A Leader


Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

One of the biggest attributes of a leader is the ability to make hard decisions under enormous pressure and stand with conviction by those decisions. The current situation that we, as a state and as a nation find ourselves, also finds us without either – and the cost is the lives of the citizens that depend on that leadership.

As the reported number of COVID-19 infections climb to record levels in the state, the governor continues to take a wait and see approach. With his Department of Health head, Dr. Bruce Anderson Ph.D., and the State’s epidemiologist, Dr. Sarah Park M.D., now under fire after a whistleblower has come forward to show the lack of transparency at the Department of Health, questions are now arising as to who has failed in the leadership of the situation in which the State finds itself. Has the executive branch been withholding information, or has the governor’s cabinet been withholding information from him? Either way, the leaders of the State have failed us, and pointing fingers at this point will gain us nothing. We need the governor to do something he has not done in his six years in office: lead. We need him to make bold and decisive moves to protect the health and wellbeing of the citizens of the state.

If you look to Kauaʻi, Mayor Derek Kawakami took bold and decisive measures at the onset of the pandemic. While others in the state questioned what some considered “drastic measures” being taken by the garden isle’s mayor, the results do not lie. Mayor Kawakami made a hard decision under enormous pressure for the health and safety of his citizens – a leader. Similarly, Aotearoa’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, took “drastic measures” and not only closed the entire country down, but put it under a strict quarantine barring anyone from entering the country. While they have recently found a few dozen cases and are actively tracing the source of the outbreak, they previously went for over three months with no active cases. Hard decisions under enormous pressure for the health and safety of her citizens – a leader.

The governor line-vetoed appropriations for financial assistance for the unemployed due to the COVID-19 shut down with a wait and see what the federal government was going to do with its funding. As the state reaches unprecedented infection numbers, the governor is choosing to wait and see instead of ordering another complete shutdown. He is choosing to wait and see as thousands of our keiki head back to the classrooms putting them, their kumu, and their ʻohana at home in danger of being infected. Wait and see. In a quote from Matthew Modine’s character, Dr. Don Francis, from the 1993 movie And the Band Played On said, “How many people have to die to make it cost-efficient for you people to do something about it? A hundred? A thousand? Give us a number so we won’t annoy you again until the amount of money you begin spending on lawsuits makes it more profitable for you to save people than to kill them.”

What will it take, governor, how many, tell us the magic number, the magic scenario that needs to happen for you to make some hard decisions under all this enormous pressure, to be a leader?