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  • Pacific Island Times News Staff

Members of 34th Guam Legislature sworn in

Members of the 34th Guam Legislature were sworn in Monday, Jan.2, Photo by Bruce Lloyd

"There is so much work to be done, surely we can do it together. While every generation marches to the beat of its own time, the mission of every generation is timeless: to preserve what we have borrowed from our children, to match their unrivaled potential, and to make hope something you share when you take my place in this Hall," Speaker Benjamin Cruz said in his keynote speech at the inauguration ceremony for the 34th Guam Legislature.

Cruz dedicated his speech to the newly renovated Congress building, where the inauguration was held Monday, Jan. 2.

Read the full text:

34th Guam Legislature Keynote Speech

Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz

"Governor Calvo, Lieutenant Governor Tenorio, Chief Justice Robert J. Torres, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, and, more importantly, my Dear People of Guam:

Today, we celebrate more than the Inauguration of the 34th Guam Legislature. We commemorate a renewal of our political faith—the knowledge that, while change is constant, progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. It is won only by the sacrifice, struggle, and commitment of dedicated individuals.

On more than one occasion, for generations passed but still remembered, this chamber stood as silent witness to the renewal of that faith. And, it is fitting that we recommit ourselves to that effort here today.

'The Guam Congress Building is more than just a modern edifice of concrete, steel, and wood. It is a symbol of truth and justice; an enduring monument to a fine people, many of whom have laid down their lives so that Democracy might live. It is fitting that the Guam Congress Building should be constructed of enduring concrete and steel as it is symbolic of the Unity and strength of the Guam Democracy.'

These words were written in 1948, published in the The Constructionaire [1], an industry magazine commenting nationally on the newly-built Guam Congress Building.

These words were both a blessing and an irony. A building was commemorated to the highest principles of Democracy at a time when the Chamorro People had no civil or political rights.

It was pledged to the ideals of freedom at a time when 1,300 families lost their homes to the Navy’s contingency use [2], and the men and women elected to serve in this Hall could not appeal to a higher court because they did not have the right to appeal to any court.

Think about that for a moment.

Just three short years after Allied Forces won a World War predicated on the cause of freedom, the principle that no government can be legitimate without the consent of the governed seemed to apply to nearly everyone on earth but our parents and grandparents.

Then, after fifty years of pre and post war neglect, numerous unanswered petitions to the U.S. Congress, and defense policies fit for refugees, the Island’s Naval Governor invalidated a legal Act passed by the House of Assembly in 1949 [3].

That Spring—recognizing that they had no US Citizenship, no Constitution or Federally recognized Organic Act permitting self-rule, no basic civil rights, and no ability to try their grievances in a Court of law—this hall, filled with courage and fear, adopted a draft Organic Act, transmitted it to Congress, and then walked out [4].

Thanks to leaders like Carlos P. Taitano, F. B. Leon Guerrero [5], and Antonio B. Won Pat, journalists throughout the nation and around the world carried news of the Chamorro People’s struggle for basic civil and political rights, one cable at a time.

Aided by activists and servicemen who had fought to see the island free in World War II, and the unwavering will of Guam’s People, the US Congress soon relented, Organic Citizenship was granted, and Guam’s People achieved the single biggest step toward self-government since colonial rule.

While our struggle is not over, I do not tell this story to reopen old wounds or find distance where there is now closeness, partnership, and understanding. I tell it because we are assembled here in the sacred shadow of their history and by our words, intentions, and works, each of us must be worthy of the historic change that happened here.

Guam is now a crossroads of culture: home to people of every race, color and creed—people who could live anywhere in the world and choose to lend their lives and hopes to a better Guam.

While our diversity is profound we are not so different. We each desire understanding even if we do not always find ourselves in agreement. We each seek to leave behind something solid so our children can build something better.

So much of our politics is concerned with who is up or who is down; who is in or who is out—the normal political score keeping that consumes so many headlines but changes too few lives. I submit to you we can and must be different.

