Education Is Key to Hawaiian Federal Recognition Bill Passage


April 2003 Ka Wai Ola Article

`Ano`ai Everyone…  In my last article, I wrote about our lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. for the Akaka Bill.  It is important to note that there are significant obstacles to overcome in order to successfully pass the recognition bill.  Not only must it make it through the Congress, it must also pass muster with President Bush and his administration.  This is why Governor Lingle’s time and effort spent in conveying the importance of the recognition bill to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, and presidential adviser Karl Rove were critical in laying the ground work for its passage.  In the Governor’s words, “I tried to lay the foundation.”  I believe that she has done that.

It has been my experience during my many trips to Washington D.C. that it is very important to educate everyone, including all of the U.S. Senators, Congressmen, and the president’s administration, about Hawaii’s unique history and its Native people.  It is even more critical to continue the education process and maintain our current presence.  Otherwise, it becomes a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”  The opening of the new OHA office in Washington D.C. will be critical in achieving this awareness.

It is very frustrating for me to hear people on the mainland commenting only on our weather and physical beauty.  This is about all that people outside the state know about Hawaii.  Would it not be refreshing to hear people say, “I hear Hawaii has the only royal palace in the country where a King and Queen once lived?”  Emphasizing Hawaii’s unique history could bring about a NEW way to market Hawaii, at a time when many states are competing fiercely for the same dwindling tourist dollars.  The U.S. economy is slowing almost to a halt, and with the delays from security checks and the current war, the competition is only going to get worse.

Since the days of the territorial government, officials have marketed Hawaii as a place to visit.  Never has Hawaii been marketed for its living and breathing Hawaiian culture and language.  By refocusing our marketing strategy to emphasize our Hawaiian people, we could educate the millions who visit our islands and, who in turn, would take this knowledge home and share it with their friends and family.

“Everyone can and must play a role in this education process.”

Education is needed on all fronts.  In our state legislature, in our schools, in our private clubs, in our businesses, and most certainly in our media.  Let us all work together, to tell the real story of our past, which is historically accurate, to everyone we know and to all of the organizations that we belong to, and to everyone who will listen.

Let us move along together, leaving blame behind for our plight, focusing not on political agendas or parties.  After all, Hawaiian Recognition is not a Democratic or Republican issue.  It is an issue of what is right.  Mālama pono!