Ask What You Can Do
Hawaii businesses have had a record-breaking year. The combined 2005 gross sales of the Top 250 companies hit a new high of almost $38.9 billion. Our 24th Top 250 tells you which company made the most money in 2005, but it also raises a more important question: What is happening to our community in the midst of these boom times?
The picture, as David K. Choo illustrates in our cover story, is far from pretty. Only a third of the jobs in Hawaii pay what is considered a living wage here. Housing prices are skyrocketing and good, hard-working folks can’t afford a roof to put over their heads. It’s not just a “homeless problem” that needs to be addressed, it’s a structural, economic, budgetary priorities and planning problem that needs to get overhauled.
I wrote last month about attending the U.S. Army War College’s 52nd Annual National Security Seminar in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Presenters at the general sessions ranged from a retired Army General, representatives of the Hoover and Brookings Institutes, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times to human rights author and Harvard Professor Samantha Power. I was thoroughly impressed with the level of thought and discourse among the up-and-coming military leaders. It also gave me a keener appreciation for the sacrifices members of our armed forces and their family members make for us, especially in times of war. The seminar has a non-attribution policy, which I will honor. Suffice it to say, that I heard enough discussion about strategy and security from a wide variety of perspectives, which reinforced my contention that brave and enlightened leaders are needed at many levels.
We need leaders who are willing to speak hard truths to potential voters. More than that, we need leaders who can “sell” these hard truths, which include: We need to fix our healthcare and retirement systems so they will stop sucking huge amounts of money away from other urgent needs and we need to reduce our dependency on oil, both for security and environmental reasons, which ultimately end up being economic and business reasons.
Leaders need to be able to get people to see the big picture and relate that to individual responsibility. A great president, whose life was too short, put it this way: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” With this issue of Hawaii Business, we ask: “What can you do for your state?”