On March 4, 1933, the following inspiring words were spoken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, in his first inaugural address when the United States was at the bottom of the Great Depression:
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth and boldly. .Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
“Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid..Plenty is now at our doorstep. But a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of supply.when there is no vision the people perish..
“The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit. .These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny in not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”
From these inspiring words and from the brilliant leadership of President Roosevelt, the United States regained first place as the leading economic force in the world which it still maintains today.
Many people have forgotten that President Roosevelt was himself disabled having suffered infantile paralysis in his left leg that made him partially paralyzed. As a result he had to move around in a wheelchair. With indomitable courage he conquered his personal fears as well as the fears of a nation.
Let us think about the fear mentioned above for a moment. Are we suffering from fear and unable to overcome it and as a result just giving up?
I hurt for all the retirees who are now being told that their dreams for a comfortable retirement have been destroyed. Are they overpowered by fear?
I hurt for all of us who are sick and cannot receive medical treatment because the government cannot pay Medicaid. Are these ill citizens overpowered by fear?
I hurt for the people at the Nutrition Assistance Program office as I see the lines getting longer and more congested. Are these hungry citizens overpowered by fear?
I hurt for the nonresident workers and their plight in trying to get a CW1 card to continue working in the CNMI and not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Are they hopeful in vain and overpowered by fear?
I hurt for our citizens born and raised here who are running away from our islands to seek a better life. Are they overpowered by fear?
I hurt for all the government workers reduced to a 64-hour week. Are they overpowered by fear? I could cite many more examples that beg the question of fear.
Societies before us have been as destitute and as confused as we are now. But somehow they managed to pull themselves out of their dire situations. And so must we! This is not the time for whining!
Correct me if I am wrong but we seem to have lost the will and drive to make things happen. We refuse to make sacrifices. We are acting as an ostrich with its head in the sand, refusing to accept reality. As I see it, the only thing that will happen to the ostrich is that it will be kicked in the rear. Why are we so full of fear of our future?
Actually fear can be a great motivator if we use it properly. Remember, fear can be imagined or real. When we feel that something bad is going to happen, fear alerts us and we become careful.
Fear used properly can be a great stimulator to action. Think of all the great performers, great actors, great athletes and anyone who performs in public. They all feel pangs of fear before their performances but they overcome them and rise to great heights. I hate to tell you how much fear I experience daily about failing and losing everything I have worked hard to acquire.
One of the saddest offshoots of fear that we are experiencing now in our community is the increasing distrust of each other, which is resulting in a divided community. As a result fear is slowly ruining our relationships with each other. But there are cures for overpowering this griping and paralyzing fear. Let's stop the flight and instead fight back. We must create self-belief.
We must roll up our sleeves and go to work. This is the most positive way to help ourselves. We have to stop begging strangers to come here and save us so we don't have to work. Once we reverse our fear into positive actions, investors will flock to our islands.
Do we truly believe that we cannot create our own industries and jobs to make our own money? Have we become such a nation of sycophants begging the U.S. and strangers to help us without even trying to help ourselves first? I welcome all the assistance we can receive but only with us helping ourselves at the same time.
Daily I keep preaching that we are standing in acres of diamonds, but alas we fail to see them. We are close to a huge Asian market of over 3.5 million people. We are closer to a large market in Guam where its people are losing the desire to farm their land. They are fast becoming urbanized.
We are an intelligent people, proud with dignity. We understand the problems. We know the solutions. Why do we let this insidious thing called fear overpower us?
All successful solutions are made up of compromises. Our leaders must sit and discuss with us their plans so that we can cooperate better. They must also sit and talk with the federal government until we reach compromises in which both parties walk away as winners. It must be a win-win situation. We mustn't let fear create confrontations or we will only worsen matters.
Never forget that the United States needs us as much as we need them. If we comprehend how much we need each other, we will realize why the U.S. is forcing federalization upon us. If we play it correctly it can become a trump card.
Recall that the United States signed a Covenant to establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in political union with us in 1977. Since that time it has poured into the CNMI over $3.8 billion in capital improvement infrastructure funds. At the same time we keep 100 percent of our tax revenues to be used here, never remitting one cent back to the United States. Having the greatest nation in the world as a partner and protector should greatly alleviate any fears we have.
I plead to all our leaders to boldly give us a vision of a new horizon. As President Roosevelt said: “When there is no vision the people perish.
Isn't it time to put aside all the lame excuses why we cannot help ourselves and the United States, our benefactor, at the same time?
As President Lincoln stated: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Should we fall, it will be because of internal dissension. It is time to come together. No excuses! No fears! Let's face the sunshine and seek the rainbow. There truly is a pot of gold at its end. Let us overcome our fears and mend our house because the future waits with open arms to prosperity.
I am very optimistic about the future of the CNMI and our people. “The past is a ghost, the future is a dream, and all we ever have is now.” How we handle the present-the now-will dictate our future.
May God grant our leaders and us the wisdom to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong and the courage to make the proper decisions so that the future truly brings the prosperity we long for! We can embrace fear and become our worst enemy, or we can embrace optimism and become prosperous and happy again. Which one shall we embrace? Choose!
Pellegrino is a longtime businessman in the CNMI and is the former president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.