So last night Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa delivered the fourth and last State of the County address at the Maui Art & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater. We couldn’t make it, but have a copy of the speech and today’s Maui News, which described the attending crowd as “standing room only.”
Speeches like this, whether they’re given by mayors, governors or presidents, have three main points. The first is to make clear to the audience that the mayor, governor or president has done a lot of good while in office. Arakawa returned to this point repeatedly in his speech.
“As I stand before you, in the second month of our fourth year in office, I can say, without a doubt, that our community is in a better place than when we first began this journey,” he said in his speech. “Then last lear I said that while we still have much more to do, the state of the County was GOOD. And things are still GOOD. In fact, things are even better.”
Through his speech, Arakawa pointed to low unemployment numbers, ongoing road repairs and rehabilitation projects, water infrastructure improvements, installing solar panels on the roofs of county buildings, bus system expansion, affordable housing construction and park maintenance and restroom repairs as evidence that his administration is doing good.
“[T]he County finally purchased 209 acres last year which will eventually become the Central Maui Regional Park,” Arakawa noted. “Once this park is complete, we will have space for everyone to play almost any sport.”
The second, equally important part of the speech is to make clear that while the administration has done a lot of good, a lot more good has yet to be done. Things are great, the mayor/governor/president says, but they could be greater…
“Looking towards our future, we want more than just to recover, we want this community to thrive,” Arakawa said in his speech. “We can do it because this community has created a positive momentum, and we need to ride that wave for as long as we can.”
The Maui News seemed to love the notion of Arakawa’s administration creating “momentum,” even playing it up in their story’s headline. But momentum is an ancient concept in physics and politics–without some kind of forward, decisive motion, a political leader runs the risk of stalling or, even worse, getting tossed aside by other political leaders (county councilmembers, legislators, etc.)
For that reason, Arakawa made clear in his speech that he still has big plans for the county–plans so big achieving them may not be possible in our lifetimes. “Eventually we hope to make Maui County a zero-waste community, where we reuse and recycle instead of trash and bury,” he said. Arakawa also noted that “we still have a ways to go before we hit our long term goal of 100 percent renewable energy.”
The last point of the speech is the most important, and most delicate–so much so that few leaders will make it explicitly. It’s the belief that only the mayor/governor/president making the State of Whatever speech has the capability to build on all those successes he/she just outlined.
Coming out and making such a statement is too easily written off as immodest–which might as well be political suicide. Instead, the point has to be implied throughout the speech, strong enough that citizens get it, but not so strong that they’re repulsed by it. Arakawa’s use of the word “we” throughout his speech was definitely his way to approach this point.
In his speech, Arakawa opted for an ending that, at first, sounds humble, but on further reading could only be expressed by someone who confidently exercises power.
“In closing, may I just say that it has been an honor to be your mayor for the past three years,” he said. “I was given this honor once before and it has been a Godsend to have this opportunity once again. It would be an honor and a privilege to serve another four years, but this is not the time or place for that speech.”
Photo of Alan Arakawa and his wife Ann: Janno Gonzales/Wikimedia Commons