Remembering Gerald Hagino And His Unique Vision For Hawaii - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Perry Arrasmith

Perry Arrasmith is a second-year master’s student with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaii Manoa, where he is also a graduate degree fellow at East-West Center. Raised on Oahu, he is a graduate of Aiea High School and Harvard College. 

The former state lawmaker had a major influence as a delegate to the 1978 Constitutional Convention.

Gerald Hagino of Wahiawa is a figure whose influence over Hawaii will forever endure in the state constitution.

With his passing on June 21, Hawaii marked the loss of a person whose influence upon the formation of the modern archipelago is largely forgotten. While Hagino’s career included stints in both chambers of the Hawaii Legislature, his political journey is marked most notably by his efforts as a delegate to the 1978 Constitutional Convention.

Over the course of a few months in 1978, Hagino produced a unique vision for Hawaii that framed the archipelago as a unique political experiment in all the Pacific, the United States and the world.

A Prologue To The Next Hawaii

Hagino possessed a patent faith in the next Hawaii — a Hawaii he sought to articulate through the next Constitution of Hawaii.

From the early days of the convention, Hagino made his mark when he stood to support William Paty, a luna (or plantation boss) of the Waialua Sugar Plantation, as a candidate for the constitutional convention’s presidency.

A screenshot from page 2 of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin May 18, 1981, noting the political rise of three young lawmakers who cut their political teeth in the ’78 Con Con. (

As the product of a family with roots in Puunene, whose tight-knit plantation community in Central Maui bolstered union members, military veterans, and (of course) plantation workers, Hagino’s decision to support Paty guaranteed the latter’s election, which in turn set the stage for the formation of the convention’s work.

Beyond setting the convention on a stable course, however, his constitutional efforts extended to other initiatives.

Hagino possessed a patent faith in the next Hawaii.

One of Hagino’s key accomplishments was his behind-the-scenes advocacy for the Hawaiian Education amendment (Article X, Section 4), which mandated the promotion of “the study of Hawaiian culture, history and language” through a Hawaiian education program “consisting of language, culture and history in the public schools.” This amendment, in the coming decades, grounded the Hawaiian Renaissance in the highest political document in the entire archipelago.

Perhaps Hagino’s most notable accomplishment, however, was his work to articulate a Hawaii’s constitutional preamble.

By the time he took his seat as a delegate in May 1978, his brother David’s political tract “Palaka Power” was already emerging as a near legendary political tome concerning the future of the Hawaiian Islands.

Amidst greater anxieties about the changing shape of Hawaii politics, society, economics, and culture, a need emerged for a succinct statement of the convention’s attitude towards the next Hawaii.

Alongside other delegates like Dean Tamayori and Bruce Yamashita, Gerald Hagino set out to not only draft the Constitution’s preamble, but set a prologue to the next Hawai‘i.

The Preamble’s Formation

At approximately 9:47 p.m. on Aug. 18, 1978, the Committee of the Whole of the Constitutional Convention was called to order by delegate Les Ihara, who presided that evening as the body’s chair.
When Ihara raised the question of whether any amendments needed to be considered to the State’s preamble, delegate Gerald Hagino produced the language of the state’s preamble:

“We, the people of Hawaii, grateful for Divine Guidance, mindful of our Hawaiian heritage and uniqueness as an island state, dedicate our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed by the Hawaiian motto, Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.

Jerry and Cindy Hagino sign-waving for one of Jerry’s many elections to the Hawaii State Legislature . (Courtesy Hagino Family)

“We reserve the right to control our destiny; to nurture the integrity of our people and culture; and to preserve the quality of life that we desire.

“We reaffirm our belief in a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and with an understanding and compassionate heart toward all the peoples of the earth, do hereby ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Hawaii.”

Hagino’s motion to amend the state of Hawaii’s preamble was immediately seconded by delegate Adelaide “Frenchy” DeSoto, a prominent Native Hawaiian leader and the future chair of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The proposal’s introducers, led by Hagino, identified five critical issues of emphasis within the preamble:

  • the state’s Hawaiian Heritage;
  • Hawaii’s uniqueness as an island state;
  • The beauty of Hawaii and the importance of treating it with respect;
  • the right of Hawaii and its people to control Hawaii’s destiny; and
  • the enduring need to nurture Hawaii’s various cultures.

