Editor’s note: Sen. Pangelinan was the keynote speaker at Sunday’s University of Guam commencement ceremony. “ben’s Pen” for this week and the next will be that speech in two parts.
PRESIDENT Underwood, Chairman Ada and the other regents of this great university, esteemed students, staff, faculty administrators, your families and friends and all of you in the audience today, and of course most especially those we are all here today to celebrate, the graduates who have earned the distinction and acquired the knowledge that comes from completing one of the most gratifying achievements in life, graduation from this place of enlightenment, the University of Guam.
I minauleg y ha’ane yan y bendision y manainata para hamyu todos.
Someone asked me, how does one get chosen to be a commencement speaker before a distinguished and now accomplished group of individuals graduating from a university.
I replied, well you can do it the hard way, which is to quit your job as a mid-level manager with one of the largest and most successful banks in the country with billions of dollars in capital – because you know that they will not give you the manager’s position ever – risk everything for yourself and your family, start your own local bank with a few friends and a few thousand dollars of capital, and beat them at their own game – and become hugely successful.
Or you can take what I thought would be the easy way and be the first one in your family to go to college, change careers from one paying you close to $100,000 a year in the private sector in 1986, take a government job paying a mere $24,000, join the administration of a governor running for re-election because you believed in his big ideas and enormous dreams, run for Congress twice and lose, then run for the Legislature and barely win at number 20 of 21, serve seven terms, get elected speaker and then lose the next election, run again and come in top 5 and be granted the privilege of heading the Appropriations Committee, continue a long history of support for the University of Guam and even manage to increase its budget by several million dollars. I guess it wasn’t that easy since only after 20 years in public service did the call come. Finally.
I am sure glad they invented cell phones in the meantime, otherwise I would have missed that call and I would not be standing before you today. On occasions like this, the attendees are usually asked to turn off your cell phones. I am asking all you graduates to keep your cell phone on.
Quite revolutionary, if you ask me.
I am especially honored to be here today as a former UOG student myself. In those days (the 70s), only a handful of my classmates from Father Duenas went on to college, and like many other families and even some of you today, I was the first in my family to attend college, while my parents and older sister worked hard to support me. They continued to support me when I attended Georgetown in Washington D.C. to pursue my dream of studying Government in the U.S. capital.
My education opened many doors for me, and I promise it will do the same for you. It also placed a responsibility and burden on me that comes with privileges we receive not only due to our own work, but the hard work of others before us and around us. At first, I thought the key was to make as much money as possible so that my family would never face having to choose again which child could study, which child would work. I truly enjoyed my life in the private sector, making close to $100,000 a year, travelling, biking the California coast, driving my dream sports car. Imagine my hard-working family’s surprise and chagrin when I dropped all that to embrace our former governor’s and eventually my own dreams for Guam.
In each era of our history, of the 50s and the 60s as we rebuilt our island from the devastations of the war, the path to survival and most certainly success was to flow with the tide of the establishment. To find the rhythm of the moon and rise with waters. And Jesus Leon Guerrero, the commencement speaker I described earlier, did that. But it was not enough. He saw that as he progressively climbed the ladder of success, entrenching himself in an institution built by others, he helped them entrench their control over himself and our community.
And so he started a revolution. Jesus Leon Guerrero’s revolution, the Bank of Guam, proved that we have the capacity to control our own financial destiny and we can build our own financial institutions to meet the demands of a modern Guam and transition our local traditions of barter and trade into the new century practices of money and commerce – all of this without losing the fundamental values of our centuries old society of helping our neighbors and families, keeping inafamaulek and inagui ni fli intact in the business of lending and re-payment and at times, non-payment. His story continues to inspire and instill pride in all Chamorros.
Allow me a speaker’s license to introduce the next revolution and revolutionary by paraphrasing Ken Burns, the distinguished cinematographer of our nation’s history through film and art said on what is important to a society and community.
Insist that we support science, and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our home – they just make our home worth defending.