This new year brings with it a particularly ominous transition, with the exit of Barack Obama from the presidency, and the entrance to that office of a man whom I think many here would regard as far lesser. President Obama stood as a living example of the worlds’ best hopes for the United States: wisdom, class, and a generosity of spirit that will surely be missed come January 20.
We mustn’t allow his work to be undone on Capitol Hill or Pennsylvania Avenue.
And here on Beretania Street, we have a unique opportunity to take his ideas and give them new life. Let’s aim for universal health care.
After all, these are the islands whose values and culture set the framework for President Obama’s vision. Hawai‘i — for all of our problems and human failures — values justice and inclusion like few other places in the world.
This is the home of the Law of the Splintered Paddle, Kamehameha’s law which guarantees that the authorities cannot harm the aged and impoverished.
Just a few blocks from here, Kamehameha III began the process of creating universal literacy, making Hawai‘i the most literate country in the 19th century world.
We should remember Queen Lili‘uokalani, who in 1893 fought for universal suffrage, decades before its enactment in the United States as the 19th amendment.
Hawaii is the origin point of Baehr v. Miike, the Hawaii State Supreme Court opinion which launched the US marriage equality movement.
And this is the home of the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act, spearheaded by Yoshito Takamine, who brought the experience of laborers in Honokaa to ensure that all workers had minimum health care benefits provided by employers.
This is our legacy of progressivism. This is proof of our ability to create a new island model of economic and social justice, beginning with universal health care.