Monday, August 13, 2007

Admissions Day in Hawaii Aug. 18

The 3rd Friday in August is celebrated as Admissions Day, commemorating the date - August 21 - when Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959. The state became the 50th, and last, state to join the Union. President Eisenhower unfurled the new 50-star flag at the White House ceremony, but the flag did not become official until July 4, 1960.

At the ceremony, Eisenhower was joined by Vice President Nixon, House Speaker Sam Rayburn, Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton, and Hawaii politicians-elect: Senator-elect Oren Long, and House-member-elect Daniel Inouye, who has represented Hawaii in Congress ever since, and is still one of the state's two Senators! Hiram Fong, the other Senator-elect, and the new Governor, William F. Quinn, stayed in Hawaii.

Statehood bills for Hawaii were introduced into Congress as early as 1919, and again in 1935, 1947, and 1950. In the decade before 1959, three Hawaii statehood bills had passed the House. Once a bill also passed the Senate, but died because it was tied to statehood for Alaska. Much of the opposition came from Southerners in Congress, who "took a dim view of the mixed racial strains of Hawaii's population."

Alaska was admitted earlier in 1959, but no new states had been added since 1912, when Arizona and New Mexico became part of the Union. When Alaska was finally approved, Hawaii's long fight for statehood effectively ended, as it was generally understood by the politicians that Hawaii's turn would come.

For those of us lucky enough to live in Hawaii, we feel the ethnic diversity is not only one of the greatest strengths of the state, but also one of the many pleasures of calling this Paradise our "home."

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