Monthly Archives: November 2003

"Dying to Live" versus "Living to Die"

Several months ago, I brought up a philosophical discussion with some of my friends. We discussed the difference between “Dying to Live” versus “Living to Die.”

I believe if one is dying to live, there are things that are obstructing one’s hope to live happily. Whereas, when one is living to die, one is making the most of life and if one is to die, there would be no regrets because he or she lived life to the fullest. I tell my mom that I push myself hard in my personal goals, and in my dreams for Hawaii and our country because if I die tomorrow, I would leave a positive impact on a good number of people.

I always remind my friends to always work hard, have fun, make an impact in your community, and love your loved ones.

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John A. Burns

I often say Governor John A. Burns is my hero. He has impacted Hawaii in his many roles as Police Chief, Small businessman, Delegate to Congress, and Governor of Hawaii. His push for social justice and statehood for Hawaii will forever be remembered. I memorized this quote from Burns, a devout catholic, stated after he allowed pro-choice to pass in Hawaii without his signature, “Whereas the Pope works in black and white, a politician must work in shades of gray.”

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The Influence of Art and Music

Tupac Amaru Shakur, in my opinion, is one of the artists that had a political and social conscious. His talent shined in his music, movies, and poetry. In the mid-90s, his music helped me to cope with some of my struggles. I stayed strong in my goal to be a politician.

He said that the Vietnam War would have lasted longer had it not been for the media reporting all the horrors of war. Likewise, through his music, he was reporting the horrors happening in the United States. In his songs, he mentions rape, young girls getting pregnant, drugs, violence, broken families, death, prostitution, and spending millions of dollars for wars while our own people are suffering.

Tupac stated, “I am not saying that I am going to change the world, but I guarantee I will spark the brain that will change the world.”

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Grandpa Maurice Karamatsu

My grandfather Maurice Karamatsu passed away in 1992 before I graduated from Pearl City High School. At the time, I was doing some theater with Honolulu Theatre For Youth’s Young at Art. The last words I remember from him was, “Study hard, go to college, and one day Hollywood will beckon you.” My grandpa was always a believer of “anything is possible if you work hard.”

Granpda Karamatsu’s first job I believe was as a driver for Dillingham. Then he was a messenger boy for Hawaiian Airlines and rose up the ranks to management. He was recognized and asked to help start a small store in Waikiki, Duty Free Shoppers Hawaii (DFS). This store grew to be a big multinational company. He retired as Vice President of DFS.

Besides business, my grandfather was active in politics. He worked with senior politicians of the past such as Governor George Ariyoshi, Senator Nadao Yoshinaga and Representative Jack Suwa as well as from the next generation, Governor Ben Cayetano, Senate President Norman Mizuguchi and Speaker Calvin Say. He was friends with legendary attorney Wally Fujiyama (Attorney for DFS, University of Hawaii Regent) who was also active in Hawaii politics, and from what I heard, they often visited the state capitol.

After Grandpa Karamatsu died, the first job I had was working for DFS in its warehouse in the summer of 1992, punching price tags all day. Later in the summer of 1992, I worked in the Flightline division of DFS until the spring of 1996. I started a business this year and ironically, it is located next to DFS’ warehouse and headquarters where I used to work. My grandfather took a chance in the duty free arena where international travelers could buy merchandise tax free, a unique way of doing global business through international travel. Whereas, I have ventured into the e-commerce arena where internet stores lie in virtual reality and the world is your market.

As an elected official, I have met many political and business leaders who knew my grandpa. Senator Nadao Yoshinaga is now my mentor. Another mentor, Senator Carol Fukunaga also knew him. I got to know Colbert Matsumoto, CEO of Island Insurance, who was a young attorney for Wally Fujiyama when he met my grandpa. Wally Fujiyama’s grandson, Jon Fujiyama is now a friend of mine and a strong supporter. Speaker Calvin Say serves as a great teacher for me in the House of Representatives. He became friends with my grandpa because his father-in-law, Mr. Kotake was good friends with my grandpa.

These are just a number of coincidences that have happened recently. I believe Grandpa Karamatsu is still here guiding me in business and politics.

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1997 Poem "Ease the Pain" by Jon Riki Karamatsu

In 1997, at the age of 22, I wrote this poem because of the dramatic things my friends and I went through. At that time, I knew girls who survived rape and abuse. My best friend was almost shot by a person with road rage. I myself was being hunted down by a crazy person and his friends because he was upset I dated his ex-girlfriend who I no longer was dating since 1995. This person finally stopped trying to attack me after I took him to court in 1999 where he received a misdemeanor conviction. The girl I was seeing at the time was almost raped at her own graduation party set up by her friends in a hotel in Waikiki. I remember her running upstairs to me. I took her away from the room and headed downstairs to call the police but she would not let me because she didn’t want to make a commotion. Rather, she cried in my arms.

I directed a lot of my energy towards my studies and public service. Instead of just focusing on myself, I focused on others. I really felt that politics was a way to make positive changes in the world. I had an unbelievable drive to enter politics. In fact, starting in 1996, I was already planning for my 2002 run for political office.


There is no word
Which describes my anger at the evils of the world
I don’t understand the reason
Why people hurt other people?
I wish I had the power
To ease the pain of others

The problems will never cease
My goal is to see it does
Only together we have the power
To ease the pain of others

People will say I am a dreamer
I don’t care
I won’t stop
I’ll make them a believer

— Jon Riki Karamatsu 1997 —

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1997 Poem "Please Sweetie Don’t Cry" by Jon Riki Karamatsu

This is a poem I created in the Fall of 1997 at the age of 22 while I was attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa. At the time, I was Student Body Vice President. I made a number of poems that fall because of a literary course I was taking. Much of my political drive in my early years was due to the pain suffered by people I knew. Although much of my current legislation is in the economic development arena, I still have a strong passion for women and children issues.


Hiding in the corner, a little girl cries
Clinging to a teddy bear
She feels lost
Just yearning for someone who cares

Hurt by those she trusts
She keeps the pain inside
What she knows, she won’t tell
Please sweetie don’t cry

I wish I could fly
I would put her in my arms and carry her to the sky
Above the highest mountains
I’d show her the beauty from up high

Little girl wherever you are
I pray for you
May you find joy and live a full life
All alone in the corner at age five
Please sweetie don’t cry

-Jon Riki Karamatsu 1997-

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My Small Business

This year has been a very challenging year for me thus far. Not only was this my first year in state elected politics, but I also began my first business following the lead of entrepreneurs Stacey Hayashi and Scott Murakami. I incorporated JRK Enterprises LLC and began an e-commerce business. I sell Hawaiian themed products for the home as well as some Hawaiian clothing on the internet. Much of my transactions are with mainland U.S. customers, therefore, I am exporting many local products and playing a small role in bringing revenue into Hawaii.

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