Mr. Leo A. Falcam
On the Occassion of His Inauguration as Fifth President of the
Federated States of Micronesia
Palikir, Pohnpei, July 21, 1999
Check Against Delivery
My fellow citizens:
You have all heard political speeches before, and some of them
mine. They serve legitimate purposes, and they are a part of our
life. But if you will forgive me I would like to make this address
more of a personal statement - a sharing of my observations about
our young Nation's past and present, and my hopes for its future.
You deserve nothing less from me in this, my first Presidential
address to the citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia.
It is more than just a formality when I say that I stand before
you today, humble and grateful for the opportunity you have given
me to serve you as your President. I am also aware of the heavy
weight of responsibility placed upon me. I know that I must remain
faithful to the vision of this Nation that inspired all the former
Presidents, as well as all our leaders in Government and our traditional
leaders, past and present, to rise to the monumental challenges
of launching a new Nation at a time of unprecedented global change.
As we look around us now, we can be justifiably proud of a wide
range of accomplishments that have brought us to a point where
we, the citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, are truly
among the most fortunate people on Earth. In contrast to many
other developing countries, ours is a land of increasing prosperity.
We are blessed with a beautiful and bountiful homeland with rich
cultural traditions. Ours is an orderly society, dedicated to
the principles of Democracy. Ours is a free and peaceful society,
one in which we are secure in our property and in the enjoyment
of basic human rights.
It is in the nature of all human beings to take good things for
granted and to focus on our discontent with those things that
need improvement. But recent and ongoing events elsewhere in the
World should make us ever mindful of just how fortunate we are.
The prospect of any among us being driven from our homes by despotic
overlords, to endure torture and death, cold and hunger, relying
on the mercy of strangers for our very lives, is now for us unthinkable.
But our parents and grandparents had to endure much of the same
suffering. Yes, we who are here today have much to be thankful
We stand on the threshold of a new Millennium - a unique point
in the history of all Mankind. What better and more meaningful
time could there be to renew our resolve - for each of us to dedicate
himself and herself to our unity of purpose to continue building
on the progress of the past, and to pledge to ourselves that in
doing so, as individual citizens of this developing island nation
we must look beyond the enjoyment of our own lives. My fellow
citizens, as we pass through this doorway in time that we are
uniquely privileged to experience, we must also ask ourselves,
"What must we do - all of us - leaders, yes, but more importantly,
individual citizens - to pass on to future generations a better
homeland, and a better world?"
As I stand before you, I see the faces of the children here. And
while they may not be in position to criticize our actions or
inactions, it is these children to whom we bear the heaviest responsibility
of all. My generation has launched our new Nation, and already
we have adjusted our lives to the enjoyment of modern conveniences
and a level of prosperity not known before. But unless we continue
to work together within our democratic Constitutional framework
to find better ways of keeping our Nation on the right path of
enduring prosperity and sustainable development, we could fail
in our most important duty of all - our duty to the children of
the future. In years to come, we will be judged by our children
on how we dealt with the collected experience of twenty years
of self-government, and used that experience to prepare for a
better future. Meeting these challenges will require that we all
work together even more effectively than we have done up to now,
with pride, and in a spirit of mutual self-confidence.
As a nation made up of peoples who not long ago made such momentous
choices for our future it is only natural to recall, even yet,
the pros and cons of those decisions, and even to feel occasional
doubts about our collective wisdom. Without losing that understanding,
we must nevertheless keep fixed in our minds the strong imperatives
that brought us into union with one another.
One of the strongest of those is the imperative of history. Today,
our ocean, the Pacific, is no longer a refuge within which island
peoples can exist simply, secure in our remoteness. In order to
live fulfilling lives within the world now at our doorstep and
to build a secure future, we must move rapidly to develop our
islands, to make use of our resources, to educate our children,
to cooperate with our neighbors and to pursue contacts elsewhere
in the world consistent with our beliefs, ideals and our own cultural
The great wisdom of our founding fathers has been to bestow upon
us, and those who will come after us, a concept of unity expressed
in this way in the Preamble to our Constitution: "we affirm our
common wish to live together in peace and harmony, to preserve
the heritage of the past, and to protect the promise of the future."
If we can be faithful to that undertaking, with proper stewardship,
we will have not only the means to survive, but to advance and
prosper to a far greater extent together, than we could achieve
I would like to propose to you a rallying cry for our efforts
in years to come, as we cross this historic threshold - something
to put up on posters in our villages and in our schools. Something
to understand as being more important than politics. That rallying
cry is, "Into the New Millennium, Working Together." As I have
just been saying, we take pride in our Nation's unity. I too,
am proud of it and want with all my heart to preserve it. But
in addressing the immediate needs of our Nation, our unity needs
to find practical application. Unity must be seen by individual
FSM citizens as something more than a principle we hear about
in speeches and study in school. We need to think of it in a way
that we can all carry with us as we go through our daily lives
- in a way that actually affects the lives of our families and
the performance of our jobs. And so, I suggest today that we think
of unity not just in the political sense, but as working together.
These two words we all have heard, in many situations. They provide
empowerment to achieve greater goals. I believe that if this principle
becomes the battle cry, not just of this new Administration but
for our society as a whole, and not just on this day but into
the future, we cannot fail. It is my pledge to you as your President
to provide the effective leadership that will be required in order
to coordinate all our efforts as we proceed, "Into the New Millennium,
As President, my first priority will be to establish an Administration
which gains and holds the confidence of the people, of the Congress,
and of the State Governments - an Administration which will work
constructively and in close cooperation with all branches of government
at every level within the FSM. In short, my Administration will
undertake to be a positive force which helps to bind our Nation
together by doing its job actively and well, while respecting
the prerogatives of others. You have every right to expect nothing
less from your National government. But an equal and even more
important part of the burden must be carried by you, the citizens,
in building the consensus as to our preferred future, in guiding
and instructing your government leaders, and in advancing the
private sector of our society at all levels.
I do not suggest to you that, in a brief span of four years, we
can achieve all that we set out to do. We can, however, within
that time, further define our vision through such processes as
the economic summits, and keep the Nation on a sure course. We
have the tools to accomplish the task.
First, we are blessed with National and State Constitutions which
provide our basic governmental structure. Over a period of almost
twenty years now, we have gained confidence in our system of government.
Second, we possess a wealth of seasoned leadership at all levels
and in all branches of government, as well as our traditional
leaders, united by a common dedication to the betterment of the
lives of our people. Their diversity of experience and views is
one of our strengths, so long as we understand the nature of a
participative democracy in which the airing of different opinions
is a necessary and healthy aspect of life within a united society.
Thomas Jefferson, as the President of a very young United States,
once said to a group of leaders who had become discouraged by
divisive debates, "Every difference of opinion is not a difference
of principle." Keeping that wise observation in mind, we in this
young Nation can explore our differences in the democratic spirit
enshrined in our Constitution, and emerge far stronger from the
Third, we are blessed with a rich human resource, which grows
ever more capable of participating in, and contributing significantly
to, the building of this Nation. The importance of this resource
cannot be overstated. Leadership alone can never bring us to the
attainment of our goals. It is the people who must chart our course
and carry out the multitude of never-ending tasks as we move along
the path of our development. My pride and confidence in you, the
people of this Nation is boundless, and creates in me a sense
of great optimism for our future.
Finally, we also possess an indispensable tool in the form of
material resources to apply toward our development. In the early
years, through our relationship of Free Association with the United
States we have been assured of needed financial and other resources
which have been beyond our ability to generate internally. Without
infringing on our sovereignty, or our ability to govern ourselves
and to determine our future, we freely chose to accept the opportunity
of association with that great nation. Meanwhile, we have gradually
been building both our own resource base and a wide variety of
other sources of bilateral and multilateral assistance.
Our partnership with the United States through the Compact is
not, however, about to expire. Let me emphasize that. While some
important provisions are to be renegotiated, the Compact of Free
Association has no expiration date. Since this partnership with
the United States will be continuing in the coming years, the
United States Government is preparing to negotiate future assistance
to us. But we have been a self-governing people since 1979, even
some years before the Trusteeship was formally terminated. Therefore,
it remains up to us to define our own concept of a preferred future.
That opportunity is one of the most important challenges facing
my Administration, and I pledge to you, on behalf of all the leadership
of this Nation, that we will continue to build on the efforts
already well underway to ensure a mutually beneficial association
with the United States for many years to come.
But the Compact is not just about assistance. The long term success
of our association with the United States depends on this nation's
development toward greater self-sufficiency. While we will continue
for some time to require outside assistance, that assistance alone
will not lead us to self-sufficiency. A former United States Ambassador
to the United Nations has stated wisely that it is not for the
United States to tell the Micronesians how we should develop.
That can only be decided by ourselves.
Thus, our challenge is to shape our own future, not simply to
go down a path laid out by others. It is fair to say that in the
past, building on early experiences, we in the FSM have tended
primarily to react to the initiatives of others. Now and henceforth,
we must take hold of our own initiatives. We must create history.
We must create events. We must not merely react to events around
It is misleading when we hear people speak of "developed" and
"developing" countries, as though some have made it, and the rest
are coming along after the same goal. A Spanish poet once wrote,
"Traveler, there is no road; you make the road by walking." Development
is not a defined condition. It is not a destination, but an unfolding
path along which the traveler must also be a pathfinder. And only
we ourselves, working together, will make our path.
This Nation has made a good start. It was not easy, starting in
1979, with an untested Constitution and a new structure of National
and State governments, and with infrastructure far below present
standards. It cannot be denied that we made many mistakes, some
of them costly. But several years ago, the people of this Nation
began to sharpen the focus of our development effort through the
mechanisms of State and National economic summits in which there
was broad participation by both the government and private sectors.
That series of meetings started a process of self-evaluation and
planning that is ongoing, and is intended to remain subject to
constant updating. While the process is aided by internationally
qualified experts, it relies far more on the expressions of your
hopes and ambitions for our future, both as you see it now, and
as you come to see it in the years ahead. I hope that you will
all keep this in mind as we convene future economic summits.
Since you have made me your President, you should be made aware
of my own views for the Nation's future. First, you are probably
aware of the priority I have always placed on respect for our
culture and the maintenance of its place in our lives and in our
future. No matter what stage of economic development we might
someday reach, and no matter how strong our ties with the outside
world might become, we are and will remain Micronesians - not
Americans, not Europeans, not Asians.
Especially since our numbers are relatively small in global terms,
our unique cultural identity is one of our most precious assets.
As the global society becomes a greater and greater part of our
lives, were we to allow ourselves merely to imitate the values
and ways of Western society, some of us might become rich in the
conveniences of life, but we as Micronesian people would have
lost the proud spirit that has bound us together for centuries.
As President, I do not intend to let that happen. I often think
that we may already have let too much slip away.
In speaking of our unique cultural identity, it is well to pause
for a moment and focus on its meaning. What is culture? Is it
the contents of a museum, to be visited and viewed with nostalgia
and curiosity? No, museums have their place, because the objects
of our historic past are evidence of our heritage, but ours must
remain a living culture. It lies in the unique ways that we relate
to each other. It lies in our family structures, and in the customary
ways of decision-making and settling disagreements. It lies in
our languages, our legends and our songs. It lies in the things
we celebrate and the things we mourn. Perhaps most of all, it
lies in our own unique values. We value our land. It is scarce
and precious. We value our ocean. It sustains and protects us,
and binds us together. We value the quiet enjoyment of our lives.
For us, the "island way" is and should remain the best way.
That is culture - our culture.
I hope that none of our visitors present take these comments to
mean that I feel this country should hold itself aloof in any
way, or be resistant to our growing immersion in the global community.
Quite the contrary, as I observed earlier, isolation is no longer
something to be desired in this world. But as we move ahead in
the coming years, we must not leave behind the characteristics
of our national identity. We must remain forever Micronesians.
The second building block of the platform on which I stand is
that we must, as a common society, pool our considerable tangible
and also intellectual resources in order to "leverage," as the
investment people say, the collective benefits of our efforts.
Let me hasten to say that in making this statement I have no intention
of taking away from the basic concept of our Constitution, under
which the bulk of decision-making that affects our daily lives
is reserved to the States. What I mean to say is that I would
like to see your national government become more effective in
serving the States. We in Palikir should not be a "fifth wheel"
of government, operating in some environment disconnected from
the States, passing down what seems to be good advice and hoping
that all goes well. We must find a way to be better than that,
without overstepping the rightful Constitutional limitations.
