WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) joined his colleagues in the U.S. Congress last night to witness President Barack Obama deliver his final State of the Union address. Sablan’s guest for the President’s speech was Angelo Villagomez of the Pew Memorial Trust Global Oceans Legacy program. Sablan issued this statement following the State of the Union:
“The people of the Northern Mariana Islands gave me the incredible opportunity to be a witness to history—to see our first African American President sworn in to office and now to hear him talk to America about the road we traveled over the last seven years and where we can go from here.
“In some ways the history of this President matches the recent history of the Northern Marianas. We, too, people of color, gained representation in our national government that we had never had before. We, too, had to struggle back from a great economic recession and today see a brighter future ahead.
“President Obama has been good for the people of the Northern Marianas. Even though I was just a freshman representative in 2009, the Obama administration treated the Northern Marianas as the equal of any other insular area when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was drafted and passed. When health care reform legislation would have given the islands short shrift, it was President Obama who decided to add more money for our Medicaid program. I know. I was sitting right there at the table when he made the decision.
“The Obama administration used its executive authority in response to my call to help the poor by raising food stamp funding for the Marianas and energy assistance for our low-income households. The Obama administration eased us through the transition to federal immigration, using parole authority to keep families together and to keep our doors open to tourists from Russia and China.
“And the President wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that our brave service men and women from the Northern Marianas would no more have to put their lives on the line in those distant lands.
“The President has also set the stage for a better future for Americans and for all the world’s people by helping bring about the Paris agreement on climate change, which is an especially great danger to those of us on islands subject to typhoon and sea level rise. His negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement will lift the economies of nations that surround the Marianas and of our region as a whole.
“As a son of the Pacific islands, President Obama knows in his bones that we have to work together, cooperate, find consensus, if we want to survive. That is the Pacific culture and creed. He said it tonight in words we know are true:
‘The future we want—opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids—all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together.’
“Those are words for all of us to remember from President Obama’s final State of the Union address, and words for all of us in Congress to remember as we work to improve the lives of all Americans in this final year of the Obama presidency.” (Office of the Delegate)