jump into the conductor’s seat and slow the freight train down.
Guamanians felt the whiplash from the rapid descent into the cycle of poverty. We have to pay for major water and wastewater repairs. Our power bills keep going up. It costs more than $1 out of every hour of pay we earn to gas our cars. The prices have gone up, but wages did not. Releasing the tax refunds helped a bit, but that didn’t do anything to adjust actual income levels. So we did what was right, and when we got this government on track, we gave our employees overdue pay raises! This is despite all the unfounded attempts to stop this from happening. I’d like to recognize GovGuam’s employee of the year: Carmen Damian from DYA (PLEASE STAND). She represents the GovGuam commitment to excellence. I am proud to serve with her and all our fellow public servants.
The government wage scale had not changed in whole since 1991. Our employees were severely underpaid. And on top of worrying that our most talented would seek work in the private sector or off island, we also confronted the reality that many of them were on food stamps. That’s the only way a bus driver making only $8.50 an hour was going to feed his family. That’s the only way a classroom teacher or biologist making only $11.85 an hour is going to afford her apartment and her student loans. The new wages not only made GovGuam competitive, we believe they took many of our workers off the welfare rolls.
I don’t believe in the government constricting the private sector’s ability to grow. Raising the minimum wage will cause job losses, increase prices for everyone… and won’t address wages that are a little bit higher, but still too low for living. But, employers, you’ve been hearing the grumblings. There has been talk that senators are looking at the minimum wage. This discussion appeals to your employees who are making low wages. And you can’t blame them for wanting more for themselves and their families. The problem isn’t that GovGuam employees make too much money. It’s that some private sector employees aren’t being paid what they should be paid. And I have a right to say that, because I’ve been there. And as a businessman, I have put the welfare of my employees above the bottom line.
One of the first things I did when I took over the Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Guam is I raised wages and we paid for the training at GCC that many of our employees needed. Not only were we in competition with the hotels and other businesses for our skilled labor… we knew that employees who could support their families were happy at home. And employees who are happy at home, are productive workers in the factory. It’s a simple formula for success, so long as you truly believe that your number-one asset is your people. The investment paid off. The employees’ increasing level of productivity propelled the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Guam to become one of the top bottlers in the world.
Investing in employees through wages, benefits, and training equals greater productivity and better business. I know this model works. Sen. Limtiaco knows this model works. The most profitable businesses understand this. Look at Google. Look at the U.S. military. Look at many of our local companies. As we enter more prosperous times… as the economy grows… I ask that the first place we all make an investment is in our people… their wages… their benefits… their training. Imagine what this will mean for the employee who’s spent the past 10 years earning less than $14 an hour while his cost of living went up and his family got bigger. Or the employee making $10 an hour who has to worry about daycare she can’t afford as a single mom.
Low wages that have hardly changed over the years, drowning beneath increasing prices, is what’s causing thousands of workers to need food stamps. You’d be mistaken if you thought that most people on food stamps are lazy or jobless. To the contrary, most of them are working, and they’re working their tails off in the private sector. As the market gets better, I have faith that employers will invest in employees. That is what will lift thousands of people off the welfare rolls. In doing so, you’ll take the sails out of these minimum wage grumblings.
It’s one thing for a society to face poverty caused by its own conditions. Things get more complicated when poverty migrates in. It is estimated that over a third of the new families on food stamps in the last three years are FAS immigrants. I don’t believe that the solution is to refuse services and hospitality to our neighbors. We are connected, my dear people. We can look at the present problem and see only that the great demand for welfare by FAS immigrants is a burden that weighs down Guam. Or we can consider, with foresight, that our educated Chuukese brother can open businesses with our sister from Saipan. And that Chamorros and Filipinos from Guam can collaborate with our Palauan and Yapese brothers and sisters on disease prevention.
Would there be such tension on Guam if FAS immigrants did not live in poverty, or were not so prone to crime? I don’t think so. The problem isn’t where immigrants come from or what race they are. The problem is poverty.
