Voting on Guam
One of the memorable parts of my growing up years was the intense political tradition of Guam. Politics runs thick on the island and as a youth I was involved and active in it. The democratic process was a living part of my life and I was taught by my family that it was a real privilege to participate in it.
I ran as a candidate and won Student Body elected offices. I also ran and won a seat for a few terms in the Guam Youth Congress. This is an elected body of young people on Guam that actually pass legislation that is forwarded to and considered by Guam’s Legislature, that if approved, can be made into laws. This was a real education for me and developed my leadership skills. It also showed me how democracy can effect change.
I am appreciative of the value of a citizenry that actively participates in their local government process. Whatever your political leanings, I hope you all will register to vote. There is no moment in our history where your voice and your vote is needed more than ever than in this election year.
My mother recently wrote an article on her perspective on politics on Guam that I included below.
Ask Joyce: I notice politics is a favorite pastime on Guam?
Yes, you are correct in your observation … especially with election just around the corner. This passion of the Chamorros became more intense after WWII. The atrocities experienced at the hands of the enemies became the catalyst for Chamorros to remain free after their liberation by the American forces in 1944. Their beliefs and loyalties to the American ideals became the torch for persistent pursuit of citizenship which became true to a certain extent in 1950 when the Organic Act of Guam was signed.During those years, Guam was under the Navy’s jurisdiction with the understanding of the Chamorros’ desire to become United States Citizens. At that time, there were men and women in what was then the Guam Congress. One key individual who played a major role was Antonio B. Won Pat, a 35-year old who later was elected as Guam’s delegate to Congress.
According to my research the Secretary of Interior, Harold S. Krug visited Guam in February 1947 to determine if the Chamorros were truly ready to be US citizens and ready to be self-governed. His report to Congress was positive and the Chamorros were joyous to hear the news. Won Pat, fearing loss of Navy support, testified “Guam’s economy would collapse without the Navy.” Assembly members walked out en masse after the great Navy and Guam Congress dispute in which a civil service employee did not respond to a subpoena.
Congress passed the Organic Act of Guam and President Harry S. Truman signed it on July 21, 1950 thus giving the Chamorros American citizenship.
This established three branches of the government in Guam: executive, legislative and judicial. Known as the godfathers of the organic act were Honorable Baltazar Jerome Bordallo (aka BJ or “Tun Kiko Zoilo”), Francisco Baza Leon Guerrero, Carlos P. Taitano, and none other than Antonio B. Won Pat, who rendered the most passionate plea to the American Senate.
The Organic Act brought about competitive election to political positions.
The whole island became over zealous in campaigning for their “gayu (rooster).” The thought just occurred to me that this is much like cockfights.
Back then it was the Territorial Party against Democratic Party and later the parties became the Republicans and the Democrats. The campaign trail was demanding and ugly at times. There were silent duels among families—many not speaking to each other for years. Then there were all the gatherings and barbecues where followers planned strategies to ensure their “gayu” wins. In the present time, families are a lot more considerate, less confrontational and go above and beyond for those they support. The bottom line is that many people work hard for their parties and possibly garner the rewards of a job if their candidate wins.
Many foresee Guam as a state. Is this far-fetched? On the other hand, is it premature to dream the impossible – to be full-fledged US citizens and be allowed to vote for the President of the United States?
si Joyce I. Martratt
( Ask Joyce, The Pacific Edge)