PICS students visit President Christian and Vice President George, ask about 2023

FSM Information Services

 

ChristianPICSPALIKIR, Pohnpei—Every year the public high schools in Pohnpei State in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) have Career Exploration Week, and on Monday, February 11th 2019, the 12th grade students (seniors) from Pohnpei Island Central School (PICS) visited the Palikir Capitol Complex. The thirteen groups of seniors each visited three separate agencies and offices. His Excellency Peter M. Christian, President of the FSM, met with two groups in the morning while the Honorable Yosiwo P. George, Vice President of the FSM, met with one group in the afternoon.

Each group of seniors had multiple students keen on knowing the answer to one of the biggest and most important questions facing the Nation: “What happens after 2023?”, “What do we do when 2023 comes?” “What’s the FSM’s plan after 2023?”, and “Will we be okay after 2023?” were some of the ways the question was framed.

“We’ll survive,” said President Christian to the first group. The President emphasized that the FSM’s relationship with the United States doesn’t go away after 2023 and that, while much of the economic assistance we presently rely upon will be going away, not all of it will. We have two trust funds to sustain us, some economic assistance will still be given (primarily for the health and education sectors), and external assistance—from international organizations like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, and other countries like the People’s Republic of China and Japan—is pouring in. “We can be appreciative of the Chinese, who are building roads in Madolenihmw and the Kahmar Bridge,” said the President, “and we can be appreciative of the Japanese who are extending our airport here in Pohnpei.”

The President also alluded to the fact that we may simply need to cut certain government expenses in order to keep essential services active—but, far more importantly, we’ll also need to genuinely come together as a community to take ownership of our lives and our situations. “Look at PICS,” President Christian said, “not just as a government-funded school—look at it as our school. Ownership is crucial. If the grass needs to be cut, we can all come together and cut it.”

Vice President George echoed President Christian’s remarks that we must be one, that unity is not merely a platitude but sincerely our way forward as an independent, sovereign Nation. “There’s no doubt that 2023 is a big question, and an important question, and I’m so glad that you asked about it, that you’re thinking about it,” said Vice President George. “We all need to work together.”

One student asked Vice President George to clarify what he meant—what does working together look like, after all, if we’re students about to graduate from high school, and many of us are planning to study in Hawaii, Guam, or the United States mainland? Vice President George said “You are not just a citizen from Pohnpei—you are a Micronesian. We are all citizens of the FSM. This country is your country; this capitol is your capitol. So this country, your country, relies on you to study hard, outside of the FSM if you need to, but then to come back.” Vice President George emphasized that each person and their individual commitment makes a difference, and for every citizen who chooses to lend their skills and talents elsewhere means the FSM then lacks those skills and talents. This paralleled what President Christian told the second group, when he said “When we say the FSM is beautiful, it’s not just the islands—the waterfalls, the trees, the mountains. It’s the people. It’s you. It’s us.”

One student asked President Christian about getting government jobs. President Christian noted, as he has throughout his career in public service, that there is nobility in helping family and community by working—and that there is nobility in public service. But, “It’s not the job of the Government to get you a job—it’s our job to make an environment that allows opportunity for you to find a job, or to make your own job,” said President Christian.

Several students asked what else, besides 2023, the FSM is struggling with. Both President Christian and Vice President George discussed economic development, the need for foreign investment, and the threat of climate change.

“Even though some economic aid will go away, the Compact of Free Association won’t disappear,” Vice President George told the afternoon group. “Though we may need to cut some expenses, we remain committed to an independent, free FSM.”

After the formal visits, one particularly outgoing student spoke with FSM Information Services directly. When asked what she thought about the answers to the questions about 2023, the student—who didn’t wish to be named—said “I think it’s like me. I don’t know what will happen when I go to college and leave my family, like FSM doesn’t know what will happen in 2023. But if I work hard to make my better future, and we all work hard to make better future, we’ll have that future we’re looking for.”