On the occasion of your 2019 graduation

One of my first thoughts is to apologize to graduates everywhere, but “sorry” really doesn’t cut it.

Though my generation has screwed things up pretty badly, there are also many of us who have learned from our mistakes and are committed to making things better.

The truth is, we really, really, really need your help.

Yes, there have been some huge accomplishments, and in some areas we have made great progress toward making the world a better place. Basic living standards and simple longevity for many are higher than they have ever been.

But we have also made tragic errors of judgment, starting and pursuing unnecessary and unending wars.

We marvel at the technological innovations developed in the past 50 years. However, during this same time period we have failed to stop the widespread pollution of our environment, the drastic loss of species diversity and the imminent threat of sea-level rise and climate change.

While the world of advertising inundates us with the symbols of wealth and prosperity, the reality is much different. In an April 24 interview with billionaire Ray Dalio, The Guardian reported that:

• We have a global economy where the wealth of the top 1% of the population is more than that of the bottom 90% of the population combined;

• Forty percent of all Americans would struggle to raise $400 in the event of an emergency;

• The childhood poverty rate in the U.S. is now 17.5%, and has not meaningfully improved for decades;

• The U.S. scores lower than virtually all developed countries other than Italy and Greece on educational attainment;

• The U.S. incarceration rate is nearly five times the average of other developed countries, and three times that of emerging countries;

• For those in the bottom 60%, premature deaths are up by about 20% since 2000.

So, yes, graduates, we kinda need you. We need you badly, actually.

We need your leadership, your energy and your commitment to our shared future.

We need you to be willing to stand up, speak out and resist those forces in the world who pillage the planet and profit off the backs of the 99%. These same entities driven by greed and the desire of ever-increasing profits fight every attempt to increase environmental protections or to improve the pay and working conditions for those who struggle daily just to make ends meet.

This is not hyperbole. It is the real world. If you need evidence, just look around. Think about the chemical companies or “big banks” or “big pharma” or “big oil.” The list is long and the story is a sad one.

The struggle is real, both global and local.

Think about how the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce opposes every single attempt to increase the minimum wage for regular working people. Think about how a handful of our major landowners monopolize the land and the water, all the while seeking also to control the political processes that too often are used only to increase their profits.

Be honest with yourselves and look closely at the world we live in. Then choose a career that is grounded on principles of justice. If you go into business, then commit to a business that values economic, environmental and social justice. If you go into law, then do the same and fight hard for these values. Whatever your path, place the pursuit and support of justice high on your priority list.

My hope is that some of you will consider careers in the world of public policy and government. And yes, my hope is that those of you who feel truly driven to make our world better will seek to serve in public office.

There is much to be done, and Hawaii can serve as a model for the rest of the world. I truly believe this.

Via changes in public policy, literally “with the stroke of a pen,” much can be accomplished:

• We could require all rental cars meet a minimum energy standard, or be electric;

• We could prohibit new public buildings from being built in areas prone to sea-level rise;

• We could require all airlines landing in Hawaii to be “carbon neutral” via a carbon tax and/or a TAT surcharge, used to manage and restore our watersheds;

• We could gradually raise Hawaii’s minimum wage so it eventually reaches a living wage;

• We could publicly fund all elections and drastically improve campaign-spending laws;

• We could require all paid lobbyists to state that fact every time they submit testimony;

• We could pay our teachers more, decrease class size and increase technology in our schools;

• We could fund “Housing First” programs instead of $350,000,000 for a new stadium.

• We could make a true commitment to ending homelessness and invest not just in new shelters and housing but also in the training and hiring of a new generation of social workers and mental-health professionals.

There is so much more we can do. But, we need you.

We really, really need you.


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 (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. hutch May 22, 2019 10:47 am Reply

    Thank God none of the local schools invited Gary Hooser to give this socialist claptrap as a keynote address.

  2. Debra Kekaualua May 22, 2019 5:29 pm Reply

    We really really really need our graduates, our youth, and those of us who know what is truth and integrity to Roll the dice. We have never asked for the Hawaii Chamber of commerce, the federalis, the military, the u.s. voters to extend their occupation? We need our graduates with their ohana to stand up and stand in defense of truth and integrity and not the incredibly intensive lies, confusion, corruption, maneuvers and manipulations top to bottom, from Washington D.C. through the judiciary and back to the COK Kauai state Courthouse?

