Got a hint? You're welcome to submit news ideas.
Frmr. Guam Congressman and (ret.) USMC Gen. Ben Blaz, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Papaliitele David Cohen chat with Aumua Amata
Amata Aumua and Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. At the White House Shamrock Ceremony, Ahern presented the Irish shamrock to President Bush to symbolize in a very special way the bonds between the Irish and American people. Following the ceremony the White House held a reception with an elaborate spread of food and drink to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day 2007. Said Amata, "Speaking as a proud Samoan with a wee bit of Irish heritage, it was truly an honor and I thank the President for including me."
Amata's Pacific Notebook
September 4, 2007
Because my Dad served as a head of government for so long�both as Governor of American Samoa for four terms and in Micronesia for many years, I have been blessed with more opportunities than I can count from childhood to adulthood to attend international meetings and conferences. All have been enjoyable and many have been memorable but the most recent international gathering I attended was particularly important to me because it involved the most important people in these islands.
Although I was not a registered delegate, I was privileged to be given VIP status and was welcomed right into the delegation as if I truly belonged. These delegates were among the most dedicated I have seen and were fiercely proud to be representing American Samoa.
Who were these important people? Why, the YOUTH of American Samoa. And what was the gathering? The XIII South Pacific Games, which are still underway in Apia as this is being written. It was my first time ever to attend this quadrennial sports spectacular and it was well worth every moment of my time.
Although I did not have a confirmed seat on a plane last Saturday, I took a chance and fronted up at the airport with a bag small enough to hand carry so that my luggage wouldn't go without me. I especially did not want to lose the team warm up and ceremonial outfits I had just received and that are now among my most prized possessions.
By coincidence, I was on the plane taking Governor Togiola and the First Lady, American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) President Peni "Ben" Solaita and other ASG dignitaries over for the opening ceremonies. The flight didn't take very long and ASNOC Secretary General Ken Tupua was at Faleolo Airport to greet the governor and his party. ASNOC also runs American Samoa's South Pacific games program.
As part of their responsibilities, Ben and Ken and ASNOC had to fund the team and were able to raise $400,000 from the private sector and individual contributors for the team. The fact that they were able to raise that much money without government assistance says something about the contributors. Moreover, they obviously look at their donations as an investment in American Samoa's future. It was money well spent.
Of course, Ken and Ben did not raise all the funds and make all the logistical arrangements on their own. They have a great team with Maria Walker as ASNOC's Treasurer. So as not to leave anyone out, I will just mention Chief of Mission Moli Paau and Deputy Chief of Mission Salaia Gabbard, both of whom I saw when we got to the American Samoa team headquarters. Events like these take a lot of careful preparation and teamwork. This is where American Samoa is at its best: becoming a strongly bonded unit of athletes, parents and supporters, and the staff who are the glue that holds everything together. My compliments to all of them for the great job they are doing.
I decided I wanted to mix and mingle the VIPs�our athletes--for the three days I was going to be there, so I embedded myself with the team for the opening ceremony, complete with the uniform of the day.
The athletes and delegations were housed in different schools and churches in the villages. Team American Samoa stayed at Vaimauga College. While not exactly in the five-star category, the facilities nevertheless were adequate and since the very nature of islanders is our flexibility that allows us to adapt to just about any kind of living conditions, we can survive anywhere.
All athletes met in the gymnasium for a welcoming ceremony at 4 p.m. Saturday and waited there until it was time to depart for the Apia Park for the official opening ceremonies for SPG. A kava ceremony was held. Also in the true Pacific islander tradition, each country got up and did singing and dancing and of course it quickly became a competition in which the next country try to outperform the country before it.
The Samoans are no slouches when it comes to entertaining with humor and grace and the Team American Samoa athletes were in rare form. It was awesome to be part of this bonding process not only within our own groups but the bonding of one country with another. I met American Samoans who are part of the Samoa delegation and I met Samoans who are in the American Samoa delegation. All in all we are one culture, one people, brothers and sisters and neighbors and that came through that day. Papua New Guinea had two Highlanders dressed to the hilt in their cultural dress who impressed everyone with their dancing. The spirit of fellowship across cultures was overwhelming.