Right after the World War II, a stubborn and proud Chamorro clerk at the Naval Bank of Guam confronted his supervisor about his paycheck. He noticed that it was far less than his co-workers, who were originally from the mainland. The supervisor brought the complaint up the ranks, and the answer was, “Sorry, we can’t help you.” So the man quit the security of his job.
About a decade later, a another young Chamorro man tried to enlist in the Marines to serve on the frontlines. They told him he had to stay at the bottom of the heap, and he replied, “I don’t want that. I want to lead.” So, the young man went off to college. After he got his degree, Ben Blaz commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, served valiantly in war, became a General, and served as our Congressman.
As for the bank clerk who quit his job, he went home and asked his wife for some help. She got a cardboard box for her husband to organize the paper policies he began selling by himself… from their living room. And that box is where Jake Calvo founded Calvo’s Insurance.
The moral of these stories is that, whether his intentions were good or bad, Uncle Sam has a habit of forgetting his stated obligations to the Micronesian islands he saw fit to administer and use for geopolitical reasons. In other words, rather than waiting around for that $1 billion in impact bills… or for the U.S. government to finally build those schools in our neighboring islands, let’s just band together as Micronesians and take care of these problems on our own two feet.
We’re not victims of circumstance. We ARE Micronesians. We have it within us to build a strong region, where all of us contribute to each other’s success. Twenty years ago would have been a good time for the U.S. government to build those schools and roads that could have paved the way for a very different region today. But we shouldn’t wait another 20 years before we take it upon ourselves to do something about it. I cannot imagine what crime and poverty will look like if we let that happen.
I am well aware that many of our guests are tearing at the fabric of our society with their crimes. It is true that a great number of burglaries, assaults and sex crimes are being committed by a disproportionate number of FAS immigrants. Sadly, their crimes are but a fraction of those committed by our own local citizens. No matter what their citizenship is, I want to deport every rapist, murderer, child abuser, and wife beater to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. We don’t need division. We cannot address evil deeds with hateful hearts. Problems require solutions. And the short-term solution to the crime problem really has only three parts:
1. We are hiring more police officers to provide a stronger presence of law enforcement. This is on top of my recent order to the airport and port police officers. I have directed them to act as Guam Police Officers within the Tamuning, Barrigada, and Piti areas.
2. We need a bigger prison so we can keep the criminals locked away until they’re no longer threats to society. We’re working with Sen. McCreadie on that.
3. We need for our justice system to make sure that the criminals our police arrest go to jail for as long as it takes, and not for the length of a plea bargain.
We will beat the criminals and make Guam safer. We will continue helping more Guamanians out of poverty. And that includes lifting our guests out of poverty as well. I have confidence we can do these things because, well, look at what we accomplished together in just three years.
Whenever I think about how we manage these offices you’ve entrusted us with, one word comes to mind: TRUST. And it’s not just about trusting me. I know if there was anything in the government that would be hardest to fix, it would be to restore the people’s trust in their own government. It’s a trust that has been broken with every empty promise.
I’ve spent the past three years trying to restore your faith that you own this government, not the politicians. Service and a commitment to excellence have been our themes instead of authority and bureaucracy. And we’ve been very well aware that the only way to restore your trust is to fulfill all the empty promises of the past.
We worked like crazy, and sometimes against stiff opposition, to meet our goals for you. But today, look at the state of your government. It is now normal for your tax refund to be paid within weeks of filing for it. For two decades before, it was normal for you to wait three years for one. The deficit’s gone. Line agency vendors are getting paid quicker. We paid our employees for the debts they had been owed for two decades. We implemented the first across-the-board pay hike in over 20 years. We cut our own salaries when times were tough and sacrifice was required. We held employees accountable and rewarded those who performed with excellence. We jump-started the 20-year-old Lada Estates project so that senior citizens could have affordable living communities. We salvaged the Tiyan Parkway from a disastrous conclusion. We ended the embarrassing receivership at DISID and Behavioral Wellness. We opened up the operations of the government to the white hot light of the media and public scrutiny. We have never shied from the tough questions… never refused public information… never closed our doors. Transparency has been a cornerstone value of ours, marked by an attitude of accessibility to us and our administration in our offices, out in your neighborhoods, and on social media.
