Won Pat leaves a piece of advice to new senators
For newcomers in the 34th Legislature, former Speaker Judi Won Pat has this piece of advice: being a senator is more than just writing laws and voting on session floor.
“Writing good laws requires you to be mindful of the people and their situations. It demands that you understand their struggles and empathize with their needs,” Won Pat in her farewell speech at the last session of the 33rd Legislature last week.
The lame duck session was held in the recently-restored Guam Congress Building in Hagåtña, the historic site of the March 5, 1949 walkout by members the Guam Congress who protested against the US Naval government and pushed the island’s quest for self-government and US citizenship. The protest spawned the Organic Act.
“I am honored to stand here today, in this most historic of buildings, in what is our final session of the 33rd Guam Legislature,” said Won Pat, who is among the seven members of the 33rd Legislature who failed in their reelection bids on Nov. 8, 2016.
Members of the 34th Guam Legislature will be sworn in at the inauguration ceremony on Monday, Jan 2, in the Congress Building. “After a striking 27-year hiatus, the Guam Legislature will once again call the historic Congress Building home—making this installation of senators a historically significant inaugural event for the People of Guam,” said Sen. Benjamin Cruz, who assumes the speakership of the 34th Legislature.
Also returning to the session, besides Cruz, are Democratic Sens. Frank. Aguon Jr., Dennis Rodriguez, Michael San Nicolas and Tom Ada, and Republican Sens. James Espaldon, Tommy Morison, Mary Torres. They will be joined by newcomers Therese Terlaje, Telena Nelson, Wil Castro, Regine Biscoe Lee, Louise Muna, Fernando Estevez and Joe San Agustin.
“In gathering my thoughts today, I recalled the saying about the difference between a career and a calling. My own life is a testament to how true that is,” Won Pat said.
“Going back to the beginning, as a freshman Senator in the 23rd Guam Legislature, I remember feeling like many of our newly elected senators - thinking that I would run and serve one term and be done with it. I would make a huge impact on our island and our people, then when my term was up, I would move on with my life. But life isn’t ever that simple and neither is change,” she added.
Won Pat said she never planned on making a career out of politics when she was first elected senator in 1994.
She advised new senators that being a member of the legislature is a full time job “that keeps you up late at night and takes you away from your family” and “pulls you out of bed on the weekends and makes you take phone calls on Christmas.”
“But what I loved most about being a public servant is the opportunity to stay connected to people, and more importantly to have the capacity to help them,” she said. “That’s one of the things that they don’t tell you when you pick up your freshman senator orientation packet: so many people depend on our senators for help.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight, she said. “Sometimes change requires you to fail, because sometimes change wants to know if you’re willing to push through adversity in order to achieve your goals. I have failed many times over the years, but I have also picked myself up, dusted myself off, and persevered because I always believed that the people of Guam are worth it.
“But it’s also a very rewarding job because though voters can be a fickle bunch, the people that you help will always appreciate the work you’ve done. This is one of the most valuable things I learned from my father.
“Many people think that losing an election is the hard part, but I would challenge that losing the opportunity to serve my people in this capacity is much harder. I’ve never had a job that has given me the opportunity to help so many people and to defend this island that we all hold so dear to our hearts,” she said.