American Samoa Youth Summit To Address A Wide Range Of Critical Issues

Political status, Samoan culture, employment on agenda for 200+ participants

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, July 6, 2016) – The government sponsored four-day Youth Summit opened yesterday where more than 200 young people from throughout American Samoa have registered to hear presentations from about 20 speakers presenting on a wide range of issues, from current political status to Samoan culture, as well as discussions on employment in both the public and private sector.

The Summit’s theme echoes that of this year’s 2016 Flag Day theme, ‘Our People, Our Culture, Our Future’. It’s being held at the Pago Pago Youth Center and hosted by the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs, targeting ages 14 years thru young adults.

In his special remarks, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the theme raises the three important issues of “our people, our culture, and our future for the current generation to review and debate” — so they have a better understanding of these three important issues to prepare them as leaders for the future.

The governor recalled for the youth a quote from Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State, who said, “What you do today will not affect what you did yesterday, but what you do today will affect and impact what you will do tomorrow.”

Lolo believes that Rice’s quote is the goal and vision of the youth summit, wherein the youth of American Samoa will get to learn, debate, review and understand that what happens today will impact their future.

The governor reminded his audience that American Samoa today is facing many challenges, such as outside influence and ways of life, that are affecting and impacting local youth. However, he says that these challenges can be overcome if the “American Samoa boy and girl” always maintains the importance of the Samoan culture.

He reiterated that the summit is an important avenue wherein they can debate, review and share their thoughts and opinions on the future of American Samoa as well as “your future as leaders” of the territory.

Keynote speaker for yesterday’s official opening was American Samoa native, Nikolao Pula, executive director of the US Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. He spoke a little English and Samoan at the start of his speech, and this is because, according to Pula, American Samoa “is a dual society. We always have to learn two cultures: our Samoan culture, which is part of the theme of [the] four day summit, and also English, because that’s where we go to school and learn, and hopefully we get a good job here or when we go abroad, you are prepared to face the outside world.”

During his speech, he used both English and Samoan as he told two stories, including one during the time he was a senior at Marist Brothers School in Atu’u and the class went on a field trip to Savai’i in Samoa. The trip’s theme was to “explore our roots”.

He recalled the senior class arriving at the village of Safotu and being greeted by village chiefs with the traditional ava presentation, but there was a mistake on the senior class’ side during this important Samoan ceremony. That mistake was the failure of the group to bring along a matai to speak for them and to respond to the other side.

However, he said it became a good learning lesson for the class, and for him as the class president.

 “So failure is not a bad thing, that’s what I want you to know. Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is good, use it for your future,” he said.

The second story he shared with the audience happened during his Marist Brothers graduation ceremony, where the keynote speaker was the Education Director at the time. He said that, usually during graduation ceremonies, students don’t really pay much attention to speakers because graduates just want to get the ceremony over with so they can leave to celebrate.

Pula, who toward the end of his speech identified the DOE director as “my father”, said the one thing he remembered from the keynote speaker’s speech were these words: “No matter where you go, whatever career you pursue, always remember where you’re from.”

Additionally, “Remember who you are, where you come from, and then you do your best.”

Among the topics for discussion, review and debate during the summit are: the election process, economic development, the matai system, and if senators should be elected by popular vote.

Meanwhile, the first presenter yesterday was Tapa’au Dr. Daniel Aga, executive director of the ASG Office of Political Status, Constitutional Review & Federal Relations. Other presenters includes local attorney Fainu’ulelei L.P.F Ala’ilima-Utu, Fono assistant legal counsel Deanna Fuimaono; Evile Faatauao Feleti, chair of the ASCC Samoan Studies Department; Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele; and Bluesky Communication senior management advisor Puleleiite L. Tufele (who is also a faipule)

The Samoa News
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