Hawai‘i inaugurates second Japanese American governor

HONOLULU — The U.S. state of Hawai‘i on Dec. 1 welcomed its eighth governor at the inauguration of David Ige, a third-generation Japanese American and the second governor of Japanese ancestry for the state.

“I stand here today in the shadow of my parents’ and my grandparents’ accomplishments because of their willingness to sacrifice and look to my future,” Ige said in his first speech after taking the oath of office at the Hawai‘i State Capitol in Honolulu.

“And I say to them and my mother, who is watching today from the hospital, with the greatest humility, ‘okagesama de’ — All that I am, I am because of you,” Ige said using a Japanese expression of appreciation.

HAWAI‘I HONCHO — Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige (R) and his wife Dawn wave to the crowd at his inauguration ceremony in the state Capitol in Honolulu on Dec. 1. Kyodo News photo

HAWAI‘I HONCHO — Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige (R) and his wife Dawn wave to the crowd at his inauguration ceremony in the state Capitol in Honolulu on Dec. 1. Kyodo News photo

Born and raised in Pearl City, a city west of Honolulu, Ige has been a state legislator since he was appointed to the State House of Representatives in 1985 by George Ariyoshi, the first Japanese American governor for Hawai‘i who served from 1974 to 1986. 

Ige served in the house for eight years until he was elected to the State Senate in 1994.

Ige, recognizing that Hawai‘i and the United States as a whole are made up primarily of immigrants and children of immigrants, touched on the importance of remembering the past and embracing future opportunities.

“All of us, no matter where we came from, walk today with one foot stepping out of the past and the other about to step into a future, a future of endless possibilities,” Ige said.

A relative unknown when he announced his gubernatorial candidacy, Ige gradually gained name recognition and went on to win the Democratic primary against then-incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie in a landslide victory, taking nearly two-thirds of the vote in August.

On Nov. 4, Ige was elected governor of Hawai‘i over Republican challenger Duke Aiona, a former Hawai‘i lieutenant governor.

Shan Tsutsui, who has been lieutenant governor under Abercrombie since 2012, was again sworn in as Hawai‘i’s lieutenant governor.

Ige is the fifth son of Tokio and Tsurue Ige. Tokio was a veteran of World War II, having served in the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up of Japanese Americans.

Ige received a bachelors of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, where he also earned his masters of business administration.

He worked as an engineer for GTE Hawaiian Tel, a Honolulu-based telecom company now known as Hawaiian Telcom, for 18 years and worked at several other companies while serving as a state legislator.

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