‘We’re here on a mission’


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Gov. Ralph DLG Torres led a coterie of CNMI and Guam officials at the Mayflower Hotel here on the eve of the presidential inauguration for the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders-hosted 58th Presidential Inauguration Gala.

One official told Saipan Tribune there were about 15 to 20 members of the CNMI and 15 to 20 members from Guam attending the Thursday evening gala and show their support for newly sworn in President Donald Trump.

While the gala included officials from around the nation and the world, some young adults also joined in the festivities.

Emily Jones, a former Marianas High School student and now a freshman at American University in Washington, D.C., said: “I’m so excited to be here. I think it’s a great, incredible experience, definitely not something that people I know my age are able to experience this, so I think it’s just truly amazing to be here with all these incredible people.”

Jones, who said Torres personally invited her to the gala, especially enjoyed seeing the cultural attire of some guests. Some participants showed up in Pacific Island dresses while some women were seen in Taiwanese dance dresses.

Thursday’s pre-inaugural ball was the organization’s first major activity in more than a decade.

“The organization has been around for many, many years. It’s been dormant for about a decade. Obviously, we haven’t had a Republican president in a while,” Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo told Saipan Tribune last week.

Calvo and Torres co-chair the Asian American Pacific Islander organization and are the first Pacific islanders to do so.

CNMI Republican Party president James Ada called the Torres and Calvos’ appointment to the AAPI organization “history in the making.”

In planning for the gala itself, Ada said, “It took months and, you know, my hats off to the AAPI members, especially the people who went out to facilitate this event for this evening.”

But the gala and the experience represented more than just a celebration. CNMI GOP vice chair Vincent Torres told Saipan Tribune, “We’re here on a mission to establish a positive relationship between the CNMI, the [Republican National Committee] and the Executive Branch and the Legislature. So the whole time that we’re here, we’ve been attending every single meeting with the RNC so that we get to know all of those people, the chairmen and new ones that got elected.”

He told Saipan Tribune it’s not only about hoping to have a greater voice in the new administration—he said they are making it happen now. “Gov. Torres had a series of meetings with key GOP in the days before the inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C.”

Calvo echoed the importance of teamwork. He said he anticipates meeting with the Republican leadership, especially as the National Governor’s Association will be meeting next month. He also explained it will be important for Guam and the CNMI to work collaboratively on issues involving healthcare, security, immigration and the environment in the new administration.

The crowded AAPI gala signaled an uptick in Asian American and Pacific Islander participation in the Republican Party. “When you see the results of the election, where Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders made the biggest swing, it was a double-digit swing of about 11 percent from what was the results of 2012. So we’re energized, this organization now is, as you can see, vibrant. We intend to use this as a springboard for moving forward,” said Calvo.

It’s the resurgence of the AAPI participation that CNMI’s Alex Sablan said will help to improve participation and representation by Asian American and Pacific Islanders in each state and territory in the nation. Sablan was part of the CNMI delegation at the gala and attended the Trump’s inauguration on Friday.

Gov. Torres told Saipan Tribune he began supporting President Trump after he received a personal phone call during the campaign last year. “It was the only candidate that has reached out at that level and to take our issue at a national level,” Torres explained. “That is a great opportunity and I believe he will do great for America.”

Torres said that now is the time to rally around Trump.

“I’ve been criticized so many times, you always get questioned what you do, how you do things. In due time, it’s ours to work with in that position. Criticism comes with the territory but when you’re given that opportunity, you got to step up and make sure that you do what you’re telling people to do and protect and create jobs, increase the economy and so forth. And so now that he is given that opportunity, despite all the criticism and the setback and the unfairness and so on, the bottom line is the people, through their way of political process, he is now our President.”

JILLIAN ANGELINE, Saipan Tribune Correspondent

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