Samoan head of state tells students to navigate the future


His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi, Head of State of Samoa, spoke at the SWKT on Friday in a Kennedy Center sponsored lecture.

Addressing mostly international relations and political science majors, His Highness spoke in soft tones to a full auditorium and gave “food for thought,” which can be applied to students of all majors with leadership responsibilities.

“We need to celebrate the heroic and epic achievements of our own forebearers as a reference for our own development moving into the future,” he said, speaking of the importance of gaining a perspective of one’s own culture as a frame of reference for future accomplishments. “The feats of early Pacific navigation were imbued with a psychology of affinity and survival, where the ocean, its fauna and flora, the birds, stars, clouds, moon and so on, were believed sacred.”

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His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Head of State of Samoa, speaks Friday afternoon in the Spencer W. Kimball Tower.
His Highness said this psychology is essential for humans to interact properly with nature.

“The respect or ‘faaaloalo’ that must be shown by man to all things is a respect for the sacred essence, the sacred origins of their beginnings,” he said. “This is the cornerstone of Samoan relationships with the environment.”

Giving an example of the achievements of Samoa’s forebearers, he spoke of early Polynesian exploration.

“It took the peoples of Europe until 1336 to discover the Canary Islands, which was only a few hundred miles off the African coast,” he said, citing Samoan historian Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa. “By this time Pacific Islanders had found every inhabitable island [in the Pacific Ocean], most of which were comparatively small, and spread over waters that spanned more than one quarter of the globe.”

His Highness taught that the lessons learned from such achievements can be applied to modern politics.

“The challenges of navigating 21st century global politics are not that different to the challenges of navigating our oceans,” he said.

“In both cases we need a sturdy boat, an anchor, sailing skills and knowledge of the environment; we need to know when and where to anchor, when to set sail and when not to,” he said.

Students attending the speech found it insightful and motivational.

“Just knowing that he’s a head of state, the topics that he talked about are some of the more important topics in Samoa,” said Elliot Miller, an economics major from Tennessee who served a mission in Samoa. “There was an economics question asked [and] I was interested to hear how the large numbers of emigrants worried him, and I saw that as a problem in Samoa and I’d like to help.”

The speech was also readily applicable to students’ lives.

“It’s a great metaphor, and from an American western viewpoint we view a lot of other people as that they don’t know as much and so when we see that they surpassed us in ways way before we had, it’s a great metaphor for weak things becoming strong and maybe we don’t see things the way we always think we do,” Miller said.

His Highness spoke in conclusion about the importance of learning from other cultures and religions.

“The wisdom of our Samoan forebears had just as much truth and relevance to our lives today as the wisdom of Christianity,” he said, citing Monsignor Ioane Vito. “And, just as our modern knowledges can learn from our traditional knowledges, so too he believed can our religious knowledges learn from each other.”

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