The preparations and the state of the art facilities that were built for the SPG were very impressive and the opening ceremony that evening at Apia Park was spectacular. The facilities that were built included a large screen monitor that carried everything live. The beat of the music was lively and infectious and many of the athletes danced their way around the stadium. It was truly a sight to behold. There is a special spiritual quality in Pacific islanders similar to that of Native Americans. I can't put my finger on it but it's there and everyone knows it. Pacific islanders are very special people.
Nothing made me more proud to be an American Samoan than to march in the parade of athletes that marked one of the highlights of the official opening ceremony. Team American Samoa was the second group to enter the stadium, march past the review stand, where Governor and Mrs. Togiola, President of the Senate Lolo Moliga, Commissioner of Public Safety Sotoa, Rep. Laolagi, Muagututi'a Leapei, Ricky Salanoa as well as other American Samoans were seated along with other Pacific island leaders and took our place on the field for the ceremonies. The athletes were very appreciative that almost every major political leader in American Samoa took time to come over to Apia to be part of this event.
With the official opening ceremony ending well after 10 PM, it was a very long day. But the cafeteria was open for all, so we didn't drag ourselves off to bed until well after midnight.
Sunday morning we attended an Apia church service that was packed with athletes from all over the Pacific. Each athlete wore his country's colors so it was quite a picturesque scene inside the church. The priest spoke in Samoan, French and English throughout the service. I saw some long time friends from Apia, including Terry To'omata, who I got to know when he was first secretary at the Samoa Mission to the United Nations. He is serving in a key organizing role for the Games.
Following the church service, we had a scrumptious to'anai at the home of the family of Eddie Imo's wife Meafou. It was absolutely delicious and we overate just as everyone does each Sunday. I can't thank them enough for their very generous hospitality.
Since I wasn't participating in the games and was not there in any formal capacity with the team, I asked if there were any way I could help and was quickly assigned to man the camp store. In our camp, ASNOC set up a little store, which is open from 7 a.m. to midnight daily, so that essential personal items as well as a never ending supply of food, snacks and drinks would always be available to the athletes. I never cease to be amazed by the amount of food our young people can put away. Athletes would wake up, come over to buy food, head to the cafeteria for a huge breakfast, then would come back to our little store to buy more food and drinks. My compliments to ASNOC for having the foresight to pick all these items up in American Samoa and ship them over to Samoa. All items were reasonably priced to allow the athletes to purchase them on site rather than having to travel to town to hunt for a toothbrush or whatever.
Because I could be on the ground with our team, this experience was much more meaningful to me than if I had sat up in the stands either as a dignitary or ordinary spectator. It is hard to explain but it was much more rewarding spiritually to actually be embedded with Team American Samoa and to get to know the athletes and many, many other people on a personal level than I could have done in the stands. I could really see and appreciate all the hard work went into making this a life's experience for our youth. It is the only way to see all the organizational aspects in full play. The athletes are well prepared to compete and it takes mental commitment to be able to go all the way to victory and a medal.
Did I make a difference? Well, I relieved someone else of the chore of manning the store for the little while I was there. No, we didn't help to rid the world of nuclear weapons or anything like that but perhaps we created some better intercultural and international understanding that will even carry over next year when our team heads to Beijing for the international Olympics. And perhaps someday when I am old, gray and barely able to walk anymore (at which time I would hope to have the good sense to be retired), if someone comes up to me and says my presence with the team at the Apia games somehow inspired his or her life, then I will know I made a difference. Because the youth I saw in Apia last weekend are the foundation of our future as a society and someday will be our leaders.
Go Team American Samoa, my VIPs. No matter how many medals you bring home, you all are winners in my book.
As always, I would enjoy your comments. Contact me at email@example.com or 258-8376.
Amata's Pacific Notebook: VISIBILITY AND NETWORKING
October 19, 2007
When shown a map of the globe for the first time by a Mainlander, with the Samoan Islands pointed out to him as tiny dots in a vast sea of blue, the old chief peered closely and then, as the story goes, demanded to know "who drew this map?" Well, the chief's indignation at others' perception of our size not withstanding, the fact remains that Pacific Islanders of all stripes (including Native Hawaiians), both in the islands and on the Mainland, constitute less that 0.03% of the U.S. population. To make sure it is understood, that is not three percent but three tenths of one percent of the population. And Samoans make up only a portion of that total.
