May 2, 2008

Obama's open letter to the people of Guam

Growing up in Hawaii, I learned firsthand about the unique issues facing Pacific island communities, while also appreciating the wonderful traditions of Pacific islanders. As a candidate to be the first President of the United States born and raised in the Pacific, I am determined to bring about real change for the people of Guam.


Our campaign is based on the premise that change happens from the bottom up, no matter how far you may be from Washington. That's why we have extended our grassroots movement to Guam, where we've opened a campaign office, put a leadership team in place that was born and raised on Guam, and drawn support from elected officials and community leaders from across the island.


On Monday, we presented a comprehensive policy agenda to make sure that Washington works better for Guam. As President, I will ensure that the people of Guam are heard during any military build-up, and make investments that lead to more jobs, improved infrastructure, and lasting development on the island. I'll also work with Congresswoman Bordallo to address Compact Impact reimbursements, while extending access to quality health care and education.


My commitment to making these changes is backed by a record of working for Pacific islanders in the Senate. I've stood up for Guam War claims, recognized the status of Native Hawaiians, and worked to tackle the unique health care challenges that Pacific island communities face.


That's why it's so disappointing that some have chosen to play politics and question my commitment to critical issues related to Filipino veterans. Because as a native son of Hawaii – and grandson of a World War II veteran – I know that the patriotism of Pacific islanders is rooted in shared values and the legacy of shared sacrifices during World War II.


Let me set the record straight. I co-sponsored the Filipino Veterans Equity Act in the Senate because I believe deeply that we must honor the heroic sacrifices of Filipinos who fought side by side with Americans on behalf of freedom. My staff stayed in close contact with key national organizations like the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans as well as the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, which heralded my support "at a critical juncture for this bill." 


Earlier last year I was proud to join my friend Chairman Daniel Akaka in voting to pass key elements of this important measure out of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and send it to the full Senate as part of an omnibus package of long overdue benefits for our veterans. I was on the campaign trail when the Senate voted on final passage of this measure, but since the bill passed with a comfortable margin, I knew my vote was not needed.


I strongly support swift action on getting this package, the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act (S.1315), sent to the president for signature.  This bill finally provides Filipino veterans and their survivors with the benefits that they were promised, and that they bravely earned in battle. Indeed, throughout my time in the Senate, I have fought to increase care and benefits for our veterans and their families And I will continue to fight to ensure we are keeping that sacred trust.


The United States has a special relationship with Guam and the Chamorro people. But under Democratic and Republican administrations, Washington has failed to keep its promises to the people of Guam. If you support me on May 3rd, we can finally bring about the change that is needed in Washington to benefit the people of Guam. If you stand for change, I will stand up for you as President.


Barack Obama


U.S. Senate