  3. Charlie Chimknee May 26, 2019 8:46 am Reply

    Mahalo Gary,

    May I expand on one of your sentences…you mentioned “Big Oil”…

    The flow chart of sequalae appears to go like this…until it goes full circle and ceases to be a de facto situation, but one perpetuated by the flow of money by virtue of old ruts wear deep…and the reliance on Blind Faith. BLIND FAITH in anything begins with the indoctrination and brain filling of the primary lies infused into children’s minds that are required for acceptance of unprovable Blind Faith…

    Did you ever think that the primary lies to children of Santa Claus comes from the North Pole flying on a sleigh pulled by reindeer and down the chimney with a bag of toys, the Easter Bunny lays EGGS, and the Tooth Fairy…buys your tooth under your pillow for a dime ( a dime was in the old days) is absent mindedly and subtlely pumped into children’s minds year after year; and once a child’s mind has accepted all that…that mind is ready for any hog wash…like the Cure for Cancer.

    There’s no Cure for Cancer there is only a Cause…that logically only leaves Prevention as the only Plausible “Cure”…and any old Tutu knows that Prevention is the Cure to diseases…and that does not come from Disease Care but from personal Health Action. You must work on your Health everyday…not wait for Disease to rear it’s ugly head. We are obviously not speaking of trauma, injury, or emergency care.

    But going to the doctor for actual Health Care is life going to the corner gas station to service your Hawaiian Air Jet plane’s engines and electronics After it has a problem not to prevent a problem.

    See if you can see any flaws in the following flow (of oil)…?

    …and then, and at first, there was OIL…”Big Oil”…then they turned Oil into “Big Chemicals…PETROCHEMICALS”…which is ”Big Pharm”which they turned into poisons of every kind including those sprayed applied injected “Big Farm”, and packaged and bottled into and onto our food…”BIG FOOD”; this makes those who eat those foods sicker and sicker with more and more diseases in greater numbers and types of diseases, and more and more people with these diseases, are more and more younger and middle age and older people getting these diseases…making more and more people going to the doctors, which is “BIG MEDICAL”, getting more and more prescription and over the counter chemical and petrochemical oil based medical drugs, which is “BIG PHARM”, that only serve to manage and perpetuate disease…and then there was OIL…AGAIN..and the vicious cycle turns again and AGAIN and continues on and on from the first moment your parents and doctor give you your first petrochemical oil based drugs to the final verdict or fatal heart attack.

    FUNNY HOW THE ENTITY that we trust in (by Blind Faith) to manage and care for our Health…knows so very little, if anything, about either actual Health or the Prevention and Avoidance of Disease. Doctors are thoroughly trained in what chemical and petrochemicals to prescribe in their battle managing your disease…even the disease(s) you have and you don’t know about yet, nor can you feel it; it’s called they have “a pill for every ill” waiting for you to realize you are sick but have no clue as to how or why…Blind Ignorance.

    However, When it comes to Health and the Prevention of Disease, OVERKILL SAVES LIVES…! Health has to be fed, literally, every day.

    Man made chemicals and Petrochemicals are not fit for human beings whether in your food or prescription when it comes to your health.

    The chemicals in our foods are written on the labels. Sadly not all are shown there, it is actually worse. Even sugar is a mild but a debilitating Plant Based Drug. Heroin and Cocaine are also Plant Based Drugs, but are severely debilitating and deadly. Sugar, a dead worthless ingredient to food is in almost every single food, in one form or fake other. Why would they put that silly kiddy food, sugar, in food for adults, or especially why in growing babies and children.

    In this world you need full knowledge of your body to have a lifetime of good Health.

    If this 2019 Graduating Class had had a class a day throughout their education they would be graduating today knowing as much about their own natural body as any doctor does.

    If it does not require an education to have a lifetime Healthy body…why are so many people sick? Why do 80% of the public take 1 medical prescription or over the counter drug a day. Why do 55% take 4 drugs a day? People are intentionally kept ignorant of their bodies so they just rely on “BIG OIL”, “BIG CHEMICAL”, “BIG FARM”, “BIG FOOD”, “BIG MEDICAL”, “Big Pharm”…none of which have anything to do with HEALTH.

    Feed your Health every day…NATURALLY…! ! !


  4. RG DeSoto May 26, 2019 2:59 pm Reply

    “Though my generation has screwed things up pretty badly…”
    Really? Speak for yourself, Gary. The generation that brought us unprecedented prosperity, extended lifespans, health and creature comforts screwed things up? That’s just an inaccurate, ignorant statement so typical of a progressive like yourself.
    You can whine all you want about the sky falling…you know, the climate change hysteria..but the data, you know facts, Gary, just don’t bear out your crying and complaining.
    You and all the other brainwashed need to get a little geologic time frame perspective. You’re a reflection of all that’s wrong with the state monopoly over education that has dumbed down a couple of generations.
    Get a grip,
    RG DeSoto

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