Clark GrahamBy: Universe Yamase
We were fortunate enough to have had an opportunity to sit with Mr. Clark Graham of Chuuk. He is active in the community with "SHIP"(Society for Historic Investigation & Preservation) and "HOOPS" (Helping Ourselves: Outreach Programs in Sports).
The discussion covers a wide array of topics; from politics, community, education, race, the youth and more. Mr. Graham was kind enough to also share his experience of living in FSM. From his critical decision to venture to our islands as a Peace Corps volunteer. To his eventual decision to call Micronesia home.
Below is an edited transcription of our audio-recorded interview.
TFB = The Fourth Branch.
CG = Clark Graham.
TFB: What is the Akoyikoyi Center?
CG: It would be the Akoyikoyi School. It is a charter school idea. We got the idea from Harlem Children Home. It is a Harlem New York program. The idea was created by a gentleman who wanted to work within his community and not only improve the education system, but improve the community, so the community and the education system work together. It is a holistic system. The idea is to do both, to work within the system. You can always send kids out, but then they don’t come back. Anyways I started hearing about this, so Keitani (Clark’s son) and I talked about it, and I said this is something we should look at. So a charter school does this, it is tuition free. Again in America though, remember a charter school is funded like a public school. So our problem is we are a charter school idea with no money. So that is slowing us down. We don’t have money to hire a teacher. We’ve gone to various organizations and we haven’t found a volunteer yet. Okay, so that’s been a challenge to finding a teacher to get started because […] I believe we need a native English teacher to teach English. We have a curriculum that we want to use. It’s not finalized, but we have a math and English curriculum. The other curriculums will be developed.
CG: This will be elementary, […] we’ll start with one grade. Either [we’ll] start with kindergarten or with only a 1st grade. Every year we’ll add a grade because we’re small and we don’t have funding, and we’ll only be doing elementary. I mean I’ll be honest with you when my kids got into Xavier; I breathed a big sigh of relief and after what? 10, 15, 20 years later I am not unhappy that my kids graduated from Xavier. So we believe that there are high schools not only within Micronesia but outside that will take talented young people. Because Keitani, Curtis and Kimmie (Clark's children) they got to go out and continue high school. We’ve had some offers from schools in Guam. That if we could develop children capable of doing the work they [can] take [them]. I’ll be honest with you. People say to me, “what have you done in your life that is important?” and I say, “I taught my kids to read and write”. […] If we take on education we have to really work hard, it’s not like basketball we have fun and go home. This is like your life. So again Charter school-tuition free, kids come in by small lottery. [So] it’s not like; “oh you’re my relative so you can come in”. There might be some kids that come in because […] they apply. It would be regional. So start small, if it doesn’t work, “Okay”.
TFB: When are you looking at starting?
CG: Well, if I had a teacher I would start in September. But we don’t have a teacher so I’m still looking […]. I have the English Curriculum right now. I am ordering the math curriculum next week. […The] math curriculum will come with social studies and other curriculum materials.
TFB: How much do you estimate the cost of building this school to be?
CG: The grant from rotary for equipment for shipping and ordering and everything is about $30,000. We’ve got 14 computers. The grant for solar is about $22,000. That’s just for the solar. Couple other grants for construction […] I’m estimating to about […] less than a hundred thousand. If you count the labor and the donations it would be more than that. […] That doesn’t mean we have a school built. We have [a] couple areas where we can use for classrooms. So if we get our school going, then we have to build [it]. But I’m not worried about that, I am worried about teachers.
TFB: How are you trying to find your teachers?
CG: Okay, we’ve tried Peace Corps. We’ve tried the Jesuit volunteers.
TFB: So you tried but none of them responded?
CG: No… this will be a little touchy but Peace Corps say… “I’m sorry someone says its not safe to have a volunteer on this island”. Having to live on Chuuk for 45 years, I sort of giggle but, that’s the way it is here…we can’t get a volunteer here. It’s a bureaucratic decision but the Jesuit program is considering us. Its just they have to come out and see our center. They’ve done that. We’ve met with them a month ago. So we hope something will come for that but not for September, maybe next year.
