January 30, 2013
|Photo by W. L. Doromal ©2010|
Here is the text of Congressman Sablan's moving speech:
My fellow citizens.
Thank you all so very much for giving me the extraordinary privilege to represent you and our Northern Mariana Islands in our national government once again.
Thank you all so very much for allowing me to continue working for you in the United States Congress.
Twenty-seven days ago, I stood on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. I raised my right hand along with 440 other Americans. We recited the same oath of office I have just repeated here.
Words that begin: I do solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States. To bear allegiance to that Constitution. To faithfully discharge the duties of office. And, with God’s help, I have every intention to honor my oath.
Significantly, those of us who take that oath do not swear to get whatever we can for our constituents.
We do not promise to put Oregon ahead of Idaho, or Idaho before California, California in front of Hawaii, or the Hawaiian islands over the Northern Mariana Islands.
No. Instead we swear to uphold the Constitution — the Constitution — whose primary goal is not individual advancement, but rather a more perfect Union of ‘We, the people,’ a nation, all together, with justice for all, secure and at peace, where everyone may prosper.
It is true that since I first came to Congress four years ago I worked to get all I could, as much as I could, just for you, the people I work for.
Some have said it doesn’t matter one way or the other that I was there — or that any representative of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands was there in Congress participating in the historic decisions of the last four years.
But we have shown that it does matter.
I know that even after the White House said: no more money for territories in the health care reform bill, I sat at the table with President Obama and more was added.
And I know that those health care dollars — over 100 million more, 16 million paid over in just the last year and a half have helped to keep our Commonwealth Health Center open, perhaps, saved a life.
I know it does matter to be part of our national government.
I know we have to fight to be included.
And I know that for so long as you send me to Washington, bearing your trust — and with the help of God — I will continue to work my heart out there for you. I continue to pledge my loyalty to you.
But I think that in some important way all of us here in the Northern Mariana Islands have also come to a new and larger understanding of what to expect from our government and what to expect from those we elect and from those we appoint to public office.
I believe that in this last election here in the Commonwealth there was a shift.
People realized that government cannot only be about each individual or certain groups of individuals, getting what they can for themselves or for their friends or their families.
Instead we voted for some higher principle, for some sense of what is right and what is wrong for the good of all of us for the commonwealth.
We said: enough is enough to the politics of personal and special interest advancement. “Basta, to those who use the power we give them to rob us of the power our government should use to improve the lives of us all. We said we hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and for their inactions. No excuses. No one is above the law.
My fellow citizens, we all know this is an extraordinary time in the history of the Northern Mariana Islands. We can feel that we are living in a drama of historical importance.
We have lived through its beginnings. We are in the middle. We do not know how it will end. But we do know what the people want. The voters have made their will known. No one can say the voice of the voters was not loud. No one can say the voice of the voters was not clear.
But I am not so vain as to believe that margin of victory was entirely because of how hard I have worked over the last four years or how wonderful the results have been. Because I know — only too well — the many ways I, and those who work with me for you, can set the bar even higher.
I can see clearly the gap between what we have been able to accomplish and how much more work remains ahead – not only for the good of the Northern Mariana Islands, but for the good of our nation as a whole.
Yet the voters of the Northern Mariana Islands gave me — and all those of us elected in what you might call a ‘wave election’ — a wave that swept away so many and lifted others into place — you gave us the gift of your confidence and you gave us your trust.
And with that gift we are empowered, empowered not only to work hard, but empowered also to make the hard decisions, whether in Washington or right here in our own local government.
There are many stories, you know, in the history of our nation of elected officials, who bucked the will of the electorate, who made decisions they knew would be unpopular because they knew these were the right decisions.
Right here at home I think of former Congresswoman Tina Sablan, who, as a legislator, refused to compromise her principles, when pressured to do so for political expediency. Tina had the courage to do what was right, even when it was not popular. She lost re-election, but she never feared to fight for her beliefs.
I think of my congressional classmate Ahn ‘Joseph’ Cao, a Vietnamese immigrant from New Orleans, Louisiana, a Republican, and the only Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote for the health care reform bill in November 2009. He stood up in the face of all other Republicans to do what he thought was right. Joseph Cao lost re-election. But he will never lose my respect for his courage.
I think of another Republican, Henry Hyde of Illinois, who told the incoming congressional class of 1995 to remember that ‘there are things worth losing for.’
‘Your constituents expect you to represent their interests…but your responsibilities are far greater,’ Hyde said. ‘You must take, at times, a national view, even if, in taking that view, you risk the displeasure of your neighbors and friends back home.’
“Today, at least, those of us elected here in the Northern Mariana Islands in November can feel secure because the will of the voters seems so clear. But all things in life are fleeting. There will come a day — and it won’t be long — when any one of us will have to ‘risk the displeasure’ of neighbors and friends.
We may have to choose to put the good of the Commonwealth ahead of what benefits Rota, or Tinian, or Saipan or the Northern Islands individually.
We may have to choose to put the good of the Commonwealth ahead of the power and prestige of any single ethnic or economic group we are part of. We may have to put the long-term good of our nation ahead of any short-term gain for the people we represent. We may risk your displeasure. We may risk our own political demise. But that is what you elected us to do.
You have my promise this morning to continue working as your Congressman towards those goals and for those policies that in my judgment are best for our nation.
You have my promise, too, that in making those judgments for the national good — whether the issue is gun control to make our citizens safer, or immigration reform to make citizens of those who contribute to our society, whether to tax more or less, to spend more or less — in all these policy debates I will remember the individual human beings affected.
My congressional colleague, the Reverend Emanuel Cleaver, recently told me that to him government policy is a picture frame, and within that frame of policy he sees the face of each and every individual Americans. That image is meaningful to me. But it demonstrates the difficult decisions you have asked me to make. Weighing the good of the many against the interests of a few, the needs of today against the hope of tomorrow, balancing, choosing on your behalf, always seeing your faces before me, knowing every decision has a human cost.
So I say thank you, again, for the great trust you have given me. Thank you for the strength you give me to represent you in Congress for two more years.
Thank you and may God bless you, may God Bless the Northern Mariana Islands and may God Bless the United States of America.”