Following up on my prior post … I am happy to report that our delegation had a very productive visit to Samoa. Despite having had an exceptionally long day in Kiribati, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, Admiral Patrick Walsh, USAID Assistant Administrator Nisha Biswal, Brigadier General Richard Simcock, and the rest of the team hit the ground running upon arrival in Apia.

Kicking off the visit with dinner with the Deputy Prime Minister and other Samoan leaders.

Launching the visit with a toast at dinner with the Deputy Prime Minister and other Samoan leaders.

I met the team at Faleolo Airport when their plane touched down at 6:30 pm, and we drove directly to Tanoa Tusitala Hotel for cocktails and dinner. The distinguished guests in attendance included the Deputy Prime Minister Honorable Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo Meredith, Minister of Environment Honorable Faamoetauloa Faale Tumaalii, other Members of Parliament, Ministry and agency CEOs, civil society leaders, and a few of our Aussie and Kiwi friends.

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I am pleased to be back in Samoa for the second time in a month … this time to meet a high-level US delegation arriving from Washington. Leading the delegation is my good friend Dr Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. With him will be Admiral Patrick Walsh (Commander of the US Pacific Fleet), Nisha Biswal (Assistant Administrator of USAID), Brigadier General Richard Simcock (Principal Director of the Office for South/Southeast Asia), and several others.

Assistant Secretary Kurt M. Campbell.

Asst Secretary Dr. Kurt Campbell.

During the trip the team will meet with government officials, NGO leaders, entrepreneurs, veterans, scientists, and members of the general public in Samoa and seven other island nations.

Discussions will focus on the full range of issues of concern to those of us whose homelands touch the waters of the Pacific … including fisheries security, climate change, sustainable economic development, disaster planning, humanitarian relief, support for civil society, renewable energy R&D, regional political issues, and donor nation coordination.

Also on the agenda will be the Pacific Island Forum (to be held in Auckland just before the Rugby World Cup this September), as well as American business investment in the Pacific and ways to increase mutually beneficial business opportunities.

The composition of the delegation and the diversity of the agenda illustrate America’s “3D” commitment to robust engagement in the Pacific … through Diplomacy, Development, and Defense. We already have strong bilateral political, economic, and security relationships in our shared Pacific neighborhood. The current trip will take a broad inter-agency approach to building further on that firm foundation.

The journey started yesterday in Kiribati, where the delegation met with President Anote Tong for discussions focused on climate change and economic development prospects. There were wreath-laying ceremonies at a World War II monument and cemetery to commemorate the immense sacrifices made by Americans during the Battle of Tarawa and elsewhere in the Pacific in the service of peace, stability, and self-determination.

The delegation

As I write this, the delegation is en route from Kiribati to meet me here in Samoa, arriving in time for dinner. We will launch the visit with an outdoor banquet for senior officials and other community leaders, so that the American team can get a sense of the diversity and vibrancy of Samoan society in a festive, casual environment.

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Dr McWaine and I have a great love of agricultural expositions. While living in Los Angeles, we would spend several days each September enjoying the Los Angeles County Fair … with its dozen large exhibition halls, hundreds of individual vendors, thousands of animals, livestock competitions (including pig races), dozens of craft and crop contests, cowboy skills demonstrations, concerts, dare-devil motorcycle competitions, amusement park rides, carnival runways, more than 300 food stalls, and lots of roasted corn-on-the-cob, barbeque, blooming onions, and other delights.

Fieldays caption.

At the official opening of Fieldays with Prime Minister Key and other dignitaries.

So, of course we wouldn’t miss Fieldays now that we are living in New Zealand. Held for four days each June in the heart of the Waikato, Fieldays is the largest agribusiness exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere … with approximately 1,000 exhibitors (according to my friend Lloyd, who runs the event) spread over 40 hectares (about 99 acres). Fieldays is a different beast from the LA County Fair in that it focuses heavily on the business side of agriculture, but it’s still great fun for laymen like us.

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President Obama today addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House about the way forward in Afghanistan and his plan to remove 10,000 American troops from that country by the end of this year (and a total of 33,000 by next summer).

The President reflected on the difficult decision he made in December of 2009 to order 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, and about keeping his commitment to begin the drawdown of troops this summer as part of a phased transition to the Government of Afghanistan of authority for the security of its nation.

In case you missed the speech, below is the video in its entirety (approximately 13 minutes):

President Obama also discussed the importance of focusing on nation building at home in America, while upholding in actions abroad the beliefs and principles on which our nation was founded:

“In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.”

If you prefer to read the text rather than watch the video, you can access the speech here. Take a look, and let me know what you think about the President’s remarks.