American Samoa participant Crystal Simanu represented the 2019 class of the Graduate School USA’s Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP). Twenty-four participants from throughout the U.S. affiliated insular areas represented the 2019 graduating class of the Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP). ELDP graduation ceremonies were held on June 14, 2019 at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The ELDP is funded by the U. S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs and administered by the Graduate School USA’s Pacific Islands Training Initiative.

Ms. Simanu’s full remarks follow below:

Aloha everyone.

I would like to first and foremost acknowledge the presence of Her Excellency President Hilda C. Heine, Honorable Foreign Minister John Silk, Honorable Nikolao Pula, and all of the distinguished guests present here today. Thank you for joining us today.

To our families and friends, welcome. To the ELDP faculty and staff, welcome. And to my fellow cohort members: Yokalofadai!

I would like for everyone to take a moment to think about transformations. Are you picturing a great change? Or a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly? As a Math teacher, I have to say that I probably have a different understanding of transformations than you all. In Geometry, transformation refers to the movement of objects in the coordinate plane. There are four different types of transformations- reflection, dilation, rotation, and translation. Before I go any further, I would like to assure you all that, yes- Math class is now in session. No, this is just my understanding of our ELDP journey, as my cohort and I have undergone all of these different types of transformation together.

The first type of transformation is reflection, which is a flip over a line. If done correctly, this flip ensures that one side of the figure is facing itself on the opposite side of the line. In a literal sense, our first meeting in Guam was one of reflection. We were all subjected to two different surveys in which superiors, coworkers, and subordinates gave their honest opinion about us under the guise of anonymity. Let me tell you- there was some definite reflecting going on in that meeting. All of which was by design as the first step of the ELDP is leading self. Our eyes were opened as we saw, for the first time, how we occur to others. By seeing this we were able to identify what specifically we needed to work on in order to better ourselves for our respective positions and lines of work. Without reflection, we could not begin to make these changes.

The second type of transformation is dilation, which is the enlargement or reduction of a figure on the coordinate plane. During the second meeting in Palau, our own bad habits and approaches to leadership were enlarged and we were all directed in numerous ways to address just about any situation and reduce those bad habits. The seeds of leadership were planted within every one of us in the hope that we would approach and lead others differently (again by design as this is the second step of ELDP- leading others). While it is up to us whether or not we utilize these seeds and practices, they have been planted. If left to grow, they will ensure we make exceptional leaders.  

The third type of transformation is rotation, which is a turn around a point. The third time we all met in Yap was a definite turning point for us. We were welcomed with open arms into Micro-Poly and tasked with the impossible. However, we were able to pull through and turn Micro-Poly right around. This simulation was the third step of ELDP- leading institutions. By working effectively in teams, we were able to bring positive change to Micro-Poly and all of its ahem citizens.

The fourth type of transformation is translation, which is sliding a figure in any given direction. The ELDP has effectively equipped us to handle any and every thing that comes our way. With this last week of training complete, we have reached the capstone of ELDP. It is now sliding us out into the real world, back to our respective home islands, to make a change for the better. How can we not with the experiences we have had? Who better to lead our Pacific peoples in the right direction? The Office of Insular Affairs and the fine people at ELDP have given us the tools to be great leaders who can accomplish great things, we just have to find the vision within ourselves to do them. 

The resources needed to draw out each and every type of transformation are vital to drawing them out successfully. On behalf of the ELDP Class of 2019, I would like to recognize and give thanks to those who provided us the resources we needed to undergo these transformations.

Thank you to the Director of the Office of Insular Affairs: Nikolao Pula. Without your support, we all would not be here today. For that, and for all of the work you do for the insular areas, we are grateful, thank you. We hope you continue to invest in the region’s most important resource- people like us who are ready and willing to make a change.   

Thank you to the Graduate School USA Team: Jason Aubuchon, Rebeka Rainwater, and Judith Perry. We acknowledge how hard you all have worked for us and we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to you.

Thank you to the ELDP Team: Pete Coursey, Patricia Keehley, Mary Okada, Glenn Furuya, Debbie Furuya, Kevin O’Keefe, and Father Hezel. You all have been with us since the beginning and guided us throughout our journey, and so we would like to say thank you.

And as Her Exellency gently reminded us, we would not be here without our support systems. So, a very special thank you to all of our guests here today- we would not be here without you or your support.

Lastly, but definitely not least, I would like to say thank you to my ELDP cohort family. You all have been an inspiration to me and I know you will go out into the world to make a difference for the better. And so, I leave you with this:

 Is this really the end? Or is this the beginning of your new journey? Yes, our time as participants in ELDP has come to an end, but that only means that our transformations are complete! What truly matters is what you plan to do with everything you have learned. So, what now? How will you use all that we have learned?

May all of you continue to stay blessed, work hard, strive for the best, and appreciate those big rocks! Fa’afetai tele lava.  

Additional information on the Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP) can be found online at