After a few miscommunications and a little bit of public shaming, state Sen. Will Espero and Rep. Bob McDermott finally came to visit my class.
After writing my last column over the school’s fall break, I shared the resulting comments with my class, namely the apologies from Espero and McDermott for not accepting my earlier invitations. I allowed them to decide what to do next; they chose to reinvite them.
Espero’s presentation was quite different than Rep. Matthew LoPresti, who had previously spoken to the class. While LoPresti had preferred to sit and wax philosophical, Espero was standing and active, engaging the students.
But there was something unusual my students picked up on.
An anonymous political cartoon appeared on the whiteboard shortly after state Sen. Will Espero visited.
Ethan Porter/Civil Beat
He likes to talk about rail.
From Espero’s opening statement, most of his talking points were a sales pitch for the Honolulu rail project and how it would vastly improve the lives of people in Ewa Beach in the future. He laid out the rising costs of car ownership and housing, and detailed how rail would fix both of those things.
Some students were not impressed. The problem of the increasing cost of the project was repeatedly asked about. But Espero ultimately won over a lot of students with his sincerity and eagerness to look to the future.
The class was eager for our next guest, McDermott, especially after his office had not responded to previous requests to come to speak to them. He showed up an hour and a half late, entirely missing my first-period class. After emailing their teachers, most were allowed to return to listen to the presentation.
Like Espero, McDermott also put brought engaging dialogue — he was very personal with his interactions and laying out his views. There was minimal fluff, but there were many tangents, including name-dropping a few references that were far before my students’ time.
Still, they liked that he places Campbell High School first among his priorities and was upfront about his religion’s impact on his politics.
After all three Ewa Beach politicians had visited, the class took some time to compare and contrast them. They noted the common populist styles of LoPresti and McDermott, and the more poised sense Espero gave off.
Despite being from different political parties, all three wanted to spend more money on schools and teachers, and they were all for the rail project, much to a few vocal students’ concern. One female student pointed out all three were men.
A quick poll revealed almost equal support among the three.
But what really stood out to the class was that none of the three was actually from Ewa Beach. When asked the quintessential “Where you grad?” question, all of them named schools on the continent. Espero has lived in the area the longest, but moved here after completing college in Washington.
One student wondered aloud if the state should change the eligibility rules to extend the time of residence before holding office, and another noted that some of the class complainers had not been in Ewa Beach that long either.
“Or,” I finished, “you run against them, highlighting your graduation from Campbell.”
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Ethan ʻOnipaʻa Porter is a Social Studies instructor at Campbell High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in Hawaiian Studies and Political Science and
a Certificate in Secondary Education, Social Studies, both from the University of Hawaii Manoa.