My mother voted. She took me with her, and my sister too, so we could watch.
She was so proud. She called me “citizen”, she called everyone she ran into “citizen”. She was voting and she wanted everyone to know - Jackie Watson can vote today, for governor, for senator, for congressman, for president.
She voted for Bill Quinn for governor, Richard Nixon for president. It was 1960 and my mother was 35 years old. For the first time in her life, she could vote for these offices, because for the first time in her life, her homeland had become a state.
My mother, my father, my whole family had always been second-class citizens. We had a governor, but the president appointed him. We had a delegate to Congress but he had no vote there. All of that changed when Hawai’i went from being a territory to being a state.
I remember to this day - though I was only a 10-year-old then - how excited she was, how proud. She had been in high school almost 20 years earlier when Pearl Harbor was attacked, less than 10 miles from her home. She sold war bonds and worked in the pineapple fields during the war. Her brother had fought in World War II, was captured, and escaped from a POW camp. My dad had served in the army too. But none of them could vote. And then, it happened. Hawai'i became a state. She became a voter.
There’s something about voting - about the freedom and the respect that you feel, to say “I’m a Voter. I voted.”
My mother voted. She showed me how proud she was. 12 years later, I could feel that pride in myself. I could say, finally: “I’m a Voter. I voted.”
Be a Voter.
Photo Credit: Associated Press/In this March 1959 file photo, Dodie Bacon, of Honolulu, holds a newspaper celebrating Hawaii statehood (left). On the right, Chester Kahapea holds a paper announcing the statehood. [Image and Caption courtesy of Indian Country Today]