A Day or Two in DC

A recent visit to Washington, DC, with Speaker John Boehner and Representative Amata Radewagen.

This photo posted on my Facebook needs a little explanation. So let me explain. I was in Washington for two days in response to a request to help find a way to bring together Pacific Island representatives in Washington to engage in a discussion of issues that are important to them. After all, Micronesia has three ambassadors in DC (FSM, Palau and the Marshalls) not to mention the other Pacific Island embassies within the Beltway. But there are also three members of US Congress from the islands?Guam, CNMI and American Samoa. Why not try to get them together to meet occasionally on Pacific matters?

Georgetown University, the first Jesuit college founded in the US, has a program?the Center for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific (CANZP for short)?that has been operating for some years now. Alan Tidwell is the director and Fred Radewagen is one of the founders. They invited me down to Washington to discuss how the center could work with Pacific Islands to create a forum for discussion on Pacific problems. We spent the better part of a day and a half discussing how to get it in operation.

Fred?s wife, Amata (the daughter of Peter Coleman, a well-known administrator in TT days),?happens to be the newly elected congresswoman from American Samoa. She has agreed to be the spark needed to get the program going.

Fred and Amata invited me to dinner at the Capitol Club, the Republicans watering hole and hangout.? (Democrats have their own, by the way). There we met a diocesan priest in clerics lobbying for a special coin honoring the 100th anniversary of the founding of Boys Town, an early Catholic home for abandoned kids. As we sat chatting, we were surrounded by congressmen, all of them anonymous to me. When Representative John Boehner entered the room, Amata brought me over and introduced me to him. The Speaker said that he knew something about Jesuits since he had attended our high school in Cincinnati. So he?s as familiar with the terror that the blackrobes inspired in their students as any of our Xavier alumni.

The next day, Fred and I dropped by Capitol Hill again to visit the Guam office. Representative Madeleine Bordallo wasn?t in at the time, but I had a nice chat with one of her staffers. We skipped the CNMI office when we found out that the congressman wasn?t in. So Fred and I went off to FSM Embassy to meet the Micronesian Close Up students and accompanying teachers?including Wayne Ollap and Delihla? (both XHS grads). The students and their teachers are a credit to the islands and their education. Sure, the schools have their problems, but these young people and those who teach them are a sign that something is going right.


Visiting with FSM Close Up students at the FSM Embassy.

You know how it goes. People links are important, and sometimes small beginnings flower into something big. Let?s hope that this gathering of Pacific Island representatives might take off and develop into something useful for all of us.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.