Abercrombie draws parallels between nisei soldiers, samurai

Artist Kirk Kurokawa (left) poses with former Gov. Neil Abercrombie for a photo Aug. 19 at the Kahili Golf Course Nahele Ballroom in Waikapu. Abercrombie gave a speech, part of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center’s “Leadership Series.” He acknowledged Kurokawa, who painted the former governor’s official portrait that hangs in the state Capitol. -- SHANE TEGARDEN photo

Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie drew a parallel between the Japanese samurai and second-generation Japanese-American WWII soldiers during an appearance Aug. 19 on Maui.

His talk was part of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center’s “Leadership Series,” which has already featured former Govs. George Ariyoshi and John Waihee and Gov. David Ige.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle, who was Maui County mayor as well, will be the next speaker in the series. Her appearance is scheduled for December.

At the gathering at the Kahili Golf Course Nahele Ballroom in Waikapu, Abercrombie discussed the code of the bushido. The samurai code places the qualities of loyalty, courage, truthfulness, compassion, honor and respect above all else.

He titled his speech “Leadership in Today’s Hawaii: How are the Nisei Values Part of It.” He drew parallels between the samurai warrior’s code of conduct in pre-modern Japan and the nisei veterans who served heroically in WWII and returned to help lead a political revolution in Hawaii.

Abercrombie called the code an ideal, one that he has strived to meet but admitted to falling short of at times in his life.

“The most important thing people want in a leader is to know they can trust him or her,” Abercrombie said.

At the end of his speech heard by nearly 100 people in attendance, he expressed his admiration and gratitude for the center and its mission of helping people find the hero in themselves.

The state’s seventh governor also made it a point to single out and thank attendee Maui artist Kirk Kurokawa, whose official portrait of the governor hangs in the state Capitol.

“Forty-six artists applied for the job,” Abercrombie said. “Kirk was the only one from Hawaii and when I saw the sensitivity in the portrait he painted of his father, I knew I wanted him.”