Over the years since the newly restored Guam Congress Building opened, thousands have toiled under its roof, setting the island’s public policy through the enactment of laws and testing public sentiment through countless public hearings and community meetings. Many on Guam remember going to the building when it multi-tasked as a courthouse and taking in the facility during school trips.
Of course, many who worked in the building are still with us. On its opening day, I saw those who went on from legislative service to the top job. Among them, former Governors Paul M. Calvo, Joseph F. Ada and Carl T.C. Gutierrez. Former Senate Speakers Joaquin Arriola, Don Parkinson, Mark Forbes and Joe T. San Agustin were on hand, as well as Governor Eddie Baza Calvo and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio and outgoing Speaker Judith Won Pat, the daughter of the original Speaker of the Guam Congress, Antonio B. Won Pat, who became the island’s first Delegate to Washington, D.C.
Dozens of former senators, island mayors, judges and other public officials attended the ceremony at the building, which served as the backdrop for the 1949 walkout of the 9th Guam Congress, bringing national attention to local complaints about the island’s relationship with the U.S. Navy and more broadly, Washington.
But like nectar to bees, such a hub of community activity draws reporters and editors who chronicle the results of the deliberations, arguments and votes that take place there. Certainly, thousands have performed this public service at the Hagatna venue over the years, but they weren’t in evidence for the re-opening. After all, the building has been closed, hosting only pigeons, since 1992, severely cutting the pool of those who recall it as a functioning place.
As a newbie Guam Cable TV reporter in December, 1980, fresh off the plane at the old airport terminal, the Guam Congress Building is where I shortly after met Senator Carl Gutierrez. My guide confided in me that he was likely the next Speaker of the body. In the next several years, the Guam Congress Building was a daily stop in the hectic schedule of a local TV reporter. Then Senator Joe T. San Agustin was one memorable source of information for a Guam novice, mostly trying to figure out stories over the phone. Senator Tommy Tanaka was less forthcoming until he discovered I was from Wisconsin, where he had gone to school. Many conversations about the Green Bay Packers ensued.
All in all, I would have liked to spend more time at this collegial place, with its shared interest in public issues, but as present-day reporters on legislative matters know well, that’s not how it works. And news people, for many reasons, move along.
Looking around at the ceremony though, I saw only one figure with such memories. I first met photographer Ricky Cruz of the Pacific Daily News when he was—effectively—a 17-year-old apprentice photographer at the Guam Cable newsroom. Then as now, he was energetically capturing the images that bring the events of the day to a broader audience.
If you want to revisit the coverage produced by all those departed news people, you’ll have to visit the archives, both on the internet and in libraries and the works of history produced by those largely dependent on their original labors. As the public work at the Guam Congress Building gets underway after a quarter century lapse, you can be assured that their successors will be on hand to cover the ongoing events.
Heading into the Trump administration, many are getting an education on somewhat obscure portions of the U.S. Constitution. The president-elect’s reluctance to cut his business ties in order to remove ethical questions about his potential receipt of money from foreign governments brings this up. This is strictly banned under the Constitutional provision known as the “Emoluments Clause.” But a recent discussion on NPR referred repeatedly to the “Emollients Clause.” If a requirement for skin moisturizers and lotions is added to the U.S. Constitution, perhaps we’ll be better able to slide through a tough patch in American history.