Remarks to Kuleana Academy

Aloha, good morning and welcome to the Kuleana Academy.

This is a tremendous time to seek public service. A time of transition with immense social problems, incredible technological change and environmental catastrophe. We’re at a rare moment of flux and change, an opening where small actions can have big and lasting impact.

We need to remember our long history. We have entered into this history at different points but nonetheless this land is encoded with thousands of years of footsteps, of effort and activity, of love and abundance and development.

When we seek public office, we’re entering into that long history, in which a different, and I think clearer sense of leadership prevails. If the land and people are healthy and prosperous, than their leader is good and pono. A leader stands in front of his or her people in battle. And a bad leader can be removed by force.

It is tempting in our electron-frazzled, hyper stimulated world to forget these simple, and clear precepts. If you’re going to pick up that Kuleana, remember that it is indeed heavy. The needs of the people and our land is the most weighty thing, and the most important.

We need to remember too that we’re part of a broader movement, which should be strengthened and solidified. The revolutionaries in Cuba used to speak about building up a social movement such that the activist and guerilla can move like a fish in water. We need each district on our islands to feel like that. The metaphor that i prefer is the nae, the fiber netting of a chiefs cape. The feathers are beautiful but is the netting — the organized social base of the movement that extends deep into the valleys of each island — that will be the source of our strength.

Finally, I want us to remember our many successes. There were plans in the 60s and 70s to encircle this island with an iron lei of hotels and resorts. Our grassroots movement was able to stop much of these developments, and in places like Waiahole and Waikane, when the plantation laborers and the young UH ethnic studies kids got together with the taro farmers, they found support from the Governor and sympathetic legislators. When done right, a strong social base can encourage and grow which courageous political leaders to do the right thing.