POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (STPNS) -- Over the weekend I watched part of a movie that was made a few years ago. Actor Ben Kingsley played the part of a devoutly religious Jew accused of murdering three hospital workers who, through their inaction and insensitivity allowed his son to die. It was during a conversation with his lawyer in his cell that the line was delivered that I will likely never forget. Alec Baldwin who played the sleazy lawyer (not all are despite the multitude of lawyer jokes) had just said, ?It?s not easy to do the right thing.? Kingsley replied, ?It?s very easy to do the right thing. You find the right thing and you just do it. It?s not hard to do the right thing. What?s hard is deciding what the right thing is.?
I don?t know if I was supposed to be watching that movie at that particular time by some mandate of destiny or if it was my own internal dilemma that caused me to grab on to those words like a life preserver. It completely described what was going on in my mind. ?It?s hard to decide what the right thing is.?
In January I went through the same dilemma when the President of the nation asked me to be his special assistant as the Public Information Officer. I thought through two sleepless nights about the proposal and then agreed to meet with then Chief of Staff Sabino Asor. I had many questions for the Chief. The answers he gave would determine whether or not I took the job. He gave all of the right answers as far as I was concerned. The biggest concern I had was that I would not be able to write for The Kaselehlie Press in an unbiased way and that my new boss would want to approve my articles for K-Press. I knew that I could not control what the public thought but felt that if people gave me a chance they would see that I could do this thing. After all, he needed a PIO and there weren?t people clamoring to do the job.
I agreed and started the position on the 15th of January. I signed a Memorandum of Understanding that set into writing the agreements we had made and off to work I went, merrily trying to walk the tightrope between free journalism and essentially PR work. There were naysayers, all voicing the things I had cleared up in my own mind. I became the topic of conversation amongst groups of mostly ex pat ?intellectuals? that felt I had sold out. Some of them actively campaigned in the background to shut off my contacts for news. I went so far as to resign one morning three weeks ago but by noon on that day had changed my mind and went back to work. I still felt I was doing the right thing.
People talk and they talked plenty during my tenure at the President?s office. The Kaselehlie Press is a non-profit newspaper governed by a board of directors. Someone told me they had heard that when I presented the idea of taking on the position and continuing at The Kaselehlie Press that the vote in the board meeting was five to four in favor of the idea with the approving votes all coming from ex pats.
It?s an interesting story but untrue. Our board has seven members and only one of them is an ex pat. Just for your information, those board members include: Board Chair Bob Spegal, John Sohl, Largo Edwin, Emeliana Musrasrik, Jeff Arnold, Bermin Weilbacher, and founding board member Mae Adams. All of them said I should give the job a try or said nothing at all. I continued in the position with the support of the Board.
On Friday, January 8 it became clear that some of my news sources had essentially been shut down. I was told point blank that I needed to make a choice, PIO or K-Press editor, one or the other but not both.
I went back to the PIO?s office, told the staff that I had some hard thinking to do over the weekend and that I might not return on Monday. I showed up for the Congress session on Monday morning still undecided about what I would do. Only I could make up my mind, no one could do it for me and it had to be for my reasons, not theirs. I knew which way I was leaning but the Congress session Monday morning clinched it for me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could not cover the proceedings of Congress from that morning in particular while simultaneously working on the President?s behalf.
Suddenly my four week long dilemma was resolved and I returned immediately to the PIO?s office without lingering to talk as I normally do after a Congress session. I wrote my letter of resignation and left the office. It was not due to anything the President or the Vice President had done. I think they are good men who are trying hard to perform a hard job to the best of their abilities.
I could have stayed on full time at the President?s office and continued to receive a paycheck but then who would I release information to if The Kaselehlie Press closed its doors? We?ve been doing what we do for over eight years and we?re not about to stop now!
© 2017 The Kaselehlie Press
Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from STPNS