Friday, July 29, 2016

Northern Mariana Islands DNC Media Roundup

This is going to be a long post. I just finished a week at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and plan on writing a couple of posts about the experience (we'll see how that goes). This is the first post. And it was a week of firsts. It was my first DNC. I was a delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands and it was our collective first time attending as a territory. And of course, it was the first time a major political party picked a woman as their nominee for President of the United States of America.

Going in, none of us knew what to expect as none of us had ever attended the DNC before. In fact, our expectations were pretty damn low considering we didn't know what we'd really even be doing (Walt suggested I get a selfie with the president). Sure, we could have read all the material the party sent us in advance. But who has the time for that?

We had some communications ideas surrounding the DNC, but that is a far cry from having a communications plan.  Even with that lack of planning, things worked out pretty well.  We received a lot of national attention.

In the weeks before we left we issues a couple of press releases and earned a few stories in the local press.  Someone also put together a Youtube video.  Neither one much reach beyond Saipan's shores.  I also started a Twitter account at Janet's request.  If you haven't done so yet, please follow me at  We didn't do a Facebook or Instagram, because honestly, that is just too much work and none of us are being paid.  We don't even have interns.

About half of the delegation arrived the Friday before the DNC.  I, along with Delegate Sablan and Bob Schwalbach, arrived on Sunday.  Herb Soll arrived on Monday.  I'll discuss those experiences in another blog.  This blog is about the media.

I feel like we were mostly ignored by the other delegates and the media on Monday, the opening day of the DNC.  The delegation separated to go to different events, but got together in the evening at the Wells Fargo Speech to hear Michelle Obama speak (along with about 300 other people including Bernie Sanders).

The world started paying attention to us on Tuesday.  A while back I had said that we should get some uniforms made, so Janet arranged for us to have dresses for the girls and shirts for the boys made.  Nola finished the ensembles with ti leaf leis and mwar, floral headbands used by the Carolinians on Saipan.

We were a sensation.  As soon as we got off the bus at the Philadelphia Convention Center, other delegates and media stopped us and took our photos.  I was walking around with Joe Hill (74), Herb Soll (79), and Steve Woodruff (65), and you would have thought we were Rapa Nui dancers we were so popular.

Then during the roll call vote that afternoon, where we would cast our votes for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, things really took off.  Janet used the phrase "first time in history" to describe our territory's vote and said that it was appropriate, that being in the country's birthplace, the youngest member of the American family would cast their votes for the first woman president of the United States.

The moment filled us all with joy and pride.  And as the elation wore off, I checked Twitter.  We were trending!  Hundreds of people were leaving us the nicest messages.  Here are a few of my favorite:

That set off 72 hours of some furious tweeting.  Sure, we didn't get as much attention as say, a single tweet from Lady Gaga, but we used Twitter to connect with several reporters who either learned about us from the tweets, or used it to contact us.  I'll get to those stories lower down, but would like to share our most popular tweet of the week:
And now, on to the media. and Washington Post wrote stories about what all of the delegates wanted the world to know about their states and territories.  Janet's speech was thus distilled down to 10 words:
•First time casting votes
•Youngest member of the American family
Our initial communications idea (remember, it wasn't really a plan), was to issue some press releases and send them back to the two local papers. Former KSPN2 Saipan reporter Jillian Angeline attended the DNC and helped us out by writing a few stories:

DNC platform pleases island nations in attendance
Youngest CNMI delegate at DNC hopes to inspire
Each member of the NMI delegation to DNC shouldered their expenses
NMI culture highlighted at Democratic convention

One of our press releases was about Kilili getting the opportunity to address the entire DNC from the convention stage.  It was aptly titled: Kilili speaks at Democratic National Convention.  I saw a comment on Twitter that said Gregorio Camacho Kilili Sablan was the best name ever.  We also sent out NMI Democrats Vote Clinton.

Bernie Sanders received a lot of attention at the DNC, what with the eyeroll inducing Bernie Bros and their chanting, so it is no surprise that are lead Bernie delegate, Steve Woodruff received a lot of attention.  I think most of the reporters were at first attracted to speaking with him because of his shirt, and then they found out he was from the Northern Mariana Islands and voting for Bernie.

