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Responsible leaders do what is right; not necessarily what people want

Views from the Trench By Jayne Flores

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

That quote from former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt should be required memorization for every leader. I’m thinking in particular about our own maga’haga, Lourdes Leon Guerrero, as I write this. She has had a tough decision to make over the past several months - what to do with nearly $570 million in American Recovery Plan funding being handed to the government of Guam.

It would be an easy decision, with an election year just around the corner, to give the money away to the people in the form of “stimulus” checks like those distributed by the federal government during the height of the pandemic shutdown.

The Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration has actually already done this through the “All Rise” program and several others that have put money directly into the hands of our people.

But as our leader, Governor Leon Guerrero has to do the right thing - the responsible thing, with these millions. Because were she to give this money away now, it would be a short-term fix.

The “give the people a fish to feed them for a day” kind of fix. Many in need would surely love another check in the mail. But what they need more of are jobs to earn a wage to support their families.

They need a stimulated economy that can provide those jobs. Our island desperately needs a new hospital. Another foster care facility. Improved village facilities, infrastructure, and government services. The list goes on.

Our governor is absolutely right to use this money to strengthen the community. Our public hospital, Guam Memorial, is literally falling down around the health care heroes who are saving people’s lives on a daily basis - whether the problem is Covid-19, a heart attack, a stroke, complications from diabetes, or a horrific car wreck.

Governor Leon Guerrero spending these ARP millions on community needs, like a new medical complex, programs that give grants to small businesses so they can get back on their feet, and programs that give childcare vouchers to parents in need, translate into insurance for the future. That type of spending is more along the lines of the “teach the people to fish so they can feed themselves for life,” philosophy.

The governor absolutely will get criticized for this decision. The short-sighted pundits will say, “Never mind a new hospital. Put the money into the hands of the people!” Beware these critics. It is very easy to armchair quarterback when you are not the one responsible for the big picture. And that is exactly the responsibility of our governor: The big picture. Ensuring our island’s future success.

Something else that Eleanor Roosevelt said comes to mind here. When her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, passed away early in his fourth term and Vice President Harry Truman was sworn into office, he asked Mrs. Roosevelt if she had any advice for him.

“I can’t tell you how to succeed, but I can tell you how to fail: Try to please everybody,” she is reported to have told Truman.

If Governor Leon Guerrero were to try to please everyone with this $570 million, as a government, we will have failed the people. Because in five years, we won’t have a new hospital, or new facilities to address the mental health and other needs of our people, such as new infrastructure, growing our economy, and better schools. Businesses that need the help now might be closed by then because they didn’t get the help they needed. Then the criticism would be, “Why didn’t she fix the hospital (or address any of these other community needs)?”

Leaders have to make tough decisions. Decisions that might not necessarily please everyone, but that are the right thing for everyone.

Full disclosure: Jayne Flores works for the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration as director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and administrator of the Governor’s Community Outreach Federal Programs Office.

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