We knew we were on to something when credit rating agencies in New York gave GovGuam its highest credit ratings in history just after downgrading the U.S. government for the very first time. So, for the carpetbaggers who like to ridicule Guamanians with your derogatory “Only On Guam” soliloquies, chew on that the next time you try to tell me that the grass is a lot greener in mainland America. I’ve got a new one for you… Only on Guam is the economy growing, the government is in a surplus, employees are getting raises, higher learning standards are working, and the health of the public is getting better. I can assure you… we don’t want urban pollution… or fancy freeways that take you two hours to get to work… or New York rules against drinking a cold soda… or corporate riff raff who steal the pensions of old ladies… or the divisionists who only see color, religious boundaries, gender, orientation and any other label before they see an American. We may have our problems, and we may live far from the mainland… and we may have fewer rights than other Americans… but we live in a way that values the very idea of America that the authors of the Constitution dreamed about, and that our soldiers fight and die for. You may find all the world’s money in Manhattan. And you may have to visit Los Angeles for the latest trends and the glamour of Hollywood. But the best of America is right here on Guam. And they’re Americans who also call ourselves Guamanian.
My dear people of Guam, this is only the beginning. We’ve got a lot more in store for you. Ray and I have the rest of this year to continue along our path and do more. We’ve come up with an achievable agenda for 2014. It’s an agenda to lower your cost of living, help more people out of poverty, keep you safe, and build something lasting for the future. This is what I’m proposing, and I’m going to need your help, along with our senators.
First, I am proud to announce that this year, we will be expanding Guma San Jose and then constructing more basic homes to provide temporary shelter for homeless families. Priority will be given to families with children. This will not be a regular homeless shelter. While we are compassionate, we also expect citizens to take advantage of opportunity and support themselves after receiving a hand up. This subdivision we are building may have certain government services available, including athletic programs for children and nutrition support for families. One of the programs will be mandatory job training and active job search. For us, the solution isn’t just housing the homeless… it’s getting them on their feet so they can earn the Guamanian Dream for themselves.
Second, we now have the funds to build the Rigalu House. We are in the process of identifying the site, and once that happens, construction will begin. I want to thank every individual and corporate donor who had the heart to contribute to this effort. And, of course, to my beautiful wife who led this effort with all the volunteers who joined her. Because of you, children who’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, and forgotten will have a temporary home as they wait for a family to love them.
Third, this year we will be hiring up to 100 police and corrections officers. This includes the 22 police and 48 corrections officers we are in the process of hiring. We made sure to include enough funding in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget to hire more of these officers.
Fourth, as I promised you last year, we are suing the federal government. This is draft legislation we have prepared with Sen. Chris Duenas, who will file the bill tomorrow. The bill asks the Legislature to give me the authority to march into District Court and sue the federal government to acknowledge, morally and financially, its decades of contribution to hazardous waste at Ordot Dump. The federal government must not ignore that if any leachate has harmed the Lonfit River, a great fraction of it came directly from their pollution. We want to compel them to pay their sizeable share of the cost to close Ordot.
Fifth, this morning I signed this executive order directing DPW, the division of Senior Citizens, and the mass transit agency to develop a pilot project in Tamuning, Tumon, Harmon, and Dededo. The idea, which came from Sen. Yamashita, is to consolidate all bus operations into one mass transit system. We will see if utilizing the saturated school bus routes for all transit, 24-hours a day is something that can work islandwide. If it does, then we are on our way to less traffic on the road, major gas savings for drivers, and a whole new world of opportunity for people. These include high school graduates who will have a way of getting to GCC and UOG reliably. The expanded bus service also will spur job growth from residents who couldn’t work because they had no ride to work. If this works, it will be an amazing game changer.