So it is no surprise that, as one of our political leaders once expressed it, "by and large, [they] don't even know we exist." Like Avis Rent-a-Car, that means we have to try harder. So, when we have a front page feature story in the Chicago Tribune about Samoans serving in the military or a front page feature story in the Washington Post about all the Samoans in professional football, even if there are some forgivable inaccuracies, it is all to the good because it helps put us on the map. And when our soldiers and athletes gain recognition at the top of their fields, that's even better.
Yes, we have our star football players, rugby teams, sumo wrestlers and now our superstar pro wrestler turned actor "The Rock," but when it comes to government and politics, we still have a long way to go to gain high visibility. Of course, there is Senator Dan Akaka of Hawaii, the most powerful Polynesian in Washington and Mufi Hannemann, the Samoan Mayor of Honolulu, whose star is still on the rise, but with a population so small, we have to work extra hard to take all the opportunities we are given to make sure we are visible in the political world.
In San Diego I participated in the biannual meeting of the Western Republican Leadership Conference (WRLC), which brought together party leaders and officeholders from all the western states and territories. Among other things, this meeting gave me a chance to remind California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that we have a large and growing Samoan population in his state, particularly in the very area where we were meeting. I am going to look forward to following up with his staff advisor on Asian and Pacific communities.
In that regard and by pure coincidence, the 13th annual Pacific Islanders Festival was being held nearby on the very same weekend as the WRLC. So, when the last speaker finished at WRLC, I jumped into the car and headed over to the festival, where I was able to renew a lot of old friendships and bring fresh news from home to folks who have been away for many years. I also met a lot of young Samoans who were born in California and never have been home yet have an affinity for the islands that runs deeply in their blood. I found that very gratifying.
The organizing committee, PIFA, needed no lessons from me on visibility. They now have a permanent home at Ski Beach and have fine tuned the logistics to make for a very smooth, pleasurable experience for the 150,000 people who visited over the course of the weekend to watch the singing and dancing, eat island food, sample island handicraft and see other goods that are sold from booths that line the edges of the festival grounds. Clearly local politicians know what a potent force we islanders can be, because the San Diego mayor made it a point to be present at the opening ceremony, where he presented to PIFA a certificate proclaiming Pacific Island day.
Of course, no visit to PIFA is complete without a visit to one of our many Samoan churches in the area. In fact, I was able to attend the non-denominational service that was held on Sunday morning on the festival grounds, and then slip away for a couple of hours to attend a service at one of the Congregational churches. It is always a highlight to the sounds of a beautiful choir and it was particularly gratifying to see so many young people taking part in the choir. Again I was able to bring greetings from families back home and to take messages with me that I could bring back to the islands.
The governor asked some of the most remarkable and inspiring female leaders from Hawaii, across our nation and around the world to spend the day with us and, remarkably, Governor Lingle herself spent the entire day with us as well. After hearing what these extraordinary women had to say, each with a fascinating and challenging career that has had an incredible impact on our world, I can understand why. I found the experience enormously uplifting and motivating and I know I speak for the nearly one thousand women in the audience when I say was honored to hear them talk about the many lessons they have learned.
One of the main messages to come out of the conference is that influential women leaders can and must serve as mentors and coaches to guide other women in their careers. We have an obligation to mentor the next generation of female leaders and to provide the shoulders for them to stand on. We must be willing to capitalize on opportunities to help other women. That is how we help make the world a better place. When I return home next week, I plan to retell the inspiring stories I heard from these women. Readers who do not want to wait, and have the computer capability to do so, can listen to the presentations directly through Governor Lingle's website:
After the Honolulu conference, it was back to Los Angeles and right on to Palm Springs where I knew (rightly) that I would be the only Samoan at the biennial convention of the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW). In fact, Palm Springs is not exactly teeming with a Samoan community but I did have a meeting with one Samoan man who I learned from a local conventioneer lived in the area. I had a good chance to hear from his vantage point issues that need to be watched in federal immigration reform. However, my main purpose in attending this gathering was to bring to the convention for approval our application to have an affiliated club in American Samoa.
