Hafa Adai! Hello, in Chamorro, the native language of Guam.
Last night I went to the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Guam from Japan. In 1944 the United States helped to liberate the people of Guam, turning Guam into a United States territory. Each year Madeline Bordallo, the Congresswoman of Guam, throws a party to celebrate Liberation Day.
Kate’s roommate, Samantha, is from Guam and has been interning for Representative Bordallo for the past five weeks. Sam invited us to go celebrate Liberation Day with her on The Hill. I love new experiences, so Kate and I eagerly agreed to go.
At 6:30 when the event began Kate, David and I followed the line into the grand ballroom. We were given shell necklaces, a symbol of hospitality on the island nation. As we entered the room a live band from Guam played classic American hits that would have been popular during the 1940s, around the time Guam was liberated.
The room was crowded with people, most of whom worked on The Hill. The room was stifling from all of the people who had come to celebrate this territorial holiday. It was difficult to maneuver through the crowd, but that didn’t phase us; we were thrilled to be celebrating Guam’s liberation. The guests ate a traditional meal from Guam: rice, vegetables, a variety of chicken and dessert.
During the meal Chamorron dancers, six girls and two boys, danced a variety of native Guamian dances on the stage up front. During breaks, while the dancers rested and changed costumes, the White House military band played patriotic songs. Periodically Representative Bordallo would introduce someone of significance like Governor Chamcho of Guam, the highest-ranking political official on the island.
I don’t work on The Hill; perhaps that’s why I was so star struck by the people who were being introduced to us. Dozens of representatives from around the U.S. came to say hello and honor Guam: two from Florida, three from California, Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Arizona, the Virgin Islands and so on.
The dancing continued on as a man flanked by secret service walked right in front of us toward Madeline—I should probably mention that we were in the first row of people watching the dancing and presentations, about 10 feet from the stage. I knew who the man was but couldn’t seem to put a name with the face, and then Madeline introduced him. He was the House Majority Leader, Representative Steny Hoyer!
The room went wild with people talking, excited to be in the presence of one of America’s political leaders. Just as with the other representatives, Hoyer was asked to say a few words. The crowd got louder, then he quietly whispered, “shhhhh” into the microphone and everyone in the room went silent immediately. The man is incredible; his presence just seems to command respect.
A little bit of background information, once Democrats became the majority in the House, Majority Leader Hoyer helped to give territorial representatives, like Madeline, the right to vote. Before then elected representatives from U.S. territories were symbolic figure heads and were not allowed to vote on House issues.
Before the dancing resumed, another representative came in from the back of the room—he was the only person who did not enter from the front door. The individual was surrounded by secret service as he walked toward the stage to be introduced by Madeline. Until he stepped up onto the first stair toward the stage I couldn’t see his face; when I did, I was shocked. It was Dennis Kucinich, the Representative from Ohio who made a bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 and 2008 elections.
Representative Kucinich commanded the same attention as Majority Leader Hoyer; he said a few words and then began walking toward the door to go to another House function. Remember, I said I was in the front row—Mr. Kucinich walked by and looked at me, I said hello and then we shook hands. He then shook hands with Kate before leaving the ballroom. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, shaking hands with a presidential nominee was really cool—I was star struck to say the least.
Ashley came to the party a little later and for the remainder of the evening we enjoyed celebrating with everyone around us. It was a wonderful Liberation Day.