Opening Day Remarks 2004 – House Minority Leader

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“Galen Fox Image”

”’We cannot permit the pressures of party responsibility to submerge on every issue the call of personal responsibility. For the party which, in its drive for unity, discipline and success, ever decides to exclude new ideas, independent conduct or insurgent members, is in danger.–John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage, (1955: Harper & Row, p.14)”’


Democracy means the people rule. Hawaii is at a turning point. Our people have displayed a generous tolerance for the failings of those who seem to be trying hard, and are good at heart. But as we gather here today to do the people’s business for the next sixty days, members of the House know the people are tired of old patterns that don’t work, and want us to try something new. They want us working together, and they want us doing the work of change. It takes courage to change, when the old system brought us to our current status. But change we must.

Hawaii is an isolated landmass far from the competitive pressures of large mainland and Asian cities. We are blessed with extraordinary natural resources, and exposing ever larger shares of our natural beauty to the outside world brought us two decades of rising prosperity, from statehood in 1959 to the inflation-induced recession of 1980. Then, except for four great years fueled by the Japan bubble in the late 1980’s (Hawaii Data Book 1995, p. 346), the following two decades produced stagnation and an inability to answer tourism’s lost growth. The government in charge failed to create jobs, failed to fix education, and allowed crime and “ice” to ravage the land. That government failed Hawaii. By failing, that government helped an extremely patient people finally to demand change.

We meet here today to answer the people’s demand for change. We live in the most beautiful place on earth. We have the world’s best climate. Most of all, by proving that people from Asia, America, and the Pacific can live and work together in harmony, we have prepared for extraordinary forward movement into the Asian-Pacific century. So we have the people. We have the resources. We have the future. What’s missing, so far, is leadership with the capacity for change. To be more specific, a legislature that draws our strength from protecting the status quo has yet to throw off our old, heavy armor, and embrace the new ways of the new century.

The new century is in the Age of Knowledge. Hawaii, isolated from population centers that are generating new ideas, must now thrive in the knowledge economy. We cannot afford poor public schools. We must have excellent public schools.

We already know excellent public schools are schools where principals and teachers who see their students daily are the ones who make the decisions and control the spending. So why settle for less? Put the money in the hands of principals who thrive if they succeed. Replace them if they don’t. Support principals with all the resources we can get them, and with local, elected school boards that are able to work closely with the 40 or less principals under their control. And if we don’t trust local school boards, at least let Hawaii’s people decide for themselves whether local boards best help local schools. Education can give us the future Hawaii needs for the knowledge age. But we also need jobs, and need them now. Government doesn’t create jobs; the private sector creates jobs. Government helps by getting out of the way of those who do create jobs. Under Gov. Lingle, we are off to a good start. Last year, in one year, Hawaii added as many jobs as the state had gained in the previous eleven years combined. It helps to have a governor who understands job creation. Now let’s help the governor’s team support more job creation by easing the taxes and regulations that harm small business.

The people want jobs and better schools. And the people want us to crush the terrible burden “ice” places on Hawaii’s families. To crush “ice,” we need not an “ounce” of prevention, we need tons. Sure, we have to help those already on “ice.” But it’s much better to help people stay away from “ice” in the first place. Let’s support education and after-school programs aimed at younger students. And let’s pass the laws that help the police keep “ice” from young, potential users. Most “ice” comes from the mainland. To stem the flow of “ice” into Hawaii, police need wiretap, “walk and talk,” and “knock and talk” laws the Feds already have. Let’s give the police the tools they need, so they no longer have to fight the war against “ice” with one hand tied behind their back.

To re-structure education, to create more jobs, to crush “ice,” and to do it all this year, we should act as if we indeed do live on a group of isolated islands, actually are dependent upon our own resources, and must work together as one family.

The challenge to leave behind our old ways to pursue a new future is the challenge to make change our passion. As American female racecar pioneer Denise McCluggage said, “Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin.” (June 1977: WomenSports magazine, p. 18). Let’s make change our constant.

”’House Minority Leader Galen Fox, R-Waikiki, can be reached at:”’