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a major contender for president, spoke at one of the sessions and I was glad American Samoa had representation there to hear him. After all, we do have nine delegate votes and the nomination is unsettled. He is one of only a half dozen people who has a realistic chance of becoming the next President of the United States when President Bush steps down on January 20, 2009.
My scheduling luck ran out at this point because even though I was next heading to Washington, I knew a prior commitment would mean I would have to miss last week's Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health and Well-Being Summit. Chaired by our own Kawen Young and organized by Nancy Fa'asiu Glass, this two day event was attended by NH&PI community leaders both from the states and the territories. This is another group that needs no lecture from me on visibility because, in addition to their sessions, they had a well planned day of visitations to Capitol Hill to meet with key members of the House and Senate. I have seen the list of participants and I can tell you that Samoans were well represented.
Regrettably, I had to be out of the city on those days and missed the conference but I am so pleased it was held and turned out so well. I made one more major stop, which I will tell you about next time, and I will be on my way home next week. I am just happy I had the opportunity to carry the banner for American Samoa. I was able to educate people on American Samoa and make sure we were represented wherever we were offered a seat. Now, at least a few more people will know where to find us on the map. And I did it all without spending a nickel of government funds!
As always, I would love to hear your comments. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.This story first appeared in Samoa News on Oct. 19, 2007.
Amata's Pacific Notebook - Let the Party(ies) begin
Reprinted from Samoa News
It would be hard to explain to my stateside Republican friends why I would say kind words about American Samoa Democrats because they don't understand the nature of our small community, where party distinctions are often blurred and elections are not fought on American partisan terms. But readers here will understand why I am taking this occasion to congratulate Fagafaga Danny Langkilde and the rest of the officers on their recent election to lead the Democratic Party of American Samoa.
Because our elections are non-partisan, the primary role of the Democratic and Republican Parties in American Samoa is to provide our people with access to the U.S. political system and to give us a voice in the selection of the President of the United States. Although we don't vote for president directly, local Democrats and Republicans do vote for delegates who in turn will choose the nominees of the two major parties, one of which will become the most powerful person in the world.
So, I also want to congratulate my good friend Oreta Togafau, Fagafaga's predecessor as party chairman, for successfully helping persuade the Democratic National Committee to change its roll call procedure. If you have watched national conventions on television, you know that one of the highlights for viewers is the roll call of the states and territories, when each delegation announces its votes for the presidential candidates. Unlike Republicans, who call the roll strictly alphabetically (American Samoa comes between Alaska and Arizona), until 2004 Democrats called for the territorial votes only after all the states had cast theirs.
Thanks to the efforts of Oreta and other territorial Democrats, starting next year Democratic convention watchers will be able to see American Samoa cast its votes early in the roll call, rather than at the end. I understand the DNC also is ending its humiliating practice of giving each territorial delegate only a fractional vote, as if people coming from the territories were second class citizens who somehow were less American than the delegates representing the states. That is another change that was long overdue.
When local Democrats recently elected their new officers, Samoa News also reported that the party also approved a date and procedure for electing delegates to next year's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Late last month, local Republicans held a meeting to do the same thing, although we will combine our elections for delegates and local party officers in one convention to be held next February 23.
Why do I care that national Democrats treat the island parties with more respect? Because it is important that our territory, as part of the United States, be given every opportunity to play a full role in American political life, regardless of our political persuasion, and it is important to us what happens at these conventions because the political leaders who participate in these national rituals are the very same people who develop federal policies that have direct impact on our lives. Party politics and national governance are inextricable intertwined.
The circumstances of this particular national election are so unusual that the role of the delegates from the territories could be particularly significant.
This is the first time since 1952 that no incumbent president or vice president is running for President, meaning the field of candidates is wide open on both sides. Moreover, the whole process has been advanced so early in the political calendar that half the delegates in the country will have been chosen by February 5, 2008, nine full months in advance of the general election.
