Newly inaugurated Governor Neil Abercrombie, along with Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz, made Molokai his first visit as a way to fulfill his campaign promise to not allow his administration to be “Oahu-centric.”
Abercrombie gave the audience attending today’s confirmation ceremony another reason for choosing Molokai to be the first official off-Oahu trip as governor.
“Otherwise I get scoldings from Colette Machado,” said Abercrombie, only half joking. As a trustee and the newly named chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Machado, sitting in the front row, remains a formidable local political figure, someone the politically-savvy Abercrombie wants on his side.
But Abercrombie gave other reasons for visiting Molokai first.
“I have so many shortcomings, so many faults,” said Abercrombie. “But one of them is not recognizing the sacredness of Molokai. It’s no mistake that there’s a Saint Damien from Molokai. This place, this beautiful place … it called out to us, so we are here today.”
A Hawaiian protocol welcoming ceremony, known as the aha’aina ho’o maika’i kia’aina, took place today at 4 p.m. at the recently remodeled Kalanianaole Hall community center in Kalamaula.
The event was named Pupukahi I Holomua (“unite to move forward”). It began with an opening chant from kumu Opuulani Albino and Vanda Hanakahi. A procession into the hall featured invited kupuna from the ‘Ahahui Ka’ahumanu Society (Molokai Chapter) and other special guests.
Inside the hall, Aunty Vanda led a ceremony using traditional foods to symbolize different aspects of the Hawaiian culture. In this way, she explained, our spiritual needs can be met before the government takes on the task of providing for our worldly needs.
Schatz, followed by Abercrombie, commented on the importance of Molokai and, by extension, all the neighbor islands.
“I want you to know it was intentional that we were here first,” said Schatz, “because we do feel that the leadership in the state of Hawaii ought to be coming from Molokai, not to Molokai.” This statement was greeted with hearty applause.
Connecting with the spiritual nature of the ceremony, Abercrombie talked about a “brief meditation” he shared with the Dalai Lama on Monday, the day of his swearing-in as Hawaii’s seventh elected governor. “His words,” in referring to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, “for that day, to contemplate, were to find oneself in service to others,” said Abercrombie.
Accompanying the governor was Tibetan Budhist monk Rinponche, “the chief steward of the Dalai Lama’s word,” according to Abercrombie. “I had no idea he would be here with us,” said Abercrombie.
In an exclusive interview with The Molokai News, Abercrombie talked about his agenda moving forward:
“Whatever they (the Lingle administration) did or didn’t do is past history. We’re going to be working on energy independence, environmental sustainability; we are going to be working on educational excellence and we’re going to be working on food security. We’re going to put those together in a manner that is going to have an economic and social and political recovery for this state,” said the governor.
Regarding his agenda for Molokai, Abercrombie said: “Molokai could be the breadbasket of the state. Whether it’s energy, whether it’s food security, this island has it all, in that regard. We are going to see to it that we have an education system in place that is going to give people a foundation to be able to act on those issues.”