The Hawaiian Ivy League

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who has been keeping an eye on a number of state and city elections lately. He relayed to me a very interesting point that I think many voters in Hawai‘i need to take into account when choosing their next leaders.

He pointed out a couple of races, but mentioned one in particular to exemplify his observation.  The Hawai‘i House District 20, is currently an open seat, with former House member Calvin Say leaving the Legislature to take a seat in the Honolulu City Council.  The seat is being contested in the general between a 23-year old recent college graduate – Jackson Sayama, versus perennial Republican candidate Julia Allen, who has always run for that seat and never won.

The Punahou School
Will having this ring on be the key to entering into the political realm in Hawaii?
“The Punahou School” by photobunny is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

My friend’s observation from this race and other races was as follows: “In short, here’s what it’s looking like: Punahou running Hawaii in 20 years. or better yet, Hawaii’s ivy league of Punahou/Iolani/Kamehameha’ running Hawai‘i.”

[Punahou is the premier high school of the state, of which political luminaries as President Barak Obama and tech titan Steve Case graduated. ‘Iolani is the other “Hawai‘i Ivy League” high school that has its group of community leaders, including Mufi Hannemann, former Mayor of Honolulu and Stanley Chang, current State Senator.]

Along with Keith Amemiya, who is also a Punahou grad and is running for O‘ahu islandwide office as Mayor, the question that I have for any of these “pedigreed” candidates is “can you relate to the rest of us?”

Here is what I am getting at, and I will use me as an example. I didn’t graduate from a pedigree school in Hawai‘i. I graduated from a school overseas. Born and raised here, I came back after graduation and got both my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from the University of Hawai‘i. I have worked in journalism, government and currently am a grant manager overseeing 7-figure grants awarded to a college.

I am also one that sets up tents at the beach and has pot lucks with friends. Has a taste of pork and peas, along with malasadas and Spam musubi, and will miss ordering a Green River drink at Like Like Drive-In (although we can get Orange Bang at Zippy’s, I digress). I look at a person’s strength of character and the ability for them to walk the walk, along with talk the talk, and take people at face value until I see otherwise.

orange bang! @jack's classic
Will the a candidate of the Hawaiian Ivy League pedigree be able to relate to the rest of us at this level?
“orange bang! @jack’s classic” by candice tobin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

So, returning to the question, can these new pedigreed candidates relate to the people that they will represent in their offices like the one I described? I know that we scoff at the “super-local” guy who comes across as a surfer dude or just a regular joe. But I am not sure if having impeccable speech and the eagerness of youth wins the day when relaying an idea.

And that, being relatable to the people, is probably going to be even more important as we exit the current pandemic saga and start to return to normal life. We have already seen what happens when you have officeholders speaking over everyone’s head and dictating terms and conditions that are debatable as to effectiveness.

So maybe the pedigree of a “Hawai‘i Ivy League” education should not be the only thing voters look at, especially for those who are also looking for someone to trust. Maybe we should look inside ourselves and see what type of person we would like to deal with, in making a choice.