On November 21, 2020, Adventist Church member Surangel Whipps Jr. won the presidential election in Palau, becoming the 10th president of the beautiful Pacific island nation.
Whipps was sworn in as president on January 21, 2021, during the inauguration ceremony at the Capitol of Palau.
The pillars of his church and family supported the president through the ceremony. His parents both delivered speeches, and with his wife, Valerie, and their three daughters standing at his side, Whipps placed his hand on a Bible held by the couple’s son and took the oath of office.
The inauguration program incorporated members of the local Seventh-day Adventist church and school. Chamberlain Kinsiano, associate pastor of the Koror Seventh-day Adventist Church, offered the invocational prayer for the ceremony. Later in closing, after the president’s inaugural address, the Koror Seventh-day Adventist Youth sang the song of hope, “Heal Our Land.”
Both of Whipps’s parents delivered speeches to introduce their son. Marilyn, his American mother, addressed the audience in English, followed by his Palauan father, Surangel Sr. speaking in Palauan. With warmth and humor, they described Whipps’s life and work leading up to public service.
His father noted what a blessing his wife had been, saying, “She is a teacher, and so I thought,I have to be married to a teacher so she can teach our children well.”
That intentional teaching took the form of weekly Sabbath School, church activities such as Pathfinders, and formative years attending an Adventist elementary school. After graduating from Andrews University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Whipps Jr. went on to become a two-term senator of the Palau National Congress and CEO and president of the Surangel and Sons Company.
His parents shared stories illustrating how their son exhibited determination, leadership, and integrity since childhood. The stories showed the strength of his family faith and how that faith was an influential factor in his journey to the presidency.
His mother described one incident when her son, as a young man, borrowed their boat to take some classmates on a picnic. “Since Surangel had always demonstrated responsible behavior, his dad trusted him to be careful on the outing,” she recalled. “Surangel Jr. noticed that some of the boys were bringing beer aboard the boat as they prepared for their departure. Along the way to the Rock Islands, Surangel reached into the cooler where the fellows had placed the beer and tossed it into the ocean. He insisted that beer was not something he wanted on his boat and would not allow it there.”
The biographical profile in the inauguration booklet emphasized Whipps’s foundational principles. It reads, “A Seventh-day Adventist, he maintains his father’s tenets for happiness — a God-centered home, always time for family, hard work ethic, and achieve highest education opportunity.”
Whipps continues to be an active member of the Koror Seventh-day Adventist church in Palau. His church leadership roles include church deacon, member of the Guam-Micronesia Mission Executive Committee, board member of the Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic, and chairman of the Palau Adventist School board.
“He is as an inspiring example of standing on values to inform one’s participation in social and political issues,” a communication by the Adventist Church in the region said. “The Guam-Micronesia Mission congratulates President Whipps, committing to pray for him and all the world’s leaders during this crucial time of history.”