Inaugural Address

His Excellency Peter M. Christian

President
Federated States of Micronesia


National Compound ~ Palikir, Pohnpei
JULY 10, 2015 ~ 10 am

Mister Speaker and Members of the FSM Congress, former Presidents, Honorable Chief Justice, Mister Vice-President, Honorable Governors, Speakers and Members of our State Legislatures, Cheifs and Traditional Leaders of Micronesia, members of the clergy, ambassadors and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow citizens of the FSM everywhere:

This day marks another milestone in the history of our young nation.  It also marks for me a monumental milestone.  I am honored beyond words to address you as your new President, but the occasion is first and foremost a celebration of the Federated States of Micronesia and its enduring constitution.

I do wish, at the outset to express deep gratitude to my supporters and the voters of Pohnpei State for re-electing me to Congress last March.  Additionally, I thank the members of the Congress for their vote of confidence in honoring me with the highest office of the land.  I promise to do my utmost to be worthy of the honor and confidence.

In 1979 the historic First Session of the First Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia convened in Kolonia, in what used to be an old Japanese school building.  This event marked also the birth of a new Nation.  At about 1:25 pm, Thursday, May 10, 1979 temporary Speaker Christian recognized Senator Luke Tman to present the Credential Report on the members-elect. 

Sergeant at-arms-Sintaro Ezra escorted the Honorable Judge Mamoru Nakamura who administered the Oath of Office to members.  Temporary Speaker Christian then said: However, short lived my position up here, I still would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you senators and welcome you officially to Ponape. 

At 1:30 pm Temporary Speaker Christian declared recess.

At 1:33 pm, The first Speaker of the FSM Congress, the Honorable Bethwel Henry reconvened Congress. 

Today I am honored to recognize two people in our midst, The Honorable Bethwel Henry and Honorable Dr. Olter Paul, who in their younger and more energetic days served in the Congress that would force forth-and-up-front the notion that the people of Micronesia aspire for and would have nothing less than a sovereign nation.

Today, close to four decades later, I stand before you as the 8th President of our young Nation.  I find myself older, but still overwhelmed with the same mixed feelings of some excitement and a lot of nervousness.  Today, I am comforted by the sight of men who helped found this nation, the presence of my colleagues in Congress, our leaders from the four States, our friends and neighbors of Micronesia, and our distinguished guests who also have been our development partners.

I am also so very encouraged by the kindness of the traditional leaders who have graced us with their presence.  I also take shelter in the shade of all of you, citizens of Micronesia, whose well being Vice President George and I must now look after. My greatest confidence and comfort in even wishing for this difficult task – lies in my loving family, especially my dear wife, Maurina. Thank you so very much. Thank you, all of you!

Two months ago this day, Typhoon Dolphin followed in the path of Maysak and swept thru parts of Micronesia with such angry force that the session in which VP George and I were selected by congress was without many who we had hoped would be there for us. We hope that you are here today.  And we thank you very much.

I would like at this time to acknowledge and thank the men who have served this nation as presidents and vice presidents, paving the way for VP George and I.  Many of you have heard me say on many occasions before in Congress that one must not tear down a good house simply because he does not like the man who builds it. VP George and I promise to follow President Remengesau's wise advice to his people: to keep the best, and improve the rest.

Thank you Tommy.

Today we commemorate the birth of an idea: The Micronesian spirit of unity.  It is an idea tempered by the belief that we - though separated by miles of ocean, different languages, and diverse cultures - that our nation can find, within its sea of differences, the deepest measure of unity. It is an idea declared in the preamble to our constitution that “we, who have been the wards of other nations, become the proud guardians of our own islands”.  Unity for us cannot be taken for granted.  It is the post on which our vines of prosperity sustain itself and can continue to prosper.

Let us embrace the spirit of sharing.  It is in this same spirit that we must reach out to one another in our communities and make ourselves strong, self reliant, and resilient.  For only in this way and from this way that we can encourage others to become more selfless and caring for others as we ourselves wish to be.

As a small nation we have little to offer for the improvement of what ails most of those who suffer in this world.  What we can do, however, is help ourselves.  Take charge and establish authority and responsibility.  Become most dependent on ourselves.  Manage our affairs well.  For what we do to help ourselves will lessen our need to cry out to others for help.  In this we leave more for those in greater need.  This is our contribution.

