Congressman Faleomavaega paid his respects and expressed his condolences personally to the children and family of the late Paramount Chief A.U. Fuimaono, in a special one-day trip to American Samoa early this week. Paramount Chief A.U. Fuimaono passed away peacefully in his residence in Futiga on the evening of September 9, 2008.
“Fuimaono is one of the few people I will always feel indebted to. To say that he was like a father to me is an understatement because of the complete trust he had in me right from the beginning of our relationship when he selected me to be his Chief of Staff for his Washington, D.C. office from 1973 – 1975. That was when he became the first elected Representative from American Samoa to the Capitol,” Faleomavaega reminisced.
“This great man was one of the traditional leaders who instilled in me the passion of being a real and true Samoan in a fast changing world – a world filled with political conflicts and cultural contradictions. This was at the time when American Samoa was suddenly immersed in the national arena of social structuring, traditional maintenance and political identity,” Faleomavaega recalled.
“It was a time of upheaval for the people of American Samoa in many ways as we tried to embrace changes and influences from outside, yet retain our uniqueness as Samoans at the same time. It was also during that time that Fuimaono became recognized as a leader, and he championed in areas of economy, politics, culture and religion,” Faleomavaega said.
“One of his most memorable and early advices to me then, and it still sounds like it was just yesterday was, ‘Eni, the palagi are convinced that for us to move forward, we as Samoans must first learn to crawl, then also learn to walk, before we can run. I tell you right now, we do not have the time to learn how to crawl, nor do we have the luxury to walk. We have to run with them with whatever we have, whatever we can come up with so we could understand and play their game, otherwise, it would be too late and we would lose and be left out,’” Faleomavaega related.
“It was almost baptismal by fire for me then – ‘Jump in, what are you waiting for?’ ‘We have a lot to do.’ But Fuimaono also pointed out that the simplest way to go about tackling the challenges was having an undying faith in God. Fuimaono firmly believed in God’s love, and he used that as the basis of everything he did, and of course he imposed it on those who were around him. He emphasized the importance of being Samoan as a reality check in the often-times turbulences of national and global politics,” Faleomavaega said.
“I will not go into Paramount Chief A.U. Fuimaono’s outstanding record as a pillar in government, private sector, the culture that was so dear to him, and the church his faith so firmly treasured. Those will always speak for themselves in defining the distinctiveness of the man.”
“But if there is anything I want to emphasize about his character, it is the fraction of his immense wisdom he imparted on me in the years I worked for him, and the many times he nourished and encouraged me first as a congressional staffer in Washington, and eventually as the delegate from American Samoa years later,” Faleomavaega continued.
“His simple yet honest and direct approach to all issues forged the basis of my professional life in Washington. Fuimaono’s determination for the development of American Samoa and yet his sensitivity to protecting the Samoan culture pushed me to strive for that delicate balance that can still define us as Samoans yet be an equal participant under the complex political system of the United States government,” Faleomavaega said.
“So when I heard the news of his death, there was no question in my mind not to be there, even with the overwhelming end-of-term schedules and the national financial crisis Congress is now facing. I owe it to Fuimaono’s children and family to be in Samoa, even if it’s only for a day. I have to pay my personal respects and indebtedness for the one person who started it all for me.”
“I am most grateful and humbled that this great man had the patience and tolerance to help me develop confidence and pride in being Samoan. And if there is a last thing I would say of Paramount Chief Fuimaono, it is the fact that if it wasn’t for his trust and belief in me, I would not have been where I’m at and the person that I am right now,” Faleomavaega said.
“Again, I express my sincere condolences to Paramount Chief A.U. Fuimaono’s children and family, and may God through His Everlasting Peace, grant His healing grace sooner on the grieving families and people of Samoa.,” Faleomavaega concluded.