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Togiola honored during closing of 2012 Flag Day

In recognition of his nine years as the chief executive of the territory, Gov. Togiola Tulafono was presented Wednesday with the United States and American Samoa flags that were raised during the two-day 2012 Flag Day celebration at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The presentation was made during the closing ceremony. Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia, co-chair of the Flag Day Committee, recognized and honored the governor’s service in the Executive Branch as part of this reply to an address by Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who also paid tribute to the governor. (See yesterday’s story on Tuilaepa’s address).

“...flags may look alike, but these flags are different — because these flags were raised at this Flag Day 2012 for the first time and they will never be raised again,” said Faoa, who called on U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Anthony Babauta to present the U.S. flag to Togiola.

This year marks his last Flag Day participation as the territory’s top elected leader — he has been serving as governor since Apr. 7, 2003.

Babauta said that over the last three years,  since taking over the post of assistant secretary, “I really began to get to know Governor Togiola. I believe that I have nurtured a good friend.”

“I have found his counsel and his insight and his wisdom and his fortitude to do the right thing, inspiring me in terms of what my responsibilities are for all the areas under our jurisdiction,” he said of the governor. “So today, I take special pleasure of being asked to be part of commemorating his service to the people of American Samoa and be presenting the United States flag.”

“Governor, on behalf of [Interior] Secretary [Kenneth] Salazar, and on behalf of the President of the United States, we thank you for your service, not only to American Samoa, but the United States itself and to the friendships you have created during your term,” he told the governor.

“On a personal note, from one Pacific islander to another, I thank you for your service,” he said and presented the U.S. Flag to Togiola.

Faoa, who presented the American Samoa flag to the governor said, “you and I have worked [together] for too long. But thank you for teaching me how to be a lieutenant governor. May God bless you.”

Togiola, was teary when he spoke with a quivering voice, saying that “although I still have some more work to do and a few months to still work for you, American Samoa — thank you.”

He thanked American Samoa for allowing an ordinary person, who is the son of a church minister and not a ranking chief, not an important talking chief or ranking orator, but a servant of God to be the territory’s governor.

“Thank you for allowing me the chance to serve” all islands of American Samoa and its people, he said.

To Faoa, the governor said, “thank you very much. I know we still have quite a bit of ways to go and I know you’re busy in your campaign” and wished Faoa the best in his campaign. He also thanked Faoa for “helping me administer the territory.”

He also thanked the support of the Executive Branch from the Fono leaders and Chief Justice Michael Kruse; and expressed gratitude to members of the Armed Forces.

To the  Samoa government, Togiola thanked Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailelel Malielegaoi “for your paternalism and your guidance, your friendship and cooperation and collaboration to bring to the people of Samoa the best that we can muster in serving them and serving them well with grace and integrity.”

Prior to presenting the flag, Babauta thanked the government and the Flag Day Committee for inviting the DOI and other federal officials “in celebrating this special occasion, which wouldn’t have been done without a lot of logistical support that went on behind the scene.”

As he looked through the Flag Day program, Babauta said there was one name not mentioned, but who had a hand in making this a successful occasion and thanked First Lady Mary Ann Tulafono and the committee members for making this a successful event.

“I have found your First Lady to be a loving, warm and a thoughtful person,” he said and noted that within 24-hours after his delayed flight from Honolulu arrived in the territory, the First Lady switched the venue of the Flag Day state dinner from the Governor Rex Lee Auditorium to the “Faletele” at Utulei Beach.

Babauta was scheduled to deliver a special address for the Faletele dedication Monday morning but was unable to do so due to the Sunday night flight being delayed, and passengers did not arrive until 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Babauta told the gathering that he has spent the last two weeks in the South Pacific “and each time I travel to the South Pacific, I’m always impressed with the practice of faith and language and culture and song and dance.”

“And whether I go to some place new, or go to some place familiar, I’m always excited to meet new people and to begin long lasting relationships,” the Interior official said. “But for this particular trip, I’m especially pleased that my traveling is ending on U.S. soil, on American Samoan soil, and celebrating a relationship as old as a century, yet as young as every new birth on your beautiful islands.”

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