In the 67 years since the Guam Walkout, the sights and sounds of this hall are now broadcast instantaneously. Commerce is global. Our lives are mobile. And the desire to join an expanding circle of economic opportunity is universal.

Every moment is full of deep and profound shifts altering old ways and remaking our world. As has been said before, the urgent question of our time is whether we will be able to make change our friend, and not our enemy.

In recent years, our island has seen exponential economic growth, unemployment is down [6], and government revenues are higher than they have ever been [7].

But when so many of our families are working harder and earning less; when over 60% of our public school children are so economically disadvantaged that they qualify for a free or reduced lunch [8] ; when we are so touched by crime that we cannot feel safe in our homes; when so many of those we love cannot imagine the future before them because of addiction or abuse; and when we feel that government will always work better for the powerful than it does for the powerless—we have not made change our ally.

Instead of facing hard truths, taking strong steps, and embracing change as a community, we have wandered off course—eroding our resources, and creating a deficit of trust between ourselves and the People who have paved the way here.

As I look out at the members of the 34th Guam Legislature, your family, and friends, I am steadied by an old refrain: all that is wrong with Guam can be cured by all that is right with Guam.

We do not face Democrat problems or Republican problems.

Our challenges were not caused by one Governor or one Legislature. And, no one—not me, not Governor Calvo, not anyone on this floor, or throughout this island—can alone do what must be done.

To make change our friend and not our enemy, we must do what is hard—and we must do it together. We must invest in our people, in their jobs, educations, and futures—and at the same time we must cut our massive debt and end our structural deficit. This will not be easy. It will require sacrifice—not sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake—but sacrifice for our sake, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of our children’s children.

To renew and make real the hopes of Guam’s people, we must re-earn their trust. Our choices must be open, honest, and subject to the white hot light of scrutiny. And above all else, we must be bold enough to change.

It is as FDR said, 'It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.' [9]

To safeguard the aspirations of Guam’s children, we must learn that young does not mean unable.

To our young and those still young in spirit, the 34th Guam Legislature belongs to you, to your idealism, and energy because where much is given, much more is expected. Help your communities, mentor children, volunteer, and if you see a problem, offer a solution, or join others to find one.

There is so much work to be done, surely we can do it together. While every generation marches to the beat of its own time, the mission of every generation is timeless: to preserve what we have borrowed from our children, to match their unrivaled potential, and to make hope something you share when you take my place in this Hall.

Nearly two months ago, our people summoned the change we inaugurate today. In so doing, they asked us to act boldly to work for the future and not for the benefit of a few today; to cooperate whenever possible, and disagree honorably where we must—recognizing our Government exists for the people, our people do not exist for the government. This is the task to which we are re-committed today.

In closing, I am reminded of a story Governor Joseph Ada told at the reopening of this building, just days ago.

He recalled that during late-night debates at the Session Hall, some Senators would put their feet on their desks to relax:

'I remember Speaker (Florencio) Ramirez during that debate, I had my foot on the desk, one of them relaxing… he personally went up to me and said in Chamorro ‘my son, you have a future, don’t let people see you putting your foot on the desk. I don’t want them to think you are disrespecting the session hall.’….Ever since then, he said, I would think of that. You always have to respect the institution, in which you are. You have to respect the people.' [10]

Few of us will ever be as loved and respected by our People as Governor Ada or Speaker Ramirez, and that story tells us why—a senior Democratic Speaker valued the future of a young Republican Senator, and in those quiet moments, regardless of Party, a lesson was imparted and our people were respected.

If you need to understand why that story is important, remember this passage found in the National Register of Historic Places, entered in 2007:

'In the quest for political freedom, the Guam Congress Building became the center of strength and courage in the face of fear of arrest and imprisonment for acts of defiance against the arbitrary rule of the U.S. Naval Military Government. The Guam Congress Building itself became the symbol of the struggle of the Chamorro people to survive the events and circumstances that they had no choice or control of. The Guam Congress Building still stands today, defying the elements of nature but still silently proud of the history that took place in the Legislative Hall, some fifty-seven years ago.' [11]

God Bless you and your families and God Bless Guam."

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