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Walt's Message to the Students

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

Just a thought before you leave.

Last week I gave a very brief talk on education and passion to the participants of the Student Career Exploration Day sponsored by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. A few days later I was listening to Sam McPhetres and two students being interviewed on the radio. In both instances, I was impressed by the courage and intelligence of the students. In both instances, I was struck as well by a few sentiments I heard as the students began, ended or peppered their comments with phrases like "When I go away" and "If I come back" which hints at something quite profound. There seems to be an underlying and foregone conclusion, that your future exists beyond these shores. I am prompted, in response, to write these words to you if you are student here in the CNMI.

First let me say this: I support your right, freedom and indeed your responsibility to seek happiness in whatever form you feel it exists for you. In addition, I do not believe in the arbitrary lines that society has placed on us, lines of time, age, allegiance, nationality, ethnicity, etc. They are meaningless lines that are often used to foment the hatred and separation that fulfills others' agendas. (See Saipan Tribune of 4/27/06 for The Great Sheep Uprising). So, if your definition of freedom, happiness, prosperity and opportunity requires that you seek them in the wider world, then great for you! Go for it!

I would suggest, however, as I always do in this column, that there's another way to look at things. Here then, are a few thoughts I shared at the Chamber gathering, along with some other thoughts for you as a student to consider as you plan your future.


The purpose of education is to empower the next generation of a society’s leaders-that includes teachers, doctors, lawyers, government officials, entrepreneurs, business owners, etc.

Education is not something that is given to you, nor is it something you receive only in school. It’s something you seek out, and something that exists in many different forms and methods of access.

Saipan is a very unique place with an opportunity for a unique education that exists in few other places. The unique mix of Chamorro, Carolinian, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, American, Canadian, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Thai, Pacific Island and even Jamaican people that exist here makes it a place “where East truly meets West," as my friend Joe Hill is fond of saying.

The education that you receive here on Saipan is going to be different than that received abroad, because life in the CNMI is not the same as life in the United States.

Education is a tool of culture and economy. The education that you receive in the states is designed to perpetuate the culture and economy of the states. The culture and economy of the CNMI, therefore, is best served by an education received right here.

A “uniquely Saipan” education qualifies and charges you to maintain that uniqueness and not allow it to be swallowed up by outside forces, interests, and cultures in the name of progress. (See the New Saipan Agenda at


Business drives the future. Everything from the toothpaste you use in the morning, to the car you drive to school or work is made possible and available to you by business owners and entrepreneurs.

Your experience of life here on Saipan is a direct function of business owners who open restaurants, clubs, supermarkets, internet cafes, bars, laundromats and hotels. That’s a double-edged sword because while businesses are the lifeblood of a market-driven capitalist society, it is also true that businesses are created in the image and likeness of the culture of their creators. In other words, more American business owners equals more American culture. More Japanese business owners equals more Japanese culture. More Chamorro business owners equals more Chamorro culture.

Leadership and Change

On Sunday, I gave a talk on leadership sponsored by members of the Filipino community as well as several businesses and organizations. I defined a leader as “the person you need to become to help your society survive and thrive change.”

In other words, if you want to help Saipan survive and thrive the present, and create a future with the opportunities you may think only exist elsewhere, then you need to see yourself as a leader. Leadership is something you express from within, not something offered to you from without.

It's the inevitability of change that life on Saipan will change in the image and likeness of those who stay and make it so. My opinion, however, is that goal of being a leader here on Saipan is not to change it and make it into a carbon copy of America, but to have it prosper in its uniqueness.

One reason people leave is that they feel powerless to make things better. But nowhere is your power and potential influence greater than within the boundaries of this small and socially close-knit community. If life is about making a difference in the daily experience of others, then nowhere is that more possible than right here! Let me give you some examples.

Witness how just one Tina Sablan can write a manifesto of her vision, appear on the radio, TV and print media, start a grass-roots group, and have people talking about the future of politics here in the CNMI in new ways.

