Throughout history there have been a number of educators who have gone on to serve in political office. One such educator is Daniel Kahikina Akaka, a Native Hawaiian born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1924.
Daniel Akaka is also a veteran, having served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. When the war ended, he used his GI bill to enroll at the University of Hawaii, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1952 and his master’s degree in 1966. After earning his teaching credential, Daniel was employed as a high school teacher in Honolulu from 1953 to 1960;. In 1960 he was promoted to a position as a vice principal, and in 1969 he became a high school principal. In 1969, Daniel went to work in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as a chief program planner.
A multi-talented individual, Daniel Akaka was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1976, serving seven terms. In 1990, Daniel was appointed to fill a vacant seat in the US Senate that occurred upon the untimely death of Senator Spark Matsunaga. Subsequently Daniel was elected to that position in his own right, and he served there until 2013 when he retired.
Daniel Akaka, an outstanding chalkboard champion who was also an outstanding politician.
While conducting research for my book Chalkboard Champions,
I learned a great deal about numerous types of schools that I had never heard about in my thirty-odd years as an educator. Industrial schools, emancipation schools, farm schools, normal schools, specialist schools. Where were all these terms when I went through student teaching? One type of school I learned about that I found particularly intriguing is the Kamehameha School located in the beautiful state of Hawaii.
Kamehameha Schools were first established in 1887 at the bequest of Bernice Bishop, also known as Princess Pauahi, a member of the Hawaiian royal family when the state was still a territory. Princess Pauahi and her beloved husband, an American named Charles Reed Bishop, had no children of their own, and so when she passed away in 1882 at the age of 52, she directed that her vast estate should be used to benefit and educate underprivileged Native Hawaiian children. Two schools were built: one for boys and one for girls. Eventually the two schools were merged to form a coed school, now located on a six-hundred-acre campus on the main island of Oahu overlooking Honolulu Harbor.
Kamehameha Schools serve the important function of preserving Native Hawaiian culture, history, and language. One of the ways this is done is through the annual choral competition known as the Kamehameha Song Contest, where traditional Hawaiian songs and dances as well as new compositions in the genre are performed by the students. This is a wonderful tradition that goes back 45 years.
When I think of Chalkboard Champions, my first thought is of teachers, of course, but individuals such as Princess Pauahi who support schools financially and with their volunteer hours are also heroes to our students!
Read more about Kamehameha Schools in my book Chalkboard Champions, available on amazon.
This beautiful lady is teacher Gladys Kamakuokalani Brandt, a Native Hawaiian old enough to have attended the funeral services in 1917 of Queen Liliuokalani, the last reining monarch of Hawaii, and yet young enough to witness the unprovoked attack upon Pearl Harbor in 1941 which precipitated World War II. Gladys began her career as a teacher, working in public schools and eventually becoming an instructor at the prestigious Kamehameha Schools, a private institution set up to educate Native Hawaiian students.
As a youngster, Gladys was deeply ashamed of her Hawaiian heritage, so much so that she rubbed her face with lemon juice to lighten her complexion. By the time she became the principal of Kamehameha Schools, however, she fought tirelessly for the inclusion of courses to preserve Native Hawaiian culture, supporting instruction in Hawaiian language, song, and the controversial standing hula dance which had been forbidden by the school’s trustees. The story of her work is an inspirational one.
Equally inspirational is the story of the dedication and sacrifice of Hawaii’s teachers in the days and weeks following the bombing. From serving as ambulance drivers, setting up shelters for survivors, teaching their students how to use gas masks, taking their students into the sugar cane fields to harvest the crops, and re-establishing some semblance of order for their students when school resumed, their deeds are truly remarkable. You can read about Gladys and her fellow Hawaiian teachers in Chalkboard Champions