A Tale Of Two Stu­dents, Two Amer­i­cas

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - MOSTLY POL­I­TICS Dan Boy­lan

In the early 1970s, I was a Ph.D. can­di­date and an in­struc­tor in the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Depart­ment at the Uni Most of my du­ties in­volved lec­tur­ing in and lead­ing dis­cus­sion sec­tions of the in­tro­duc­tory course, but sev­eral of us were al­lowed to teach an up­per-di­vi­sion of­fer­ing as well.

I put to­gether some­thing called “Amer­i­can Civ­i­liza­tion in the 1920s and ’30s.” En­rolled in the class were about 25 stu­dents (mem­ory can’t be ex­act in an old geezer), in­clud­ing a young woman named Mazie Hirono.

Mazie proved to be an ex­cel­lent stu­dent: bright, quick, in­dus­tri­ous — ev­ery­thing that a teacher val­ues in a stu­dent. I re­mem­ber her warm smile and quiet laugh­ter as well.

I also re­mem­ber her lib­eral pol­i­tics, her cam­paign­ing for var­i­ous young Demo­cratic politi­cians and her boyfriend, who was ac­tive in con­ser­va­tion causes.

Mazie de­cided to pur­sue law. She claims that I was among those who urged her to go to the Main­land for law school — which she ul­ti­mately did, earn­ing her de­gree at Georgetown Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

In 1980, Mazie plunged into pol­i­tics, win­ning a seat in - tatives. There, she proved to be a star. Back then, I wrote columns on “the best and worst” - ture. Those I polled al­ways put Mazie’s name among “the best.”

In 1994, she ran for and won the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor­ship; in 2002, she lost a race for gov­er­nor; in 2006, she won the first of three terms in the U.S. House; and in 2012, she as­sumed the U.S. Sen­ate seat va­cated by Daniel Akaka.

Don­ald Trump has brought Mazie na­tional promi­nence for her much-lauded speech to “re­peal and re­place” the Af­ford­able Care Act. In her speech, she ref­er­enced her own pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tion: can­cer.

More r ecently, Mazie tweeted a re­sponse to Trump’s back­track­ing on his con­dem­na­tion of Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers, who ri­oted over the re­moval Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia.

“The Pres­i­dent con­tin­ues to walk back, con­demn­ing vi­o­lence-prone white su­prem­a­cist groups. It is true that the Pres­i­dent does not serve all Amer­i­cans. Bring­ing our coun­try to­gether will be up to each of us; he will be of no help.”

Aside from Mazie, I re­call an­other stu­dent, one who was born and reared in the ru­ral south, mar­ried into the mil­i­tary and who soon found her­self re­lo­cat­ing to the Is­lands. She took sev­eral classes from me at the Univer­sity of Hawai‘i at an ex­cel­lent stu­dent — smart, in­dus­tri­ous and ea­ger to learn. - ery­thing a teacher val­ues in a stu­dent.

She also brought a fresh per­spec­tive as a daugh­ter of the South. She was hospitable, warm, pos­sessed a ready smile and pride in her South­ern her­itage. That her­itage in­cluded the Civil War and the bril­liant gen­er­als she grew up idoliz “Jeb” Stu­art. Add to that the equally bril­liant his­to­rian Shelby Foote, whom she adored.

She re­mains a friend, al­though I haven’t talked to her about the re­moval of Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues. My guess, how­ever, is that she would ob­ject might­ily to it. Those gen­er­als, plus politi­cians like Jef­fer­son Davis and John C. Cal­houn, are part of her South­ern her­itage.

Her class­mates and I learned from her. But as his­tory stu­dents and long­time cit­i­zens of and post-Civil War south­ern seg­re­ga­tion and dis­en­fran­chise­ment of blacks tainted her her­itage. It also taints the stat­ues of those who de­fended slav­ery and seg­re­ga­tion.

Two stu­dents. Two dif­fer­ent Amer­i­cas.

Back in the early ’70s, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono en­rolled in the au­thor’s class at the Univer­sity of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.