- By Johanna Salinas
Saipan Millennial steals the show at Marianas re-unification talks
At the table for One Marianas Summit on Guam were prominent local leaders, such as Senator Will Castro, former Senator Tina Muna Barnes and Guam Visitors Bureau’s Tony Muna.
The youngest at the meeting was a young man from Saipan representing the office of the CNMI Governor Ralph Torres. In a such a room full of knowledge and experience, a millennial is expected to sit quietly and observe. However, the young man at the table brought a fresh perspective to the event.
“What we’re doing now in the One Marianas Summit [is] we’re honing in on what unites us as an island community—as a jurisdiction with collective problems working to find collective solutions,” said 24-year-old Kevin Bautista, press secretary for Governor Torres. While he may not have decades of experience compared to others at the Summit, Bautista is certain that the Marianas can work together to grow and create better jobs and living environments. “We’re still trying to find our place in a more globalized world. That’s the most important thing for us right now, to keep looking forward—especially in a more modernized world where things are moving closer and faster.”
An issue that Bautista feels strongly about is the economy of the Marianas. “The economy is more than just numbers and stats,” said Bautista. “It’s people’s lives involved. Getting unemployed U.S. citizens employed is a big priority, but on the other side to complement that is to ensure that folks that have immigrated and called the CNMI home are taken care of too. That’s what Governor Torres is trying to do with the federal relationships we’ve made. A community must take care of the labor and economy issues as a whole.”
Despite the struggle to find investors for the Tinian casino, Bautista is optimistic about the CNMI’s economy. “Our economy has slowly been picking up since 2012,” he insisted. “That’s the result of a larger influx of small business coming into the fray with the emergence of our gaming industry. That’s the economic salvation we are talking about, because it doesn’t just come from the gaming industry.”
Small businesses are created by big dreamers and Bautista is a big dreamer. He dreams of helping the people of the CNMI and taking the island to a global level. His dreaming has taken him all the way to the CNMI’s governor’s office where he works closely with Torres.
“I’m not going to say that I’ve achieved relative success,” Bautista claimed. “I think success is defined as trying new things and looking at the world’s problems without being cynical and just attack it head on without fear. Maintain an idealism with a passion you choose to pursue. Don’t be cynical and lose yourself in the process. Enjoy your youth and ask questions. Push the envelope when it comes to advocating for change. Think as a public servant and not selfishly.”
Although he may come off as a practical man, Bautista is passionate about the CNMI and the great possibilities for its people. “The CNMI is one of the most unique places in the entire world. The Chamorro-Carolinian traditions that I grew up loving and adopting and the diversity of the people there,” Bautista said. As the son of Filipino immigrants, Bautista is thankful for the welcoming culture of the Chamorros. “There is a sense of worldliness in the Commonwealth, and my mentors have acknowledged it as well, to not see the islands as rocks in the middle of nowhere. Ralph Torres has been a big mentor for me personally, as well as his chief of staff, Matthew de Leon Guerrero. Those guys allowed me to push the envelope.”
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