A few days ago, I received an email from a friend whom I rarely see, but who occasionally shares with me her thoughts and ideas. The email, (a portion of which I share at the end of this column) contains a message within the message, as is so often the case.
First, it reinforces in me the need for all who endeavor to positions of leadership in our community to keep in mind “the long view,” and that our actions today will improve the lives of future generations.
But beyond that core message for the receiver to hear, there is a valuable message also for the sender: your words and thoughts matter, and they are the most affordable and effective tool you possess to create change in our community.
This one very simple and straightforward email has inspired me, and in turn I am sharing it with the hopes of inspiring others.
In the words of Robert Kennedy, “Sending forth a tiny ripple…those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
— Robert Kennedy, South Africa 1966 (paraphrased).
Whether in the form of testimony submitted on bills, letters to the editor or personal and direct email to friends, family and yes, most certainly to our political and community leaders — your words and thoughts matter.
The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. I encourage you to use it.
We need to push and inspire our political leaders to do more. We need to let them know we have their backs when they risk great political capital to champion the dramatic changes we desperately need. And yes, we also need to hold them accountable when they fall short, and call them out when they cause harm.
There are many kinds of political leaders. There are the “pragmatic idealists” who maintain a strong moral compass while navigating the often-treacherous waters of the political environment. And there are the hardcore pragmatists, driven mostly by a base survival instinct and whose ideology is secondary to the need to maintain power and position.
Of course, there are other types as well on either end of the spectrum, but a certain degree of pragmatism is required, or the individual will relatively quickly crash and burn (in a political sense, either becoming ineffective or lose their election).
All are susceptible to being influenced by community and friends, and by the media. All enjoy serving in elective office, all want to be re-elected, and all see themselves as “good people,” each believing they are doing the right things for the right reasons.
It’s important to keep in mind that even the hardcore pragmatist serving in elected office cares about “which way the wind is blowing,” and will change their tune the moment they realize the public opinion has shifted undeniably to favor a viewpoint different than theirs.
Thus, letters to the editor matter. Consistent, courteous and reason-based emails and direct conversations with elected leaders matter. When done in sufficient numbers over time such efforts will change the vote of the most unbelieving hardcore establishment politician (whose primary objective is to get re-elected).
This brings me back to the email that moved me to write this column. The substance of the message was to encourage me to continue the work and effort that I am now engaged in, on Kauai and around the state.
“Remember Title 9? It was only enacted in 1970. (Too late for those of my generation, who graduated in the 1960s.)
Now the grandchildren of my generation are ALL participating in all kinds of sports and all career paths regardless of gender. The girls have no concept that there might be limitations placed on them because of gender. That’s wonderful!
Those who put so much effort into Title 9 and the changes that sprang from it really didn’t personally benefit – but their daughters and granddaughters did.
I KNOW that the hard work you are investing in this will pay off.
Your two beautiful grandchildren will live in a healthier world because of you.
If and when you get tired or discouraged…….. well, you know what to do. Hold/cuddle/ play with those two beautiful babies.”
Mahalo to the writer of the above for taking the time to motivate, educate and inspire me. I ask all who have taken the time to read this far, to likewise share your thoughts via letters in the newspaper, or direct emails with elected leaders and with our community at large.
Your words matter. To me, and to all of our elected officials. Use them like our future depends on them.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action and is the volunteer executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.