Sixth, we will be embarking on even more road and bridge construction. We will be repairing and replacing bridges in Hagatna, Inarajan, Merizo, and Yona. We’re going to pave the stretch between Togcha River and Ipan Beach, the new Tiyan Parkway, Cross Island Road and Ypao Road. Senators, if you pass Sen. Tony Ada’s bill, you will allow us to pave Roy T. Damian St. and Mamis St. as well. All of this comes with an islandwide upgrade of traffic lights. We will then move on to Hamburger Road… Ysengsong Road… the intersection of Route 1 and Ysengsong Road and on to Yigo… and along Route 1 in Asan and Piti. While all of this is happening, Public Works also will be filling potholes on village streets.
Seventh, look around Hagatna. The revitalization of the city is underway. This Plaza is done. The museum will be open this year. We will be moving forward with the Legislature building. And hopefully we will be able to build the Palasyo where the DOA building and the police precinct now stand. Next month, we will issue bids for the next phase of the Hagatna Master Plan. This is the part that will take us beyond the restoration of the historic and cultural district. The next phase is the repopulation of the city with business, government, shops, and the arts. This is going to be an exciting decade.
Eighth, the Department of Revenue and Taxation is identifying the first landowner for forfeiture of property for failing to pay taxes. As part of process improvement at DRT, the men and women there now have more time and resources to concentrate on more of its mandates. This includes going to court to seize the properties of landowners who are not paying taxes. This also includes advancements in I-T in GovGuam… such as the new G-I-S that will modernize our real property systems. We thank Sen. Morrison for creating the Office of Technology.
Ninth, we are reviewing public laws allowing us to fix public schools. In the next two weeks we will have procurement ready for execution of $100 million to modernize all public schools. It will include the construction of at least one more school. And it will be structured to allow us to begin modernizing the biggest threats to the health and safety of students this summer. I am hopeful that will include Simon Sanchez and GW over the summer. Part of the financing package will include a new facilities master plan for DOE. That plan will tell us, among other things, how many more schools we need to build, and where they should be built.
Related to this goal is my last, but most important, proposal. I believe, just like you, that school facilities are important. That’s why I fought along with the JFK Islanders to build the new JFK. It’s why I begged the Board of Education to keep FQ Sanchez open. It’s why we’re renovating Untalan and we will be modernizing Simon Sanchez and all the other old schools. And it’s why, this coming August, there’ll be a new Central High School opening at Tiyan.
But since coming to office I’ve made something pretty clear. The focus of my education agenda will not be about buildings or funding. It’s going to be about learning. It’s about getting our students prepared to compete and win against the best in the world. To achieve that goal, we started with a proposal in my first state of the island speech. We wanted to board to adopt higher learning standards through the Common Core. I’m so proud of DOE’s progress… those standards are being implemented now. Then we got everyone together… including the Union… to develop a new performance evaluation for teachers. It includes student growth as accountability measures. That evaluation is being piloted right now, along with a new evaluation for principals and administrators.
We put together a task force that gathered input on what needed to be reformed at DOE. The Superintendent took the draft report and started making some of those reforms.
Among those recommendations was to send a laptop or tablet home with every student. Part of that goal will be achieved by next school year. DOE is in the process of ordering laptops. This will allow every fifth-, sixth-, ninth-, and eleventh-grader to have access to technology. This is possible because we prioritized and specifically earmarked funding for these laptops. In political terms, this is called putting your money where your mouth is.