I note a wonderful thing we have in Micronesia.  There is the church in its various forms and denominations.  There is culture, diversified as it is intended, but with many common bonds rooted in our heritage.  Then there is the government, established by commons and nobles alike to insure safety and fairness for all.  There is the leadership of each of these governing functions, anointed, dedicated, and united to serve the people in the name of God and country.  It is, indeed, a blessing to be of this country, Micronesia.  (Luke: To whom God has given much, much is expected)

Fellow Leaders,

Let us lead; lead our people to do good for ourselves for such goodness shall overflow to others.  We must insist that we all do this not only because it is the civil thing to do, but more so because it is the Christian way.

Like the Presidents who have come before me, I have come to know what I have long before suspected - that the problems that ail our country are many. Some are small and fixable by simple realigning of wants against needs; by refocusing our attention from what there is, to what needs to be.

Some of the problems are easy to correct as they are internal to the national government. But some of the problems are rooted in the intricacies of tiered governments where there are Municipal, State, and National jurisdictions all vying to serve the same constituents, but often tripping over each other because of unclear delineation of powers, coupled with political ambitions of three levels of legislative bodies.  On this, I ask that we work together to overcome the causes of these difficulties.

Some of the problems, however, are more complicated as they often represent levels of disagreement between our country and other countries and international organizations whose interests in our affairs are not always compatible with our own.  Entangled in these problems are not always issues that ask “what” or “why”…but “how.”  How do we promote our relationships without stepping on each other’s toes? Genuine, honest-to-goodness respect for each other’s right to choose “how” is what we need in order to overcome these difficulties and problems.  Sometime we must let our Hearts think for us.

We already have a government that is functional.  Vice President George and I commit to guiding our government into one that is more directed, more efficiently oriented, and more responsive to the needs of the people.  Absolute success may not be attainable, but we promise to give the effort our best, as stewards of this nation and as implementors of policies set by Congress. These are our simple promises.  It is now your responsibility to hold us to them.

We also pledge a renewed realization of our nation’s goal, and call on Congress to help us as we try to fulfill our mandate to move us closer to our goals.  Our nation’s goal, since its inception, has been only one - to improve the social well being of the people of the nation by whatever means available.  That was our nation’s goal thirty six years ago, and that is still our goal today.

We must continue to recognize that given the geography, the geopolitics, and the varied component states that make up our nation, the course toward that goal is not easy. But with the help of Congress, our traditional leaders, our church leaders, and you, the citizens of the FSM, together, I believe that we will be able to achieve our nation’s goal: to give every citizen of the FSM an opportunity - not just a promise - but a real opportunity to build a better life. 

Nation building is hard and indefinite because there is no finish line. There is no end. What there is are the markers that help measure how far we have come and how well we have done. 

This effort is a relay in which baton of progress is passed from people to people, leaders to leaders, and generations to generations. A heat run poorly or a baton dropped can cause tremendous penalty in a nation's race toward its desired goals.  The poorer the nation, the harder it is to restart and get to the next marker as planned. Against this latter assertion, we must become more vigilant during our watch.

With the blessing of opportunity comes the demand for responsibility. In the Micronesians dream for self-government, one significant road block that stands out for us is our inability to yet wean ourselves from paternal relationships.  

Each and every one of us, as citizens of the FSM, must embrace personal responsibility - not only for ourselves and for our families, but for our neighbors and for our nation, and for our Micronesian Region. Our greatest responsibility is to embrace a renewed spirit of community and unity. For any one of us to succeed, we must succeed as one, as in one nation, as in one people, as in one dream.

As we strive toward our nation’s goal, there are markers along the path.  Some serve to indicate our work in progress, or lack thereof, in our effort to achieve more economic self-sufficiency and improved social well-being.  Some markers, however, are more significant - the creation of the Congress of Federated States of Micronesia, the ratification of our nation’s constitution, the organization of the FSM Government, the ratification of the Compact of Free Association, and our becoming a member of the United Nations.  These are not mere markers.  These are our monuments of testimony of our political progress as a nation and as a people on our journey from a long period of Colonialism to assertion of self governance. 

Vice President George and I promise to do all we can during our term to help our nation reach its goals, realize our dreams, and provide our citizens an opportunity for a better life.  But alone, we can only do so much.  We will need the help of our fellow elected representatives in Congress.  We all have a solemn responsibility for the people who entrusted us the power of government.  We must always remember that the mandate given to us by the people is not one to be ignored or taken lightly.  I say this not so much as a message to you, but more as a reminder to myself.