TFB: So this year is more like planning?
CG: So what happened was we found out in December or January that we got our license. So its now May. We just haven’t found a volunteer.
TFB: How long does it take to renew your license?
CG: It takes a little time. Once we have it, I was told it’ll be a little easier to get it again. It’s not impossible. To be very honest we’re considering [starting] off with just a few students, maybe just 5 students in one grade [...]. As soon as we start, we get a three-year extension. So we may have to do that. I am [a] little concerned that... Because, again I’m going to be 68, I don’t mind administering, I don’t mind teaching part time, I don’t mind doing other things. But I’m concerned that I won’t be doing a good enough job for the children. You know I am older, if I get sick or whatever. But that is an option, we’re going to start with a very few kids. […] We’re hoping to start soon. We’re hoping to start a summer literacy project but it’ll work on English and math and other things, but its not actually officially part of a school but that’s one of the center activities […] its a literacy activity. […] We’re doing things already through the center, [such as] workshops and sports programs. The school would utilize the building, and of course any facility or and equipment we have we’ll start one grade.
(Mr. Graham shares his background…)
CG: We were really poor. I was really poor. My mother raised me as a single parent and I was fortunate because she just devoted her time and she told me education is everything. […] She was a high school […] graduate. But you know that was in the 1930s that was all you needed you know. But she sent me to college. I got a college degree […] so I am only able to do what I do because I have an education. And as I look around I think that’s the key in today’s world. There’s a saying and I can’t remember where I read it. It’s not my idea but in traditional cultures the key to success is learning what the ancestors knew. You sat at the knee of a navigator you learned to navigate, you learned to build a canoe from a canoe builder because the knowledge of an island that was there was what was needed to sustain you. But in today’s world, the key to the future is education. That’s it. Not that you shouldn’t learn other things, because I am really a big advocate for […] cultural literacy. But the key to your success, I think we will all agree is education. That is sort of my mantra or what I believe.
The problem now is: “a teacher, and a place for where the teacher to live”
TFB: Are you considering hiring local teachers?
CG: Well we need to find someone who is capable of teaching oral English. It does not matter. We need someone who speaks English well and is willing to teach. It’s not like you can’t teach because you’re from Chuuk, Oh no [laughs].
TFB: What are the qualifications to teach at your school?
CG: You have to have an AS degree. Or, depending on what you’re teaching or where you’re teaching then maybe you need a BA. Then […] there’s a test for teachers […]. So if you have an AS degree, you’re automatically brought in and at some point, you train or you pass or you take a test. […] I think probably a BA if you’re going to teach. Teaching elementary to me [is] harder than teaching high school because you’re taking kids at the very beginning. It’s like planting a seed. […] Once you plant a seed, then it starts growing it gets a little hardier right? It’s stronger. But when you plant that seed you have to take care of it, water it you know, so I think it’s very challenging for some people.
TFB: Is the Chuuk State government helping with your school?
CG: Well, in fairness to the state, we are considered a non-public school. So there is funding for non-public schools […]. So we’re eligible for anything any other non-public schools are eligible for.
TFB: Are you facing any complications with building your school? For example, land issues?
CG: Well where our center is, is on my wife’s land. It’s not a problem, there’s no issue. […] I’m sure once we start if God willing we get a school going, and we’re successful, I’m sure there’ll be issues. But I don’t look at that as negative. I only look at that as a way to build a community and build a school because one of the things we want and we’re going to demand if we get our school going […] is I want pay back from the parents. I want the parents to be active. If you’re not active with your child coming to our school then we are going to have to discuss that. So that would be an issue I think. You know I don’t think it’ll be a bad one, I think it’s a good one. […] I’ve been to PTA meetings here and I’d say where are the parents. I just told you my mother raised me by herself. She worked eight hours a day never missed a PTA meeting, never. So people say to me I’m busy. I go I have a different role, I have a different model okay? So I expect parents to be active. [It] will be a requirement because there is no fee, you’re not paying us.
