Opening Day Remarks to the Inaugural Evening Part Time Program
August 20, 2008
by Allen K. Hoe ‘76
It was a very austere beginning, September 4, 1973; it was a bright sunny Tuesday morning when 50+ of Hawaiʻi’s most promising young men and women began their journey of a lifetime. We were the latest social experiment of the vision of a new Hawaiʻi, spawned out of the desires of a new generation of Hawaiʻi’s keiki o ka aina whose collective experience was of the blend of cultures from a waning plantation society, a World War and the demand to be recognized and treated as equals within the evolving democracy which was to become America’s most turbulent years.
The battle of the sexes was a headline that month as Billie Jean King sent brash loud mouth Bobby Riggs off the center court in humiliation. Henry Kissinger began what was to be noted by many as the most prolific tenure as a Secretary of State with many international coups of diplomacy and peace.
Yet within a month we watched again as our world was on the brink of another potential disaster as the Yom Kippur War broke out, we wondered at the state of our national politics as our Vice President, Spiro Agnew, was forced to resign in shame and disgrace, amidst much cheering and celebration. Then the biggest shock hit all of us, the Arab Oil Embargo, and the energy crisis which set in motion the odd even gas days and the blocks long lines of automobiles at 5 a.m., waiting to fill our gas tanks. (Come to think about it, not a hell of a lot has changed, has it).
We were honored, to be among the very first group of Hawaiʻi’s own, the beneficiaries of the promise of a vibrant group of Hawaiʻi’s best and brightest political leaders, to provide our citizens with an educational system second to none, including the new medical and law schools.
The opening address of the University of Hawai‘i Law School, was delivered by Chief Justice William Shaw Richardson, or simply, CJ, as he is affectionately referred to by all.
He shared the following remarks on the steps of our portable classrooms in the quarry; “I greet you today as fellow participants in our history. As an attorney, I greet you as colleagues in the pursuit of law. As one of your alma mater’s band of midwives, I greet you as the first born Class of ’76 …for every one of you, there were 17 other applicants pounding on the doors. I can therefore well imagine what being a member of this select group must mean to you. To me, and to the people of Hawaiʻi, you represent no less than the realization of a dream. For too many years, I have seen Hawai‘i residents denied a legal education simply because the crush of admissions has caused mainland schools to discriminate in favor of their residents and against ours.
The founding of this law school means greater opportunity for our young people in particular and for the State in general. There are people, of course, who objected to this venture. We don’t have the money, they said; we don’t need a law school now. I can hear the opposition even yet!
Ours was a long-range view, and fortunately, it prevailed. Hawai‘i has gone too long without a law school, especially when you consider that these islands can bring certain exceptional attributes to the study of law.
During your legal career, I think probably every single one of you will experience your share of frustrations. I can only go along with Justice Frankfurter, who once said that “lawyers better remember they are human beings and a human being who hasn’t his period of doubt and distresses and disappointments must be a cabbage, not a human being.”
Despite its frustrations, law remains a vital, attractive profession. In Hawaiʻi, it has supplied us with the preponderant amount of our leaders and policymakers. As they have helped to shape Hawaiʻi, you can shape its future. As you progress, so should this school. I hope it will excel, that it will not be run-of-the-mill, that it will keep the law alive, that it will think in terms of the future and what can be.
At the conclusion of CJ’s remarks, one of Hawaiʻi’s living cultural treasures Kahu, Ka’upena Wong, chanted an ancient oli of dedication.
“The gods dwell in the forest
Hidden away in the mists,
Under the low-lying rainbow.
O beings shelter under the heavens,
Clear our paths of all things that may hinder or trouble us
Let us be inspired.”
And thus “our” legacy began; yes you too are an integral part of this remarkable legacy.
I guess it is inevitable that moments like these occur, for I was 27 years old in 1973 and this year we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the opening of its doors for the first time. I am certain that on the 70th anniversary of our law school many of you will also look back with fond memories and pride of the role you played in its legacy.
For the members of the very first class, it was said that “we were leftovers from the 1960’s. We were picked from a backlog of applicants who yearned to go to law school, but could not go to the mainland for a variety of reasons, be it money or family commitments.
The day before we arrived, there was no law school. Then on September 4th we were thrown into the turmoil of a school literally being constructed physically and institutionally around us.
When most of us arrived, one of the things we recognized was that we were among familiar faces in some form or another. Everyone asked everyone else, what are you doing here? How did you get in? Whose protégé are you?” It was believed that nearly 20+ of us were or had been aides to one politician or another at some point in time.
We took pride in the fact that we helped to shape the decision of the policy makers to give us this opportunity, in return many of us continued our political work, part-time for our legislative supporters as well as ourselves, all through law school. Several bore the surnames of judges, attorneys or other prominent people in town.
We were hand picked by the new faculty. We represented every segment of our society, Oahu, Neighbor Islands, private and public high schools, every ethnic and cultural group, one third were women and two thirds men, a ratio unheard of in any law school in those days. We came from every walk of life, we were Vietnam combat veterans, hippies, SDS student radicals, social workers, professionals, teachers, community organizers and many married with kids, all we wanted was an opportunity to earn a law degree at home, a better life for our families and to contribute to our community. Our most favorite story was of a student of Irish lineage who simply got in because his surname sounded Chinese. And there was a group of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian students whose progress through law school would be carefully monitored by Chief Justice William S. Richardson, a promise fulfilled to his dying wife to be an advocate for improving the largest under represented ethnic group in the Bar for these “Hawaiian Islands.”
We were very unique; we agreed not to compete but to cooperate. One result was that all but two members who started went on to graduate. “We rejected attempts on the part of the faculty to institute distinctions between us,” we fought against grades, awards of outstanding students and a law review whose staff would be chosen on the basis of academic performance.
We shared everything, including the unisex toilet. When we first arrived there had been no toilet in the school at all.
Then they had to take away our Xerox privileges because everything was getting duplicated in 50 copies, at one open note test everyone had a copy of the same class outline, the best that had been prepared.
Unlike in later years, there were no books hidden or stolen from the law library, nor were pages ripped out, an unfortunately common way to get a competitive edge on the other students.
Tension was high. We were the first and only class; we were studying for finals and we didn’t know there were Gilbert’s Notes (a law study aid). We just knew about textbooks and we didn’t have those, just xeroxed handouts.
In the end, we prevailed and all of us have benefited from the contributions made by all who have given their time and devotion to the study of law; but more so to this incredible spirit of ohana which the ancients of our Hawaiian experience has blessed us with.
Tonight, as you begin this new life experience I would encourage you to look around and take pride in your contemporaries and congratulate each other on your remarkable achievements.
Some of this is obvious and some not so, of the 26 of you, your average age is 33 and ranges from 22 to 52. There are 16 women and 10 men, all of you have lifelong ties to Hawaiʻi, there are 5 part Hawaiians, there are husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, what an awesome group, you truly represent who we are in Hawaiʻi.
Among your peers you will find a doctor of psychology, a radio station manager, executive director of non profit organizations, public information officer, legal assistants, television news producer, a newspaper editor, college professor and lecturer, active duty and reserve military officers, military spouses, computer specialist, coast guard marine science technician, legislative aide as well as legal secretaries.
It is indeed my honor to welcome you to our law school ohana and to reassure each of you that you have made the right decision to pursue the endeavor of a legal education which will benefit you, your loved ones and your community for a lifetime.