My Turn

By Dave Reardon

Saturday, August 23, 1997

Silent majority of Hawaiians
look for leadership

Debate over Bishop Estate
is welcomed by Hawaiians who also question
quality of trustees and their practices

Many Hawaiians are viewed as apathetic because we don't regularly immerse ourselves in Hawaiian issues.

Nothing could be less true. Nearly all Hawaiians are passionate about our heritage and we care deeply about our future as a people.

But because most of us don't constantly cry and moan in public about how our ancestors were wronged a century ago (or, until recently, anyway, about how many of our children continue to be wronged today) we are seen as uncaring.

We do care. But we live in the present with an eye toward the future -- a clear, practical eye.

I won't pretend to speak too much for others, because every Hawaiian perceives his or her heritage in a different way, but I know this is true: There is a silent majority of us who have been so disgusted and frustrated by the lack of good, solid leadership that we've almost totally divorced ourselves from any involvement in Hawaiian issues.

Sure, we'll debate sovereignty's pros and cons until the sun rises at family reunions. And for years we've been shaking our heads at the inequity of a system that pays trustees nearly a million dollars a year to make sure Hawaiian children get the best education possible -- which most -- if not all -- are not getting.

Many of us view the sovereignty issue as more a parlor game than a potential, realistic solution to anything. Would self-determination help most Hawaiians? Maybe 100 years ago, maybe 50 years ago. But not today, not tomorrow. What would we get? What would we be required to give up?

There are more practical ways to solve our problems and education is the best place to start. That's what Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop had in mind when she wrote her will. And I've got to believe she meant education for all Hawaiian children.

For years now the silent majority of Hawaiians has privately questioned the selection process of Bishop Estate trustees and the enormous amounts of money they receive for something they should do for love.

There have been blips of public grumbling and investigations, but never, until recently, something with true impact. We've been waiting for people with clout to step up and call them -- and the system -- to the carpet as the five authors of "Broken Trust" did two weeks ago in the Star-Bulletin.

This looks like the first step toward some real change, meaning a more equitable distribution of educational resources in the Hawaiian community.

Now is the time to look at the entire Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate educational system. Even my relatives who attended Kamehameha have often wondered why so much has gone to so few. There have been token programs for Hawaiians who don't attend Kamehameha, but that's what they have been -- token.

It blows my mind that no trustee (as politically akamai as they must be to gain appointment) has ever decided to become an instant hero by donating his or her compensation -- or just half of it -- to start a new program for Hawaiian kids. This would be a sign of sincerity, but I guess greed overrules at that level.

The trustees and their supporters speak of their disappointment that the authors of "Broken Trust" decided to take their accusations and grievances public -- that this is not the way things are done. As part of the silent majority of Hawaiians, I'm sickened by that attitude. Why shouldn't issues that affect us as a people be aired in an open forum? If the trustees have been treated unfairly, they will be vindicated.

It's the attitude of no outside scrutiny that helped create this situation, and ultimately, it's the public that suffers.

If children don't get the best education opportunities possible, it's a crime and we all pay the cost later. Hawaiians or not.

Dave Reardon is the associate editor of
HMSA's member magazine, Island Scene, and writes a weekly sports column
in the Star-Bulletin. My Turn is a periodic column
written by Star-Bulletin staff members.

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Community]
[Info] [Letter to Editor] [Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1997 Honolulu Star-Bulletin