TFB: Why do you think families here don’t prioritize their children’s education? Do you think it’s due to lack of understanding the value of education?
CG: Okay there’s a book called “Unequal Childhoods”. There’s this thought […], “what’s wrong with the parents”? So I heard about this book […] called Unequal Childhoods […]. It’s a study in America of […] upper class and lower class, or at risk, and successful parents they have them called middle class. The at risk families, the families that are poorer. Here’s an example, they don’t speak out at meetings because they don’t understand the institution that includes schools, that includes the doctor. The kids do things that are more family oriented with relatives as opposed to kids in the upper class who did soccer, basketball and these other organizations. The mother takes her child to the doctor and because she’s not well educated, she’s intimidated she doesn’t say to the doctor “why are you giving ‘Johnny’ this medicine?” So I looked at that and I’m actually working on a presentation. Because when we look at these other people that’s what we talk about Chuuk or FSM don’t we? “Oh they… it’s no different” So that for me is a very important thing for me because very often Americans speak about people here as though they are different. No they are at risk. You know if you look at low income, health problems, parent expectation, [and] education. Those are all criteria for being at risk. […] Having said that, all those people whether you’d be in America or whether you’d be in Micronesia need more information. I think that’s the key. Giving them the information. For example, most parents here like everywhere care about their kids. But some of them don’t know where to go to get the answer. And culturally, again, in my family’s culture speaking out was a right thing to do. If my mother went to the school and she thought the school wasn’t doing a good job she would say “excuse me I’m sending my son here to be educated” that’s our culture. Here that’s not the culture people sit quietly thinking. So it’s a process of awareness. So hopefully if we can do something we can create a small awareness and hopefully it will work, and if it works then that’s good. Then people will say this works, okay let’s try it. […]
TFB: You mentioned earlier you have a presentation to present? What presentation is that?
CG: We do presentations. We have presentations on substances like tobacco, like the things I did at Xavier, like workshops for tobacco and violence. We do workshops on sports. […] Although this isn’t done, when I get it done we’ll start showing at the center to the parents, we’ll start with the parents and show it to them. There are not many opportunities to show these things.
TFB: How do you get paid?
CG: I don’t get paid. This is a problem. I’m sure you’re aware of this. Keitani could make more money at McDonald’s in Guam. And when you come here you’re giving up an opportunity to have a better life for yourself because you are not getting the income you should be getting. I find that frankly a great concern. For example, I said to someone, if you’re a teacher in Guam you get $30,000 starting salary, if you’re a teacher in Chuuk, you’re getting $6 to $7,000 maybe $8,000. In Saipan, a student has $5,000 per student per year by the government. In America it’s $8,000. In Chuuk, it’s $565
dollars to educate one child. How can you do that? So you see the challenges, so if you’re going to live in Micronesia one of the challenges is how can you do it, not just education but certainly education for the salary you get. Can you do it? I think it’s very challenging, and I think it’s very hard for young people. I know some people who are very well educated in the States (Micronesians) who may have one, two masters degrees. How can they come back when you say to them I’m going to give you $17,000 to teach at C.O.M. and they’re making $50,000 or $60,000, I don’t know. […] That’s very difficult. I think that’s one of the challenges for the young people here. In addition, the lifestyle, it takes some compromises to live here. There are also good things about Micronesia, but it is also difficult because we do live in a money economy and it’s very challenging. I admire young people who do come back. People here think “Oh they’re getting so much money” but you know (telling the interviewer) since you’ve been away that it’s not so much money. It’s very difficult.
TFB: For you it’s not about the money, it’s about educating these young Micronesians.
