Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Committee on Hawaiian Affairs: Hawaiian Language

It's not common to leave a committee hearing with chicken skin, but it was unavoidable to walk out of today's Committee on Hawaiian Affairs hearing regarding legislation pertaining to Hawaiian language, unmoved. Testimony was heard regarding three bills: HB1973 relating to Hawaiian language immersion programs, HB1984 which would make February "Olelo Hawaii Month," and HB1986 which deals with developing appropriate assessment tests for students enrolled in the Hawaiian language immersion program. The cultural significance and overall merit of the proposed legislation itself evokes an emotional response, but the heartfelt testimony of dozens of keiki, kapuna, and educators on behalf of their future, the future of the Hawaiian language, and the future of Hawai'i, was a force more powerful than words can express. For two hours this morning, room 329 of the Capitol was filled with pure aloha.

Hawaiian language immersion students testifying before the Committee

All of the testimony presented to the Committee was in support of the legislation, with the biggest opponent - the DOE - not sending a single representative to the hearing. Representatives from OHA, UH, the Hawaiian language schools themselves, and parents provided the committee with articulate, poignant, and compelling testimony in favor of this legislation that means so much to them; to all of us. At one point in the hearing, the students from all of the schools present joined together to perform a song in Hawaiian for the committee. Unsurprisingly, all three measures passed, but the real test will come when the legislation moves to the Finance Committee to discuss funding.

If you recognize the value of reviving, restoring, and celebrating the Hawaiian language, please contact your representative or Rep. Hanohano (Hawaiian Affairs Committee chair) and voice your support. Mahalo.

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