POSTED: Sunday, August 16, 2009
No state fought harder than Hawaii to become a full-fledged member of the United States, and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin beat the drum for the movement from the beginning. Within five years of annexation, the Territorial Legislature passed a statehood resolution. The first bill seeking Hawaii statehood was introduced in Congress by Territorial Delegate Prince Kuhio in 1919.
But Hawaii was too far away, too small and too—let's say—brown to be considered. The Star-Bulletin kept up the pressure. During the next 40 years, numerous bills were presented. All faltered.
Even though Hawaii had been the only American territory in a combat zone during World War II, and despite the undeniable sacrifice and bravery of Hawaii's Japanese-American soldiers, the "Big Five" corporations that ruled the islands opposed statehood.
The political stars aligned for Hawaii in 1959. Star-Bulletin publisher and Territorial Delegate- to-Congress Betty Farrington prepared the world's first 49-star American flag, just in case, but Congress gave the nod to Alaska first.
The U.S. Senate approved the bill on March 11; the House on March 12. On Aug. 21 President Eisenhower signed the proclamation welcoming Hawaii as the 50th state. The last star was added to the U.S. flag. Farrington made sure she was photographed sewing it on herself for the Star-Bulletin.
The long, hard-fought road to statehood was at an end. Or was it? Today, most of those who call Hawaii home would answer yes. But some in Hawaii still struggle to resolve feelings of loss—of a Hawaiian kingdom, of land, of cultural identity.
Fifty years after the celebratory parades and the joyous ringing of church bells are a fading memory, some of Hawaii's indigenous people haven't realized benefits of the "American dream."
There have been enormous changes to Hawaii in the last half-century, in the sweep of her skyline, in the hearts of her citizens. We've gone from crown lands to ceded lands, from Big Five to "big box," from country living to caffe mocha.
Where are we going? No one knows. At this point, it helps to look back. In the following pages, Hawaii's citizens—the equal of any in the nation—meditate on what it means to be Hawaii in America.
Mary Poole, Section Editor
Michael Rovner, Michelle Ramos, Betty Shimabukuro, Page Designers
Cynthia Oi, Ben Wood, Copy Editors • Seth Markow, Supervising Copy Editor
Dennis Francis, Publisher • Frank Bridgewater, Editor