CG: It’s certainly not about the money [laughs]. I believe that…you know Micronesia has been very good to me and I would hope I would do the same kind of work wherever I live. It just happened that I live here. I’m not a person that goes to church a lot, but I believe you have a sense of responsibility to make life better for your fellow man. To me that’s the whole message from the bible. It’s not about whether I contribute this much money or frankly whether I go to church every Sunday. Do on to others as you would have them to do on to you. So maybe that’s, since I’m perhaps not active, maybe that’s my way. I think we should help each other and work together and by working together then things get better. Maybe that’s simple, but I think that’s important.
I see things sometimes maybe a little bit different, like for example when I walk down the street sometimes. I got a bike. I always see kids. I see kids like at 9 o’clock on Monday morning. I would say to myself “why aren’t they in school?” I’m not condemning anyone. It bothers me because I think…. okay here’s the statistics. In America, by 3rd grade if you’re not a good reader you’re not on line to do what? You’re not [going to] go to college, not have a good job, live in poverty, your children won’t be well educated, you’re grandchildren won’t… you’re on what we call a downward cycle. So when I see kids here that graduate from high school and their English level is 3rd grade. What does that tell me? They’re on a down-ward cycle. They’re nice kids. […] It’s not a valued judgment of them. They have a very hard life ahead of them, and we know today, even in America. […]
When I graduated from college or when I went to college in the 60s only about twenty percent of kids went to college. Why? Why go to college? You can get a job. Like in my hometown it was John Dear who make the big tractors. You not only get a good salary, you got dental, medical, health, everything all taken care of and you had a good job. Today there aren’t those good jobs. Today jobs require college education. So the jobs you could get as a high school graduate are disappearing and you need a college education. Now we are bringing young Micronesians who are not educated. How do they fit in? Well, it’s very difficult. So they go to America, it’s very difficult. Those jobs aren’t there. […] I say we have to give these kids opportunities. They have to have a chance.
Here’s a difference. When I came out and this was in 1966 with the first Peace Corps, I once went out to the outer island and it was all sailing canoes. So we sailed on canoes, we fished on canoes, […] and at that time there was an intermediate school for 7th and 8th grade. So they went there and they would take the test, and in those days only about 15% to 20% of the kids went on to high school. It was only Chuuk High School and Xavier. What would happen is for example if you didn’t pass the test, then your schooling was done. So the kids would come back, they get on their canoe, they go fishing. They lived. It was changing, but they were still able to live. Today, what do you do? On that island, there is no more canoe. Of course here, people now depend on money economy. So how would they survive? So if they don’t get an education now, it’s very difficult to fall back on the traditional ways. So that’s the problem. Life has moved on, just like America [has] no more low paying jobs. Here it’s very difficult to survive in the traditional culture. So that’s the challenge, so we need education.
TFB: Moving on now, do you own a gym?
CG: We had a place we were working at. We don’t have a gym. At our center we have a 30 X 60 so not big, but we wrestle there. Actually we got some mats at Xavier because John Reynold, he was working on Xavier, he got interested in wrestling, so he came and trained. He worked with the high school kids. We gave him some mats because Xavier had a place. So they did a wrestling program. Actually, Xavier won the high school wrestling championship. Actually that’s our dream. I mean that’s another dream to have a place where kids can come where its substance and violence free to learn sports because sports as I said is to find out who you are, a way to have self-esteem, a way to be coached so you have mentors.
TFB: How did you have the athletes you have? Did you have to recruit?
CG: For example, with wrestling… first we started wrestling; I started wrestling from 2000 for the 2001 FSM games. We just had a few guys. For the Micro Games, well we took 14 wrestlers. We just went out. We got kids all over. We have kids from Tol, Mortlock, lagoon, and we also have 4 girls. In February, we took a 14-year-old girl to Samoa and she wrestled in the junior division, which is like 16 to 20 and she got silver, a Chuukese girl.
TFB: Was she one of the youngest?
CG: Yeah. I mean very young.
TFB: Which Island is she from?
