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University of Hawai’i at Manoa Commencement Exercises, Advanced Degree Ceremony

Posted on May 12, 2016 in Main

Remarks of Governor David Ige as prepared

May 16, 2015 at the Stan Sheriff Center

Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman, President David Lassner, Regents and special guests…thank you for that warm welcome…and Aloha.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015, your hard work and dedication has brought you to this moment of celebration.

For all of you, it took an extraordinary effort to get to this point. Some of you have worked multiple jobs while carrying a full course load, others have had to balance academics and taking care of loved one – like Jason and Kekai Smith whom I read about in this morning’s paper.  As parents of three children, they were able to balance parenting and schooling to both earn master’s degrees today.

And there are others of you who had to overcome personal or academic challenges and work twice as hard to achieve your goals.   You all have stories on how you got here … congratulations to you all.  You made it.

Please take a moment to think about those who helped make this day a reality – it may be your parents who sacrificed to send you to this university, a teacher or mentor who encouraged or inspired you, a friends or classmate who helped you survive all those all nighters – please make sure you thank them and share your appreciation for making this day happen.

Commencement is a time of transition, signaling your last few days here in Manoa and the beginning of the next phase of your career.  I’d like to share with you a few thoughts and personal stories that I hope you find helpful in this time of transition.

First, follow your heart, be true to your personal values and do what makes sense for you.  When I graduated from the UH with my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineer, it was a great time to be an engineer.  The first personal computer, the Apple I, was introduced my freshman year and it launched the PC revolution just in time for my graduation.  Two months before commencement, I had 40 job offers from companies like IBM, INTEL, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and TRW.  All of them were on the mainland in Silicon Valley, LA, San Diego, Seattle and Arizona.  I had one last interview – for a small company named Pacific Analysis Corporation in Honolulu.  There were doing exciting work in renewable energy and for the Department of Defense.  Many classmates decided to leave Hawaii to work for these companies to transform technology around the world.  I decided to stay in Hawaii to work to solve the challenges facing our community because Hawaii is and always will be my home.   This decision changed the course of my life and I never looked back.

Second, find your passion and choose to make a difference.  I used to hear this line often, especially during commencement speeches.  It was one of those lines that you half listen to until you unexpectedly find yourself in a place to make a difference.

I was completing my last two MBA classes here at Manoa, while also working full-time at GTE Hawaiian Tel.  I had just been promoted to Supervising Engineer and was also in the GTE Executive Development program, identified for priority assignments to become an executive.  I wanted to become the first local-born President of Hawaiian Tel.

Unexpectedly, I received a call from a high school classmate, who asked, “Have you ever thought about getting involved in politics?” I was completely non-political at the time.  In the course of the next 8 hours, I met the Chair of the democratic party of Hawaii, learned its history, and joined the party.   And for the first time in my life, I met the Governor of the State of Hawaii who was George Ariyoshi at that time.  We talked about how the future of Hawaii belonged to the youth of Hawaii – and why it was so important that they get involved. That afternoon I was appointed as the youngest member of the Hawaii House of Representatives.

That day was the start of my life as a public servant.  Since then, I’ve learned that one person can make a difference.

I ask you to look at today as the beginning – the beginning of new challenges and opportunities.  You have acquired the knowledge you need to be successful in your chosen careers and now is a time for action.

The University of Hawaii is a special place – like no other in the world — we celebrate diversity. Whether you are a life-long resident of Hawaii, or recently arrived to study at UH, you have been immersed in the gift of Aloha.

Aloha is a life force that defines who we are and why we are here. It is a condition, a way of life, a mind set and an attitude. Aloha is an action, a natural response of respect, love, and sharing. Aloha is to be in the presence of life, to share the essence of one’s being with openness, honesty, and humility.  It is a way of being, a commitment to being real, to accepting others and giving dignity to who they are and what they have to offer.

I strive to “live aloha” every day and I see it change the course of action in our community.

Let me finish today with one last story.  Dawn and I were humbled and honored to represent all of you at the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  The entire day was filled with elements of Hawaii, elements of Aloha: President Obama talking about learning the ties of friendship and family growing up in Hawaii, the debut of “Kailua Blue” accenting the Presidential china, and Wailea greens, Maui onions, and fresh poha berries scattered throughout the menu.

As we were walking through the receiving line, I was greeted by a “Howzit!” by President Obama. What a chicken-skin moment. I never thought that I would see this day:  when a kindergartner from Noelani Elementary School, an avid reader with a sunny disposition, a student who loved to play basketball would become President of the United States

You leave today with the gift of Aloha — with the ability to be respectful, to work with different people, to recognize that you can achieve more by working with others than working alone. You enter a world where you can dream the extraordinary – and see it come true. Go for it – and make Hawaii proud.

Mahalo and Aloha!