CCTV America interviewed Steve at a reception for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at a dim sum restaurant near the convention center (by the way, just using this opportunity to plug my belief that AAPI should actually be Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and thus APIA).  They created a 60 second interview and posted it to Facebook.

The Christian Science Monitor also quoted Steve:
Stephen Woodruff, an attorney and Sanders delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands, says he expects Sanders supporters to find better ways to channel their anger as the convention continues.

“The bottom line is that Trump has the ability to win by capitalizing on the hatred of Hillary by Republicans and capitalizing on the distrust of Hillary in general,” he says. “We don’t have to have our heart behind Hillary, but we do have to understand practical politics.”
As did CNN:
Stephen Woodruff, a Sanders delegate from Northern Mariana Islands now supporting Clinton, said the message that has resonated most deeply with him this convention is "love trumps hate." "This is the message of the Democratic Party, that we all should be one, we work together, we support each other, we don't divide against each other, we don't fight against people just because of the color of their skin or their religion or their sexual preference," Woodruff told CNN. "Basically, her message to the country is the exact opposite to Donald Trump's message to the country."
And the Orange County Register dedicated an entire story to his journey from Saipan to the DNC: 
A quick look will, in fact, give you a hint that fewer people at this convention have traveled as far as Stephen Woodruff has traveled to cast a vote for Bernie Sanders.

Maybe the flowered shirt and bright leis give it away.

As Woodruff entered the Wells Fargo Arena Tuesday, people noticed. Which is saying something, given that Uncle Sam outfits and cheeseheads, and hats that look like they lost a fight with a glitter gun aren’t rare here.

Woodruff flew 32 hours and had four flight transfers to get to Philadelphia from his home in the Northern Mariana Islands -- more than 12,000 miles away.

“Saipan to Guam to Honolulu to Denver -- with a stop in Orlando -- and then Philadelphia,” he said. The Orlando stop, he explained, was to help craft the Democrat’s platform.

Woodruff was inspired by Sanders’s speech Monday night and will proudly cast his vote for the Vermont senator. The pledged delegates from the Mariana Islands were split 4-2 in favor of Clinton, with the remainder of delegates being unpledged.

But once the general election begins, Woodruff says he’ll support Clinton. He doesn’t want to see Donald Trump become president.

“That would be a gigantic step backward to ugliness,” he said.

“I’ve got problems with Hillary,” he added. “But sometimes you have to make deals with people you don’t necessarily like to get things accomplished.”

The Northern Mariana Islands are a U.S. territory with a population of about 52,000. In the primary, Clinton won the popular vote there by 20 points.

Woodruff said his long journey went without a hitch. Amazingly, he lost no luggage -- so far.

“Hopefully, it all makes it back,” he said.
Our uniforms and our flower power fashion were reported in several style stories.  Edz and I were featured in the Newsweek story.  Here's a tweet with our photo from the reporter:

As Hillary Clinton prepared to officially become the first American woman to accept a nomination for a major political party on Thursday, delegates from some states and U.S. territories touted their support and patriotism with local flair.

Inside the Wells Fargo Center, Angelo Villagomez wore tea leaves, orchid leis and “mwar,” headgear from his home in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific Ocean. He and the other island delegates are making their own history this week by participating in their first DNC. “I’m looking for her to put the bow on it," Villagomez says of Clinton, "and march toward victory in November."

His special guest for the night, Eden Villagomez, also of the islands, became a U.S. citizen last week. “I’m with her,” she says, referring to one of Clinton’s slogans.
And Nola was featured in the New York Times.  Seriously, I'm not making this up! 

Besides fashion, Janet's five-year old daughter received a lot of attention and several reporters filed stories about the two of them.  Most prominently, I think, Hillary Clinton put Janet and Katie on her campaign website and Instagram:

Time for Kids included a blurb about the two of them on their second day roundup:
Hearing Clinton’s words moved Janet King to tears. King, leader of the Northern Mariana Islands delegation, was at the Wells Fargo Center last night with her five-year-old daughter, Kate. “I want her generation to be the ones that take for granted that we have a woman president,” King told TFK. “I brought her here today to be a part of history.”

