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Hawaii’s diversity applauded at statehood celebration


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POSTED: Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle called Hawaii's unique racial and cultural diversity one of its most resonant contributions to the world during a celebration yesterday of the signing of the Hawaii Admission Act, which paved the way for statehood 50 years ago.

;[Preview]  Mixed Feelings On Hawaii Statehood Anniversary
 

50 years ago President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill allowing Hawaii to become a state, some celebrated while some protested.

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Lingle addressed a special joint legislative session and an overflow crowd at the state Capitol House Chamber as part of a yearlong commemoration by the Hawaii 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission. Honorees included a virtual parade of who's who in Hawaii, many of them recognized as the “;50 Voices of Statehood,”; a video anthology created by the commission.

President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Admission Act on March 18, 1959, paving the way for Hawaii residents to vote overwhelmingly in favor of the bill June 27. Eisenhower officially proclaimed Hawaii the 50th state on Aug. 21.

A group of 30 protesters held its own press conference nearby prior to the Capitol event but did not disrupt the ceremony. The Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance, a coalition of 10 groups organized by Lynette Cruz, opposed the “;fraudulence of the history being celebrated at the capitol,”; a release said.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and House Speaker Calvin Say joined the governor in applauding Hawaii for being, in Lingle's words, “;a place like no other, with a people like no other.”;

“;Hawaii was and is in many ways a simple place with complex issues, and in many ways is defined by our contradictions,”; Lingle said. “;We are isolated geographically, yet we serve as a vital bridge between the mainland United States and Asia-Pacific region. ... We are the most diverse state in the Union, yet a place where racial and ethnic lines are often blurred or deemed irrelevant ...

“;Our differences are our strength and they create the vibrant tapestry of our culture,”; providing “;a model of tolerance ahead of its time,”; she said.

Hawaii has also provided “;a model of community”; in being able to pull together to meet challenges. Perhaps facing the biggest obstacle since 1959 in the economic crisis today, the entire community will need the same determination and hard work to achieve stability, Lingle added.

Cassidy Apo, 11, of Mid-Pacific Institute thought the ceremony “;pretty cool.”; One of the few youngsters to attend the event, she was spending the day with her dad, City Councilman Todd Apo, who represents West Oahu and the Leeward Coast.

Cassidy Apo said she wants to be a social studies teacher one day and, after listening to the speeches, found it “;amazing”; that so much was accomplished in 50 years.

She said, “;Our best feature is our culture. Hawaii is really unique and we can do a lot to help the nation ... (President Barack) Obama knows Hawaii's problems and can help make it better. He can use the experience he had living in different places to make the nation a better place.”;

Also in attendance were members of the state's first legislature, and living former governors and first ladies.