PHILADELPHIA—It was more than four years ago when Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) says he talked with former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz about granting committee membership to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Sablan also spoke with then local party chair Edward Manibusan, who is now CNMI Attorney General.
“And I told Ed here’s what you need to do and he completed the paperwork and I said look, you need to go and attend the meeting. They’re having a meeting the day after the convention adjourns,” he tells Saipan Tribune at the Convention in Philadelphia last week. That’s where they voted to grant the CNMI a spot in the Committee, said Sablan. “I’d like to think I got the approval.”
Fast forward to last week when Commonwealth delegates descended on Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center to join thousands of other delegates from the 50 states and territories to nominate Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. It was the CNMI’s first appearance at a Democratic National Convention. The congressman called the delegates “a lively group of people.”
The youngest member of the group, CNMI Democratic Party chairwoman Janet King’s 5-year-old daughter, Kate, was there to witness history in action. “She’s getting to see a process that I think as the years go by, it will become significant, as least it’s significant for me because ultimately, no matter where you come from, whether it’s the Northern Mariana Islands, 8,000 miles away, or right next door, New Jersey, everybody wants a better life for their children. Everybody wants a good quality of life. Everybody wants safety,” said. This kind of message reverberated throughout the speeches at the four-day convention.
Just before Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addressed the crowd by live video on Tuesday night last week, the video display showed all 44 previous U.S. presidents followed by an animation of shattered glass to symbolize Clinton breaking the glass ceiling, a reference to a woman’s struggle to be on the same mark as men, according to King. King said the animation was very significant, profound.
“Hillary did it very much all throughout her life and then now as the next President of the United States.”
CNMI delegate Fran Castro spoke to the message of women empowerment throughout the conference. “Now that the party is trying to get organized and we really want to try and get young people to run and we all want to work together to fix the Commonwealth and also because Hillary is going to be the first woman President. I’m very excited about that. I’m happy for women. It really empowers us women to come out and speak more about some of the problems we’re facing, whether it’s domestic violence or the way we’re treated at work. I think women should really stand up and really speak for themselves.”
Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo said she and her delegation were pleased and excited to finally see the CNMI join Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands at the convention. She laments that many times the territories are forgotten. Guam delegate Taling Taitano told us she hopes to see the CNMI delegation in the coming years too.
Delegates from the territories hope Clinton will address issues facing the islands, including immigration and the environment.
“Secretary Clinton has basically, I understand, said she will address comprehensive immigration reform at the earliest possible time when she gets elected. This is a presidential election, so you have the first term and the second term. But I think she said she will consider doing it in the first term,” Sablan explained to Saipan Tribune.
On the heels of actress Sigourney Weaver’s speech in which she said people are affected by climate change right now, delegate Castro had this to say about her hopes for Clinton’s policies. “I think she’s going to follow in the footsteps of President Obama. He’s a big supporter of climate change. We also, in the CNMI, have done a lot of work on climate change. We have vulnerability assessments done, we’re now working to update our regulations and try to incorporate our results from our assessments into our plans so that we make better decisions when we’re developing, when we’re permitting new hotels.”
Sablan hopes the CNMI Democratic Party can put together a mission statement as the party continues to gain a following in the Commonwealth. Sablan explained he would like to see “a mission core that explains what it is they want to do with the community and then from there find candidates that agree with” the mission statement.
The congressman further told Saipan Tribune he wants to see principles of why the party exists, what the party members would like to achieve and how the members can help the community. “That’s where it starts,” he tells Saipan Tribune last week.