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Authorizing Use of Emancipation Hall to Celebrate Birthday of King Kamehameha

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HANABUSA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Brady for allowing this bill to be heard on the floor today.

As was stated, the Senate Concurrent Resolution 10 would permit use of Emancipation Hall to allow us to celebrate King Kamehameha and the lei-draping ceremony.

King Kamehameha has a unique history; and, as you know, Hawaii is the only kingdom that is part of the United States. This is going to be the 44th time such a celebration has taken place in the United States Capitol.

June 11 is a State holiday in Hawaii, a day of celebration honoring King Kamehameha. He was believed to have been born around 1758 and is credited with unifying the major islands by the year 1810. By uniting the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha secured Hawaii's future as a viable and recognized political entity.

King Kamehameha was the first in a long line of Hawaiian--what we call ``ali'i,'' which is our royalty--who held the needs and well-being of their people as their foremost priority. Kamehameha's legacy and commitment to Hawaii's people is evident today through organizations created by his prodigy, like Kamehameha Schools, the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Trust, Lunalilo Home, and the Queen's Hospital. These organizations are the bedrock foundations in Hawaii and provide crucial services to native Hawaiians while ensuring the maintenance of our State's uniquely Hawaiian identity.

The Hawaiian lei that we'll be draping is a special bond, or relationship, between two people that is figuratively represented by the stringing of flowers together in a circle. The Kamehameha lei-draping ceremony emphasizes the strong bond Hawaii's people have with each other and our State's rich history.

Honoring King Kamehameha in this lei-draping ceremony acknowledges our deep appreciation for his sacrifice and success in unifying our island home and reaffirms our connections with one another and the responsibility we all share to care for one another.

The significance of holding this ceremony in the Capitol of the United States cannot be overemphasized as it demonstrates to the Nation and the world that the rights and needs of the people should always be at the heart of the work that we do here. This is the legacy of King Kamehameha and his prodigy, and we should honor that by approving this event.

The celebration of King Kamehameha has been honored for over 140 years in Hawaii. It was first recognized in 1871, when Hawaii was still a kingdom, by Kamehameha V, his great-grandson. It was the first holiday proclaimed by the Governor and legislature when Hawaii became a State in 1959.

The statue of King Kamehameha and the traditional lei draping is over 100 years old itself. In Hawaii, the lei-draping ceremony is celebrated as a 2-day festivity in tribute to the great King. We celebrate it with parades, hula, music, chanting, storytelling, and arts. It is the way for Hawaiians to celebrate our history.

The American sculptor, Thomas Gould, was commissioned by the Kingdom of Hawaii to create the statue. It was sculpted in 1879 from his studio in Rome. It was completed in 1880, but the ship that was transporting the original from Germany sank. In 1883, the second statue made its way to Hawaii. The first statue was ultimately recovered and erected on North Kohala on the Big Island, and that is where King Kamehameha's birthplace is.

The statue stands 8 1/2 feet tall with the King in his royal clothing. In it, King Kamehameha wears a mahiole, which is the helmet, and the 'ahu 'ula, which is the cloak. They are finished with gold leaf, reminiscent of the rare yellow feathers from the mamo bird the King wore. The spear in his left hand is the symbol of his kingdom and the fact that he is willing to defend it himself, and his right hand is extended towards the direction of the Hawaiian Islands.

The statue in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center is a mold of the second statue which stands in front of our Ali'iolani Hale, the home of the Hawaii Supreme Court. This was dedicated as a gift to the National Statuary Hall from Hawaii in the year 1969.

As everyone knows, President Obama was born in Hawaii. And on June 20, 2010, President Obama issued Proclamation 8534 in honor of the bicentennial of the unification of Hawaii.

President Obama said:

On this bicentennial King Kamehameha Day, we celebrate the history and the heritage of the Aloha State, which has immeasurably enriched our national life and culture. The Hawaiian narrative is one of both profound triumph and, sadly, deep injustice. It is the story of native Hawaiians oppressed by crippling disease, aborted treaties and the eventual conquest of their sovereign kingdom. These grim milestones remind us of an unjust time in our history, as well as the many pitfalls in our Nation's long and difficult journey to perfect itself. Yet through the peaks and valleys of our American story, Hawaii's steadfast sense of community and mutual support shows the progress that results when we are united in the spirit of limitless possibility.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this celebration means to us. It is a symbol of how the Hawaiian people have the spirit of limitless possibility.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentlelady from Hawaii (Ms. Gabbard).


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