In the case of Republicans, five territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands) will be sending a combined 57 delegates to the Republican National Convention, including nine from here. Most people haven't thought about it but if it were a single delegation, it would constitute the twelfth largest delegation to the convention. And if some of the larger state delegations get penalized for holding their primaries earlier than permitted by national rules, the territorial delegates will become that much more important.
A lot of observers think the nominations on both sides will be wrapped up after the February 5 primaries, which has been called "Tsunami Tuesday," but many others believe no one will emerge with a clear majority on that day.
In that case, the presidential campaigns will be looking everywhere they can for delegates and the territories' conventions, caucuses and primaries could take on unprecedented significance. While it is unlikely we would find any of the candidates coming to the islands to campaign personally, party leaders might anticipate a lot of telephone calls and other efforts to make their cases to the party faithful.
In 2000, for example, then-governor George W. Bush sponsored a reception prior to the opening of our convention as a way of campaigning for our votes at a time he and Sen. John McCain were still locked in a tight battle for the Republican nomination. And it worked. Sen. McCain did not have a visible presence here and Gov. Bush swept all of our delegates.
So, my message today is to urge everyone to pay close attention to the presidential campaign as it develops and become active in the party caucus of your choice when it meets to select a delegation to its national convention next year.
In fact, why not even consider running for delegate yourself? When the leader of your delegation on national television, being watched by millions of people, says "Mr. Chairman, American Samoa proudly casts its ballots," one of those ballots could be yours.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions. Feel free to call me at 699-9609 or e-mail email@example.com.
� Osini Faleatasi Inc. dba Samoa News reserves all rights.
Amata's Pacific Notebook
Exclusive to the Samoa News
When people would ask my father about American Samoa's economy, he used to jest that we had three major exports: tuna, football players and military recruits. As recent articles in major mainland newspapers suggest, there is some truth to Dad's boast. The Chicago Tribune, the biggest newspaper in America's third largest city, and the Washington Post, the major daily in the Nation's capital, both reserved a very special place for in-depth feature stories: the center of the front page above the fold in the Sunday edition, which has the largest readership in each city.
Both articles occupied two pages inside the paper, with the Trib article focusing on Samoans joining the military while the Post concentrated on Samoan athletes leaving the islands to pursue college football with a dream of an NFL career someday.
Like most Samoans, I was proud to see such important media outlets cover life in our islands. But while there were large elements of truth in both pieces, I thought their coverage was incomplete. Because I felt there was too much emphasis on the aspect of teenage boys anxious to leave "the rock" and not enough to what happens afterwards, last week following publication of the Post story I wrote a letter to the editor in hopes they would bring the story full circle.
American Samoa is no different than small towns all over the U.S., where teenage boys count the days until they can finish school and seek their fame and fortune in the great unknown world beyond. They all are attracted to the bright lights of the city no less than moths are attracted to the flames of a fire. Readers would be mistaken if they came away with the impression that life here was so miserable there was a massive race for the exit and that American Samoan boys were any different than any other American boys in their dreams and aspirations.
Yes, some of our young people do live in the traditional style of village life, like Ne'emia does. But others live a middle class existence in western style housing and their desire to "get off the rock" is just as strong, whether it be for football, the military, on scholarship to college or just to live with relatives in Hawaii or on the Mainland to find work after completing high school. Whether one were going to play football is more a function of size and skills than socio-economic status. After all, Gabe Reid, for example, a starter on the NFC champion Chicago Bears, comes from one of the most prominent business families in American Samoa.
Anyway, the point I made to the Washington Post and want to make here is that when our children leave home, their heart remains. And their families wish them Godspeed because they know the pull of these islands is like a magnet; it is too great to resist. I do not think either the Trib or the Post took notice of that reality
Had I had an opportunity to visit with the papers' correspondents who traveled here to research and write their stories, I would have urged them to tell the rest of the story by visiting with our veterans who have come home after long and distinguished military careers and the teachers and coaches who have returned to impart their ways and teach their skills to today's aspiring athletes.