Witness how just one Cinta Kaipat can spearhead a “beautification virus” that becomes a rallying cry and a movement that empowers others, and with which others are eager to align. (Are you a proud member of BeautifyCNMI!?;

Witness how one Angelo Villagomez can become a focal point and inspiration for an online community. (

Witness how just one Canadian and an American can have an idea to unite divers and promote the Marianas diving experience and see it blossom with followers in just a few months. (

Witness how just one Jamaican can come from out of nowhere and have a weekly forum to affect lives and create a website that helps to change Saipan’s online brand identity. (

Think of these and other examples and you’ll realize that it only takes one person to spark and lead change.

Think how profoundly life on Saipan can be affected by the existence (or disappearance) of one discotheque, one newspaper, one family-owned business, one radio station, one fast food restaurant, and you can understand the opportunity for influence and leadership that exists here.

If you and I met on the street, and you asked me if you should go, I would probably say yes! Travel is great! Discovering new lands and cultures is great! Yes, you should go for the unique education that travel can give you. However, if you go because you've given up on your homeland and think that others can create better opportunities elsewhere, then you may have forgotten what education and leadership are really all about.

Having lived in the states for several decades, and experienced the transient euphoria of a larger paycheck, and the gilded glitter of greater opportunity, I now choose a lifestyle that offers me the greatest opportunity. I can do workshops that reach hundreds of people. I can set up a website that reaches thousands worldwide and that directly affects the world’s perception of Saipan. I can get on the radio and share my viewpoint with many more. I can write a column that (at least a few) people read and I can see evidence that I am making a difference here. To have that sort of effect on an entire community in the states was more challenging, or perhaps simply less evident.

Here, as in few other places, exists the remarkable opportunity for the children to create a world of their own choosing.

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, a father created a world.
His children, when they grew up, walked away.
One day, a young stranger arrived and continued the father’s work.
And his children, when they returned, inherited the world of the stranger.

Meanwhile, in a land far away,
the children who had walked away from their father’s world
arrived as strangers to a new land and continued the work of a man they did not know, a man whose children had left him.
and so the story goes...

The world is the way it is because of the adults. It stays the way it does because the children of those adults allow it to continue that way, or they abandon it to seek another world made by different adults of another land.

“But, Walt, I'm leaving because I can't make money here.”

Sure, I like money, too. Acquiring it, exchanging it, or more accurately exchanging the value that money represents, is pretty much a necessity for survival in a capitalist society. I agree money is important. Many people are leaving to have the opportunity to create income in ways they believe don’t exist here. However, you can, through the magic of the Internet, create a stateside style income that doesn’t require you to be physically stateside in order to achieve it. Think about that for a minute. That’s what I do, and am committed to helping others do as well. I generate my income online so I can enjoy paradise here on Saipan for most of the year, and I limit by stateside experience to a more tolerable few weeks of the year. It's the best of both worlds.

Being part of the Internet generation allows you to create a business or create an income more easily than your parents could. Being in relationship with the U.S. allows you to more easily market and deliver products and services to your fellow citizens in the states as well as the rest of the world. You don't need to be stateside to make money.

The Message

Being a self-proclaimed nomadpreneur, I would never force anyone to stay where they don’t wish to in the pursuit of wealth. So if it seems that my message is suggesting that you stay here, it’s not one based on obligation, but one of opportunity.

Yes, seek your happiness. Live your dream. Discover your bliss. Find your purpose. Pursue your passion. Cross the arbitrary lines that often confine us. Gain a world-class education. And as you think about your future and what success and prosperity and influence mean to you, remember, that if you want to make a difference; if you want to directly affect the lives of others; if you want to see how your efforts are impacting others n a meaningful way; if you want to see the future of your homeland (albeit an arbitrary line) reflect YOUR image and likeness in some way, then realize that you may already be living in the land of greatest opportunity.

You can do this. You can help make Saipan the land that you seek. You can influence positive change like the people I spoke of earlier and others I did not mention. In a land like this, it only takes one.

Are you The One?
Let me know.

P.S. If it only takes one, then what if 10 got together and decided they would stay and do something specific?

* * *

Until next time, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!-Walt


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