Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Community in Hagatña, Guam

November 23, 1998

The President. Hafa adai [Hello].

Audience members. Hafa adai.

The President. What a wonderful day. What a wonderful welcome. I am delighted to be here. I want to thank Governor and Mrs. Gutierrez; Congressman Underwood; Lieutenant Governor Bordallo; Mayor McDonald; Speaker Unpingco and members of the legislature; Chief Justice; Toni Sanford, the visit host. I'd also like to acknowledge the young singers and one not-so-young singer who sang at the beginning. I thought they were quite wonderful, and I'm sure you did, too.

I want to say that I am joined today by three Members of Congress: Senator Max Baucus from Montana, Congressman Earl Pomeroy from North Dakota, Congressman Neil Abercrombie from Hawaii. And they're glad to be here as well.

Now, you heard Congressman Underwood say that he wished he could vote for me. [Laughter] And I was thinking, looking out at the ocean, looking at the bay, that I can't run for President again, and Governor Gutierrez can't run for Governor again, and maybe I could come here and give Congressman Underwood a chance to vote for me for Governor of Guam. Although, I think that after the speeches Mike and Roseanne gave, I'll have to run before they're old enough to oppose me, or I wouldn't have a chance. [Laughter]

I was sitting here thinking about all the things that you could say about Guam, but one of the things I didn't know—I heard—Bob Underwood gave his great speech, Governor Gutierrez gave his great speech, Mike and Roseanne got up and gave great speeches—one thing you should promote is that if people come to Guam, you will teach them how to give great speeches. You may have people coming from all over the world.

Let me begin my remarks with three simple words: My fellow Americans. Over the years of our administration, the First Lady and I have logged thousands of miles visiting many, many corners of America, trying to gain a greater understanding every day of the rich diversity of our Nation. No President, however, can ever claim to have seen the breadth of America without coming here to our westernmost boundary.

When the First Lady came here a couple of years ago, she came home and said, "You know, you need to go to Guam, but if you go, you might not want to come back." [Laughter] Every single time I have seen either your Governor or your Congressman in the last several years—every single time—they have asked me to come to Guam. Sometimes they have done more than ask. Sometimes they have insisted. Sometimes they have expected. We were about to get to the order stage before I cried "uncle" and said, "I'm dying to come, and I will be there." [Laughter] I thank you for making me feel so welcome today, where America's day begins.

I would also like to say a special word of appreciation to the members of America's Armed Forces who are here with us today and for the service they give our country every day. I'm proud to be here in the centennial year of the relationship between Guam and the United States. Though 15 times zones and a vast ocean separate you from the mainland, you have played an important role in the history of America and in humanity's fight for freedom.

A little over 50 years ago, Americans looked to Guam in our newspapers, on the radio, in the letters we received from our GI's. We knew then it was vital to the future of the world that the forces of freedom liberate this island.

I have just had the great honor of paying my respects at the Memorial to the People of Guam and to the American servicemen who lost their lives in the Second World War. I met there some Chamorro survivors and saw thousands of names etched on that very moving wall. I know behind each of those names, and in the history of so many families on this island, there is a tale of courage, sacrifice, patriotism, and honor.

The people of Guam, though they had not yet been granted American citizenship, risked all to hide American soldiers during the occupation, defiantly sang American songs at home, secretly sewed their own American flags. Many paid for their patriotism with their homes, their liberty, their lives.

Fifty years ago this island gave the world a precious and enduring gift, the chance for freedom and peace to triumph. And 50 years later I want to say, on behalf of every American, thank you.

Now I come here to ask you to look to the future, a very different future with new possibilities and new perils. I just came, as you may have noticed, from Japan and Korea, two countries with whom we have had very difficult relations over the last 50 years, both now our allies and partners for freedom, peace, and prosperity.

In the last year, the economic tides that once broadened prosperity all across the Pacific have blown cold winds into the economies of Japan and Korea. They have been felt all the way to Guam and Hawaii. We have to work together with our friends to restore economic growth and opportunity and to continue to stand up for freedom. And we will.

The challenges of this new century, the century in which the young people who introduced me will live most of their lives, will be different. There will be new risks and new opportunities here for you in Guam, as for all Americans. For the past 6 years, I've worked hard to prepare America for the 21st century, and together I want you to know that I am committed to make sure that we do everything we can to move forward into the new millennium with the people of Guam.

