The education you are graduating from today is only the foundation for your journey. You have to add to that foundation and build upon it.
For some of you, the building blocks that must be added to this foundation are more education.
For some of you, getting a job to help your family is next.
And for others, the United States military is your next challenge.
For many of you, it will be a combination of these actions that will help you reach your goals.
Regardless of which area you fit in, keep building.
What you offer the United States and the people of American Samoa is your already proven ability to overcome. But to overcome, you have to believe. To believe you have to see. To see you have to trust. And to trust, you have to expose yourself to challenges that grow you as an individual.
I am an example of someone who had high goals and didn’t take no for an answer. It has taken years for me to build on my foundation that started when I sat where you are now, at a college graduation. In order to earn money for college, my first job after high school was to trim pineapples at the Dole Cannery in Hawaii. I’ve worked different jobs, in different fields, to get me to where I am today.
Success doesn’t happen overnight and the path at times is not clear. I ran for public office 11 times over the course of 22 years before my time came. At times did I want to stop? Did people make fun of me, call me names and tell me to stop? Absolutely! But my desire and passion to serve and represent the great people of American Samoa overcame those feelings. I am very honored today that you believed in me and kept me trusting in myself.
I may not necessarily know what each of you wants to do with your life. But I do know that you have a drive to be successful like I did or you wouldn’t have committed to being here today.
Most importantly, always keep God at the forefront of whatever you do and let your faith in God lead you. Let your knowledge and life experiences help you become a contributing member of your community. As you move forward, it’s time to think about a commitment to service in your life. Not only to serve, but to lead.
Make good of your good intentions. There’s a lot to do. Get rid of the notion that dealing with big global problems is more noble than focusing on small ones. If you teach one child to read, you have changed the world. When you change a single person’s life, you’re changing the world, one heart at a time.
Freedom and opportunity can prosper when people take responsibility for their own actions and care for their neighbors as well. And as my parents always told me: Never forget who you are and where you came from. Always remember your home is American Samoa. What you have learned on these islands will carry you throughout life. So, as you venture forth, please do not forget to use your life to not only do well, but also to do good.
And remember: High goals times hard work equals high rewards.
Thank you and God bless. Soifua.
(Read about her Apia visit on the Samoa Observer at sobserver.ws/en/16_02_2016/local/2473/Congresswoman-in-Samoa.htm)