Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs


Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

The month of November, for many, signifies the start of the holiday season. For me it means one thing: Convention. Being the son of two former presidents of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, who also happen to be founding members of the Pearl Harbor Hawaiian Civic Club, Convention has played a huge part in my life. As a child I was fortunate enough to see all the wahi pana around our State. Every year Convention travels to a different island so that all the various Councils are able to host the Association.

While my parents were in committee meetings, I was able to do excursions around the various islands and learn about our history and the moʻolelo of the various cultural and historically significant places. It was during these days of my youth that I would hear Native Hawaiians debate the issues of the day, going back and forth on such important topics as having Hawaiian Language schools, land access rights, water rights, protection of cultural sites, and technological advancements and their impact on the ʻāina. Any of this sound familiar?

Having grown up in and around the Civic Club movement I learned the difference between personal belief and representative democracy. I watched as delegates advocated for or against issues that were contrary to their own beliefs because they were representing their club. This was an important lesson that I never forgot. I also watched, with amazement, the drama of floor politics and how it played out. The art of compromise and how finding the common good could, not always, but could bring about unity.

As an adult I began attending Convention as a delegate and learned first-hand the importance of understanding the rules. My first year as a delegate I was stopped from presenting any argument. Every time I tried to take the floor I was ruled out of order and asked to relinquish the floor. I left that convention determined to know the rules better than anyone else, and I became a trained parliamentarian. If I was going to be held to the rules, I was going to ensure that everyone was held to the same standard. I have since gone on to help other councils to prepare for Convention and better navigate the process.

Wanting to keep his people engaged in the political process, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole founded the first club, The Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu, in 1918. The first Convention of the Association was not held until 1959.

The Association is comprised of 5 Councils representing the 4 counties and the continent. Combined, they have 51 clubs with at least one new club being charted this year. Each club is allowed 1 delegate for every 10 members, so the larger the club, the more votes you carry into Convention. Together with the Association’s Constitution and By-Laws, Robert’s Rules of Order presides over the proceedings and helps to keep decorum during deliberations. I am always asked by those who are new to Civic Clubs, “what is Convention like?” It’s basically like the State Legislature or Congress, but we get all our work done in 3 days. It’s a lot of work in a short amount of time.

This promises to be an active year, given all that we have going on in the State. It’s always exciting, waiting with anticipation, to see what resolutions will be coming forward for the delegation to consider. These resolutions shape the position of the Association and what they will be advocating for at the County, State, and Federal levels. I can’t wait. See you all on Maui from November 13-16, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency.