President Christian meets with students, shares his experiences

FSM Information Services

ChristianPALIKIR, Pohnpei—On January 30th, 2019 at the Pohnpei Catholic Mission, His Excellency Peter M. Christian, President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), met the students and staff of Pohnpei Catholic School (PCS). Having been invited by Principal Bernie Helstrom, the President answered students’ questions about himself, Government, and the FSM for over an hour.

Beginning with a song and a prayer, President Christian said “I won’t make a speech—I will sit down and let you ask me as many questions as you would like to ask.”

One student asked about cultural greetings, to which President Christian responded “In our custom, rahn mwahu is very important—if you meet someone on the road...always say hello! Don’t worry if it’s a stranger: say hello.”

Another student asked if President Christian graduated from PCS, which was formerly called Our Lady of Mercy School. “Yes, I graduated but not in the top class…I was persistent. [Life] is not about the school. It’s about you. You can get an A+ but if you don’t work hard and have no destination, you won’t get anywhere.”

Continuing, the President said “You know the difference between a man digging a ditch for a living, and the President? Not much. They’re both people. It’s the person who gives the job the dignity. It’s not the job that gives the person dignity. So if you’re a plumber or a farmer and you’re supporting your family—that’s an honorable job. But if I’m the President and I’m not sending my kids to school, I have dishonored my job.”

One standup young lady asked “What is your job as President?” President Christian replied with “One of my jobs is to receive foreign dignitaries and explain what our Government is trying to do. And sometimes, y’know, I feel…proud that I am the President, that I am an important person. But then I’ll get home, put down my government briefcase, and my wife says Peter can you take the trash out?  So that brings me back to Earth, and makes me remember that first and foremost I am a Christian, a husband, a father…. [And I also] have a responsibility for the Nation. As President, I try to make sure that all the four states of the FSM want to remain united. That’s part of my job: the constitution calls for unity, people to be one…. And that’s a very important part of the job, far more important than money, because money is nothing if people are not united. For me, that’s the most important part of my job.”

One student asked “What was your goal before becoming President?” President Christian said “I’m here by mistake! I never dreamt to be a politician, never did…one evening I was with a friend, and there was an election two months away, and my friend said why don’t you run for office? It seemed like a good thing to do to serve the people…. So in 1979 in the first election to pick members for the Congress of the FSM, I ran and was fortunate enough to win and I became a member of Congress since 1979 until 2006, when I lost the election to a very great man, Mr. Resio Moses. It was so good losing to such a great man.”

Another student asked “What year did you get married?” In response, President Christian said “Actually, I forgot...that’s why I got married: so [my wife] can remember all the dates for me.”

One young boy asked “What advancements do you see for the future in the FSM?” President Christian answered with “I want to see the education system improved so that the college doesn’t tell us that elementary and high school preparations aren’t adequate….I’d also like to see our ability to support ourselves, instead of relying on money from the US, to improve. Don’t get me wrong: we’re close friends with America. And there is no such thing as a truly independent country—whether its economics or politics, all countries depend on one another to help them improve. But the FSM is not a rich country. Nor is the FSM a poor country, either. There should not be any people here who are hungry…there should be no reason to say that there is poverty. What there is, at least here in Pohnpei, is some people are pwang….they don’t want to work, they’d rather walk down the road and eat breakfast with the uncle and go with the uncle to somewhere else and eat dinner. Pwang is an attitude—pwangada is when you sweat, but pwang is an attitude. You can wake up in the morning and say today I’m pwang—but then you’ve already set the mood, set the mood for failure. But if you say today I’ll go to school, and study hard…what do you do when you get home? I sweep the house, too. I cook food, I wash dishes. Taking care of your brothers and sisters, that’s important. Feeding the pigs, that’s important. So a healthier attitude towards unity and each other, based in respect.”

“Respect is something I want you to write down in your notebook,” President Christian said. “Because respect is the foundation of democracy. Respect for yourself. Respect for one another. When you respect your body, your body is strong. When you respect your soul, your soul is strong. When you respect your family, your family is strong. When you respect the people and communities in your country, your country is strong.”

One of the last questions asked was “What is your goal as of now?” President Christian replied with “There is an election coming up in March...I’d like to serve another four years at your at-large member of Congress. If I go to Congress I have an obligation to ask that Pohnpei be President. And that’s my aim right now…for the opportunity to continue in my current post as President.”

President Christian thanked Principal Bernie Helstrom, Father Ken Urumolug, and the students and staff of Pohnpei Catholic School for their time and the invitation.