My Dad was one of those who went abroad for education. My grandmother sent him on a ship at age 15 to join the older brothers she sent before him to be educated in Hawaii. In his childhood, he grew up much like Ne'emia in the Post story but perhaps with even greater handicaps because he boarded that ship without knowing a word of English and had never before even worn shoes.
Nonetheless, he mastered the language, played football at St. Louis High School in Honolulu and, among others, played against Al Lolotai of Iolani High. When Lolotai joined the Washington Redskins in 1945, he became the first Samoan ever to play in the National Football League. From their high school rivalry Dad and Al became friends but World War II intervened and any dreams Dad might have had to continue a football career were replaced by military service in the Pacific theater. Al was so talented an athlete he went from junior college to service in the war and right into pro football at war's end.
After the war Dad got a fellowship to attend Georgetown University but although Georgetown was still playing big time football in those days (they played in the Sun Bowl his first year at GU Law School), he needed all his spare time to study (to finish college and law school in five years) and work a full time job at night as a Capitol Police officer and later as a congressional staffer to take care of his growing family (he went there with three children and left with seven).
Unfortunately, his buddy Al already had left Washington after the 1945 football season to join the Los Angeles Dons of the All American Football League, so dad didn't cross paths with him again there because he did not arrive in Washington until the fall of 1946.
In the 1950s, Al went on to be a famous wrestler while dad finished up school and came home to serve as public defender, attorney general and governor. After serving later as athletic director for BYU-Hawaii Al returned to American Samoa to become athletic director for the Department of Education and dad returned from his years in Micronesia to be governor again and they were at last reunited. The pull of the magnet was too strong to resist. They both came home and renewed their friendship begun so long ago.
When Al passed away, Dad recalled at his funeral how they first met: on the football field during an Iolani-St. Louis game: "He charged at me on the left and I blocked him. Then he charged at me on the right and I blocked him again. Then, he barreled right down the middle of the field with the football and I didn't know what else to do, so I just sat on him. Al started yelling at me, 'Alu ese! Alu ese!' I was stunned that he was speaking Samoan, and I said, "Hey are you a Samoan?" Al said, "Of course. What do you think I am? Why do you ask? Are you Samoan?" And that's how I became friends with Al Lolotai."
I am sure stories like this have been replicated over the years, now even more so on the Mainland with so many Samoans in the NFL. In fact there was also just a story about how there are five Samoans (plus one Tongan) on the Miami Dolphins training camp roster--with a good possibility most if not all of them will make the cut�who are large enough in number as well as size to make up a Polynesia Bloc. Years from now I expect they, too, will come home and tell stories of their times together.
My message to our young people is simple: work hard, study hard, do not fear to explore the world outside but you will find that your heart remains here. Like all of us, eventually you will find the pull of these islands is just too strong The tuna may leave here forever but the veterans and the athletes come back. You, too, will come home.
E toe fo'i lava le Samoa i lona atunu'u.
As always, I would welcome your comments. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amata's Pacific Island Notebook: "Middle American Mayor"
Last week I was in Minneapolis for the summer meeting of the Republican National Committee, on which I represent American Samoa as National Committeewoman. I am also on the Committee on Arrangements, which has responsibility for organizing the presidential nominating convention next year. We were in Minneapolis to look at the facilities and work on convention plans. This year I am on the five-member special events subcommittee, which has responsibility for organizing all the events that take place outside the convention hall. American Samoa will send nine delegates to the convention.
Needless to say, the collapse of the Interstate 35 Bridge made for a somber mood at our meetings, but it was quite impressive to see how quickly the community pulled together and how well coordinated the rescue operation was. We were at a reception atop a tall building in downtown Minneapolis when the bridge went down and, although we did not hear it, within moments we were told about the collapse and gathered at the huge windows to see what had happened less than a half mile away. Already we could see the flashing lights of the police cars, fire engines and ambulances as the rescue operation got under way. Before dinner got underway, we all prayed for the victims, which were thought at that point to be as many as 60. By the time we departed Saturday, the death toll was only five, for which we can be grateful to God.
