By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Former Gov. George Ariyoshi displays his book.

Ariyoshi writes book
on being Hawaii’s
chief executive

The first governor of
Japanese ancestry wrote it
for his grandson, 6

By Richard Borreca

It took the birth of his grandson, Sky, for former Gov. George Ariyoshi to realize he wanted to write a book.

After serving for 13 years as Hawaii's governor, the first in the nation of Japanese ancestry, Ariyoshi left office in 1986.

In his 208-page book, Ariyoshi, a quiet, reserved gentleman, not given to boasting, recalls working steadily through his last night in office.

"Everything I picked up seemed to have some special meaning or a little story," he wrote. "Suddenly I felt drained in a way that I never had felt in my life. I felt that everything had been sapped out of me. Deep inside, I felt I had given it everything I had."

To explain all that he had done and all he believed to his 6-year-old grandson, Ariyoshi wrote and eventually paid for the book: "With Obligation to All."

The book was produced with the help of Tom Coffman, author of "Catch a Wave," a case study of the 1970 Hawaii governor's race. It was that campaign that raised Ariyoshi from state senator to lieutenant governor and started him on his unprecedented three terms as governor.

Ariyoshi formed a private nonprofit foundation last year with the money left over from his campaign treasury. Although still active in politics as the state Democratic Party national committeeman, Ariyoshi is not interested in running for office again.

Coffman arranged for the University of Hawaii Press to print and distribute the book, a service that UH Press director William Hamilton said is offered to any nonprofit organization.

The book is available locally for $19.95. Hamilton said Ariyoshi is trying to get the book out to the widest possible audience, because books of this sort normally sell for $26 or $27.

Ariyoshi does hope to have the book translated into Japanese and to sell the book in Japan.

He said he thinks it might make money.

The profit would go to the foundation to enable young people in Hawaii to spend time in Asia learning the economy and business practices of the Far East.

The book is a combination memoir of Ariyoshi's time in politics, his Japanese upbringing and the values imparted to him and some recommendations for present public leaders.

He was known in office as a planner, a strict budgeter and a staunch Democrat.

In his book, Ariyoshi repeatedly returns to his theme of planning Hawaii's future today and making decisions that will last through the decades and not just for the next election.

That is why, he explains, his administration was so devoted to buying up large tracts of open space on Oahu's Windward side and North Shore.

He also preaches strict financial control, saying the only time you can really save money is when the treasury is fat.

Left unsaid is any mention of several controversies.

There is no reference to his longtime relationship with Larry Mehau, former member of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, Big Island rancher and private security executive, who was accused of having ties to the local underworld.

Mehau denied the charges.

Also not mentioned is any discussion of how the former governor and his wife were stopped by customs agents after returning from a foreign trip with undeclared jewelry.

Ariyoshi said the book was designed to explain how he had made difficult decisions on important events that had an effect on Hawaii, and he couldn't include all.

Ariyoshi's greatest praise is reserved for his political father and mentor, former Gov. John Burns.

"John Burns had vision. He had a passionate concern for correcting injustice," Ariyoshi wrote.

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