CG: She’s from this island, Weno. But the point is what we do, our programs, and I’m very adamant about this, no discrimination if you’re a female. Because I coached female basketball from 1999 to 2006, and my father was a basketball and baseball coach, but I never played baseball but I [played] basketball. So I coach girls because there was no one to coach girls. So in 1999 and 2000 we got thrown out of the gyms. We were thrown out. Girls cannot play basketball here in Chuuk. Now today you see girls playing basketball. I feel good about that because in a small way we help make it acceptable. Now we got girls wrestling. In case you don’t know there’s a girl from Chuuk who is number 2 in the State of Washington. Two weeks ago on Saturday she won 2nd place on the State of Washington. She’s from the Mortlocks. Her dad is from the Mortlocks. She’s on our facebook site her name is Nicole Maipi. There’s another girl wrestling in Hilo. I don’t know where she’s from.
TFB: Asides from their medals and athletic accomplishments are they receiving other benefits? Do they get scholarships?
CG: Well, I would hope. The problem is it’s difficult to continue to wrestle. But I would hope that this girl from the State of Washington would continue to wrestle. But who knows it’s very difficult.
TFB: Did you guys send her there?
CG: No, she lives there. I’ve always been looking for athletes. […] I don’t care [and] it doesn’t matter. […] Race, religion, ethnicity, we could say island of origin, clan, family, gender. You want to compete. We’ll let you compete and that is very important to me. My father experienced discrimination. He was a baseball player and if it had not been for the war, he would have played for the Chicago White Sox, but he got drafted. But, in his college days he was very poor. You think people here are poor? No. They were poor. In those days, blacks couldn’t play baseball in the major leagues, but he traveled with a black baseball team in the summers and played baseball with them because blacks couldn’t play anywhere else, they had their own teams. When I grew up, my schools were integrated. Our communities were not integrated. There was a line where blacks couldn’t live.
I experienced this because a friend of mine, my idol, was a guy by the name Booker Edgerson who was a first in state in the long jump, first in state in the 100meters, three times state high school champion, baseball player, football player. I was what you call a bat boy so this was junior legion so I was like eleven and he was seventeen, eighteen or nineteen and we won the state champion, and he was one of the pitchers. I will never forget this. So you go out for a dinner or party. They take you to a restaurant. We were walking down the street I was on the left he was in the middle coach was on the right. And of course Booker was black. Before we got to the restaurant the coach said to him, “Booker if they’ll not feed you here or they won’t serve you here, we’re all going to leave.” Then I remembered I have not seen a black person in here. I realized there was segregation. I didn’t know I was eleven years old. He went on to play in the Super Bowl with the Buffalo Bills. Imagine! He couldn’t go to the restaurant, but he could play in the Super Bowl. So I said this isn’t right, we must give every kid an opportunity. It’s very important especially I think for Micronesians who are a little quiet. So we are lucky we had a good team. We took 14 kids to Palau, and thank God they did well.
TFB: Did these grants help pay for the trips to Palau?
CG: No, these grants came from the Micro Games. So that was funded. Training and everything we do the training which is a challenge. It’s very difficult.
TFB: Are you the only person in FSM that has a wrestling program?
CG: No there are other groups throughout Micronesia. I just don’t know them all. I am sure there are groups in Pohnpei working with young people. I am sure there are groups in Kosrae and Yap. I just don’t know them because I’m here.
TFB: How did you end up living in Micronesia?
CG: Peace Corps, I was in college [and] I always wanted to get into Peace Corps. It was a very long process. One day in my apartment I get the newspaper. In the newspaper it says, “Peace Corps goes to Micronesia”. So [I wondered], “where is Micronesia?”. So I was reading there’s a recruiter, and in 21 days in 3 weeks
they’ll let you know if you’re accepted or not. That was unheard of. We didn’t know why, I didn’t ask why. I said to my friend, “I’m going to join the Peace Corps”. He said “ah you crazy”. I went down and filled an application I was twenty-two. So I filled out an application and I got a call. There are a lot of long stories but I got accepted. I went to training in Florida in 1966. I came out and started teaching a school, so that’s how. I was with the Peace Corps I did 3 years with the Peace Corps. Then 4 years I was an English Specialist for Tol working for elementary schools. I was Principal in Fai-Chuuk Junior High School, Satawal Junior High School. Then I worked at Moen Junior High School. I got married in 1971, so that changes everything. 1973 to 1975, I made copra and taro patches. I just made subsistence stuff because I didn’t have a job. My wife was a teacher she worked. I just fished and farmed. I built a boat. I started scuba diving.
