Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Give American Samoa Its Commemorative Postage Stamp

Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Del. Eni F. H. Faleomavaega

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I rise today and I will continue to do so in the coming weeks to express my utter dismay and disappointment with the United States Postal Service.

On April 17, 1900, the traditional chiefs of the South Pacific Islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u agreed to become a part of the United States and the United States flag was raised on what is now known as the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. Since that time, the residents of American Samoa have been proud of their affiliation with this great Nation and have demonstrated their loyalty and patriotism in countless way.

Mr. Speaker, April 17 is known as Flag Day in American Samoa and it is the biggest holiday in the territory. Flag Day celebrations are not limited to American Samoa. Flag Day is celebrated throughout the United States wherever there is a sizeable Samoan community. American Samoans in Hawaii, California, Nevada, Utah, Alaska, Washington, and other parts of the United States pause each year on this important date to celebrate this monumental occasion in its history.

Unbeknownst to many Americans, Mr. Speaker, April 17 of next year will mark the 100th year in which this South Pacific territory, U.S. territory, has had a political relationship with the United States. And the local government leaders have been preparing for this centennial celebration for the last 3 years.

Three years ago, American Samoa's governor and myself began the process of requesting that a U.S. postage stamp be issued to commemorate the centennial of American Samoa joining the part of the American political family. The Postal Service responded to our 1996 request for a stamp by saying we were too early to apply for consideration. We again asked last year, and we were told we applied too late. We have also been told that the Postal Service just does not recognize territorial events.

Having researched the issue, which expected America Samoa to be treated like any other American jurisdiction in this regard. States which have had centennials of their statehood commemorated recently on postage stamps include the States of Wisconsin, Tennessee, Iowa, Utah, Florida, and Texas.

The Postal Service also issues stamps to commemorate such territorial acquisitions as the Louisiana Purchase, and the acquisitions of the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

America Samoa, Mr. Speaker, is the only U.S. territory left which voluntarily joined the United States. We have waited 100 years for a commemorative stamp, and the Postal Service is still making excuses. Mr. Speaker, how much longer do we have to wait?

Mr. Speaker, this is absurd. I ask my fellow Americans to write and to e-mail the U.S. Postal Service to give American Samoa its centennial postage stamp.

Mr. Speaker, the Postal Service's conduct in handling this matter is clearly inconsistent with past Postal Service practices. The Postal Service has issued commemorative stamps for flowers like roses, comic strips, horses, and even a foreign country like Australia. Yet here, when the request is one for recognition of a celebration of a political union with the United States territory, the first of such stamp for an American territory, the Postal Service saw fit to reject the request on grounds that it would not add to its so-called balanced stamp program.

Many Americans do not realize this, Mr. Speaker, but American Samoa was a major staging area for some 40,000 soldiers and Marines in World War II. Thousands of Samoa's sons and daughters served proudly in the military service.

Mr. Speaker, this is absolutely ridiculous, and I appeal to my fellow Americans to write to the Postal Service, tell them why we should have a postage stamp. We need a postage stamp, and I think we could ask for no less.

The per capita rate of enlistment in the U.S. military services is as high as any state or territory; for decades American Samoa served as a Naval coaling station for our ships in the Pacific; during World War II, American Samoa was the staging point for 30,000 U.S. marines involved in the Pacific theater; the territory was the first land some astronauts came to during the Apollo missions, including the now famous Apollo 13 mission; and American Samoa produces more NFL player per capita than any jurisdiction in the U.S. with approximately 15 Samoans currently playing professional ball.

In the 1990's, stamps were issued in recognition of the Federated States of Micronesia (1990), the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (1993), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (1990), and the Republic of Palau (1995), all of which were territories in recent memory.

Mr. Speaker, with this history of recognizing centennials of statehood, acquisitions of territories and other important events in the political history of every other territory, I ask the U.S. Postal Service why not American Samoa?

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to tell you that there is no balance. There is no logic. There is no equality in treatment. The Postal Service is acting in a manner that is totally inconsistent with its past practices and decisions. How else can you explain the inconsistent actions the Postal Service has taken regarding treatment of U.S. territories.

Perhaps American Samoa stands a better chance of convincing the Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp if it reframed the current request as one asking for a stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the special relationship between the Samoan Fruit Bat and the United States. The Postal Service has seen fit to issue stamps for a variety of issues and causes, including birds, and perhaps this change in approach will bolster our chances for success.

To achieve balance in representation, Mr. Speaker, is a very difficult task. Reasonable persons with reasonable expectations will disagree about what reasonably balanced means. However, this is not the situation here. The Postal Service is being totally unreasonable on these facts.

I understand that decisions about which stamp requests to approve and which stamp requests to reject are difficult decisions to make and that in the end there will always be a person or group who will not be happy with such decisions. I respect the fact that the postal service cannot please everyone. I have no qualms with these aspects of the stamp-approval process. I do, however, have serious concerns and reservations when decision-making processes yield results that do not logically follow based on established precedent.

Mr. Speaker, it is inequitable and unreasonable to deny American Samoa what the Postal Service has routinely granted other U.S. territories and states.

I will not stand by idly, Mr. Speaker, when my constituents, the people of American Samoa--people who are deeply patriotic and appreciative of the relationship American Samoa shares with our Republic--are unequitably treated by a semi-independent agency of our Federal Government. Neither will my colleagues in the House and Senate. Numerous Members of Congress have written to the Postal Service urging the Postal Service to treat American Samoa's request in the same manner it has treated similar requests by the other territories. Despite these efforts to persuade, using precedent and reason, the Postal Service to this day refuses to issue a commemorative stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the union between the U.S. and American Samoa.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to do what is right, what is just, what is fair, and what is reasonable on these facts. Nothing more. I ask that you join the people of American Samoa in urging the Postal Service to reconsider its position and to grant American Samoa's request for a postal stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of its political union with the United States.