State of the People 2017

US and Hawaii Seals

For many of us, January is time to make new year’s resolutions and try to change our lives for the better. For government, January is a time to spotlight its achievements and focus on goals for the rest of the year. The month is full of speeches – an Inaugural Address (in lieu of the State of the Union speech), State of the State speeches, State of the City speeches, and Opening Day Legislature speeches.

President Donald Trump gave his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2017, followed a few days later by Hawaii Governor David Ige’s State of the State Address on January 23, 2017. We can’t compare the speeches directly, because President Trump was just sworn into office and Governor Ige has been in office for two years, but we can get a sense of whether President Trump’s goals match Governor Ige’s objectives. And we can think about whether their plans for the future match our personal and career goals.

Here are a few thoughts about the 2017 Inaugural Address and 2017 Hawaii State of the State Address:

On a personal note. President Trump did not tell individual stories about people facing adversity or overcoming challenges. His address was general, not personal, and it set up a conflict between “us” and entrenched government. There was no insight into President Trump’s history, role models, or inspiration. In contrast, Governor Ige began his speech by invoking Pearl Harbor and briefly mentioning his father. He talked about an Early College high school “Olympian” Rovy Dipaysa, a local start-up Shaka Tea, college students on the Hawaii Advanced Technology Society Team, and a friend who worked at the pineapple cannery.

We face challenges every day, but government leaders like to remind us of it. President Trump stated, “We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.” Governor Ige echoed, “While we cannot predict the future, it’s clear to me that we are living in very challenging and exciting times. And we face these times standing on solid ground.”

National and local unity. To be effective, government leaders need to unite constituents with a shared history and a shared future. President Trump claimed to return power to the people, stating that “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.” Much of his speech is about “A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.” Governor Ige stirred Hawaii pride, saying “What sets Hawaii apart from the rest of the world is that we have the ingenuity, the determination and the heart – values from our island culture – that built this great state.” These qualities are not unique to Hawaii, and the Ginaca pineapple coring machine that he touted was a work-for-hire, invented by a San Francisco native who was hired for the job by James Dole of the Hawaiian Pineapple Co. He ended with a reminder that “We have always been better together than alone, identifying ourselves as part of a greater ohana, bound by the spirit of aloha.”

National problems and solutions. President Trump highlighted some of our country’s problems: poverty, unemployment, poor schools, crime. His overarching solution: “America First,” which involves reducing our support of foreign governments and industry (without acknowledging the interconnectedness of our global economy and security) and protectionism – protecting American industries from foreign competition (without acknowledging that this could have an adverse impact on American exports). He stated, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.” He wants America to be an example of democracy and capitalism, instead of a promoter or global enforcer.

Hawaii problems and solutions. In a few sentences, Governor Ige offered a concise list of accomplishments: low unemployment (without acknowledging that many families live paycheck-to-paycheck), moderate personal income (without acknowledging the high cost of living in Hawaii), jobs creation (without acknowledging that many of the jobs are low-wage jobs), and sound tourism (without questioning our reliance on tourism). His solutions involve transforming schools with school-level innovations, capital improvements, the Early College Program, and the Hawaii Promise Program to pay for community college; transforming the economy with support for the Cancer Center of Hawaii and the HI Growth program to foster entrepreneurship; and supporting clean energy with the Clean Energy Mandate and the Drive Electric Hawaii initiative. He also wants to protect agriculture and natural resources with the Sustainable Hawaii Initiative; and provide more affordable homes through funding for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund and affordable rentals and subsidies.

Generation Nation has a great “K-12 Civic Learning Opportunity: State of the Union” lesson plan. It’s a guide to thinking critically, as well as emotionally, about a speech’s content and delivery – and how it is reported in the media.

Do you agree with President Trump’s and Governor Ige’s priorities and strategies? If you had to write a State of the Household Address for your family, what would you write about?

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