Traditional Samoan Welcoming Ceremony
Secretary of State
Transcript covers several events during stopover at Pago Pago, Samoa.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Honorable Lt Gov, honorable representatives, honorable chief justice, honorable governors, officials, ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply honored to be here today. 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 I only regret that this stopover is not as long as I would have wanted.
But the United States is both aware of and grateful for our close relationship and our deep ties, most evidenced by the long and noble history of sacrifice by the men and women of American Samoa, not only as members of our military serving with great distinction and honor, but as fellow travelers along life’s path, joined together by the visions that were made more than a hundred years ago but which have stood the test of time.
I would be remiss in not extending my deep sense of appreciation for the working relationship that both my husband and now this government has had with you. I’m sure my husband would also be disappointed if I didn’t say how much he enjoyed watching the young men of American Samoa play football.
Now, there – it is not only a personal pleasure for me to be here, but it is a sign of the respect and ties that we have. And I pledge I will continue to work with you and your excellent representatives, with whom I have worked for many years in Congress, on behalf of not only stronger ties but an even closer relationship (inaudible).
While we (inaudible) delegation (inaudible), I thank you for honor you have given me with this ceremony. I am deeply touched and very, very grateful. I only wish I knew enough words in your language to express myself (inaudible). But let me conclude by saying God bless you and God bless your people, God bless the United States, and God bless the future we share together.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, let me again express my deep appreciation for the warm welcome that has been extended to me. Governor (inaudible), thank you. Thank you for your years of friendship and leadership. And this is a very special occasion. I cannot wait to describe it all to my husband, and I know he will feel somewhat envious that I had this very significant opportunity. Let me extend greetings to all of the people. Although it is late at night, I feel very energized by the opportunity to be here and to have this wonderful ceremony that exemplifies the traditions of the people, and I’m very, very grateful.
I was telling the governor that the Obama Administration is committed to provide American Samoa over $200 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; $91 million will go toward a fiber optic line that would – a fiber optic network lining the main islands for broadband internet. Education, nutrition, and waste water treatment projects will also receive funding.
This is a particular opportunity for investment in clean and renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, waves, and ocean thermal energy conversion power. I know that the islands currently import 100 percent of your energy requirements, mainly petroleum. These high-energy costs, borne by a small population, make renewable energy a very attractive option. I want to work with you and closely with the other agencies of the United States Government to ensure that we can address the islands’ energy requirements. The Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, has engaged the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, through an interagency agreement with the Department of Energy, to provide guidance to local communities in the production of long-term strategic energy plans.
So we very much look forward to working closely with you. I thank all of you for your leadership. I particularly appreciate the excellent cooperation that we received from your representative in Washington. He’s a very familiar presence, and I can attest a very persistent advocate for the interests of his constituents.
There is a lot to be grateful for and excited about as we look at our future together, but it will take hard work. It will take a vision that we must collaborate on together. But I know that Governor Tulafono and all of you have been committed to building that better future. And I’m just honored that I could personally convey, not only best wishes from President Obama and our government, but also a reaffirmation of our commitment to working with you. We are grateful for this relationship, and we know that it has been a blessing to the United States, and we appreciate the very kind words expressed today about the importance of the relationship to the people here.
So thank you again for making me feel so welcome, and I look forward to working closely with all of you in the years ahead.
QUESTION: The issue of American Samoa has been characterized by the United Nations as a colony. Where does the new Administration for Obama stands at this point dealing with American Samoa and other territories to colonize these territories?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we, of course, reject that characterization. We think that it is not accurate and does not describe the relationship that we have had over all of these years. But I do think we have to work more closely together to meet the needs of the people of American Samoa. And that is my pledge to you, that we will do all that we can to ensure that we have a very close, respectful working relationship now and far into the future.
QUESTION: (In progress) -- fisheries issue. It’s a very important –
SECRETARY CLINTON: The fisheries issue is a critical issue. And that’s a very fair question. And let me take that back with me, and consult, and see what could be possible, because certainly when it comes to an issue of importance like fisheries, there needs to be active involvement. In fact, I think that the United States needs to do more to help with surveillance and understanding of the challenges posed to the fishing stocks and a better system of protection of those stocks for use of the people here, both for personal consumption and for market exportability. So I will look into that, for sure.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, in light of the recent new style, if I could use an inappropriate word, regarding terrorism, and airlines, and printer cartridges, and this whole new genre, there has been recent Middle East money promised to open an Islamic center in the nation of Fiji. Is that of any concern to the State Department, that outside money not indigenous to the Muslim people are creating a center, which may or may not be the tradition of this part of Oceana?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that the first part of your comment with respect to the continuing threat of terrorism is something that we obviously take very seriously. And we work closely with friends and partners throughout the Asian-Pacific region. I am not concerned about any peaceful purpose of relationship-building from around the world, but I think that we have to be constantly aware of any efforts by terrorists and extremists to find a haven or to use as launching bases any part of the world. So we have to be watchful, and we will certainly do so.
QUESTION: Has your world view –
MODERATOR: I’m just – I’m a little bit worried about the time here, and we’ll take one more question –
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, what is your position on American Samoa’s request for observer status with the Pacific Island Forum? Several years ago, American Samoa submitted an application. However, we were told that, at the request of the State Department, that application was not considered.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not aware of that, but I can tell you that if that is brought to me, I will have a different answer. I think that you should have that kind of participation.
MODERATOR: I was hoping to have a little discourse with you a little later during the (inaudible), but believe me, this was not rehearsed, and – (laughter) – this is just coming out of our local media. And we appreciate very much your efforts. And we need to get the Secretary moving along here. And I appreciate all our local media showing up and just to be here for the Secretary’s visit.