The First and Last Pew Charitable Trusts Saipan Boonie Dog Show

In 2018 my alma mater Rollins College recognized my career with an alumni achievement award. I received the award April 2018 and at the ceremony I got to meet the mayor of Oakland and the US Secretary of the Navy, who were also award recipients. A few months later they published a story about my career in our alumni magazine (and dubbed me the Undersea Overseer) which made me sound way cooler than I actually am. After I won the award, I was asked to give a talk at an Alumni gathering in Washington, DC in November 2018.

I've never written about The First and Last Pew Charitable Trusts Saipan Boonie Dog Show and the gentle ribbing I get for it at work.  I included it as part of my remarks at that alumni gathering and share it here for your enjoyment.

In 2008 I led the community effort to build support for a marine protected area around the Mariana Trench, running a grassroots campaign to build and document support from the island communities, I won’t give you a full run down of how we did it, but I will tell one story. 

Before I start though, let me explain that in the 11 years that I’ve worked for Pew, I’ve come to understand that my organization is quite well regarded around the world and that working for them can be seen by some to be prestigious.

For example, if you go to the Smithsonian and visit the American History Museum, you’ll see one of the main sponsors of the Star Spangled Banner exhibit is Pew. We also fund a lot of important polling and research, and this informs public debate on many significant issues. My bosses – and their bosses – and their bosses – are very proud of the organization. 

I did not really understand this when I was the dude in the Aloha shirt working on the island for Pew in 2008 – and I didn’t really understand that we had a reputation to uphold.

Had I known this, I never would have organized the First and Last Pew Charitable Trusts Saipan Boonie Dog Show.

You see, in the islands, community groups will organize small events like softball tournaments and music festivals and look for financial support from local politicians, the hardware store, the grocery store, and the neighborhood bar. The politicians and the businesses get some publicity, kids play softball, and everybody is happy.

I used my Pew funded campaign budget to sponsor several of these events, including a dog show organized by a group of animal welfare advocates who were trying to teach island families to take better care of their pets. Here in the mainland we treat our pets like family, but in the islands, hmmm, not so much. Most of the dogs on the islands are called “boonie dogs” – mixed breeds that live very difficult lives.

So this dog show was organized and prizes were given out in different categories including shortest legs, most lopsided ears, and worst behaved dog. The event, of course, was a smashing success, the kids were happy, the dogs went home with toys and treats, and I had the chance to talk to about 100 people about protecting the ocean.

The thing is, and I didn’t know this at the time, Pew puts together a media report every day about the mentions of our aforementioned reports, polling, and campaigns and this goes to our chief executive officer.  Actually, they put together a report twice a day.

After the boonie dog show, the animal welfare advocates put out a press release thanking the local politicians, the hardware store, the grocery store, the neighborhood bar – and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

I am told that the CEO looked at her report and asked, “why did we sponsor a dog show?”

It was the first, and last dog show The Pew Charitable Trusts ever sponsored.

And that was my life for about a year. Working with the community, communicating with them in ways that they understood, and slowly grinding out support for protecting the ocean.

Of course, before the end of his Administration, we were able to convince President Bush of the scientific and cultural significance of the Mariana Trench and showcased the overwhelming local support.

So in January 2009, I was able to join our governor in the White House to watch President George W. Bush designate the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.


Popular posts from this blog

What I Meant to Say at Our Ocean Greece 2024

Angelo's Rules for Lottery Pools

Upwell: A Wave of Ocean Justice