“ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU”
If you ask most of our traditional leaders today what their favorite American Political Quote is, I’d bet the family house that it’s John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…” and for good reason. It was a time when many American Samoans were migrating to chase the American Dream and those who stayed behind were making progress in giving locals more say in territorial matters. Many of our leaders today were young teens in school, so you can imagine these words being drilled into them with patriotic fervor by their teachers. It was a great time to be an American and probably a better time to be an American Samoan.
Fast forward to 2013 and those words spoken a little over 50 years ago seems to have lost their meaning for our traditional leaders today.
Or maybe the quote never had any meaning to begin with; maybe it was just another phrase that was embedded within them by rote. Whatever the reason, the actions of some of our traditional leaders paints a picture of the very self-serving attitude that JFK was alluding to in his 1961 Inaugural Address.
Any talk of raises for our “leaders” whether it be in the executive, judicial, or legislative branch is a slap in the face to the citizens of American Samoa that struggle everyday to make ends meet. It is also offensive that the rise in the cost of living would be used as an argument when the majority of you already derive income and benefits from the military, government retirement, and other means such as private businesses.
Further insulting is the continuous practice of creating positions in government to provide an income for our “unemployed” traditional leaders. It seems that our government is under the obligation to make sure every high-ranking chief is afforded a salary. Our treasury should not be used to enable traditional chiefs to make their alofa to the church, contribute to their fa’alavelave, and more importantly — live beyond their means.
The American System of government in which we base our local government on, is rooted in the principle of a government for the people, by the people. Those who are fortunate enough to be entrusted with political office are public servants and beholden to the will of the citizens of which they serve. I believe this is no different than the essence of true leadership within Fa’asamoa.
This attitude of entitlement, which some of you bear, will only diminish the esteem of those chiefly titles that you carry by alienating citizens of Tutuila and Manu’a who have become disillusioned by what is being passed off as being part of Fa’asamoa.
I write this with respect to those traditional leaders who serve with honor and integrity reflective of your chiefly title and ranking. I write this with contempt to those who seek to take advantage of our people and the system they are supposed to serve.
In closing I leave you with the words of John F. Kennedy from his 1961 Presidential Inauguration in the hopes it reminds you of the responsibility you have as Public Servants…”ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
Edmnd P. Amataga