In revisiting the words of Abraham Lincoln and recalling the efforts of previous presidents from both parties to make healthcare available to all, President Obama’s address Saturday morning to the Democratic caucus of Congress was an eloquent call to conscience. I felt as if he were talking to us Democrats here in Hawai‘i. This president understands what it means to win, but he is not willing to sacrifice integrity to “success.” He believes, as we all should, that good policy ultimately makes good politics—though it might call for tough choices in the near term.
We are far removed from the nation’s capitol, but never closer to the presidency with a Hawai‘i-born president who reflects by instinct, by faith and by practice, the early shaping of his character and values here in Hawai‘i.
The president was talking specifically about the historic healthcare bill. But he might just as well have been talking about all the challenges we are facing here in Hawai‘i. We, more than any other place in the country, should be able to address those challenges in a just and effective way by drawing on the strengths of the host culture that have helped shape us and produced the kind of community we are privileged to have.
People are hurting more than ever. Our children, who need all the education and training they can get to prepare them for the future, are shamefully being kept out of school because we cannot seem to rise above our immediate self-interest to serve the interests of those who elected us.
A major public works project—rail—that brings with it the promise of thousands of jobs and a boost to the economy like no other project on the horizon does—is being hobbled by last minute second-guessing and the paralysis of perpetual skepticism from some quarters. Equal rights for all—a concept so fundamentally American and that we try to export to the world—is being jeopardized by religious zealotry and needless fear of the gay community on the grounds of their sexuality.
In the name of so-called debate, the airwaves are filled too often with the mindless repetition of lies about public policy advanced by those who would fight reform at any cost, even at the cost of their own integrity and service to their constituents.