Wednesday, March 04, 2015

I met a president today

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and Shark Stanley
I had a fun day at work today.  There's a kid and his mom that I've been in contact with over the last few years who is really dedicated to advocating for ocean issues.  He's helped collect signatures and write letters for a couple of different initiatives, including my campaign to keep President Obama from overturning 11 state and territorial shark fin trade bans.

10 year old Nick contacted me again recently looking for somewhere to help, so I sent him some articles and information on Palau's effort to create a marine reserve throughout their entire EEZ.  Nick thought that was cool, so he wrote a letter.  But he didn't stop there; he recruited about 1000 friends and family members to sign on to his letter.

And it just so happens that the President of Palau was in New York this week, so after making a few phone calls, we arranged a meet and great.  I went as the official photographer.  Since this is my blog, the photo is of me!  If you want to read more about Nick's story, check out Shark Defenders.  I also posted photos to Facebook.

I'm not as big a deal as Shark Stanley
President Remengesau is one of my heroes and this is the first time I had my photo taken with him.  Palau has always pushed the envelope in terms of what conservation can accomplish and it has often been him doing the pushing.  I think that my leaders in the CNMI can learn a lot from him.  In fact, I'd like to see the CNMI and the federal government expand the protections of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  Then our protected area and Palau's protected area can form a sister-park partnership.  A man can dream.

Funny story.  The president is such a humble, regular guy.  After our little presentation of the signatures by Nick to the president, the two ambassadors and the Cabinet members turned away from the president to talk among each other and to the other visitors.  The president ended up sitting in the middle of this big group of people -- except everyone's back was to him.  Nobody was paying him attention!  This was my big chance to talk to him.  I told him I was from Saipan and asked him about the recent bust of an illegal Taiwanese fishing vessel.  Turns out the vessel had 450 sharks on board.  Cool stuff!

Danielle, Nick, and me in front of the United Nations
Of course the whole day wouldn't have been possible without Nick and his mom.  We had lunch together at an Italian restaurant and I got to know them a little better.  Turns out Nick's not only caring and inspiring, but also funny.  And really shy.  But he did just fine talking to a president.

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