Thursday, January 17, 2008

A New Era of Expectations

Now that the fanfare of campaigning, elections, and inaugurations are over, it’s time to get to work. Still, I recall that late Saturday night and early Sunday morning following November 3rd. I’ll admit that I stayed up all night, glued to my T. V., watching all the results come in. To be honest, I was truly surprised by the results, and not just for me. Across the board, the candidates that had the most votes were younger candidates and fresh new faces, which was our community’s way of telling us that it’s high time for meaningful change.

However, while I was (and am) excited, I was (and am) also very scared by the expectations that our community had invested in this “new” generation of elected leaders, including myself.
Expectations can be a curse, especially when they’re too high for anyone to realistically achieve. We are not disappointed by those from whom not much is expected. Those who disappoint us the most are those from whom we expect the most.

For my part, I am humbled by the expectations that this community has invested in me, and I will do everything I can to meet those expectations. I certainly do not want to disappoint anyone.

But perhaps it’s time for a new era of expectations. Rather than expecting so much from government, we should expect more from ourselves.

To be sure, we should expect much from government. We should expect our government to pass legislation that serves the general welfare of our community in a just manner for all--citizens and non-citizens alike. We should expect our government to spend its limited resources on those things that really matter, like education, rather than on things that don’t really matter, like tents and picnic tables.

And you, the public, should expect your public school system to provide the best possible education that it can. You should expect your education officials to lobby more aggressively and effectively for the funding and resources our educators need to do their jobs. You should expect your board of education to do more with less, making the most of our limited resources. And you should expect your board to rise above the fray of petty politics and stay focused on our children’s education.

That said, we, as a community, should expect more from ourselves. In the business sector, I applaud the efforts of organizations like the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors annual scholarships and holds an annual Career Exploration Day. However, I call on the business sector to do more for education and get more involved with our schools. Scholarships and career days only scratch the surface. We need to consider internship and mentorship programs that allow students to earn high school credit while learning from valuable, real-world experience. We should revive Junior Achievement so that our students can rediscover the value of entrepreneurship by running their own companies. And we should bring business leaders to the education round table to help inform and transform our education policy and goals.

In the parent community, I applaud the efforts of our parent-teacher associations, which provide much needed financial assistance and policy input to our schools. But PTA officers can not do everything on their own. All parents need to take an active interest and an active role, not only in their schools, but most especially in their children’s education. Sadly, schools have become surrogate parents for much of our community, and it is all too common to hear of report card nights where less than 10% of parents show up. Parents must always remember that they are the primary educators of their children. Our schools cannot and should not ever take the place of parents. And research shows that when parents work hand-in-hand with schools, students succeed. It is time for all our students to succeed. It is time for all our parents to fulfill their roles as primary educators.

Lastly, I appeal to the student community. I applaud those students who work hard and achieve great things. But I call on all students to do the same. Students must remember that education is not a passive, spectator sport where your teacher does all the work to “teach” you. In fact, I would argue that it’s not about teaching but about learning, and that requires that you do your part as well.

I also call on your student leaders to step up. For example, I honestly wish that the CNMI Youth Congress would do more. Critics have every right to question the legitimacy of funding a Youth Congress that does nothing. I challenge the current Youth Congress to prove those critics wrong. Can you imagine, come budget time, how powerful it would be for Youth Congress Senators to storm the hallways of the CNMI Legislature, lobbying for education?

The youth have power. It’s time to make good use of it.

This is a time of change that carries the heavy burden of high expectations. Indeed, we have many problems that need fixing. However, government should not be the solution to our problems. We should be the solution to our problems.

The bottom line is that education is everyone’s business. It’s definitely my business, and it’s definitely the business of the Board of Education. But, most importantly, speaking to our entire community, it’s your business. And believe me when I say that it’s time to get down to business.


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I've never understood why the Youth Congress has a budget. Can't they do what they do with no money? Shouldn't they be having bake sales instead of getting free government money?

Jeff said...

Dead on G. I'm glad you're up there.

Saipan Writer said...

Good luck with all of the challenges. Although you will feel alone at times, as you point out, we're all in this together, and none of us is alone. We all want great education for our kids, and the benefits of educational philosophy in our community.

(And I agree with Angelo. Why does the Youth Congress get a budget?)

Galvin Deleon Guerrero said...

Dear Mr. Guerrero,

Thank you for your comments on Youth Congress in your Letter to the Editor in the Marianas Variety today. I feel that they are much deserved, because the Youth Congress has not been operating to its capacity. When I joined Youth Congress last year and I realized how little it was accomplishing in proportion to its potential, I was disillusioned. I then decided that by becoming its leader, I can help change that.

Unfortunately, this year I have been forced to learn more about my limits and the difficulties of leadership than I ever wanted to. But I have also come to some valuable conclusions. The quality of leadership is something that you have to work on, not something that you are born with. Youth Congress's accomplishments are nothing if they are not communicated to the public. Silence is regarded as failure. Results are impossible without accountability. Improvements take time. This last one has been the most difficult for me to swallow, because I would prefer immediate change. Yet there are many intelligent, honest, hardworking, and well-meaning members of the Youth Congress, and I know that together we can effect lasting reform on this program.

In order to better the lines of communication and Youth Congress' accountability to the public, I have started a blog for Youth Congress, mirrored on the blog of Beautify CNMI. Find it at Please feel free to leave any comments you have there, or to email me, and to tell other people about the blog if they are interested in learning about Youth Congress.

In addition, I think your point about the importance of education and the strength of the youth's voice on education is well taken. The difficulty that many members of the Youth Congress face is that although they want to make improvements for the community, they do not know how to go about doing so because they do not know enough about the issues of the day. This does not mean that they do not read newspapers or keep up with the news. Rather, they are inundated with so many opinions that they do not know where fact lies and thus which direction is best. This applies to education. Is there any way that you or other members of the Board of Education could come speak to the Youth Congress about legislation that you feel would help education in the CNMI? At least this would open up eyes to the issues that exist, so that Youth Senators know in what direction they should conduct their research.

Thank you for your passion and dedication to education in our community. All your efforts are very much appreciated.

Anita Hofschneider, Youth Congress Speaker

Jeff said...

Well written letter Miss Hofschneider. You are a student. You know they things students need and the things needed for education. You tell them.

--=JiGiToL=-- said...

Well said good sir... Most definitely... Education is Paramount!

Peter Bae said...

how about an update?