Dedication of VA Clinic centerpiece of VP Pence visit to AmSam
Congresswoman Aumua Amata announces that during his visit to the territory, this Sunday — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will dedicate the Veterans Administration outpatient clinic to the memory of the late Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, who passed away in February at his home in Utah.
The Pence delegation, which will include his wife and two daughters, will arrive at Pago Pago International Airport Sunday, April 23 and will stay for an hour and a half before departing for Honolulu.
Upon Faleomavaega’s passing, Amata introduced legislation after consultation with the Governor and the concurrence of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, to name the VA outpatient clinic in the former congressman’s honor. After speedy passage by both houses, President Donald Trump signed it into law on March 31.
“I had hoped to have a White House signing ceremony while Eni’s widow Hina was in Washington for his memorial service, but that was the week of all-day and all-night healthcare negotiations between congressional leaders and the President, so there simply was no time available before the constitutional time limit for signature would have expired. Nonetheless, I was pleased at least to be able to announce at the memorial church service that the President would be signing the bill the following week,” Amata said.
When the Vice President arrives on Sunday, he will be only the sixth White House dignitary to have visited the territory in its 117-year affiliation with the United States.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited in 1943 to lift the people’s spirits during the Pacific War; President Lyndon Johnson, whose administration funded the hospital for which it subsequently was named, visited once en route to New Zealand in October 1966.
In January 1977, President Jimmy Carter sent his son Jeff and Jeff’s wife Annette to represent him at the inaugural of Peter Tali Coleman as the territory’s first elected governor. The Carters reciprocated the Samoan hospitality by inviting Amata to have dinner in the White House family quarters in her next trip to Washington.
In Washington, in February 1989, Governor Coleman invited Vice President Dan Quayle to visit American Samoa in connection with his Pacific trip to commemorate the World War II Battle of the Coral Sea.
The first vice president ever to visit the territory, Mr. Quayle, who invited the Governor and Mrs. Coleman to accompany him from Washington on Air Force Two, toured the island and had lunch with the governor and other government dignitaries at Government House before departing for Australia four hours later.
In November of that year, future Vice President Dick Cheney also stopped in Pago Pago in his capacity as Secretary of Defense and in July of last year, Joe Biden became the second sitting vice president to visit here as part of a tour of the Pacific Rim. Although he did not leave the airport, Biden took time to leave the VIP area to greet and have photos taken with members of the local population.
When he arrives, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga, Congresswoman Amata and other local dignitaries will welcome Vice President Pence. The Governor will then lead a traditional welcoming ceremony.
In addition to dedicating the clinic, the Vice President will review the troops. In view of time constraints and security requirements, all activities will be held at the airport.
The visit has come about at the invitation of Amata, who was a member of the Presidential Transition Executive Committee, which Mr. Pence chaired.
A few weeks ago, after a closed-door Capitol Hill meeting with House Republicans, at which he unveiled his plans for an Asia-Pacific trip, Amata pulled aside his chief of staff to urge that the Vice President add Pago Pago to his itinerary after his meetings in Sydney and the vice president quickly agreed.
“It made perfect sense to invite the vice president to dedicate the clinic, since the legislation naming this federal facility was signed less than a month ago,” explained Amata, “and besides, Mike Pence came to know Eni because they served together in Congress.”
Amata herself first met the Vice President during her service on the House leadership staff at the House Republican Conference, which Pence later chaired before running for Governor of Indiana.
“I am really looking forward to the Vice President’s visit,” said Amata, “so he can visualize what we are all about and get a real sense of our isolation from the rest of the country. The vice president being President Trump’s principal liaison with the House of Representatives, I am hoping to enlist him to join me in explaining to my colleagues why our federal assistance is a vital lifeline.”
Amata concluded, “The vice president has graciously invited me to join his delegation aboard Air Force Two for the trip to Honolulu,” noting that Mr. Pence also would be reviewing troops there and meeting with top military commanders before returning to the Mainland.
Samoa News reminds that during V.P. Quayle’s visit in April 1989 to American Samoa his opening remarks included this now well-known quote, “You all look like happy campers to me. Happy campers you are, happy campers you have been, and, as far as I am concerned, happy campers you will always be.” American Samoans at the time found it highly amusing, while many also believed it to be condescending and insulting.
Quayle was known for his verbal gaffes, during his vice presidency, and was VP to President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993.