Jodie Chiemi Ching
Former Gov. George Ariyoshi was inducted into the Hawai‘i State Aloha Order of Merit –– one of the state’s highest honors –– on April 29, in the Senate chambers of the State Capitol.
In a press release from the Office of the Governor, it states, “The Aloha Order of Merit was established in 1993 by the Hawai‘i State Legislature to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves nationally and/or internationally in their field, who have contributed to the attainment of statehood, devoted themselves to the betterment of the state, and provided extraordinary service to the state.”
The ceremony commenced with an oli by Jacob Aki and welcoming remarks from First Hawaiian Bank CEO Robert Harrison. Entertainer Marlene Sai sang the national anthem and “Hawai‘i Pono‘ï.”
‘Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro said Ariyoshi taught him the importance of community service and doing good without expecting praise. Shimabukuro performed a musical dedication to Ariyoshi with his signature ‘ukulele arrangement, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” composed by the rock band Queen. He said he chose this song because, like the band’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, Ariyoshi did things “his own way.”
Former Gov. John D. Waihe‘e III said Ariyoshi was the first governor to talk about sustainability and that his leadership extended outside the state of Hawai‘i. As a result, former President Bill Clinton appointed Ariyoshi to join his advisory council in trade negotiations, improving relationships between the U.S. and Japan and other countries.
“Ariyoshi was [state of] Hawai‘i’s third governor and the country’s first governor of Japanese ancestry. He began his political career serving in the House of Representatives and, the Senate before becoming lieutenant governor under Gov. John A. Burns from 1970 until 1973. Ariyoshi was appointed as acting governor in 1973 when Burns became ill. He was elected governor in 1974 and served three terms, until 1986.
The son of Japanese immigrants, Gov. Ariyoshi graduated from McKinley High School in 1944 before he was drafted during World War II. He served with the Military Intelligence Service, and later continued his education at the University of Hawai‘i, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, where he earned his law degree in 1952.
In his speech, Ariyoshi said that Gov. Burns asked him, “What kind of prejudice did you encounter growing up? What about now practicing law?”
“A lot,” said Ariyoshi. It was at that moment he decided to run for office.
“When we consider the vision, integrity, character and honor it took to help lift our state to accomplish so much in such a short time, no one deserves more credit than Gov. George Ariyoshi. The [Hawai‘i state] Senate is proud to join in honoring one of our own, who has left such an indelible impression on our home,” said Senate President Ronald Kouchi.
The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka was the first recipient of the Aloha Order of Merit in 2013. Gov. Ariyoshi is the second recipient.