AUDIO: Speaker’s Weekly Address – Face-to-Face, Dialogue With Federal Officials Crucial

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Guam – In her Weekly Address, Speaker Judi Won Pat talks about the recent visit of a group of federal officials who came to learn more about the needs of our island and our region, in order to better serve non-profit organizations who work to meet these needs.

She said its crucial for Guam to “have a genuine, face-to-face, dialogue with federal officials, like those who visited our island last week, so that we can strengthen our voice in Washington.”

And she called the meeting with the Federal officials “incredibly momentous in that it was the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ first convening outside of the continental US that focused on the key issues affecting our region and allowed participants to collaborate on these issues”.

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READ the Speaker’s Weekly Address below:

Speaker Judith T. Won Pat’s Weekly Address
For Release – April 8, 2014

Buenas yan Hafa Adai,
Last week, Guam hosted a delegation of federal officials, who came to learn more about the needs of our island and our region, in order to better serve non-profit organizations who work to meet these needs.

This tremendous effort was led by Payu’ta, an umbrella organization of local non-profits, and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Executive Director of the White House Initiative and key officials from other federal agencies took part in community discussions, an island tour, and a regional conference that attracted non-profit organizations and government agencies from Guam, the CNMI, the rest of Micronesia, Hawaii and American Samoa.

The presentations and discussions focused on key issues including public-private partnerships, economic and business development, education, health equity, housing, homelessness, self-determination, and veterans affairs.

This gathering was incredibly momentous in that it was the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ first convening outside of the continental US that focused on the key issues affecting our region and allowed participants to collaborate on these issues.

In 2009, President Barak Obama reestablished the White House Initiative, which is housed within the U.S. Department of Education. The Initiative works to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by facilitating increased access to and participation in federal programs where these communities remain underserved.

With such an important purpose, it is absolutely essential for officials working with the Initiative and other relevant Federal agencies that support the needs of our region, to visit our islands and learn firsthand the unique needs of our island communities. I am very happy that representatives from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the Department of Interior, the US SBA Office of Native American Affairs, the Office of Minority Health, the Bureau of Primary Health Care, the Department of Labor, and several other agencies and organizations were able to visit our island to hear directly from
our hardworking service providers, government agencies, and non-profits.

In his presentation on self-determination during the community discussions last week, Dr. Robert Underwood eloquently described how as a territory, our island is often treated as an oversight. As non-voting citizens with a non-voting representative in Congress, we have little-to-no power to hold the US accountable to its obligations to our people. Thus, we have limited access to federal resources and we are often subject to unfunded federal mandates or agreements that we did not negotiate and that we cannot afford.

It is crucial for us to be able to have a genuine, face-to-face, dialogue with federal officials, like those who visited our island last week, so that we can strengthen our voice in Washington. The White House Initiative assured us that they were listening to our concerns and they committed to producing a report based on their visit, which I hope will be used to more accurately inform policy and funding decisions for our region.

I truly enjoyed meeting and listening to all of the participants in last week’s forums and events. I learned a lot from our local and regional service providers and non-profit leaders. I also sensed a sincere commitment from the federal officials who were present to continue to strengthen their relationships here in the Pacific. I hope they come back to the island, and I encouraged them to bring the President with them. There are big decisions being made in Washington that have tremendous impacts on our community, and the President needs to see firsthand how these decisions affect our lives.

Saina ma’ase.