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Madeleine B.
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  • Honoring Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa for His Nearly Four Decades of Service to the Congress of the United States

    by Representative Madeleine Z. Bordallo

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    BORDALLO of guam in the house of representatives Monday, January 12, 2015 Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize the nearly four decades of service of my former colleague Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa. After nearly four decades on Capitol Hill, American Samoa's longest serving Member of Congress and the first Asian Pacific American in U.S. history to become chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, bid farewell to colleagues and friends at a reception on Capitol Hill held in his honor on Wednesday, November 19th. The farewell reception for Faleomavaega included Members of Congress from the House and Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, ambassadors, foreign delegations, and their family members. They paid tribute to the man they call ``Our Eni,'' and did so by sharing memories from their years together. Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, beloved by so many on the Hill, first came to Capitol Hill in the 1970s and served as Chief of Staff to the late Paramount Chief A.U. Fuimaono, American Samoa's first Representative in Congress, and as staff counsel to the late Congressman Phil Burton of San Francisco before he became American Samoa's Representative in 1989.



    As a reflection of Faleomavaega's genuine kindness that touched so many and his bipartisan approach that reached across party lines, the reception was attended by many, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul. Leader Pelosi shared memories of Faleomavaega in their early years with Congressman Phil Burton long before she and Faleomavaega were both elected to Congress. ``Eni, you are family from the Burtons on,'' Leader Pelosi stated. The Pelosis visited privately with Faleomavaega and his family, including his wife, Mrs. Hinanui Hunkin, and his daughter and son-in-law, Leonne and Fui Vakapuna.

    Current and former members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also attended. Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who first came to the Hill as a Representative from Arizona's 1st District in 2001, expressed his gratitude to Faleomavaega as a leader, mentor, and friend, including an unforgettable moment with Faleomavaega when the two were on their way to a hearing. Congressman Faleomavaega was in an elevator with a good number of Samoan visitors whom the Senator described as all resembling NFL linebackers. Faleomavaega immediately held the elevator door open when he saw his friend coming down the hallway. Mr. Flake squeezed in to the elevator but once the door closed, rather than ascend to the next floor, the elevator dropped a few feet and the entire group was trapped for about twenty minutes before they were rescued. Senator Flake joked that the irony of it all was that the hearing was on submerged lands. In his message to Faleomavaega, Senator Flake stated, ``Eni, I have such good memories of our time together. Thanks for being such a good friend and mentor to me, and such a good example of a disciple of Christ. I look forward to working with you on a range of issues in the future. With admiration, Jeff Flake, U.S. Senate.'' Hawai`i Senator Mazie Hirono, reminisced with Faleomavaega about their early years in the House together and conveyed how much she will miss him being an honorary member of the Hawai`i State delegation. Over the years, because of his close ties to Hawai`i and friendship with the delegation, Faleomavaega was always invited to speak at the annual King Kamehameha Lei Draping Ceremony. The Senator also shared how, whenever Faleomavaega had the opportunity, he always reminded President Obama that Kahuku (Faleomavaega's alma mater) is better than Punahou (the President's alma mater). ``To my brother,'' Senator Hirono stated, ``Thank you for all the kokua. Kahuku High, here I come! Take care, aloha.'' In a surprise tribute to the Congressman, former Hawai`i Senator Daniel Akaka, whom Faleomavaega affectionately calls by his Hawaiian name, ``Kaniela'', also joined in on the reception from his home in Hawai`i via telephone. The pair, who for many years were the only Members of Congress with Polynesian ancestry and who were also founding members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, laughed about their imaginary ``Polynesian Caucus'' in which Senator Akaka was the chair and Faleomavaega was the secretary. Senator Akaka thanked his ``brother'' Faleomavaega and his wife, Hina, for their years of friendship to him and his wife ``Aunty Millie'' all the way back to when Faleomavaega was first elected.

    Congressman Charles Rangel of New York and Congresswoman Grace Napolitano of California shared their admiration for Faleomavaega's decades of service, noting how much personal dedication and family sacrifice is required to be a Member of Congress. Congressman Rangel stated, ``Eni, the Congress will miss you so much and I even more'' and added that when Congress loses one of its devoted servants, a family gains a husband, father, and grandfather. Congresswoman Napolitano said, ``Eni, my friend, I will miss your smiling face'' and shared how being so far from home in Washington, D.C. makes her miss her grandchildren, to which Faleomavaega replied, ``I don't even know how to be a grandpa!'' The Congressman's youngest daughter, Leonne, who was only two years old when Faleomavaega was first elected to Congress and who is now a wife and mother, smiled and gave her dad a big hug.

    Republican Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former chair of the House Foreign [[Page E48]] Affairs Committee, said ``I'm gonna miss you, amigo!'' as Faleomavaega introduced her to all the famous Samoans pictured in photos around his office. When they came to a picture of Faleomavaega with Dwayne ``The Rock'' Johnson, she asked, ``Do you really know Dwayne Johnson?'' Without skipping a beat, the Congressman replied, ``Of course I do. His mom is my cousin!'' Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida's 27th District including Miami, where Dwayne Johnson lives, said, ``Everyone is your cousin, Eni. And he's my constituent!'' When they came across Faleomavaega's centerpiece photo from the 1960s featuring him with Elvis in Hawai`i, the Congresswoman laughed, ``Elvis is Samoan too? You do know everybody Eni, even Elvis! I already like you. But now I like you even more.'' Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo of Guam brought her entire staff to bid farewell to Faleomavaega. ``Hafa Adai! To our friend Eni from the Guam office! I will always remember our many years together in Congress. You were a dear friend and you helped me along with advice during my early years! One memory I will take with me is our CODEL to American Samoa. What a fiesta that was!!! Love, Madeleine and from all your friends on Guam!'' Other Members, including Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP), Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), and former Congressman Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) also attended Faleomavaega's farewell reception.

    Several who attended wrote the following in Faleomavaega's guestbook.

    ``You are my buddy and you always will be!''--Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

    ``To a dear dear friend. You have made a giant difference in the lives of so many! Thank you, thank you so much, Sheila!''-- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

    ``I've really enjoyed serving with you. You've done a great job!''-- Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA).

    ``The mark of success is not measured in what you've accomplished but rather in the lives that you have touched. Eni you've touched so many lives in your years of service, you're the definition of success. Be well my friend.''--Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA).

    ``Hermano, you are the best. We will see you soon!''--Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX).

    Ambassadors and delegations from the Asia-Pacific region, including Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, also expressed their gratitude to Faleomavaega.

    From Myanmar: ``On behalf of the Myanmar Government, I wish to extend our sincere gratitude to you for your kind contribution toward promoting Myanmar-U.S. relations as well as for your country.'' From Pakistan: ``The Embassy of Pakistan deeply appreciates gracious support received by your office. Thank you.'' From Vietnam: ``Brother Eni, we love you so much. Thank God for helping us meet each other on the earth!'' Also from Vietnam: ``We'll keep you forever in our heart, millions of Vietnamese will do.'' Faleomavaega expressed his gratitude and appreciation to all who attended. ``I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to have worked with such distinguished leaders during my time in Washington, DC. The memories we built are priceless and I wish my friends and colleagues and the people of American Samoa continued success and happiness,'' Faleomavaega concluded.

    As you can see his years of service have had a tremendous impact on U.S. policy in American Samoa and on U.S. foreign policy across the globe. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

    ____________________

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