The American Samoa Community College held its 68th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 18th, making the first-ever occasion for an ASCC graduation to take place in the new Multi-Purpose Center (MPC) Auditorium. 132 graduates received their degrees and certificates, along with an additional five ASCC alumni who were conferred with their advanced degrees from off-island universities. Distinguished guests included members of the Board of Higher Education, the government and the community, and Rev. Iasepi Ulu of the Fagatogo CCCAS was the presiding pastor for the ceremony,
The College has a tradition of distinguished guest speakers, and for this historical occasion High Chief and Acting Governor Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga gave the keynote speech for the first-ever graduation ceremony held in the MPC Auditorium. Currently serving a second term as Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa, Lemanu was elected twice on the same gubernatorial ticket with Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, first in November 2012 and again in November 2016. Prior to being elected Lieutenant Governor, Lemanu served as Senator for Sua County #2 in the American Samoa Legislature or Fono. He has held many other leadership positions in both the American Samoa Government and the United States Armed Forces.
Born as Peleti Mauga in the village of Nu’uuli, he later was bestowed the traditional High Chief title “Lemanu” by his family in Sa’ilele of Sua County, American Samoa. His parents are the late Sialega Palepoi Mauga of Nu’uuli, Pago Pago, and Sa’ilele, and Iva Pedro of Swains Island. He was married to the late Pohakalani Dawn Bailey, and they have three sons – Peleti Jr., Palepoi, and Punalehua. Lt. Governor Lemanu is also an ordained deacon with the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa (CCCAS) in the village of Sa’ilele. Lemanu holds a Master of Public Administration degree from San Diego State University, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Hawaii-Manoa and Associate of Arts from American Samoa Community College. He graduated from Waianae High School in Hawaii after attending Samoana High School, as well as Matafao Elementary School in Faga’alu.
A retired Officer of the U.S. Army (Major: O-4), Lemanu first joined the military in 1978 and served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Enlisted. He re-enlisted through the U.S. Army and served 17 more years in the U.S. Armed Services. During his 23 years of military service, he held many leadership positions and served his country in two separate wars – first the Persian Gulf War (Dessert Shield and Storm) as an Infantry Platoon Leader, and then in the War on Terror (Operation Iraqi Freedom) when he was recalled from retirement to Active Duty as an Operations Officer.
Upon retiring from the military, Lemanu served the American Samoa Government in a variety of leadership positions, including Director of Army Instructions (DAI) in the American Samoa Department of Education-JROTC Program; Chief of the Office of Property Management,; and Military Liaison for the Governor’s Office. In the Senate, Lemanu served as Chairman of the Committee on Budget & Appropriations; Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Immigration, and Legal Affairs; Senate representative to the Association of Pacific Islands Legislature (APIL); and Senate representative on the Board of Directors of the Development Bank of American Samoa, where he was elected Vice Chairman.
For his keynote speech, Lemanu asked the graduates to imagine their hard work towards success in education and the pursuit of their long-term goals as the paying of a figurative “aitalafu” or debt, one which cannot be repaid with money, but rather with service to their people, government, parents and community. Lemanu explained that education is the key to ensuring that the “aitalafu” will be paid, and he shared a quote by former South African president Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.”
“You are all aware of the current state of the world and our Territory,” Lemanu continued. “The truth is, it’s not easy. Not only are changes expensive but the cost of living is simultaneously rising, creating many challenges to our economy.” He noted how one of the pathways utilized by countries all over the world to address economic and other challenges is education. “Education is the only weapon that can change the future,” Lemanu told the grads. “Remember, if you want to change the future, you must be at your very best even in the darkest of moments. Life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risk, step up when times are toughest, lift up our prayers and never ever give up, you will be prepared to pay your aitalafu.” Lemanu shared his belief that education will provide this generation and those still to come with the knowledge and skills to lead the Territory through future challenges. “What starts here will indeed change American Samoa for the better,” he said.
“With his long record of service to both the people of American Samoa as well as the United States of America, we at ASCC are honored that Lt. Gov. Lemanu shared his experience and vision with our class of spring 2018,” said ASCC Dean of Student Services Dr. Emilia Le’i. “Lemanu himself is also a graduate of ASCC, and therefore a shining example to our students of what they can achieve through their determination and efforts.”