First, we must work together to ensure that Guam reaps all the benefits of the post-coldwar world, beginning with the timely return of lands no longer needed by our military. Four years ago I was proud to sign Congressman Underwood's bill to return 3,200 acres of military land. I will see to it that the land is transferred to Guam as soon as possible. And I am happy to announce that we are also working to turn over another 7,300 acres, including the former naval air station and ship repair facility. When I return to Washington, I will ask the new Congress to simplify and expedite the process through which excess U.S. military land is transferred to Guam, and will form a White House-led task force to make sure the job gets done.

Second, we must work together to help Guam build a strong modern economy for the 21st century. In the global economy, Guam can be an important gateway to Asian markets. Today you face a dual economic challenge. The reduction of our military activities on this island has cost civilian jobs. At the same time, because of your close ties to your Pacific neighbors, like Hawaii, Guam has been more vulnerable than other parts of America to Asian financial woes. I am confident, however, that the people who weathered the high winds of Typhoon Paka with such courage and resilience can weather these economic storms as well.

The Federal Government will do our part to help. We will aid Guam in transforming the Navy ship repair facility into a viable commercial operation. The return of the naval air station will enable you to expand the airport named for the late, great Congressman Tony Won Pat and embark on new ventures to bring new jobs and new prosperity. And to further boost your economy, I will work with Congress to make it easier for products made here in Guam to enter the mainland market.

The third thing that we must do is to make sure every child here is prepared for the 21st century. The Congressman and I fought hard until we finally succeeded in the very last days of this year's budget negotiations with Congress to ensure that the children of Guam receive a fairer share in the new children's health insurance program. Now thousands of children will get the health care they deserve.

Fourth, we must work together to fulfill America's compact with the Freely Associated States. Thousands of Micronesians have come to Guam to live and work and build better lives for their families. In my next balanced budget, I will ask Congress to more than double funds to assist Guam in the task of meeting the education and health needs of these newcomers.

Finally, and most important, we must always honor Guam's special membership in the American family. Our administration has reviewed your commonwealth proposals. We have tried to offer viable alternatives. I want Congress to act to help the people of Guam meet their challenges and give you more effective self-government.

We will also respond seriously if the people of Guam seek a different political status. It is your decision to seek that. I will work to ensure that your voices are heard in Washington, that you are treated fairly and sensitively by the Federal Government, that you are consulted before policies are made that affect your lives.

I will establish a network of senior White House and Cabinet officials to develop and coordinate policy concerning the territories. The Defense Secretary, Bill Cohen, will also designate an aide in his personal office to see Guam's concerns in military matters carefully and appropriately considered.

In all of these efforts and in the progress that we can still make together, again I want to say, I am deeply indebted to Governor Gutierrez for his eloquent and persistent advocacy. I am deeply indebted to Congressman Underwood for his energetic presentation of your cause. Never has Guam been so forcefully, consistently, and helpfully represented as they are today. All of you should be very proud of both of these elected officials.

My fellow Americans, in just 403 days our country will awake, first here on Guam, to a new century and a whole new millennium. Now, though we live on opposite sides of the Earth, in that new millennium still, with all of its changes, we will be bound together by our shared history, our shared values, our shared love of freedom. Whether our ancestors crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower, whether they laid the ancient latte stones that still stand on this island, whether they came to Guam in recent decades seeking new opportunities, or came from all across the globe to the American mainland, now we are all Americans.

I ask you to always remember that as much as you have enjoyed this day, I have enjoyed it more. I hope you will know that when I go back to Washington, I will carry with me the rhythms, the energy, the smile, the realities of life here that I would never had understood so well had I not been able to come. And I hope you will look forward to walking hand in hand with your fellow Americans into that new millennium.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:15 p.m. in the Ricardo J. Bordallo Office Complex at Adelup. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez and his wife, Geraldine, and Lt. Gov. Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam; Mayor Paul M. McDonald of Agana Heights; Speaker Antonio R. Unpingco of the 24th Guam Legislature; Chief Justice Peter Siguenza, Guam Supreme Court; event chair Antoinette D. Sanford, member, Guam Chamber of Commerce; and high school students Michael San Nicolas and Roseanne Apuran, who introduced the President. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Community in Hagatña, Guam Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives