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Hawaii celebrates 50th anniversary of statehood, sort of

Hawaii_statehood_50_anniversary_rememberedThis year, Hawaii celebrates the 50th anniversary of statehood—in a far more subdued manner.

A small minority of people, mainly Native Hawaiians, though not all of them, find statehood a divisive issue. There are some for whom not just statehood, but also annexation and the overthrow of the monarchy were imperialistic moves against a small Pacific nation by the United States. 

On the other hand, for many in the Islands’ population, statehood has become a given, the struggle to attain full-fledged citizenship largely forgotten. It has, after all, been two generations since statehood, although there are many still thriving in the Islands who have T.H. on their birth certificates—for Territory of Hawaii.

On the anniversary, there will be no parades or block parties, no bonfires or fireworks. All the state-sponsored events will be aimed at informing the public—not merely celebrating.

“Now is a good time to focus on education and involve all sides of the topic,” says Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of ‘Iolani Palace and chairman of the 50th Anniversary of Hawaii Statehood Commission.

Hawaii_statehood_50_anniversary_rememberedThe centerpiece of the commission’s efforts has been the 50 Voices, 50 Years campaign—a series of television and radio vignettes, in which notable Hawaii figures reflect upon their experiences of statehood.

On the Aug. 21 anniversary of statehood, a daylong conference is scheduled. The event, to be held at the Hawaii Convention Center, will provide an open forum for the public to discuss statehood—past, present and future.

Despite the problems of the moment—the shaky economy, the unhappiness of many Native Hawaiians, the tendency to take the benefits of American citizenship for granted—the state’s response, calling for peaceful and open discussion, is a hopeful sign. 

It bodes well for those celebrating the centennial of statehood in 2059.

This page photos: First Hawaii State William Quinn adding 50th star to U.S. flag (top), Hawaii 50th Statehood Anniversary stamp, issued in 2009 (bottom)

Photo credits: Hawaii State Archives (top pg. 1, top pg. 2); Eisenhower Archives, public domain (bottom pg. 3); Commons Wikipedia (bottom pg. 1, top pg. 3)
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