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Secretary of State draws applause with single sip

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Nov. 9, 2010) - US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton paid tribute to Samoan men and women who made a "noble sacrifice" to protect America and the world against terror.

Clinton made the point when she was hosted for an ava ceremony during a visit to American Samoa on Sunday. She was in the territory for 90-minutes en route to Washington D.C. following an Asia-Pacific trip.

Clinton was greeted by Governor Togiola Tulafono and his wife Mary Ann Tulafono.

An ava ceremony followed.

"I am deeply honored to be here today," said Clinton in brief remarks before taking a sip from the ava cup. "I greatly appreciate the warm welcome that has been extended to me, on behalf of President Obama and the government of the United States and personally on behalf of my family.

"I have long wanted to visit and my only regret is that this stop over is not as long as I would have wanted."

Samoan Affairs Secretary Tufele Li’amatua acknowledged the "wisdom of our forefathers" in ceding these islands more than 100 years ago to "the most powerful and greatest nation on earth, the United States of America."

Tufele said American Samoa has enjoyed this great relationship with the United States "that has provided us with a sense of respect, freedom and liberty."

"Words fail to adequately express our joy, our gratitude and profound sense of privilege,

for your gracing our shores for the first time," Tufele said and pointed out that American Samoa’s sons and daughters continue to serve in the U.S. military.

In response, Clinton said, the "United States is both aware of and grateful for, our close relationship and our deep ties most evident by the long and noble history of sacrifice by the men and women of American Samoa" who are "members of our military serving with great distinction and honor."

She also extended her "deep sense of appreciation for the working relationship" that her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton has had with the American Samoa government.

Clinton said her husband "would be disappointed" if she didn’t mention "how much he enjoys watching the young men of American Samoa playing football."

She said the bond between American Samoa and the U.S. remains strong and it’s a "sign of the respect and ties that we have and "I will continue" to work with American Samoa and Congressman Faleomavaega Eni.

After her brief statement, Clinton took a sip from her ava cup. Just outside of the VIP lounge, a small crowd gathered to watch the events on television sets, and the sound of applause could be heard when Clinton sipped from her ava.

After the ava ceremony followed the traditional presentation of gifts to Clinton, which included a fine mat, a tanoa or kava bowl, a talking staff and whisk, fabric, a mirror framed in siapo, and a Samoan bag and handicrafts.

Clinton also addressed the local media briefly and answered about five questions. She went to shake hands with the governor’s staff.

The plane carrying Clinton’s entourage, which included her staff of about 30, the press corps and others touched down at Tafuna airport just after 11pm.

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