Snapshots of Hawaii statehood


POSTED: Monday, August 17, 2009

'Aloha State' rooted in a sermon

On March 13, 1959, the Rev. Abraham Akaka delivered a sermon at Kawaiaha'o Church marking congressional approval of the Hawaii Admission Act. In his “;Statehood Sermon,”; Akaka beseeched the people of Hawaii to “;take courage to be what we truly are, to be the Aloha State.”; Hawaii has been known as “;the Aloha State”; ever since.

The term is seen in tourism brochures, on signs and, most familiarly, on our license plates. But Akaka did not use the term casually when he originated it 50 years ago. He acknowledged that statehood and the changes it might bring were concerns for many people.

In the poetic language that was his trademark, Akaka advised those listening to meet their fears with courage and faith in God. He said:

“;There is an old mele that reminds me of such fears as these, and of the way God leads us out of our fears. ... There is a fire underground, but the fire pit gives forth only smoke, smoke that bursts upward, touching the skies, and Hawaii is humbled beneath its darkness—it is night over Hawaii, night from the smoke of my land—but there is salvation for the people, for now the land is being lit by a great flame.

“;We need to see statehood as the lifting of the clouds of smoke, as an opportunity to affirm positively the basic Gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. We need to see that Hawaii has potential moral and spiritual contributions to make our nation and to our world. The fears Hawaii may have are to be met by men and women who are living witnesses of what we really are in Hawaii, of the spirit of aloha, men and women who can help unlock the doors to the future by the guidance and grace of God.

“;This kind of self-affirmation is the need of the hour. And we can affirm our being, as the Aloha State, by full participation in our nation and in our world. For any collective anxiety, the answer is collective courage. And the ground of that courage is God.”;

The full text of his sermon can be read at akakafoundation.org/sermons.html.




Vote greeted with solemnity

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, a territorial senator when Congress voted for statehood, said then Delegate-to-Congress John A. Burns reported the votes by telephone to state House Speaker Elmer Cravalho as they were cast, and the results were relayed to the state Senate at Iolani Palace, then serving as the capitol.

When a “;hard majority”; supported statehood, he said, “;There was no hoopla, yelling or screaming.”; The Senate president called the chaplain, who said a prayer, and members of both houses marched quietly to Kawaiaha'o Church to pray, he said.

“;It made me so proud that we conducted ourselves in that manner. It was a solemn occasion,”; Inouye told the Star-Bulletin. — Star-Bulletin staff




Thousands sign honor roll

One of the more memorable efforts to promote statehood came in February 1954 when a petition drive—the Statehood Honor Roll—gathered 120,000 signatures of Hawaii residents. A block-long portion of the petition was unrolled on Bishop Street in front of the Alexander Young Hotel. Thousands lined up to sign. The mammoth 250-pound petition, which was cut into hundreds of pieces for distribution around the island, was put back together in preparation for its delivery to Washington. At left, former Territorial Gov. Samuel Wilder King, left, and Delegate-to-Congress Joseph Rider Farrington meet the plane at Washington Airport. They are joined by publicist Buck Buchwach, right, who dreamed up the petition drive. Buchwach later became the longtime editor of the Honolulu Advertiser. The 1954 effort to achieve statehood failed, but the petition is preserved in the National Archives. —Star-Bulletin staff




Hokule'a gilded Hawaiian pride

Some events serve as counterpoints to Hawaii statehood.

The voyages of the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule'a are among them, crossing political boundaries, finding common ground among native peoples of the Pacific.

From a grass-roots movement to redefine Hawaiian history and restore native cultural pride arose the Hokule'a in the mid-1970s—now regarded by many islanders as an icon of the Hawaiian renaissance.

“;In a sense it was subversive to statehood,”; said Ben Finney, a founder. “;It's really about the indigenous people striking back.”;

Finney, an anthropologist, and others like architect Herb Kane and waterman Tommy Holmes, began with the idea that centuries ago Hawaiians were capable of making long-distance ocean voyages and navigating thousands of miles between Hawaii and Tahiti.

Ancient Hawaiian chants, describing such voyages before Europeans arrived in the Pacific, fell on deaf ears of Western historians, who claimed British Capt. James Cook discovered Hawaii in 1778.

But the idea of building Hokule'a resonated with some Hawaiians, including Maui artist LeVan Keola Sequeira, who donated and carved the koa mastheads.

In the absence of a Hawaiian native way-finder, the Hokule'a founders reached beyond Hawaii to find their master navigator in Micronesia—Mau Piailug of Satawal.

When the Hokule'a traveled beyond Hawaii on its historic voyage to Tahiti in 1976, crew members found thousands on the shore to greet them, reconnecting with the natives of French Polynesia.

The Hokule'a has since been used as a vessel to promote an appreciation for native seafaring traditions across the Pacific.

The Chamorros of Guam, the Taiwanese and the Maoris of New Zealand have been inspired enough by subsequent voyages of the Hokule'a across the Pacific to build their own vessels.

Piailug himself was the recipient of the sailing canoe Alingano Maisu in the voyage of the Hokule'a to Micronesia in 2007. —Gary Kubota