To our friends from all across the globe, we share the sentiment etched into our preamble: “we extend to all nations what we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity.”

The first half of the 20th century will always be remembered as a period of world conflict. In this difficult period in our history, we witnessed the atrocities that misguided man created. And in this period, we also saw the biggest effort ever put forth in man's attempt to institute what was hoped to be the organization that would forever maintain peace and order. In support of the establishment of the League of Nations President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed........

“a general association of nations must be formed under special covenant for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike...."

"An evident principle runs thru the whole program.  It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another.  Whether they be strong or weak."  He ended by saying…

"The people of the United States can act on no other principle."

The government and the people of Micronesia subscribe to this man's declaration of principle. Not blissfully and not without forethought.  Not in a chance discovery attitude; certainly not in the way Columbus came upon the shores of the Americas.

 

Such a noble thought would seem enough to attract world leaders to subscribe to those peace principles. But, those plans failed because man will always be what he is...a man...weak in his ability to control that inherent animalistic instinct to be better than others, to conquer by conquest, to feel right with might.  And in their plunders to be victorious,,, we, the small, the weak, and the less blessed become victims, and become the spoils of war, and sadly the objects of observation in man's effort to improve upon modern warfare weapons.

 

The World Wars have ended.  The cold war, a secret myth of yesterday.  And in all such sad conflicts, there are those who claim victory. But, victors must be humble in their triumphs.  Many nations involved in the conflicts have risen from the debris of war to become dominant economic powers in the world. They now wage economic wars against each other often leaving in their wake victims of selfish globalization. And where they are generous, often this generosity comes with a Pavlovian leash.

 

My friends,

Let us put history in its proper place...and look to it for encouragement that we use our might for what is right.

To our friends who stood against each other in the conflict of armed wars, we ask you today to stand together with us and resolve to remember war as a conflict of the past. Together let us promote friendship, partnership, and cooperation as our strength for the future. We have enough common challenges today to keep us busy....climate change crisis, sea level rise, poverty, hunger and famine, illiteracy and in-curable diseases, genocide, human trafficking, and economic imbalance.

These are the challenges of today. They should be enough to keep us busy. Let us divert the energy of our anger for things past toward these challenges before us now and the days ahead.  But, as we do so...looking forward...let us not be afraid to look back to see where we have come from. Lest we forget who we really are.  Let us take strength and wisdom from our past and apply this strength for the good of the future.

Let us not be afraid to sift thru the rubbles of our forgotten thoughts...because in this rubble we may find memories of our good past. A wonderful thing to cherish. That is what we should carry forth.

Our distance from industrial centers has for some time been a constraint in our efforts to attract businesses and investors to look at Micronesia.  The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia will continue its efforts to make our country a good and safe place to invest in.  We believe that in order to achieve our development goals, the government must work CLOSELY with the private sector.  

In spite of the poor grades the World Bank assigns us - we must remain careful that our success in promoting foreign investment does not come at the expense of our local business people, our culture, and our fragile environment.  We must take care and sustain what we promote.  We must, by necessity and dictate, be extra selective in the kinds of business enterprises that we choose to invite into our country. Sometimes doing the right thing can be painful.  But we must stay strong and we must dedicate ourselves to the task of serving well by doing right by our own people first.

We must widen our vision and deepen our resolve to build and promote good, strong, and responsible government.  We must strive to handle the affairs of government with integrity and operate with more openness. We need a government that can live within its means and can do more with less. We need a government that is humble enough to know its limitations, yet bold enough to stand up for our values and interests in the world.

Let us remind ourselves that, naiveté, the greatest sin of a youthful nation is often exasperated by arrogance of leaders by their inability to admit ignorance, and that acceptance of our weakness is our first strong step forward.

The Federated States of Micronesia has truly come a long way.  Yesterday we explored the seas in rafts and canoes.  And when we came to these islands – we displaced no other man.  Although we still gather under thatched roof houses, we no longer have to sit and talk late into the night about which form of government will suit us best.  Today although we now voyage with other nations among stars; we know and remember our heritage; we know in our hearts that this nation has meaning and spirit beyond what we see. And we know that our unity is our greatest strength.

Thank you all very much and God bless the Federated States of Micronesia.