Despite the somberness of the rest of the week, the people of Minnesota could not have been friendlier to us. We got a warm welcome wherever we went and had a chance to meet with the Governor (a Republican) and the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul (both Democrats), although they had to cut short their time with us to stay on top of the bridge crisis. We also met a lot of other elected officials in the Twin Cities area but I want to tell you about one in particular.
Last week I wrote about Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, who has done a superbly effective job in Washington for her territory, where she is now a subcommittee chairman, even though she only is beginning her third term. In Minnesota, I had the opportunity to visit with another remarkable lady like Madeleine: the mayor of Burnsville, an outer suburb south of the city. The town is about 25 square miles in area, which is about half the size of American Samoa, but with no hills or mountains, the inhabitable land area is comparable with ours. With 60,000 people, Burnsville also is about the size of American Samoa in population. Without a sizable community of resident aliens, however, there are about twice as many voters in Burnsville than there are here.
The mayor, who is Republican, is extremely popular and has been elected and reelected to the job since 1994. Although she won with only 51 percent of the vote in her first election, in 2004 she was re-elected to her fifth term in 2004 with a whopping 70 percent of the vote. Clearly she is doing something right.
Although she has no responsibility for immigration, education or a major sea or airport, I was struck by how similar her other duties are to those of our governor. Like municipalities everywhere, the city is responsible for everything from trash pickup to public health and, unlike American Samoa, snow removal during Minnesota's famously long winters.
In addition, she oversees the Mayor's Task Force to Cure Youth Use of Tobacco and is city council liaison to the Planning Commission and THE GARAGE Committee. Besides the typical suburban hang-outs youth frequent, Burnsville is a regional leader in youth and teen activities. THE GARAGE Youth Center located near City Hall is a non-profit music club which has attracted music acts from as far away as Japan to play and is ingrained as a place in the Minneapolis Music Scene. The Burnsville Skate Park is a free facility during summer hours. The Burnsville Ice Center has two large professional ice rinks. The city also has a fully staffed Recreation department providing year round programs and activities for all ages.
The Mayor also is council liaison to the Heart of the City project. According to an on-line encyclopedia article "Burnsville leads the Twin Cities region in new smart growth policies which are being implemented in nearly every suburb.
Smart growth defies traditional suburban sprawl bedroom communities and instead moves towards defining community identity with sustainable design. Burnsville's Heart of the City project hopes to create an attractive, vibrant, pedestrian friendly neighborhood setting with economically viable local businesses." Burnsville also boasts a major regional mall, Burnsville Center, which consists of 1,275,703 square feet of shopping space.
Moreover, the Mayor represents Burnsville on the Cedar Avenue Corridor Advisory Committee, the Dakota Communication Center Board of Directors League of Minnesota Cities Policy Committee on Improving the Fiscal Future, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, the Municipal Legislative Commission and the Suburban Transit Authority. She also co-chairs the Minnesota Regional Council of Mayors, and is on the U.S. Conference of Mayors Advisory Board of Directors and chairs the Membership Standing Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
I had a chance to see the town because the mayor invited me to have lunch with her there. It was striking how well everyone knows her and it is clear from the way their faces light up when she enters a room that she is very, very popular. She is a Republican mayor and Burnsville is in a Republican congressional district, so I would not be surprised to see her run for Congress some day. Why not? After all, Minnesota has a woman U.S. senator.
According to census figures from Burnsville's website, only 13% of the population is made up of minorities and detailed statistics from the 2000 census indicate only 46 people (0.08 percent) listed themselves as Pacific Islanders. Of those 46, only 10 are Samoans but I was surprised to find even that many, considering how cold Minnesota gets in the winter.
Now, why am I spending so much time telling you about Burnsville and its remarkable mayor, a lady named Elizabeth B. Kautz? Because, as some readers must have guessed by now, that lady just happens to one of those 10 Samoans and is better known to many people at home as one of my closest childhood friends: Malae Langkilde.
Well done, Your Honor. You are making our people very proud. See you at the convention!
As always, I would be glad to have your comments. E-mail me at email@example.com.
(c) Osini Faleatasi Inc. dba Samoa News reserves all rights.
