“Fofoga o Samoa”, US Senator Daniel K. Inouye
For many of us who served in his office, he was truly the father to all of Samoa; when we talk amongst ourselves in Samoan we’d say, “le Toeaina”, or in our usual Washington, DC jargon it was “Boss” and knew exactly who we were referring to or simply, “the Senator”. The Voice of Samoa, “Fofoga o Samoa”, the chieftain title bestowed upon him by Samoan chiefs and leaders many years ago, United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye, was the voice of all people, all common Americans, and more importantly, the people of the Aloha state, Hawaii whom he loved dearly.
My tribute is a reflection of many heartfelt feelings of deep loss of his passing, of immense sadness and the realization that never again, perhaps, not in our generation or even the next, will American Samoa ever find another, dare I say non-Samoan, Statesman of his stature that would love Tutuila and Manu’a as our beloved Senator Inouye. Today as I reached out to all of those who were privileged and honored to serve in the Annual American Samoa Internship Program in his office from the early 1980s to 2008, the consensus has been ~ he loved us, American Samoa, like no one else has in the nation’s capital and the halls of the United States Congress on Capitol Hill.
We remain today a small, tight-knit group, though not always in close contact throughout the years but when we hear of each other in the vicinity or see each other, the feelings are of mutual respect and sincere pride for each other and the accomplishments we have gained since leaving Senator’s office. Nikolao “Nik’” Iuli Pula is the big brother, the first of the Samoan Interns in the leadership program, Senator Inouye set up for Samoa’s youth.
From 1982, it alternated male-female, until I believe 2005, after former Miss South Pacific, Lupe Ane Aumavae-Tauanu’u, and two more brilliant young Samoan ladies stormed the halls of 722 Senate Hart Building, at the very corner of the top floor, where Senator’s staff set up a very quaint and special office for the Samoan intern, Dora AhSue in 2006 and Petti Matila in 2007.
In all Samoan families, we vye for our parents affection, knowing full well who is the family favorite, who is the "good kid" amongst the many & who is the most ulavale, mischievous ma fiu ai le loomatua ma le toeaina. We, in the Annual Samoan Internship Program in Capitol Hill, who were privileged to serve under beloved "Fofoga o Samoa" US Senator Daniel K. Inouye, have concertedly felt his love & affection for ALL of us equally.
From 1982 it alternated male-female with selection by Fono leaders President & Speaker; the very first recipient of this enormous prestige & responsibility was Nikolao Iuli Pula, then Lydia Faleafine-Nomura & many more after. Brother/Counsel Nathaniel Sotoa Savali was able to name most of them, Lancaster Allen, Betty Satele-Savali, Attorney Eleasaro Ale, Christina Lutu-Sanchez, Kereti Mata'utia. Csl Sandra King-Young, Csl Malamaleafi Sotoa Savali, Mrs. Tilo, Gov's Csl Toetasi Tuiteleleapaga, Josephine Puletasi-Salave'a, John Tofiga, beautiful former Ms. South Pacific Lupe Ane Kenape Aumavae-Tauanu'u (Aman'ia's Mom), and then I think it changed to the Governor Office making the selection where Ms. Dora AhSue & Petti Matila followed. Also I can't forget Terry Letuli, veteran police officer and now detective of our local DPS.
I found my pic taken at his receiving of the prestigious Medal of Honor award, nominated by President Clinton and given by President Bush. Thanks forever to my dear sister Josie for the invitation when she was our Samoan intern & my sister Cathie Haleck-Paala for my "Puanani" puletasi. The haku lei I made especially for him, a day I will never forget. We love you, Senator Inouye, forever in our hearts!!!!