My tenth proposal is a new investment just as important as those laptops. In the Fiscal Year 2015 budget we carved out $4 million in General revenues to pay for universal pre-K for four-year-olds. That means we will be able to open Headstart to every four-year-old, regardless of family income or any other factor. If approved in the budget, DOE will have the financial flexibility to expand pre-K in schools that are ready. Part of next school year also can be used to train more teachers in early childhood education. DOE can identify our best teachers and offer them teaching posts in this new grade-level. My fellow Guamanians, this is the most important investment we can make into the future. The early childhood years, from birth to the Third Grade, are the most critical in the development of a student. For every dollar we invest into early childhood education, we will save $9 in costs further down the road. That’s because, when we spend $1 on that child, 15 years later, we won’t be spending $9 on his welfare, prison stay, and government-sponsored health care. I look forward to Speaker Won Pat’s support, and I’m thankful for Sen. Yamashita’s vision.
Along with this proposal is an incentive program for teachers who cause extraordinary learning gains in their students, especially those who are far behind in the new standards. This is premised on my belief in DOE’s vision — to prepare all students for life, promote excellence, and provide support. Every child — from the girl who has mastered calculus – to the boy with autism… from the teenager who is bullied – to the kids who have no running water to bathe. All of them can achieve high standards. And they must, if we are to build a greater Guam.
In exchange for a bonus in their paycheck, these teachers are to work with their peers to share their methods. This program will build a school environment of further collaboration, pride in professional development, and a commitment to excellence and achievement. Most importantly, it will help to get more of our students to graduation day. And that means readiness for a world of work and family responsibility.
Three years ago, I asked you to believe in something many thought was not possible. We’re here now — and look around. What we believed happened. It is happening.
What were the chances, three years ago, that you would be paid your tax refunds? Much less the chance that we would spend this evening talking about free schooling for every four-year-old, laptops for every child, mass transit for every citizen, and 100 new police officers. But, we are.
This is the Guam we will build this year, to stack upon the foundation of Guam we built over the past three years. By the Grace of God and with the Compass of the Heavens guiding us always in this direction, we will keep building and building. With the conscience of this movement — with this belief in Guam and the greatness of our people — we will build more than a place of modern buildings or a citadel of pride.
I ask you to believe in something more. That we can imagine our future, when we are no longer around, and set those roots now like the Mustard Seed. That in this future, our children are driving new industries… our homes are powered by the sun… our neighborhoods are more beautiful than they are now… and families are stronger than ever before. This is not the work of fate or destiny. This is up to us.
All of this is possible because of who we are. The French call this the Esprit de Corpsof a people. For us, we know this as Manaotao I Espiritun Ã…nimu. I’ve seen it. I saw it thousands of times the past three years at the funerals of our fellow Guamanians. I saw it at the weddings and the fiestas I’ve been to these past three years. I’ve felt it at the bedsides of the sick and the dying, and in the celebrations of baptism and the peace of the Mass. These past three years, we’ve managed to build beyond what we thought we could. Something has been building inside of us, too.
I’m often asked by kids, “What is your job? What do you do?” There are a number of ways I can answer that question. More often than not, I explain that I work for you.
I’ve thought about this question a lot, in the context of why we’re here and what we can do to make a difference. There are two things I must do every day that should consume my every waking moment.
First, I must love God with all my heart, all my might, all my soul. No problem. Second, my job is to love my neighbor as I love myself. What we are building is not just a block of organized concrete… or vaults of gold and jewels. We are not simply building modern schools and an educated workforce, or new laboratories and healthier communities. What we are building is measured not by landscape, but by innovation and progress. We do not appreciate it for its architecture, but for its very essence. Perhaps the best way to express this is in Chamorro, (si’udÃ¥t gi sanhilo’ annai todu man’A guaiya…) a City of Love, where every street is paved with the laughter of children… and every building is teeming with artistry and music… and every home is built with the strength of family… and every village is pouring with the pride of the people… and every corner of our lives is filled with the kindness of neighbors, the romance of lovers, the embrace of the different and the uplifting of the outcast, and care for one and all.
Look around. The lights of the City are on. The City is beautiful. Let’s finish building it. Thank you, God bless you… and I love you all.