Inaugural Address - January 7, 2019

January 07, 2019— Hagåtña, Guam
Print friendly

Lt. Gov. Tenorio, Madame Speaker, Madame Chief Justice, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Senators of the 35th Guam Legislature, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, and most importantly, my fellow citizens.

Forty-seven years ago, Governor Carlos Camacho stood before the people of Guam as our first elected governor. Today, I am only the eighth person, and the first woman, to have been chosen by the people to lead our island. It is an honor I hold deep in my heart, and a responsibility I embrace willingly.

At 47 years old, we are a young government, relatively speaking. And as such, we have our challenges. But we are also a strong democratic government, made of strong people who have overcome great challenges that have collectively made us far wiser than our 47 years.

Spanish occupation, American occupation, Japanese torture, imprisonment, force labor, liberation, and the frustration of still not having had the right to choose our own destiny—this is our history, and it has made us what we are today: a savory melting pot of cultures that live and work together, take the best of what each has to offer, and who, as a community, try to grow stronger each year.

Governor Calvo and Lieutenant Governor Tenorio, I want to thank you for your gracious cooperation throughout the transition process and for the many years of public service you have given to our island.

Two months ago, people from every walk of life heard our call for change. And, as Josh mentioned, now it is our responsibility to do our best to deliver on what we've promised.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. We must raise the income of our working families. We have to decrease the rising tide of crime that steals our safety and robs us of our peace of mind. We must build safe schools and repair those that are falling apart. We have to fix our broken streets and we will regain the accreditation of our hospital. We will inform you on how we use public monies. With your participation and cooperation, we will grow and make our economy strong.

Our challenges are real, and they are many. They weren't caused by just one party or just one set of leaders. We won't solve them all today, tomorrow, or even 100 days from now—but we will solve them together.

Democrat, Republican, or Independent – whether you voted for me, made another choice, or didn't vote at all – I now need your help and Guam needs you even more. Because no one – no elected leader, Governor, or Captain of industry can deliver the change we require alone. Guam needs every person from every walk of life, from every place of faith and from every corner of our island.

If you are in the workforce, we need you as a partner to come together and work with us on innovative strategies to establish new economic industries and to create better paying jobs.

Our young people are smart. They are masters of technology. We need to tap into that potential as our island and the global workforce grow more technological.

We need to provide our sons and daughters and grandchildren with the education, skills, and the tools needed to graduate from high school, college, or another program. Because when they do this, they enter the workforce ready to compete for secure good-paying, sustainable jobs.

We want our children to be prepared for success and to know that they can raise their family, buy a home, give back to our community, and make Guam the best home it can be for us all.

They are our future, and this is perhaps our greatest challenge – to inspire this younger generation – to instill in them the desire to want to be a part of change for the better. To work hard, and feel good about it. To work smart and feel good about themselves. To have a purpose and succeed.

Nothing is more dangerous to our future as a people than apathy. Than the belief that "this is the way things are"—that we must lower our eyes or manage our expectations.

Our people's call for change makes one thing very clear; we have to be ingenious in the way we do business...

The era of exploding operational debt, massive budget shortfalls, higher taxes, closed doors, and decreased performance is over. Now is the time for change.

We must make the die hard choices. We cannot forget our teachers, our nurses, our law enforcement officers and our people. The era for taking responsibility for our actions is here.

Now is a time for change. But change without a plan is just more of the same.

That is why, today, we begin a top-down review of our government's financial health. All assets, liabilities, cash-flow models, expenditures, and budgetary projections are now being reassessed.

We will keep what works. We will change what has failed us, and we will do better. We are one family; and for our island family to succeed, we must leave no one behind. If you have the privilege of doing business on Guam; if you are longing for a government you can trust – Know this: our promise is more than words.

For the first time in decades, we will seat the Guam Ethics Commission. It will hold those of us who work for you to the high ethical standards you expect from your elected officials. The Commission will serve as a venue for honest complaints, fair hearings, and resolution.

