As with my prior visits, I am thoroughly enjoying my week in Samoa. The schedule is packed with productive meetings and interesting events, including a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of our Embassy in Apia. The highlight so far, though, was the ceremony opening a new U.S.-funded medical center near Faleolo Airport.

By the plaque with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Colonel Bryan Suntheimer from Pacific Command, and Health Minister Tuitama Leao Tuitama.

With Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Colonel Suntheimer from Pacific Command, and Health Minister Tuitama.

A project of the U.S. Pacific Command, the new Faleolo Medical Center sits in the village of Satapuala and will serve people living on the western side of Upolu and on Manono. The facility was designed in consultation with Samoa’s Ministry of Health so that center would suit local needs and circumstances rather than some cookie-cutter template. We utilized Samoan workers, materials, contractors, and vendors so that the significant cost of the project would flow directly into the Samoan economy, which I think is very important.

The obligatory group shot out the front of the center.

Group photo at the ceremony.

After more than a year of work, it was a pleasure to cut the ribbon and open the facility. In attendance on a clear sunny day were more than a hundred guests including dignitaries such as Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Minister of Health Tuitama Leao Dr. Talalelei Tuitama, Minister of Justice Fiame Naomi Mataafa, National Health Services Chairman Tupuola Oloialii Koki Tuala, National Health Services General Manager Leota Lai Sio, Satapuala Mayor Ga Sakaria, NGO and church leaders, and U.S. Pacific Command’s Colonel Bryan Suntheimer.

Cutting the ribbon with Health Minister Tuitama Leao Tuitama.

Cutting the ribbon with Health Minister Tuitama.

After the local pastor blessed the facility and a village choir sang several songs, the Prime Minister delivered a keynote address that emphasized the cooperation between the American and Samoan Governments on important matters of health. I then spoke in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, thanking the many individuals and groups that contributed to the project, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Government of Israel for donating sophisticated medical equipment and supplies.

Local cultural group performing for the guests.

Satapuala villagers perform for the guests.

I presented the Minister with the key, and he and I cut the ribbon to open the medical center. The guests then toured the facility and sat to enjoy hospitality and entertainment arranged by the village. It was a great way to start my last visit to Samoa as Ambassador – celebrating something wonderful built for Samoans by Samoans with a little help from their American friends.

Fa’afetai ma ia manuia.

DH Sig

Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
November 21, 2013

A half century ago, America mourned the loss of an extraordinary public servant. With broad vision and soaring but sober idealism, President John F. Kennedy had called a generation to service and summoned a Nation to greatness. Today, we honor his memory and celebrate his enduring imprint on American history.

 In his Inauguration Address, JFK exhorts Americans to serve their Nation and the world.

In his Inauguration Address, JFK exhorts Americans to serve their Nation and the world.

In his 3 years as President of the United States, John F. Kennedy weathered some of the most perilous tests of the Cold War and led America to the cusp of a bright new age. His leadership through the Cuban Missile Crisis remains the standard for American diplomacy at its finest. In a divided Berlin, he delivered a stirring defense of freedom that would echo through the ages, yet he also knew that we must advance human rights here at home. During his final year in office, he proposed a civil rights bill that called for an end to segregation in America. And recognizing women’s basic right to earn a living equal to their efforts, he signed the Equal Pay Act into law.

The President and First Lady moments before the attack.

President Kennedy & the First Lady moments before the attack that took his life.

While President Kennedy’s life was tragically cut short, his vision lives on in the generations he inspired — volunteers who serve as ambassadors for peace in distant corners of the globe, scientists and engineers who reach for new heights in the face of impossible odds, innovators who set their sights on the new frontiers of our time. Today and in the decades to come, let us carry his legacy forward. Let us face today’s tests by beckoning the spirit he embodied — that fearless, resilient, uniquely American character that has always driven our Nation to defy the odds, write our own destiny, and make the world anew.

The Kennedy family at the State funeral.

John Jr. salutes his father at the State funeral for the fallen President.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 22, 2013, as a Day of Remembrance for President John F. Kennedy. I call upon all Americans to honor his life and legacy with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. I also call upon Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on the Day of Remembrance for President John F. Kennedy. I further encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes and businesses on that day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

- BARACK OBAMA

As part of our digital media and thought leaders programs, the Embassy arranged a visit to New Zealand this week by Dr. Jeffery Cole, in partnership with our friends at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). As many of you already know, Jeff is a powerhouse thinker in the tech/communications sector, and his trip provided a great opportunity for Kiwi audiences to hear his thoughts about the evolving nature of the internet and how the net will affect our lives in the future.

Jeff discussing some of the pressing issues around the internet at AUT (source AUT/Laura).

Dr. Cole speaking at AUT. (Photo courtesy of AUT)

Jeff serves as an adviser to governments and many of the largest and most successful companies around the world, teaching them how to craft effective digital strategies. Based at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Jeff is director of the Center for the Digital Future and founder of the World Internet Project, a long-term longitudinal study of the effects of computer and internet technology on global society. The study is being conducted in more than 20 countries including New Zealand.

During his trip Jeff spent time in Auckland and Wellington meeting with government agencies, local government representatives, and students and professors, sharing his perspectives on digital issues and strategies. The American Chamber of Commerce hosted him for a breakfast roundtable discussion, and he participated in the launch of the 2013 findings of the World Internet Project New Zealand study, based at AUT. Jeff also spent time with local media, including Idealog and Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon.

The Project 2014 launch event at AUT (source AUT/Laura).

A rapt audience during one of Dr. Cole’s local appearances. (Photo courtesy of AUT)

While in Auckland, Jeff helped us launch the next iteration of our biannual social media thought leaders conference, hosted in partnership with Auckland University of Technology and other friends. The inaugural event in 2012, The Project: (R)evolution, featured world-class speakers and a packed house of high-level attendees sharing thoughts and ideas about digital space. From all the feedback I’ve received, it’s clear that the event was a big success.

We have been working hard to plan the next digital thought leaders conference, The Project 2014, now scheduled for May 1-2, 2014 in Auckland. While still a work in progress, it is shaping up to surpass even the stellar line-up of 2012. I expect that we will be in a position to announce the keynote speakers shortly.

Former State Department Senior Advisor for Innovation and Technology Alec Ross with Mashable’s Managing Editor Emily Banks at our 2012 conference.

Former State Dept. Senior Advisor for Innovation and Technology Alec Ross with Mashable’s Managing Editor Emily Banks at our 2012 conference.

Thank you to Dr. Cole for accepting the invitation to visit and for being so generous with his time while he was here. I hope that the many hundreds of Kiwis with whom he interacted during his short trip benefited from his insights and expertise. We look forward to continuing to bring such thought leaders to New Zealand to brainstorm, exchange ideas and best practices, and stimulate informed debate.

If you have a particular interest in internet and digital tech issues, please stay tuned for more details about The Project 2014. You aren’t going to want to miss it.

DH Sig

This week marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg Address, delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication ceremony for a new national cemetery on the site where just a few months earlier the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania had raged. Gettysburg claimed more lives than any other battle on American soil and turned the tide of the Civil War.

Containing only 270 words, Lincoln’s eloquent remarks at the ceremony constitute one of the most powerful speeches ever delivered in the English language. President Obama took time this week to reflect on the anniversary, writing the following note about the Address and his great predecessor.

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S HANDWRITTEN TRIBUTE TO THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS