Three hundred thirty-sixnewly minted graduates of the University of Guam received their degrees during the UOG spring commencement ceremony. They also heard a strongly worded address from Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, urging that they not stand by silent when fellow citizens are treated unfairly or unjustly.
As has become commonplace during the Trump administration, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave offense to a wide swath of U.S. citizens when he observed, “I am really amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from exercising what clearly appears to be his statutory and constitutional authority.”
The date was March 29 and Hawaii Federal Judge Derrick Kahala Watson, who issued the ruling blocking the presidential executive order best known as the ‘Muslim Ban’ said, “This court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed and pretend that it has not seen what it has.”
“Regardless of how you feel about this executive order, it is amazing that because the judge lives in the Pacific, it somehow seemed less legitimate to issue an order that blocked the president’s action," said.
UOG President Dr. Robert Underwood: "I don’t know about you, but it raises my Pacific Island blood pressure. And engages my Pacific Island pride. Because I hate being dissed and I’m transmitting my atan baba [dirty look] right now. You can transmit it all the way to the attorney general.”
For many, including Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, the executive order immediately recalled the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Chin, the son of Chinese immigrants, recalled talking with the daughter of a Japanese couple interned during the war. “What bothered her parents was not so much that they had to go into a camp. She remembered they were Americans. They were patriotic. They loved their country. What hurt her father the most was that as he walked through the streets to go to the camps, their friends and neighbors stood there watching and said nothing. They kept silent. They watched it happen, but did not speak up. Now, I am not from the Middle East. I am not from Africa. And I am not a Muslim. But I am an American. And I was not going to keep silent. This executive order is not the same as internment camps, but it takes us down a dark path of history we do not want to repeat.”
Chin warned the graduates not to expect smooth sailing when they go to bat for the rights of others. Pressure against the Hawaii tourist industry started immediately after he filed the challenge to Trump: “That’s our top economic industry by the way,” Chin said, “not so different from Guam. But something amazing happened after ‘boycott Hawaii’ hit the social media. For every tweet of someone who was canceling their trip, there were two more tweets of people who were booking a trip to Hawaii. People were writing, ‘Hawaii sounds like exactly where I want to be.’”
Chin most recently argued Hawaii’s case on the ‘ban’ order before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, from which it is eventually expected to move to the U.S. Supreme Court. While there, he visited his elderly parents and recalled their sacrifices on his behalf in immigrating to the U.S. His voice cracking with emotion, Chin said, “So I say this to the 2017 graduates. Your family, your loved ones, your teachers, your coaches, have worked hard and they’ve sacrificed to raise you, to challenge you, to educate you to bring you to this chapter. This is your chapter. Do not be silent. Speak up, because you matter and the world needs to hear from you. We are waiting to hear your voice.”