To collect the taxes we are owed, plug the leaks, and lay old problems to rest; I've directed that the Department of Revenue and Taxation report to me daily until the Tax Recovery Unit is operational and all outstanding Audit findings from the Office of Public Accountability are resolved.

But change requires more than a laundry list of things to do. It demands that we face old truths; that we take strong steps; and that we admit we have not done so.

For too long, we have drifted – every year wandering a bit more off course – struggling to find our way back to prosperity.

To “Restore Faith in our Future” we must invest in our people, in their jobs, and in the prosperity of their futures. We must give them hope that, with hard work, with education and training, their lives will be better.

We must also cut our crushing debt and recognize that we live in a world which competes for every opportunity, and fights for every bit of growth. We need to make our tiny corner of the western Pacific a place that people want to do business with, to visit, to invest in.

Government can do many things. But government cannot do everything.

The work before us is not for government alone. We must partner with businesses and non-profit groups to support families in need, the elderly and the disabled. We must reconnect our frayed communities.

While government is responsible to every citizen, every citizen is also responsible to themselves and to one another. We need to build a culture in which it is unacceptable to assault someone, to beat someone up, to bully someone.

We must work together to create an island community in which our children and grandchildren can go to school and feel safe. Where they play together with other children, no matter where they are from.

Real change demands that we change more than our policies; it also demands that we change our politics.

I know that powerful forces will always keep score of who is ahead or who is behind – of who is winning the day or losing it. But somewhere beyond the comfort of our air conditioned offices, a single mom juggles two jobs and the care of her children, and business owner struggles to pay his employees, provide them health care, and still stay afloat. They are paying for us to be here— we need to be worthy of their hard-earned tax dollars.

Let us trade competition for cooperation. Let us reform our politics to work more for the powerless and not the powerful, who can take care of themselves.

Change will not come because we waited. It will come because we worked for it—because we acted boldly, recognizing right as well as reality. I know much will be said about the history I have made today. But I would not be here today, were it not for the strong women on whose shoulders I now stand.

Women like Rosa Aguigui Reyes and Mariana Lujan – the first women elected to the Guam Congress in the late 1940s; Cynthia Torres, an educator and a businesswoman; and Lagrimas Leon Guerrero Untalan, a dynamic teacher and an accomplished pianist – the first women elected to the Third Guam Legislature in 1954; Concepcion Barrett, an accomplished legal scholar. Her education and willingness to serve gave her the capacity to enact Guam’s Criminal and Correctional Codes, setting the legal foundation for Guam's Public Safety Community; Madeleine Bordallo, our first elected female Congressional Delegate and Lieutenant Governor; Dr. Judith Won Pat, our first elected female speaker; Justice Janet Healy Weeks the first female Judicial officer; The indomitable Agueda Iglesias Johnston – an educator and civic leader who sought to improve the living conditions for all of Guam’s people; and of course my own mother, Eugenia Aflague Leon Guerrero, who helped me be the strong woman I am today.

These women faced mountainous obstacles. Still, they climbed. They persisted because true to our island’s history and Chamorro heritage, they were strong women who stood up for what they believed in and knew that the paths they were taking would one day blaze a trail for women like me.

My friends, today we walk in their inspiring footsteps. Today belongs to them; to our mothers and our grandmothers – but most of all – it belongs to our daughters – and to the belief that if you are committed and you work hard, you can be the change you wish to see, and spread that change like the sea that washes into our shores.

Now is our people’s time. We are kind and understanding. We are respectful and we are generous. We are compassionate and considerate. We are courageous and bold. Man metogt hit.

Change is here; and I promise you, this change will make us a stronger, better Guam for everyone who calls our island home.

As our new Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio just mentioned, yes, I am a wife, a mother and a grandmother. I am a nurse, a former lawmaker, and a successful businesswoman. And starting today, I am incorporating the strongest qualities from all of these roles in my life to serve as your Governor of Guam.

From the bottom of my heart, and with the support of my husband Jeff and my loving family, I am humbled to be the first Female Governor of Guam, i Maga’Håga. It is indeed the honor of my life. Let our journey to restore faith in our future begin now.

God bless you all. God bless Guam.