TFB: How did your family in America feel about you living Micronesia?
CG: To be honest, they were not too happy. I am the only child. My mother and I were very close and so, they would like to have me go home because I was the only child. But I said I’m sorry. My father was very ill he could never visit. But my mother used to come out, especially after we had the kids when they were little she would come out every year or we go there. Once she came out and saw the kids, she said I can see why you stayed. It was not a problem. Of course, parents always want you close. I made my decision so I have lived here since 1966, so 45 years. This is sort of home. For my kids, this is home. I mean they’ve lived in Hawaii, went to college. But, this is home this is it. For them, home is Micronesia it’s Chuuk. I am pleased with that. I would never tell my kids where to live. Of course, you have an opinion. But it’s not my decision it’s my children’s decision. I will support whatever they want.
TFB: Since you’ve lived here for 45 years, what do you think Chuuk needs other than education?
CG: Healthcare. People have said to me, “Have you ever think about leaving Chuuk?” I said yes. When Keitani turned 5, I tried to start a school then but no one was interested. So we did home-study. If it works then we’ll stay, if it doesn’t, we’ll have to leave because I can’t sacrifice my kid’s future because I want to live here. Thank God home-study worked good enough that they got an education so we stayed. […] There’s
actually an article in PDN about trying to start dialysis centers in the F.S.M. so people don’t have to go to Guam or Hawaii. […] I’m not trying to say negative things about the hospital. Actually, I’ll try to share something. I got the cold last month. I had to go to the hospital and I ran into one of my old students, Henry Noel. Henry is a Chuukese who went to the South Pacific for the Medical Program. He married a Samoan
lady; he had been a doctor in Samoa. […] I was sitting there and he came in, I saw him and I felt relieved. Wow he’s back and I felt really good. Having said that, we need more. You know in Hawaii there are the Straub Clinic, Queen’s Hospital, Kapiolani Women and Children. Wow! I mean we need more infrastructure, more support. There is no reason why we can’t do Internet [Consultation]. Like I take your ex-ray put it on and send it to a doctor. All this is possible. So we need to make health care better. I see a lot of elderly people leaving. They have to go somewhere [for] diabetes or for dialysis. I think that’s why. Another one, “what are we doing for our kids?” How much money has Chuuk State spent on a kid or its youth?
TFB: Do you know how much Chuuk State gets for its education system?
CG: I don’t know. I know that it’s $565 for a kid.
TFB: What do you think about the public schools here in Chuuk? Do you see improvements?
CG: I think the new director is working very hard to make this system better. I think there are a lot of challenges. It’s very hard. There are a lot of problems in the education system. Part of it is making tough decisions. When I was talking for money for youth, I was talking about for non-school activities. But you come back to education; certainly we have to provide education. I am talking more about… I have a
presentation where I show the kids the gym in Kosrae, the national gym in Palikir, the PICS gym, the Pohnpei gym, the swimming pools and tennis courts in Pohnpei. Then I go to Palau, $100,000 wood court in their gym, wrestling court in the back, weight room, and track that seats so many people. I won’t go to Samoa because everyone will break out in tears. Samoa is incredible. Then I come to Chuuk, there are pictures of kids running in mud. Remember we sent two kids to the Olympics. Every sprinter is always Jack or John going to the Olympics. They learned on mud. So we need to do more for our kids. I’m not saying it’s above health care. It’s got to be up there.
TFB: Who is the new Director of Education in Chuuk?
CG: Gardenia Aisek.
TFB: What do you think about Chuuk’s leadership?
CG: Let me talk about America as an example. We have a lot of problems in America with leadership. Frankly, growing up in the 1960s during the time of Vietnam I didn’t think my country or my leaders were doing a good job. I think history shows they weren’t doing a good job and actually speaking of that, let me go back, remember I told you we found out [from Peace Corps] in 21 days. Okay that was because... later on we found out why. Why was Micronesian so special? First when Peace Corps started there were some people. When Sgt. Shriver under President Kennedy started Peace Corps some people said let’s go to Micronesia to the trust territory and someone made a decision saying no we can’t start Peace Corps in a territory where U.S. basically controls because it shouldn’t fail or succeed in that country. It should succeed in a truly formed country. By 1965-1966 a trustee-ship… every year there is a report. The report given to the US on what U.S. was doing in Micronesia was so bad that they said, “What are we going to do?” So one of the things they decided to do was to send out Peace Corps. It was a Presidential decision. They said they’ll just recruit people, make a decision and send them out. That’s how we got here, that was in 1966. We were the first group recruited, we learned in 21 days. My other friends went to Molokai to train. That was Peace Corps 2. That’s why the report given that the United States have done such a poor job in the trust territory we were one of the things to improve U.S.’ image. No one came and told us that you’re part of the U.S.’ plan. U.S was not doing well in Micronesia […].
If I have to speak about leadership, I also have to talk about U.S. because I’m U.S. and I’m not Micronesian. So I believe, I would quote Tosiwo Nakayama. Tosiwo Nakayama was once asked, “What do you think of the U.S. government?” He said, “ You have to make a distinction between the U.S. government and the U.S. people.” U.S. people are good people but the U.S. government is a little different because they represent a government and maybe they don’t always do good decisions. So I would apply that to the U.S. and I would also apply that to the F.S.M.. Doesn’t mean that the F.S.M. is bad or the U.S. government is bad. It’s different. Sometimes they make decisions that might not be good. They certainly do it in the U.S.. They certainly do it here at state and national levels. I think there are many challenges with leadership.
TFB: What makes it so hard for Chuuk to progress?
CG: Have you ever read “Things Fall Apart” by a Nigerian author? He wrote a book about Nigeria on how things fall apart. He talks about how his country fell apart. I read an interview on him. They said to him, “how do you make your country better?” He said there are two ways I think. First, it’s education because it raises people up. The problem is it takes 15 to 20 years to do, […] from kindergarten to graduating from college. That’s a long time. The quickest and best way is good leadership. If you have a good leader who knows where he wants to go, he can say to people I know how to get there, here’s what we need to do. Let’s join together and do it. That’s good leadership.
TFB: Do you think there should be a third compact after 2023?
CG: Well that’s a very interesting question. Economically, I don’t think F.S.M. can be self-sufficient. Someone in Kosrae did a data report. He said if you combine tourism, agriculture and fisheries it does not match remittance to Kosrae. So you’re making more money by people sending money back than by your economic development. Let me say that in 1800 it was the same for Ireland. People lived by remittance by their Irish ancestors or relatives who left to America. I don’t think you can have the expectations that people have today like electricity, running water, television with the economy you have. […] When I first came here electricity on this island was small. The villages didn’t have it. We first started having electricity in 1984. So I lived here from 1966 to 1984 with no electricity. Now I’m older, I want electricity. People around here want electricity. Petrus Mailo his old house was right by Mwan School would not allow them to hook electricity up to his house. He said no, I will live the way I’ve always lived. If you make a decision to live that way, you don’t need a lot of income. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. But if I decide not to have television, telephone, I can live cheaply and inexpensively. But if I want these things, that takes money and money requires economics. I think today the decision is made here by people. It’s not always a well thought out decision. Native Americans have the same problems as Micronesians. You do what’s easy. Native Americans were so self-sufficient. They became dependent on dollars. It’s going to be a challenge to be independent. That doesn’t mean you’re failing. If you look at the world, how much foreign aid do countries get? [U.S.] gives foreign aid to Israel. I wouldn’t feel as though we’re failing because we don’t have a StarBucks in Kosrae.