home imipono about
facebook flickr youtube twitter

Capitol commemorates 1959 admission act
Legislators, notables, protesters mark 50 years since signing

By Mark Niesse
Associated Press

The state that gave America its first black president was hailed as a model of tolerance and diversity on the 50th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower's signing of the bill that eventually led to Hawai'i becoming the 50th state.

The pen Eisenhower used was on display at the state Capitol as past and present state leaders sang Hawaiian music in the state House chamber, held hands and reflected in speeches yesterday on the meaning of joining the United States.

The Hawaii Admission Act was signed March 18, 1959, clearing the way for a vote by Hawai'i residents in June and the Islands' acceptance into the nation Aug. 21.

Statehood was the result of a long series of events: the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the Islands' years as a remote U.S. territory and their importance in the Pacific following the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

As the 111th Army Band played patriotic songs for yesterday's ceremonies, about two dozen Native Hawaiians chanted and marched in protest against statehood near the statue of Hawai'i's last monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani, wearing shirts that spelled out "A history of theft" and "Fake state."

Speeches commemorating the 50th anniversary emphasized the Islands' ethnic diversity and their right to have a voice in the United States through the overwhelming 93 percent vote for statehood.

Nisei soldiers — those who were born of Japanese parents but fought for the United States in World War II — showed Hawai'i's commitment to the nation even before it became a state, said Gov. Linda Lingle.

"These soldiers showed that being loyal to the American cause was in no way defined by ethnicity. It was determined instead by a belief in the principles of freedom and democracy," Lingle said. "Hawai'i provided a model of tolerance ahead of its time."

Hundreds of the state's notables — former governors, legislators, congressmen, judges, entertainers and their families — packed the Capitol for the event. During the song "This Is Aloha," singer Danny Couch persuaded them and the audience to hold hands and sway to the music.

Some of the Native Hawaiians outside weren't so cheerful.

Longtime protester Richard Pomai Kinney carried his Hawai'i state flag upside-down as a sign of distress.

"Statehood is a fraud," said Kinney, who was 19 years old at the time. "My parents said Hawai'i would become a place only for the wealthy. Look at it today. There's nothing to celebrate."

Others with the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance said they feared that the Islands' native people will lose what's left of their sovereignty if the U.S. Congress passes a pending measure that would give them a degree of self-government similar to that of American Indians.

They insist that Hawai'i is still an independent nation because the Hawaiian kingdom never agreed to be annexed.

"There was no treaty of annexation. Show me the treaty," said group organizer Lynette Cruz. "There's been an incorrect interpretation of history all these years."

But House Speaker Calvin Say told the audience in his speech that Hawai'i embraces core American ideals of overcoming adversity and accepting different cultures, as shown by the state's election of the nation's first Chinese, Japanese and Hawaiian senators and its being the birthplace of President Barack Obama.

"History shows time and again that even if you were born in the poorest part of town, you can achieve," Say said.


back to documents
©2008 Statehood Hawaii