Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to Micronesian Island Leaders in Agana Heights, Guam

November 23, 1998

Thank you very much, Governor and Geri. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted to be here. I want to begin by thanking Dan and Ehlysa for their wonderful art work, and all the other children who gave me this. I will read this on the way home and treasure it always.

I'd like to thank Congressman Underwood for joining us, and for joining us on the long trip to Japan and Korea we have just taken, along with Senator Baucus and Congressman Pomeroy and Congressman Abercrombie. I'd like to thank the Lieutenant Governor, Lieutenant Governor Bordallo, who is, I believe, now the longest serving member of the Democratic National Committee. We thank her for her service.

Governor Gutierrez has been a good friend of mine and a great advocate for the people of Guam. He and Congressman Underwood I think clearly give this island the most forceful, clear, and detailed advocacy that it has probably ever had. And I thank him for inviting me here. I promised him I would come, and I'm only sorry it took me so long to keep my word. I can tell you now, just looking out at this view behind you, I don't want to leave. And I'm trying to think of some reason to stay. [Laughter]

I'd also like to say a particular word of appreciation to the leaders of so many islands who have joined us today: Governor and Mrs. Tenorio of the Northern Marianas; Governor Sunia of Samoa; the Presidents of the sovereign states of Micronesia who are freely associated with the United States, President Nakamura of the Republic of Palau, President Kabua of the Marshall Island Atolls, President Nena of the Federated States of Micronesia who is joined by the Governors of his States. Let's give them all a big hand. I am delighted that they are here today. [Applause]

As I said, I have been invited here several times by the Governor and the Congressman. Three years ago, Hillary had a chance to come here to see the beauty, to experience the hospitality, to learn about the culture. She told me, and has told me regularly for the last 3 years, that I needed to come to Guam. So now that I have satisfied all of my friends and my wife— [laughter]—I can only say that it obviously took me too long to make the decision. I am honored to be here.

I know why so many people call this part of the world paradise. You have some of the most important coral reef systems anywhere in the world. And I want to commend you for your stewardship of these reefs and for creating five new marine reserves. I want to invite Governor Gutierrez as well as Governors Sunia and Tenorio to serve on America's Coral Reef Task Force, part of our efforts to preserve the quality of the oceans, the marine biology, and the purity of the oceans. It's a big, big challenge throughout the world today. And I know these Governors will serve and serve with distinction. I will also ask the Congress to support your efforts to preserve these environmental treasures.

The world admired your remarkable recovery from the record-high winds of Typhoon Paka last December. I want to commend your courage and resilience. The world was also grateful for Guam's heroic response to the tragic crash of the Korean airliner in August of 1997. I'll never forget the conversations I had on the telephone with the Governor during that difficult period.

Later today I'm going to have a chance to speak about the important place Guam holds in American history, in America's family, and in America's future. I want to offer some more proposals to strengthen Guam and the people of this island for the 21st century. But since the other leaders of other Pacific islands are here with us today, I'd like to ask you to give me just a few minutes, before I come out into the crowd here and shake hands, to talk about the future of America's overall role in this part of the world.

I know Governor Tenorio; I have known him from the time we served as Governors. I know that we'll have a chance to talk about important issues in our relationship. The last time I saw Governor Sunia, he invited me to visit his island, our southernmost territory, in connection with the centennial of their relationship with the United States in the year 2000. Since that will be the first election year in a long time I won't be on the ballot, I'm going to try to take him up on that invitation. I hope I can do so.

For years, our Nation has enjoyed a close, unique, and mutually beneficial partnership with the Freely Associated States. The compacts of free association have enabled us to work together to preserve peace, to foster economic development across more than a million square miles of the Pacific. It is a relationship the United States takes very seriously.

Recently, I signed Congressman Underwood's bills guaranteeing the eligibility of students from the Freely Associated States for Pell grants, and extended food aid to residents of the Marshall Islands who were harmed by U.S. nuclear testing during the cold war. I'm happy to announce that we will fulfill the final commitment made in our compact with Palau: We're allocating $150 million to build a 53-mile road to help you open your largest island, Babeldoab.

In less than 3 years, important provisions of our compacts with the Marshall Islands and the Federated States will expire. It's in our mutual interest to maintain and strengthen our ties in the new century. The United States hopes to begin formal negotiations soon so we can renew these provisions no later than next October.

Earlier this year I had a chance—[applause]— thank you, that's good. [Laughter] We have isolated applause here, depending on what I'm saying. [Laughter]

Earlier this year I had a chance to speak with President Nena at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The First Lady met with President Nakamura in Washington. I understand the challenges that you're facing in building your economies. I want to encourage all the Presidents of the Freely Associated States to continue their effort to promote growth, reform, and good government. And the United States will remain a partner in all these efforts.

Again, I am proud to be in Guam at our westernmost boundary. There is an old Chamorro proverb, "Our heritage gives life to our spirit." I have learned from every person I have ever met from this part of the world that there is a proud and deep devotion to heritage. I have also sensed a very great spirit. We have much to give one another, much to learn from one another. Let us resolve to preserve all of our various heritages and our strong spirits, and walk together into the 21st century.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:56 p.m. at the Government House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez and his wife, Geraldine, and Lt. Gov. Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam; Dan Macaracy and Ehlysa Pablo, students who presented the President with gifts; Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio of the Northern Mariana Islands and his wife, Sophia; Gov. Tauese P.F. Sunia of American Samoa; and Presidents Kuniwo Nakamura of Palau, Imata Kabua of the Marshall Islands, and Jacob Nena of the Federated States of Micronesia.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to Micronesian Island Leaders in Agana Heights, Guam Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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