“American Flag Image”
HONOLULU, HI: Each third Friday in August is a state and county holiday in Hawaii, marking admission to the union. But for the past half dozen years, there have been no official celebrations noting Hawaii’s entrance as a full partner with all the rights of a state of the United States.
Why no observance?
Hawaii became the 50th State of the United States on Aug. 21, 1959, after a long and passionate battle stretching from the 1930s and since 1947 when a Statehood Commission was established.
The residents of the Territory of Hawaii struggled to convince the United States Congress that citizens of Hawaii were “worthy” enough to be part of the U.S.
For decades there had been strong Congressional opposition to statehood in Hawaii-and Alaska. Distance, geography, race, ethnicity, politics and in
the case of Hawaii, “loyalty” to the United States were all issues. (Loyalty because of Pearl Harbor and the fear of Japanese intervention, and several
Congressional hearings uncovering communist infiltration of labor unions and membership within Hawaii).
Residents of Hawaii anticipated becoming the 49th U.S. state after World War II. But statehood didn’t come then and it didn’t come easily. A
Constitutional Convention in 1950 drafted Hawaii’s basic legal document
which closely matched the U.S. Constitution. It too waited.
Political horse-trading added value to all the business names, commemorative coins and materials declaring Hawaii the “49th.” In the end,
a deal was struck to bring Alaska and Hawaii into the Union together, with Alaska getting the nod first in1958.
There was also some opposition at home to statehood. Among some Native Hawaiians and also business interests. But a vote to affirm
statehood was passed with more than 94% of Hawaii residents enthusiastically approving.
On March 12, 1959, at about 10:04 am (Hawaii Standard Time), the U.S. House of Representatives voted 323 to 89 in favor of granting statehood to Hawaii. The previous day the Senate passed an identical bill, 76 to 15. Months later, on August 21, President Dwight David Eisenhower made it official by signing the proclamation welcoming Hawaii as the 50th state.
Statehood celebrations were unprecedented in Hawai’i. There was happiness, relief and pride everywhere. Nearly every church bell rang.
Almost every ship in Honolulu Harbor blew her whistle. Fireworks and bonfires were ablaze. Bands played in Waikiki, shops closed, and teenagers
jitterbugged and waved banners outside Iolani Palace. Hula in the streets was prominent.
During the next several decades, Hawaii experienced tremendous economic growth. Statehood and political stability were recognized as primary factors for that growth.
But there were also growing pains and internal issues. By the 1990s, political protests were more common and frequent and an increase in anti-American sentiment, stoked by Vietnam, was accelerated by a rising, more militant, activist community and university.
Major Native Hawaiian protests emerged, centered around the 100th anniversary of the annexation of Hawaii (1893) by the United States, in 1993, and the initial advocacy of the divisive Akaka Bill in 1999.
Parallel to this, was a marked loss of fervor for celebration of American holidays in Hawaii, including the Admission Day state holiday, which then became Statehood Day.
Finally, the holiday was not observed at all.
The last “major” observance of this holiday took place in Candlestick Park, San Francisco, with Democrat Governor Benjamin Cayetano and area Hawaii residents and visitors. The Governor explained that the celebration in Hawaii had become too controversial, and that it might now be perceived as culturally insensitive by Native Hawaiian leaders.
When Republican Gov. Linda Lingle was elected in 2002-the first Republican elected in Hawaii in 40 years — it was assumed Hawaii would make a return to American values while honoring Native Hawaiian rights as well.
Despite federal and state monies set aside for celebration of Statehood, meaningful celebrations have not taken place.
Some political leaders assume that Native Hawaiians would be upset with a public reminder of American Statehood. Their support of the recently defeated Akaka Bill stiffened resolve not to support Statehood Day.
While the upset with the event may be true of certain activist political leaders, the support of
statehood among all sectors of the State of Hawaii, including Native Hawaiians, still remains high.
During the 2006 Legislative Session, I introduced a Resolution to eliminate Statehood Day as a paid government holiday since the government doesn’t want to recognize it. The Resolution never got a public hearing.
Now the organization I head, Small Business Hawaii, plans to take the lead and sponsor a public celebration of the 47th year of statehood in Hawaii for those who want to recognize and celebrate the day.
The government has remained silent but I believe it is appropriate for private citizens to lead the event which I hope will invigorate the day and holiday.
It is not a political statement but one of historical reality that used to be fun.
The public is invited to the brief celebration, Friday, Aug. 18, from 10 to 11 a.m., in front of historic Iolani Palace.
The event is being planned as a joyful recognition of being part of America, and our American troops will be recognized and honored.
Entertainers are welcome. The public is encouraged to wear red, white and blue, bring an American Flag, bring family and friends, and enjoy the benefits of freedom.
”’For more details, contact Small Business Hawaii at 808-396-1724; or reach Sam Slom at (808) 349-5438 or by email at”’ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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