Kate napped as her mother spoke. It had been a long and exciting night, and Kate was up way past bedtime. But soon enough, she lifted her head from her mother’s shoulders, rubbed her eyes, and said a few words of her own: “Vote for Hillary!” On Thursday, Clinton will be at the convention hall to formally accept her party’s nomination for President of the United States. Kate will be there too.
Cosmopolitan featured them in a story about moms who brought their kids to the convention:
Janet King, 39: "I am very excited about the first female nominee. The first female president. I went to Wellesley, so there's an added excitement and exuberance there. I've been following her for quite a while through her career as the first lady, a senator, a Secretary of State, and now today. I can remember when I was in high school in 1995 when she was on her way to Beijing and I went to a boarding school in Guam and she had to fly over on Guam on her way and everybody was writing about how she was always nagging on an issue — and that word actually came up. That Hillary Clinton was nagging. I remember writing to the editor of the Pacific Daily News saying that she's advocating for civil rights, social justice, and how dare you say 'nagging.' From there on I knew that if you remain silent and you just watch, things like that will happen. Negative views and things don't get moving.

I want Katie to grow up in the environment of strong women. I've always tried to do that from the moment she was born. I don't want her to just have me as a role model. I'm hoping that she'll keep looking up to me, but I want her to know that that is the norm. That's not the exception and that's not spectacular. It's the norm. So bringing her here is not only the making of history, but it's going to be something that as she grows up, it will no longer be groundbreaking, shattering, or newsworthy because in her generation I'm hoping and I'm really looking forward to women being in top positions of business and government."

Katie, 5: "Hillary Clinton is going to be the president of the United States. I'm next, Mommy."
And Al Jazeera included a quote from Janet in their reporting (sorry Katie!):
I'm not just voting for her because she's a woman; I'm voting for her because of so many reasons, but one huge one is because she's a woman, because representation matters, because I can go home to my nieces next week and I can say "you can do whatever you want. You can do it". And that just feels so good.

And finally, the Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed the entire delegation and wrote a story completely focused on us and our journey and our experience in Philadelphia.  I won't post the Janet, Steve, and Angelo quotes because we're already quoted above, but will post the quotes of Herb, Mona, and Joe:
National security also is a major concern for the islands, delegate Herb Soll said. "The strongman in North Korea has mentioned that Guam is within his missile range," Soll said. "We're closer to Korea than Guam. Any recklessness on the part of the president, or lack of diplomacy, it could lead to conflict."

Mona Manglona, 19, who came here from the islands to study at Philadelphia University two years ago, said she tries to educate people every day on her heritage. "I hope that people can be more informed about who we are. . . . Everyone is more than welcome to visit the islands," said Manglona, a pledged Clinton delegate. She's been home once in the last two years, so having the other delegates in town has been "a little taste of home," she said.

Delegate Joe Hill, 74, had his own taste of home this week. Originally from Oklahoma, Hill remembers taking the bar exam with both of the Clintons in Little Rock in 1973 - five years before the Northern Mariana Islands became a U.S. territory. "I know no one else who said they sat and took the bar exam with two - well, what will be two - future presidents," Hill said. "That's my special connection."

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Edz was sworn in as an American citizen on Tuesday.  The ceremony was held at the District Court and she took the oath with 119 new citizens from about 50 different countries.  Tiana, Kevin, and my Mom came up to witness and celebrate with us.

This was a five year process that began soon after we were married.  We applied for a green card after the wedding and six months later Edz was granted conditional permanent residence.  When that expired two years later we had to apply for the green card again, and this time she was given the ten year permanent residence.  We submitted the citizenship application late last year, she interviewed in April, they asked for more paperwork to prove we were married, and then we got the notice of the ceremony last month.  We didn't use a lawyer, but we had a lot of help from folks especially Delegate Gregorio Sablan and his wife Andrea.  I didn't add up how much we spent, but it was in the thousands.

The League of Women Voters was on hand to register the new citizens to vote.  Edz registered as a Democrat and is looking forward to casting her ballot for Hillary Clinton this year.