by Mufi Hannemann, Mayor of Honolulu
My life is guided by a number of precepts—I’ve dubbed them “Mufi’s Maxims”—that set forth many of the ideals and everyday practices I apply in my responsibilities as mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, and which I’ve encouraged the members of my cabinet to follow as they go about their duties.
These maxims were not a revelation, not some creation whipped up in a burst of creative energy. Rather, they were gathered and refined through years of living and work experience in Hawai‘i and around the world, both positive and negative, much like the ideas and thoughts being shared in The Greater Good: Life Lessons from Hawai‘i’s Leaders.
One of them is, “Leave this a better place than you found it.” It’s a maxim I’ve followed throughout my career in public service. Public service, for me, has never been about power or prestige or the usual trappings of elected office. It has always been about using God’s gifts to make this a better place, to serve and sacrifice for others, to contribute to the greater good; these have been motivating factors in driving me to public service and to creating the Pacific Century Fellows leadership program.
It hasn’t been easy, believe me. Ours is a democracy, not an autocracy. People have a say in the directions and goals of our city, the state and the nation, and they’re not hesitant about expressing those views. It’s a near-impossibility to get a group of people to agree on what they want to eat for lunch, let alone getting them to agree on a complex issue. But I think that if your intentions are good, you keep the debate open and honest, and you’re motivated by a sincere desire to make a meaningful contribution, then you can achieve great things and make this a better place than you found it.
There’s one more point to be made about the purpose of this book. The day I received my high school diploma, I was on top of the world. Surrounded by my parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends; oodles of flower leis; a wonderful high school education behind me and a Harvard University degree before me, I couldn’t have felt more assured of my place on earth.
My father, Gustav, a soft-spoken, humble immigrant who had labored tirelessly without complaint for many years and who helped my mother, Faiaso, to raise their seven children, then stepped up to me to put a lei around my neck. As he did, he whispered in my ear, “Son, you know nothing.”
I had just completed six years at one of the finest college prep schools in the United States, earned the Iolani Headmaster’s Award, been named an all-star in basketball and football, completed a term as student body president and been accepted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell and Stanford—and I still knew nothing, in my dad’s eyes. In essence, he was encouraging me to be humble, stay focused on education and keep thirsting for knowledge.
My Dad’s Dictum, if you will, has stayed with me for the past 35 years. Indeed, we know nothing. There’s always more to learn, a new idea on the horizon, a different opinion, a unique perspective to add to the mix. The people who have generously shared their unique wisdom, experiences, and thoughts in The Greater Good tell us that learning is a life long journey, and that we should continue to learn from the experience and wisdom of others.
We can all be grateful to Evan and Kari Leong for their commitment to the betterment of our community, our state and our nation and their inspiring work for the good of all.