By Karleen C. Chinen
For several weeks before last month’s general election, I was receiving daily emails — make that several emails a day — from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Most of them emphasized the importance of keeping the U.S. Senate from turning Republican and asking me to donate money. A quote in one of those emails — from Robert Reich, who was President Bill Clinton’s labor secretary — caught my eye, and I saved it. In it, Reich, now a professor of public policy at UC-Berkeley, quoted from renowned anthropologist Dr. Margaret Mead, who said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Dr. Reich was thinking of Congress; I read that quote and immediately reflected on Hawai‘i’s general election just over a week away, for this had been the lesson from Hawai‘i primary election, which had catapulted state Sen. David Ige from “little known” candidate to the candidate of Hawai‘i’s Democratic Party. Candidate Ige’s campaign volunteers had proven that “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world . . .” They had devised their own recipe for winning the election, drawing on the wisdom of people like former Govs. George Ariyoshi and Ben Cayetano, their candidate’s life and legislative experiences, his character, the values with which he had grown up and his own political beliefs about government belonging to the people.
I was not able to attend the inauguration ceremonies due to my copy editing responsibilities for this issue. But I brought my laptop in from home and kept one eye on the live stream while I edited copy. I asked managing editor Gwen Battad Ishikawa to cover the proceedings at the State Capitol for both the Herald and the Hawaii Hochi.
I liked that the inauguration was held at the State Capitol, which truly is “the people’s home.” Every law enacted in that building should have the best interests of Hawai‘i’s people first and foremost in mind.
I was also happy to see the spotlight shared with Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and his family. His swearing-in two years ago as Hawai‘i’s lieutenant governor, succeeding Brian Schatz, whom then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie had appointed to replace U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye following his passing, had been hasty. It wasn’t the governor’s fault. There was no time or budget for anything more than a simple but distinguished swearing-in in his office.
This time, Lt. Gov. Tsutsui was elected to the position of second-in-command, and I’m glad that he and his wife Lyndelle and their family could enjoy the pomp-and-circumstance with the new governor and first lady, Dawn Amano-Ige, and the public they will serve.
If you read my commentaries in the Herald, you probably know by now that I am a huge fan of the TV series, “The West Wing.” The series ended many years ago, but I have all seven seasons of the series on DVD and watch the programs from time to time to help restore my faith in government (haha, only joking). The writing, in the early seasons especially, was outstanding. One of my favorite episodes was titled “Galileo.” President Bartlet is excited about doing a televised classroom with elementary students about a NASA space probe, named Galileo, which is headed for Mars. But the scientists lose Galileo’s signal. The episode closes with President Bartlet and press secretary C.J. Cregg stepping out onto the lanai of the Oval Office. The president is expressing his amazement with a concert he had reluctantly attended at the Kennedy Center that evening. C.J. returns to the subject of what to do about the televised classroom scheduled for the next day. President Bartlet tells her that he’s going to stay up a while longer, just in case there’s a new development. “It’s out there somewhere,” he says.
After a split-second pause, C.J. shares her thoughts with the president. “I think you should do the classroom, either way,” she says. “Yeah?” replies the president.
“We have at our disposal a captive audience of schoolchildren,” explains C.J. “Some of them don’t go to the blackboard or raise their hand because they think they’re going to be wrong. I think you should say to these kids, ‘You think you get it wrong sometimes? You should come down here and see how the big boys do it.’ I think you should tell them you haven’t given up hope and that it may turn up. But in the meantime, you want NASA to put its best people in the room and you want them to start building Galileo VI. Some of them will laugh and most of them won’t care, but for some, they might honestly see that it’s about going to the blackboard and raising your hand . . . and that’s the broader theme.”
“Awesome . . .” responds President Bartlet.
When I watch this episode of “The West Wing,” I think of Hawai‘i’s new governor. In July of last year, David Ige raised his hand. And because he did, in our governor’s own words, “We have an opportunity to make Hawai‘i a place we are proud to call home because it is OUR home.”