Amata's Pacific Notebook - "Effectiveness"
Last week I had the privilege of attending the annual Washington commemoration of Guam's Liberation from Japanese forces in World War II and the American victory in the Battle of the Marianas. Of course these are major holidays on Guam and in CNMI but, following so closely on the heels of the invasion of Normandy in 1944--the occasion for substantial ceremonies on major anniversaries--the Marianas campaign has been little noticed in Washington until recent years.
Initiated a number of years ago by Guam's then-congressman, Robert Underwood, as a simple wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, followed by a small gathering for refreshments back at the congressman's office, this observance has grown to the point that it now rivals Pacific Night as the "event of the year" on the Pacific Islands social calendar in Washington.
Much credit must go to the current Guam Congresswoman, Madeleine Bordallo, who graciously has shared the spotlight by turning what had been a Guam Liberation Day celebration into a Guam-Northern Marianas event: recognizing the closely related Battle for Saipan, giving the Northern Marianas resident representative equal billing, greatly expanding the invitation list and moving the reception right into the Capitol complex in the Cannon Building's cavernous House Caucus Room.
All the while, the wreath-laying ceremony remains a separate, smaller, dignified Arlington event to which a senior federal official always is invited to participate as a representative of the federal government.
For the reception, however, ably assisted by the Guam Society of America--a local social club of Guam expatriates, Delegate Bordallo and CNMI Resident Representative Pete A. Tenorio provided an array of traditional Chamorro dishes to a crowd of 800 guests that included congressional staff, Bush Administration officials, Government of Guam officials, members of the Armed Forces (from enlisted personnel to generals and admirals), a variety of others with interests in or responsibility for Guam and, of course, a number of Members of Congress, many of whom took the occasion to make remarks to the audience. The Guam Chamber of Commerce also co-sponsored the event, making it possible for talented Chamorro entertainers to perform for the appreciative attendees.
A number of years ago Guam officials adopted what they called a "Team Guam" approach to Washington, in which they pledged to each other that no matter what the party affiliation of the governor, speaker of the legislature and congressional delegate of the day, they would speak with one voice in Washington. Although the term has fallen into disuse, Madeleine has refined the approach to a fine art; it is no wonder that she has achieved an admirable legislative record in her short three terms in the House.
Among other things, she is on the verge of gaining congressional approval for reparations for Guamanians who suffered in World War II, a feat that eluded all of her predecessors (who she nevertheless always is quick to praise for laying the foundation). In fact, her accomplishments have been met with such wide approval at home that she has been reelected twice now without opposition.
It is no wonder that Guam is on the cusp of economic boom times with the impending transfer to the island of 8,000 Marines, who will be accompanied by even more dependents, support personnel and a variety of other people who will move to Guam as a result of the military buildup. Some estimate as many as 30,000 new people will moving to the island.
I do not mean to suggest that Madeleine's winning personality or party hosting skills are more responsible for the Pentagon's renewed interest in Guam than is the island's proximity to major Asian trouble spots, but it has not hurt for Madeleine to have a committee assignment key to Guam's interests: Armed Services, and for official Washington to be exposed to the patriotism and enthusiasm of the Guamanian people as evidenced by the Liberation Day activities. It made little difference that the crowd mostly drowned out the remarks of the U.S. representatives who trooped to the podium at Madeleine's behest. What mattered more was that those Members of Congress saw a room packed with joyous faces, especially the ample number of people of Marianas origin, commemorating the end of the Pacific War in their islands and celebrating anew their membership in the American political family.
It also did not hurt that Madeleine was a member of her political party's national committee for almost 40 years, the last number of years during which she was first in seniority. That political exposure gave her a huge circle of friendships at the national level that was already in place the day she was sworn into Congress.
All that translates into effectiveness in Washington - the kind of effectiveness that cannot be bought by hiring even the most expensive lobbyists in town. Liberation Day has become much more than a battle commemoration and a social event, and Madeleine Bordallo has demonstrated that she knows exactly how to use the occasion to advance Guam's federal agenda as well as acknowledge an important milestone in Guam's history.
As always, I'd love to hear your comments. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) Osini Faleatasi Inc. dba Samoa News reserves all rights.