These five critical issues of emphasis framed the political foundations of the next Hawaii.

“We hope,” Hagino remarked on the floor, “that this preamble will serve as a source of inspiration and guidance to all who read it and especially to those who will rely on it as an aid in writing statutes and in interpreting the constitution.”

To this day, Hagino’s language remains the preamble to the Hawaii State Constitution — and the political foundation of Hawaii.

A Sense Of Historical Awareness

Hagino’s vision for Hawaii extended to an address given at the end of the 1978 Constitutional Convention. This speech was not only a summary of the convention’s progress, but an acknowledgement of those forces always ready to confront the citizens of Hawaii’s democratic experiment.

Between a reference to Furtado Memorial High School and a quotation of the late George Helm, his remarks called for a spirited dedication to carrying-forth the work outlined by convention. In the hands of its elected delegates — many of whom were bound for elected office — there was a discernible foundation for the next Hawaii.

“And so, who are we? And where are we going? I am not certain, and I don’t believe anyone here is certain of where Hawaii is going. I do believe that there are some rough years ahead and yet, like the earlier generation of leaders who are part of the ’54 revolution and had to bide their time during the rest of the decade of the 1950s, I feel confident that a new Hawaii is coming.”

After nearly 50 years, we still pursue satisfying answers to Gerald Hagino’s questions.

The Hawaii Of Gerald Hagino

Following the 1978 Constitutional Convention, Gerald Hagino’s career included a foray into legislative politics, where he served in the state House for one term before serving three terms in the state Senate.
Hagino was one among many, as figures like Ihara, Carol Fukunaga, Tom Okamura, John Waihee III, Jim Shon, Joe Souki, Barbara Marumoto, Clarice Hashimoto, Mark Andrews and Tony Takitani were among the delegates subsequently elected to the state Legislature.

Those who emerged from the 1978 Constitutional Convention sought to build the next Hawaii with the vision of Gerald Hagino as a silent foundation.

Hawaii’s Constitution endures as a product of 1978, when great hopes and fears for the future of the Hawaiian Islands were coded into the fabric of the state’s being.

Where Hawaii is not perfect, the foundation of a perfect Hawaii endures in Hagino’s preamble. Like the idea of “a more perfect union, the next Hawaii of the preamble — the next Hawaii of Hagino — remains an unrealized matter of uniqueness.

The preamble’s sentiments are contemporary and fresh, as confirmed by publications like the Hawaii Executive Collaborative’s “Possible Futures for Hawaii’s Soul” and long-standing governmental planning documents like the “Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan” and the Hawaii State Planning Act.

His words will forever influence Hawaii’s political evolution. Where the next Hawaii is always coming, his vision is a source of reflection. Gerald Hagino’s work is not over.

Today, we are still building the next Hawaii.

A service is scheduled for Sept. 27 at Mililani Mortuary mauka chapel. Visitation begins at 5:30 p.m., with the service at 6:30 p.m.

Editor’s note: The author acknowledges the feedback of former Gov. John Waihee, former State House Majority Leader Tom Okamura, State Sen. Carol Fukunaga, former State Rep. David Hagino and the historian Tom Coffman. Waihee, Okamura and Fukunaga served as delegates to the 1978 Constitutional Convention of 1978 alongside Gerald Hagino.

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About the Author

Perry Arrasmith

Perry Arrasmith is a second-year master’s student with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaii Manoa, where he is also a graduate degree fellow at East-West Center. Raised on Oahu, he is a graduate of Aiea High School and Harvard College. 

Latest Comments (0)

Great article, thank you

marilynlee · 3 days ago

If someone can suggest one or two good university introductory text books on Hawai’i politics I would be appreciative. Mahalo.

hp · 3 days ago

lesfung2014. What a great tribute to a statesman who thought highly of creating the Hawaiian Constitution to represent what was during his time and the future of our present generation to live in our beautiful islands to find purpose in our political system representing each and every citizen.

lesfung2023 · 5 days ago

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