A Samoa woman as the next U.S. President? Nothing is impossible.

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 13 January 2019, 12:00AM

Tulsi Gabbard is a name to remember. She has dominated news around the globe for the past few years, and has become especially prominent in the past few days. 

Having announced her intention to run for the President of the United States of America, she will continue to dominate the news for months and years to come. It will be both positive and negative.

It is expected of course. It is not every day that someone wakes up and decides to run for what is arguably the most powerful political office in the world. Which is precisely what Gabbard has done.

Her decision therefore is not just significant, it means her name will go down in the history books as someone who challenged the establishment and dared to give it a go. Despite the advances in the United States democratic system, a woman has yet to become President. It makes Gabbard’s announcement all the more important.

In Samoa today, of course we are excited. How can we not be? 

Gabbard’s connections to Samoa, and the fact that she was born Leloaloa, American Samoa, before she moved to Hawaii, makes the announcement even more significant on these shores. It’s a massive achievement already.

Now who would’ve thought in their wildest dream that one day a Samoan – let alone a woman – would dare to run for the U.S. Presidency?

Interestingly enough, prior to Gabbard’s announcement, all eyes were on Seiuli Dwayne Johnson as perhaps the first Samoan to vie for the role. There had been a lot of reports and talks encouraging Seiuli to take the plunge.

Alas, Gabbard has stolen the limelight and she will now be remembered in history as the first Samoan to have challenged for the White House role. 

“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” Gabbard told CNN.

“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve.” 

Already, she has indicated that she will campaign on health care access, criminal justice reforms, climate change and much more. As a war veteran the issue of war and peace will be top of her agenda.

“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard said. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”

Ironically, this might be the issue that will divide and change the view of many Americans about her and her ambitions. All you have to do is read the piece titled “Can Tulsi Gabbard shake her ties to dictators and nationalists?” from Mother Jones published below to get an idea of where the critics will target her.

But such is life. You cannot win everything, let alone please everyone. Now just because Gabbard has announced her candidacy doesn’t mean she will automatically gain the seat. Far from it. If we are realistic enough, we can honestly say her candidacy is a very, very long shot. The first hurdle will be to overcome the Democrats Presidential nomination process which will not be a walk in the park. 

And if she survives, then the real work begins. 

Still, in Samoa today and for Samoans all over the world, this is a moment to savour. Here we have a woman with very real connections to Samoa who has dared to dream and do the impossible. If that doesn’t inspire us, I don’t know what will. 

Which brings us closer to home.

In a couple of years time, this country will be returning to the polls to choose their political leaders. Last week, a woman Member of Parliament, Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tuuau, revealed her mission about getting more women in Parliament.

Having achieved her dream of becoming a Member of Parliament for her constituency, she told this newspaper that her goal is to inspire and encourage more women to take the journey with her.

 “There is so much strength and experience in our women,” she said, adding that many of them have the potential to make real meaningful changes in their communities.

But she said the transformational change must begin with women, themselves. Speaking about her experience, Ali’imalemanu said her transformation to believing herself and her abilities to be the difference was “liberating and moving.” 

“In moving forward to women leadership, I had my own fears,” she said.

These included fear of failing, fear of being criticised, laughed at and many others.

But during her time in Parliament, she has learnt to overcome those fears. Now she is determined as ever to encourage other women to overcome their fears and give Parliament a try.

“I wanted to make a difference. If we really want to make a difference in settling issues like ending violence against women and gender based equality, then women should take ownership of becoming those courageous leaders, that will initiate the movement,” she said, adding that to make a change, the change must begin with you. 

We couldn’t agree more with Ali’imalemanu. If Ali’imalemanu had overcome her fears, and another Samoan woman in Gabbard has dared to aim to topple the all-powerful Donald Trump to become the next President of the United States of America, what are our other Samoan women waiting for? This is your moment, your time to shine.

Have a wonderful week Samoa, God bless! 

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 13 January 2019, 12:00AM

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