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ASG honors workers at 4th annual Workforce Day

A look at the crowd of both public and private workers during Friday’s ASG Workforce Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tafuna.  [photo: AF]Paramount Builders Inc., workforce marches Friday during the ASG Workforce Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tafuna. [photo: AF]

American Samoa’s workforce, described by Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie as the territory’s “biggest asset” gathered yesterday morning at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tafuna to mark the 4th annual ASG Workforce Day ceremony, with the theme “We Do Better Together”.

Workforce Day was launched by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in late August of 2013 — during his first year in office — to recognized and honor the territory’s labor force in both public and private sectors.

Human Resources director, Le’i Sonny Thompson, who was also yesterday’s master of ceremonies, noted that this annual event is to recognize and highlight the labor force’s “contributions, which transform the landscape of our society, improve our economy and services to the people...”

“When we draw on the wisdom of a workforce that reflects the population we serve, we are better able to understand and meet the needs of our customers — the people of American Samoa,” he told the crowd of more than 2,000 people at the stadium — not including the many more watching the ceremony on television carried live on state-run KVZK-TV.

On behalf of the leaders of government and private sector, “we thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Le’i said. 

“And we are here... to impress upon you that we share the same responsibility of upholding our core values and our collective obligation to foster a workforce environment and culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and where the talent and skill of different groups are valued,” he said.

And as a “proud veteran”, Le’i said, “we take this opportunity to recognize the selfless service... of all our sons and daughters” in the US Armed Forces.

There were three speakers who delivered special remarks with the first to address the crowd, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, who said that yesterday’s celebration was to honor and celebrate all the “hard working men and women, a day to applaud yourself, a day of appreciation and a day attributed to the contribution you all have made... for the well being of our government and our people.”

In his 22-years in the US military and 24-years as a public servant for the territorial government, Gaoteote said that he was told and has also learned that “there are two kinds of people — those who do the work and those who take the credit.”

He said he knows that all the leaders attending the celebration “agree that all of you... standing on the field and our sons and daughters... serving in the [US] Armed Forces, you are the one, the individual, that does the work.”

He acknowledged that the leaders, including himself, “take the credit” for the workforce’s hard work.

“The success in growth of our government is the direct result of you,” he told the crowd on the field, which includes both private and public employees.  “You people are, and always will be our greatest asset, you all play a big important role in our government. Your dedication and commitment... [contributes] to the success of our government.”

“So in the spirit of Labor Day, we salute you all,” he said. “Without labor, nothing prospers. The key to success is team work.” He also expressed thanks to the private sector and their workforce for their contribution to the people and government of American Samoa.

The next one to address the gathering was Tuafaleloa Fanolua, an apprentice with the Governor’s Office Apprenticeship Program, who provided testimony on the program. Prior to completing his degree program at the University of Hawaii-Hilo in 2014, Fanolua said his mother provided information about the Apprenticeship Program established by the governor for college graduates returning home.

And he told the audience what many young American Samoa college graduates thought about working for the government and the fact that many young graduates are doubtful they would ever have a chance.

“I had my reservations for obvious reasons — the workforce was dominated by the older folks or a more politically correct term — tenured employees,” he said. “As any other young mind, fresh out of college, doubt was evident.”

“I was convince there was no room for us in the [ASG] workforce, unless the government retired those who have been in the service since the time of Moses. I say that with the utmost respect for our elders,” he said, adding, “This was the mindset of my generation from the outside looking in.”

However, in July last year, he filled out a job application and got a job through the program. “I have always believed chance is the beautiful mother of experience and the good Lord answered,” he said, adding that he is a product of the Apprenticeship program.

He called on his fellow apprentices, to learn from “our current leaders; learn as much as you can... Our time is now to influence a better alternative or persuade an easier approach to any situation. Our time is coming... to direct and lead our people to the inheritance of our current leaders.”

“The years of experience of our current leaders and their knowledge of the working system compliments the educational and technological aspect that we bring to the work force,” he said in a speech, which lasted nearly 7-minutes.  “Let us not distinguish ourselves through the generation gap, but rather be ourselves, be partners.

“Together with the guidance of God, we shall lead our people through the 21st century in providing quality service and accommodating to the growing need,” he added.

Congresswoman Aumua Amata was the third person to deliver special remarks, which were very brief and mostly in Samoan. She expressed appreciation to both public and private sector workforces. She recounted that work was very important to God, who worked six-days and rested for only one-day.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank you the work force of American Samoa,” she concluded.

See Tuesday’s edition for keynote speakers and other details.