WASHINGTON, May 8 - Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne told leaders the of U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands that he would be visiting their island communities next month (June 2007) and looked forward to gaining a better understanding of their needs and a fuller discussion of their concerns. As keynote speaker and senior ranking official representing the U.S. Administration he made the announcement at Pacific Night 2007, which was held at the National Geographic Explorer's Museum in Washington.
He will be traveling to the U.S. island territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas, as well as to the Freely Associated States, which include the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
"I can't begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to visiting these places that are such an important part of the work of my Department," Kempthorne said yesterday in remarks at Pacific Island Night in the National Geographic Society's Explorer's Hall. "I look forward to visiting the schools, the health care clinics, the villages, the work places. I look forward of meeting as many people as possible, and getting as full an understanding as I can get of their lives, their concerns, their aspirations."
Kempthorne said he would be having one-on-one meetings with the leaders of the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands later this week here in Washington, D.C. and that he looked forward to renewing friendships and discussing important issues.
Kempthorne also announced that Interior's Office of Insular Affairs will host the fourth Conference on Business Opportunities in the Islands on Guam on Oct. 8 and 9, 2007.
The conferences provide an opportunity for U.S. businesspeople to meet with entrepreneurs and business owners and managers from the U.S.-affiliated islands and explore ways of working together that will strengthen the economies of the islands. To register for the Conference, please contact Angela Williams at (202) 208-3003 or register online at www.islandbusinessopportunies.com.
Last year's conference in Honolulu, Hawaii drew the presidents of three Pacific nations, the governors of the U.S. island territories, the governor of Hawaii, and top U.S. military officials as well as hundreds of businesspeople from construction companies, airlines, travel and tourism companies, environmental technology companies, communications technology companies, and many more.
As Secretary of the Interior, Kempthorne oversees federal policy in four U.S. territories, three of which are in the Pacific. His department also manages U.S. government assistance to three independent Pacific nations through the Compacts of Free Association. Interior's Office of Insular Affairs carries out these department responsibilities.
Most U.S. financial assistance to the Pacific Islands -- more than $300 million per year -- comes through the Department of the Interior in the form of grants for schools, hospitals, roads, power plants, environmental protection, law enforcement, financial management, immigration control, worker protection, refugee protection, economic analysis and other purposes.
Pacific Island Night, an annual event held this year in conjunction with the Pacific Island Council of Leaders (PICL), is hosted by the embassies of Pacific island nations and the congressional delegations of U.S. island territories in the Pacific. Here in Washington for the PICL meetings were Prime Ministers and senior officials from countries and regional organizations from the entire Pacific and not only from the U.S. affiliated Pacific island nations.
The Department of the Interior is hosting its own Island Festival on Thursday, May 10, to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and underscore Interior's special role in supporting island communities.
More information on Interior's Office of Insular Affairs is at http://www.doi.gov/oia or call (202) 208-6816.
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