Last week started off with a bang! Two major meetings were held that were important to Guam’s future. The more important of the two was a meeting of senior strategists, military officials with the State Department and the Pentagon, and academia. Their focus was on China, North Korea and Russia and the implied threats to the balance of power in the Western Pacific.
U.S. strategy in this area emphasizes the need to promote diplomacy. The term “messaging” was often used as a key component of this diplomacy whereby our government postures itself to be absolutely clear that certain actions will or will not be tolerated. The group admitted they struggle for examples of how to “message” our allies and opponents alike with acceptable ways of clearly stating their intent to maintain a strong presence in this area without being too intimidating. Prior discussions with senior statesmen from our area had revealed that over 80 percent of the countries in Asia supported a more robust U.S. presence, the only two to vote against this were China and North Korea.
All present were reminded that Guam has been and continues to be the strongest U.S. deterrent in the region. I also noted that our governor has scheduled a plebiscite for this coming election and that our people will be voting for their preferred political status on the road to self-determination. The way our lawmakers react to our decision will be a strong indication of how vital we are to the balance of power in the Western Pacific.
The sudden look of amazement from the people around the room made it clear that the experts on the Western Pacific were all caught off guard by my comments. They had no idea of our plebiscite and had never factored into their plans the effects of an independent Guam or possibly a 51st state being created in this region. Even further, they knew they needed to reconsider their messaging now knowing the facts. There was a span of silence where one could sense the wheels turning.
Gov. Calvo sent me to D.C. to do just this, join in on every discussion that could affect us. It was unanimously stated that all were so pleased to see Guam in attendance for the first time.
Our Guam team stayed late after the meeting to talk to all of the speakers and a number of the guests. Among the many conversations a couple of sad truths came to light. First of all, these folks had little knowledge of what was underway on our island, the most strategic piece of ground the United States controls. This means we are failing to have our issues included in the daily news updates that circulate their D.C. desks. Secondly, it means that we are not maintaining personal relationships with the people who have direct influence over our future. This all has to change.
Many of you may feel frustrated with the lack of progress on issues that are important to our island. It’s vital that our representatives attend all meetings in D.C. where Guam’s interests are being discussed if we are to expect anything different. We must have a coherent message that is consistently delivered time and time again.
This is work and requires long hours and dedication to do it right. Some of us enjoy what we do and can put these hours to good use. Our new image must address Guam as “America’s last frontier” and “America’s hope for the future.” Only through the changing of our messaging will we ever accomplish political significance and control over our destiny.