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by Monica Karlstein, staff writer

Many, especially young people, complain that politics is boring and hard to understand. Some U.S. students at HPU, who will not be named for obvious reasons, didn’t vote in the Nov. 7 general election because, they said, either they didn’t know how to cast an absentee ballot, or they didn’t care enough to try to understand the politics.

An opportunity to meet politicians in person and talk to them about their politics changed apathy to excitement for some journalism students who opened their ears, sharpened their pencils, and focused their curiosity when Journalism 3000 instructor Bette Finlayson announced a field trip to the campaign headquarters of Senator Daniel Akaka and Governor Linda Lingle.

General election night is party time for even losing campaigns, and only one floor separated the two campaign offices, in the Dole Cannery building, so the students were able to proceed from one party to the other, literally and figuratively, seeking answers from both to all their questions.

“ People first!” said Don Ariyoshi, O‘ahu coordinator for Senator Daniel Akaka, to describe Akaka’s politics, and that was exactly what was happening Nov. 7 as a dozen students waited at the building’s entrance to see Akaka.

They didn’t get just a glimpse of him. Akaka stopped on his way into the building to greet people, one by one, and talk to each of them in person.

“ If you knock at Akaka’s door, he will let you in and offer you a drink,” said Ariyoshi, who explained that Akaka’s strategy was to reach people at a grassroots level. Much of the campaign was about visiting homes, talking to residents, and putting up yard signs.

Julius Adungo, a student from Kenya, was impressed by Akaka’s way of treating people. “Just as his coordinators told us, Senator Akaka stopped and talked to us and took pictures with us,” said Adungo. “He had to be literally dragged away from us to go to a meeting.”

Anita Mayer, a German student said: “It was a great opportunity to interview and talk to the volunteers.” She also thought it was very nice of them to give students the time they needed, even though the class visit hadn’t been scheduled.

“ Meeting Akaka was a very fulfilling experience,” Mayer continued. “He is so full of aloha spirit. Seeing and talking to him just fills you with such joy.”

According to Ariyoshi, people are fed up with the Iraq war and need a senator like Akaka who is against the war because he doesn’t see an exit strategy.

“ Akaka is against it, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t supportive of our troops,” Ariyoshi explained, adding: “He has set up four clinics to take care of the 40,000 American wounded soldiers.”

The Lingle campaign headquarters was also helpful for the students, although they didn’t get to meet the governor.

“ It is more important that people vote than who they vote for,” said Myra Arzadon, a volunteer for Gov. Lingle “Each person in the class was able to interview different people,” said Mayer about interviewing volunteers at Lingle’s campaign office. “It was interesting to see the diversity in questions, answers, and reactions.

“ The lady I Interviewed spoke about the great team spirit that was present at the campaign,” Mayer said, and the actions of the campaign workers convinced her: “They were happy to work together, and they put 100 percent effort into what they were doing that evening.”

Even the students who were not American citizens became involved in the politics and the spirit of the general election. “This field trip was a great experience for international students,” Mayer said. “We are always told that we live in a global society, but attending an event like this made it real.”
 


Introduction to Journalism students got a reality check Nov. 7 with a visit to campaign headquarters of two top local officials. Clockwise from left, Julius Adungo, Monica Karlstein, Anita Mayer, Finlayson, Tamika Balderamos, Janice Barcinas, Colleen Aglugub, Joanne Corpuz, Roanny Colon, Beau Lewis, Karen Gaspar, and Euene Malalis.

Courtesy Monica Karlstein

 

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