During my trip to Samoa last week, I had the great pleasure of hosting a celebration to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of our Embassy in Apia, which opened its doors on November 15, 1988. I am a strong believer in commemorating shared history and important milestones, so I scheduled my final visit as Ambassador to coincide with the anniversary.
Of course, the relationship between our two societies stretches back much farther than a quarter century. American merchants and sailors began visiting Samoa more than two centuries ago, and the United States Government appointed its first commercial agent here in 1844. We established a diplomatic presence on May 17, 1856 when Jonathan Jenkins arrived in Apia as the first American Consul.
The United States immediately recognized the independence of Western Samoa (now known as the Independent State of Samoa) on January 1, 1962 after the United Nations voted to end the trusteeship administered by New Zealand. The Peace Corps came to Samoa in 1967, and approximately 2,000 volunteers have served here since then. Formal bilateral diplomatic relations were established between the United States and Samoa in 1971 when Ambassador Kenneth Franzheim arrived from Washington to present his credentials.
To celebrate the happy anniversary of the Embassy’s opening, we held a reception at our official Residence in Vailima with live music, food, drinks, and short speeches by the Prime Minister and me. Among the more than 200 guests in attendance were the Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Minister of Justice Naomi Fiame Mataafa, Minister of Health Tuitama Leao Dr. Talalelei Tuitama, Zita Martell, Joe Annandale, NFL star Richard Brown, Sonya Hunter, and BlueSky’s Adolfo Montenegro, among others.
Conversation was spirited and continued for several hours, undampened by the driving rain that burst from the heavens as guests began to arrive. I enjoyed catching up with good friends and speaking about the many new projects launched over the past four years to build on the long, strong, warm relations between our two countries. I appreciated the generous remarks of the Prime Minister and was briefly flummoxed by a series of loud claps of thunder from the storm when I mentioned in my own remarks that this would be my last visit to Samoa as Ambassador.
All in all, the evening was a wonderful celebration of shared history and familial bonds between two close Pacific neighbors, and of the promising future that lies ahead for us.