I believe that we at the national level of the FSM Government
must find ways to be more effective both in directly supporting
State government initiatives, and also in promoting the development
of greater and more productive interstate relations. It is not
our role at the National level to dictate, but it surely is our
role to provide the most effective conduit for your relations
with the outside world, and also to provide the leadership to
maximize these benefits we expect to obtain through our common
Today I say to you that unity alone as a schoolbook concept is
not enough. It must mean, on the streets, everyday, to each and
every one of us, "working together." And your national government
must be not only a distant cousin to the team - it must be a welcome
and needed coordinator - both a resource and a leader, within
the bounds of its properly limited capacity.
In that regard, it occurrs to me that there must be many circumstances
where our citizens would be more than willing to volunteer some
time to serve the community, if some initiative could be formed
to encourage and coordinate them. I know that this is already
occurring in some communities, but I feel that your National Government
could facilitate even broader volunteer activities. And so, today
I promise that an early task of my Administration will be to form
an effective mechanism to help our communities promote volunteer
services. This is no substitute for governmental responsibility,
but I know that we are an energetic and capable people, and where
government resources may be scarce, this may be one important
way that the concept of working together could find valuable expression.
The basic principles I have referred to that will guide my Administration
would not be complete without my mentioning our relations with
the world that is no longer the "outside" world. This is the one
major area that is reserved by our Constitution to the National
government, but again, I must assure you that my Administration
will view itself as a Trustee for State interests in this area,
not as an independent operator.
The careful, constructive development of this Nation's place within
the international community has been one of the great success
stories in which all previous administrations have played major
parts. As a result, today we maintain active relations with fifty
countries, and memberships in many international organizations
including the United Nations. This has not been done for the sake
of prestige. An English diplomat once described diplomacy as "social
banking." It is "building up credit and confidence for your country,
to be used when you really need it to achieve your objectives."
Simply put, it is a give-and-take world out there, and we must
be willing to give within the bounds of our capacity, if we hope
to receive according to our needs. So, when you hear someone ask
why the FSM is engaging in some international relationship that
may not look as though it brings us immediate material benefits,
rest assured that your government is doing so with your long-term
best interests in mind.
To illustrate my point, each one of the international relationships
we have entered into so far has been chosen by your government
because it offers some short or long term benefit to our development,
directly or indirectly. Obviously, I start by mentioning our closest
associate and partner under the Compact, the United States, whose
generosity and support are well-known to all of us. Then, I would
recognize the bilateral donor-partners in the region, who have
been and continue to be generous to us even in the midst of their
own economic hardships. Next, I would turn to our multilateral
relationships within the subregion, through such mechanisms as
the Council of Micronesian Chief Executives. More broadly, in
the greater region of the Pacific Islands, we are active both
bilaterally, and also multilaterally in organizations such as
the South Pacific Forum, where the particular common interests
we share with all of our Pacific brothers and sisters find expression
on the broader international stage. It has been our privilege
to serve as Chair of the Forum twice since we joined, including
at the present time.
Even on a global scale, within the United Nations community we
work closely as a member of an alliance of 42 small island developing
states located all over the world who share many common problems.
This is the group called, "AOSIS," the Alliance of Small Island
States. As a small, remote island country we might go unnoticed
in the greater international discussions - but as one of a bloc
of forty-two island countries, acting together, we have already
made big impacts in negotiations with larger powers on subjects
like climate change and sustainable development, so critical to
our very existence.
I strongly endorse our present international position, and intend
during my term to work with the Congress to enlarge our capacity
to bring home the benefits of these relationships - to continue
to build upon them as times dictate, and to apply them toward
achieving the goals that we ourselves identify for this Nation.
And so, my fellow citizens, I have spoken of what I believe are
the three most critical areas on which we as a nation must concentrate
over the next four years - the recognition and protection of our
cultural values, building our economy with a true determination
to work together, and a strong commitment to effective international
relations. You may rest assured that during these four years your
President and my entire Administration will be mindful of these
elements in every task that we undertake. You may also rest assured
that we in this Administration will be working hard together to
serve you, as we all work together to advance the interests of
our society. With God's blessing and support we can be successful
in this great enterprise, and together we can create a period
of continued economic growth in the Federated States of Micronesia
toward the right balance of self-reliance in an increasingly interdependent
I know in my heart and mind that this mission is possible, and
that if we all live up to our individual responsibilities, our
achievements together over the next four years will become a fitting
legacy for our children and future generations. I am honored to
be your servant, but I am also challenged to be your leader. I
am determined to meet that challenge, and likewise, I call upon
your own determination to join with me in working together, into
the New Millennium.