Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year greetings from Mr. James T. Stoval, III at the FSM Embassy in D.C. to FSM President

James T. Stovall, III
1725 N Street NW
Washington, DC  20036

January 1, 2013


His Excellency Manny Mori, President
Federated States of Micronesia
Palikir, Pohnpei, FM 96941

Subject:   New Year’s Letter

Dear Mr. President:

I write this on the occasion of the New Year, in celebration of the astonishing progress of the FSM during the more than forty years I have been so privileged to serve your people.  We all struggle over the current issues on a daily basis, but I think it is right that occasionally we pause to recognize how far the Nation has come in the relatively short period since 1965 when your visionary leaders of that time first conceived the idea of a new Pacific Nation.

This could be considered an open letter to the people of FSM, but I leave it to you, Mr. President, to determine its distribution, if at all.  It is written strictly from my personal viewpoint as a huge fan of FSM, with no pretentions of special insight but more than a little fond nostalgia.

My earliest work for Micronesia was done in Washington through several of the early Compact negotiations, and I did not actually come out there until 1975.  The Pohnpei runway was still unpaved then, and the terminal was a beautiful thatch structure (which I still miss).  Street paving consisted of bumpy remnants from the Japanese time, and the main downtown was out of an American wild West movie.  But the island was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen, the people were wonderful, the excitement of nation-building was palpable and I was hooked!

Later, on a bus ride at negotiations in Molokai, Andon Amaraich said to me, “Why don’t you leave that fancy law firm and come work for us?”  Eventually I did, and I still consider it the best decision I ever made (except, of course, marrying Lou Ann, my wife of fifty years!).

I celebrated my 75th birthday this year, and I have no illusions about how much longer I can stay in the game.  Don’t get me wrong, my health is almost unnaturally good for my age and I want to continue my involvement as long as you will have me.  But I am as anxious as you are (as we have been discussing) to find and support the best way to pass along the body of knowledge I possess, especially to best position the Nation for 2023 and beyond.  This is obviously open for a discussion I’d like to have, but first I’d like to mention just a few great things about FSM today that I find remarkable.

It is not said often enough that FSM’s Constitution and its governmental structure is the envy of the Pacific and beyond.  Who would have thought it possible for four distinct cultures over such a vast region to come together in unity and self-determination that has now lasted for 35 years and keeps getting stronger?  And who would have predicted in 1979 that a sovereign FSM would quickly grow a set of both bilateral and multilateral relationships capped by full UN Membership? 

Not only that, but when this all got started there was a relatively small core of people to run the new governments at the State and National levels, and it depended too much on expatriates.  I am thankful that God has allowed me to live long enough to see a virtual explosion of educated and increasingly experienced Micronesians in place and capable of meeting the challenges of an increasingly complex government AND to see more and more smart and capable women taking up roles at the highest levels both administrative and diplomatic.

Of course, your greatest challenges are and will remain on the domestic front as you gradually and necessarily transition toward a private sector-driven economy.  There are no quick fixes here, and easy living within the accustomed envelope is not a plan.  Among other things, this outsider is very impressed by the highly collaborative process of regular summits that you convene to address common issues in the uniquely Micronesian way.  It does not solve all problems, but it goes a long way and has evolved steadily as the Nation has progressed.

There is a great deal more to be said, but I don’t want to prolong this.  In short, I just hope that in the midst of problems and politics of the moment you the leaders of FSM never lose sight of the priceless thing with which you are entrusted.  I am confident in holding a strong sense of pride in the FSM, and also for all of you whose combined effort has created the most important island nation in the Pacific.

During 2013 let us all pray for God’s continued blessing and support for the leaders of the FSM, and for the Nation.







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