“Cry, my beloved country, for we have been forsaken by our leaders! Daily we are increasingly besieged by internal problems. We have an illness and cannot correct it. We feel forgotten. Sadly our leaders talk too often on how to benefit themselves, not our country. Why have we been abandoned? Where are our leaders' will and courage to solve our problems? Cry, by beloved country.”
The above is a plea in the hope that you, gentlemen, and ladies of the Legislature, will read and consider. Yes, our beloved CNMI is in dire straits, but you are failing to give us guidance in this hour of need. We stand and wait for you to show us what to do to recover from this dilemma. Perhaps you do not know any better than we do as to what course of action to take. But we become even more saddened when we learn that some of you are trying to benefit personally at our expense.
After this past week's disgraceful happenings involving several of the leading lawmakers of our country-one has escaped and the others are still around, it is vital to remind ourselves what we have become. Remember the further we move away from doing what is right into a society of “I am above the law” attitude, the closer we edge towards the brink of disaster.
Being a politician is a duty, not a job. As a good soldier pledges his duty to his country, each of you must pledge your duty the same way. You were elected because we believed and trusted you. Of all the virtues “trust” is one of the most important ones. And to betray the trust bestowed in you by us, the people, is one of the most heinous crimes you can commit against your fellow men. What does a man have if he does not have trust and respect?
You are the catalyst and hope for leading us back to prosperity and dignity. Read the following pledge and then cut it out and place it squarely in the middle of your desk and glance at it daily:
“I have been chosen and given the trust to represent the people of the CNMI. My duty is to help the people. I pledge to place this duty above all else. I shall seek only what is good for the general public. I will never sacrifice my duty for personal gain-so help me God!”
It amazes me when you, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, forget or do not fully grasp this basic concept. Your actions and attitudes set the tone for all of us citizens. You are the beginning of all activity for the community by the laws you create and in the manner in which you conduct yourselves. You are the backbone for economic development and for social harmony. You bring out in us either desires to do great things or to be a nation of beggars. In plain words:
You-the Legislature-possesses tremendous power over these islands and over our lives.
I want to share the following message. As you read it remember the following words: I-Integrity, C-Compassion, A-Accountability, R-Respect, E-Excellence. Together they spell I CARE!
Integrity means doing the right thing for the right reason and in the right way. Never act in a way that will cause doubt or concern. Never sacrifice ethical or moral obligations. Exhibit consistency between words and actions.
Compassion is to be attuned to the personal, emotional and spiritual needs of our citizens and of each other.
Accountability take full responsibility for personal decisions and actions. Become stewards of the community's resources that have been entrusted to your care.
Respect cannot not be bought but must be earned. Treat everybody with equality and with sincerity. Excellence strives always to do the best and with dignity. Accept no excuses for failure. These are the qualities that heroes and leaders are made of. Our country cries out to you in this time of need. Do not forsake us! You must lead by your courageous actions. Look in the mirror and proudly and truthfully say: I AM LEADING! If this sounds preachy, than damn it, it is! It is sad that we must be constantly reminded of these virtues and responsibility. We trust and respect you. This is why we voted for you. You told us you would work in our behalf. Were they lies? Instead of being a run-of-the-mill politician who seeks office for the thrill of it or for the power and notoriety of it, become a statesman! The statesman's goal is to lead by examples and challenges. His duty is to country first and last. The statesman doesn't seek public office for personal gain or because it's the only job available. And he certainly is not in it for the money. Lawrence W. Reed in one of his essays best explains the qualities that define a statesman:
“The statesman takes time our from a life of accomplishment to serve the general welfare. He stands for a principled vision, not for what he thinks citizens will fall or. He is well informed about the vicissitudes of human nature, the lessons of history, the role of ideas, and the conomics of the marketplace. He is a truth-seeker, which means he is more likely to do what is right than what may be politically popular at the moment.. He elevates public discussion because he knows what he is talking about. He does not engage in class warfare or in divisive or partisan tactics that pull people apart. He does not cynically buy votes with the money his taxes take from others. He may even judge his success in office as much by how many laws he repealed as by how many he passed.”
Until all of you Legislators, strive to become statesmen and stateswomen, our beloved CNMI will continue to falter. You must rise to the challenges as never before and show us by your leadership and deeds that we can revitalize ourselves. If not, we will continue to be at best a mediocre society wholly dependent upon the United States as a child is to a parent.
When you leave office, what do you want to be remembered for? What legacy will you leave the people? What are your dreams for the CNMI? A wise man once said: “What we do for ourselves dies with us. But what we do for others, lives on forever.”
The thoughts expressed above are written in behalf of the silent majority who plead with you to lead us. Hopefully these words will spur you to take heed of our pleas and act forcefully and in a positive manner.
Being a politician is not a job, but a duty. You entered it for the service of your fellow citizens. If you truly believe in your duty, than live it! Do not forsake us. Your motto must be: “I have been chosen to lead! Duty to my country comes first!” What if our servicemen did not believe and sacrifice themselves for their duty?
A special word to the rest of us. We know all the lawmakers by name and many of us are related to them. It is up to us to speak to them and motivate them to do the right thing. We cannot just blame them. We are also to blame-more than they are if we remain silent. Remember when we point a finger at someone, four fingers are pointing back at the person doing the pointing. If we want to change we must demand it. Demand that our Legislators keep the promises made to us. Together we can find ways to lift ourselves out of the pitiful state we are in.
May God grant you, Legislators, the courage to do the right thing. May He also grant you the wisdom to know what you can do and cannot do. May He grant you the courage to lead bravely.
You, the Legislature, are our voices. Let them be heard. Our country can weather any problems if we are willing to make the sacrifices. Are we? Let us march together and restore pride and dignity.
I wrote this article three years ago but I feel a desperate need to repeat it today. Thing have gotten worse. When will we wake up?
Remember keep SMILING! Don't let anyone take that away from you. Have a great week.
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Pellegrino is a longtime businessman in the CNMI and the former president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.