HONOLULU – The 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission today announced the convening of a special joint session of the Hawai‘i State Legislature to commemorate the date 50 years ago on March 18, 1959, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the bill that allowed Hawai‘i to be admitted as the 50th state of the United States of America.
The Presidential signing of the Hawai‘i Admission Act paved the way for Hawai‘i residents to vote on the Statehood bill, which they approved on June 27, 1959. Two months later, on August 21, 1959, President Eisenhower made Hawai‘i’s statehood official by signing a proclamation welcoming Hawai‘i as the 50th state of the Union.
In observance of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Hawai‘i Admission Act, both houses of the Hawai‘i State Legislature will convene a joint session in the State Capitol House Chambers on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, from noon to 1:30 p.m. The event will be webcast live at: www.hawaii.gov/statehood. The public is invited to attend.
“As we officially kick off our Statehood Commission events, we should all take a step back and look at this milestone as an incredible achievement,” said Kippen de Alba Chu, chair of the 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission. “The signing of the Hawai‘i statehood bill is a testament to an extremely diverse community working in harmony for the greater good. It is the peaceful _expression of once radical ideas in the push for equality and basic human rights for all of Hawai‘i’s people, regardless of ethnicity, national origin, or religion. When we talk about a melting pot and an example for others to emulate, Hawai'i is not an experiment but living proof that it works, and it works well.”
“The historic signing of the Hawai‘i Admission Act 50 years ago culminated decades of hard work and collaboration, as well as the hopes and aspirations of the people of Hawai‘i that their children and grandchildren, as American citizens, would enjoy in perpetuity the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution,” said Governor Linda Lingle. “The Admission Act also recognized the lasting contributions Hawai‘i’s people, cultivated through our diversity and rich heritage, would bring to the union.”
The joint legislative session will feature remarks from Governor Lingle, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, and House Speaker Calvin Say, as well as musical performances by Danny Kaleikini, Danny Couch and Arshiel Calatrava, an 8th grade student at Kalākaua Middle School.
Hawai‘i’s living former governors and first ladies are expected to attend, including former First Lady Nancy Quinn; former Judge Jim Burns, the son of former Governor John Burns; former Governor George Ariyoshi and former First Lady Jean Ariyoshi; former Governor John Waihe‘e and former First Lady Lynn Waihe‘e; and former Governor Ben Cayetano and former First Lady Vicky Cayetano. The current and former members of Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation have also been invited, as well as former legislators who served in the Legislature in 1959 when Hawai‘i first became a state.
“For all of us who continue to work for Hawai‘i’s future, it is fitting that we stop and reflect on the important events that have brought us to where we are today,” said Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. “In addition to providing Hawai‘i’s people the full rights and benefits of citizens of our nation, statehood also permitted us to operate under a constitution of our own drafting and to fully determine the direction our state would move in. We can all be proud that as a result of the action of President Eisenhower 50 years ago, the Hawai‘i we enjoy today is a Hawai‘i of our own making, reflecting a commitment to our people, our environment and our precious host culture.”
“I stand with great pride and aloha for our state and its people as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Hawai‘i’s Statehood,” said Speaker of the House Calvin K.Y. Say. “I am most proud of the fact that over the past 50 years, we have maintained our unique culture and distinctive character, preserved the natural beauty of our land, served as a role model as the most ethnically diverse state in the nation, and shared a historic moment with our newly elected President of the United States who was born and raised in these islands. The most exciting thing for me, however, is the knowledge that our people share a love for Hawai‘i that transcends all differences, and we shall work together in unity to ensure that the best years for the state are before us.”
Prior to the start of the joint session, the 111th Army Band will perform in the Capitol Rotunda from 11:30 a.m. to noon. At 11:55 a.m., two Hawai‘i Air National Guard F-15s will conduct a flyover of the Capitol.
An archival display of historic items and photos from 1959 will also be on display in the Chamber level of the State Capitol.
Following the joint legislative session, the public is invited to participate in self-guided or docent-assisted walking tours of the downtown Honolulu’s Capital Cultural District, which is included in the proposed Honolulu Capital National Heritage Area currently being considered by Congress. Free maps featuring downtown Honolulu’s historic landmarks will be distributed. Among the highlights are the Hawai‘i State Capitol, Washington Place, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Hawai‘i State Art Museum, ‘Iolani Palace, Ali‘iolani Hale, Mission Houses Memorial Museum, Honolulu Hale, Hawai‘i State Library, Kawaiaha‘o Church, Hawai‘i Theatre and Chinatown.
The 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission has planned a comprehensive year-long series of events and programs, with a special focus on education, to honor the 50th anniversary of Hawai‘i’s admission to the United States.
Since August 2008, the Commission has been airing the 50 Voices of Statehood series of radio and television vignettes featuring personal perspectives on statehood and Hawai‘i’s history from 50 residents representing the state’s diverse ethnic, cultural, religious, political, social and economic backgrounds.
The 50 Voices of Statehood series, as well as information on the Commission, its members and the commemorative plans may be found at www.hawaii.gov/statehood.