Rep. Bob Nakasone and I at my fundraiser at St. Andrew’s Priory during the 2006 Legislative Session.
“Nada Sou Sou” by Rimi Natsukawa. This is a song about the loss of a loved one. Rep. Nakasone is of Okinawan ancestry and I remember him telling me that he was tired of traveling, but he would consider going to Okinawa with some of us in the House in the future. I feel this song is fitting for him.
Representative Bob Nakasone
On Monday morning, December 8, 2008, I got a phone call and was told that Rep. Bob Nakasone passed away the day before. I felt deep sadness. He was my mentor and friend, a person that was so humble but very strong at the same time. Rep. Nakasone was the stability of the House and the State of Hawaii. Anyone and everyone would go to his office for advice, support, and friendship. You name it, representatives and senators of both parties, including House Democrats who were dissidents, the governor, lobbyists, community leaders, and friends. His closest friends and colleagues always looked forward to meeting with him. He read the laws and other information constantly and was a wealth of knowledge.
In the 2002 Legislative Session, I had returned to Hawaii after graduating from law school and was working for Senator Carol Fukunaga. In April 2002, after finishing work at Sen. Fukunaga’s office, I joined Blayne and I believe Reena at Rep. Luke’s office. I had my binder that included my campaign strategy for 2002 that I began in 1996. I showed Blayne my plan. We went out the back entrance of the office to the balcony. There was a small crowd making noise a little further down West. We walked down and an older Japanese man said something like this, “Hey, come inside.” I entered the office and noticed Rep. Jerry Chang and Speaker Joe Souki among a few people. Rep. Chang told me to sit down on a chair by him. He made me a cracker with a spread on it. He asked me where I worked and I told him Sen. Fukunaga’s office. Later in the conversation I told him I was running for the House. Rep. Chang yelled out to Speaker Joe, “Hey Speaker, we got a new representative here!” Later, I found out that the older Japanese man that invited me in was Rep. Bob Nakasone. I didn’t even know who he was. I thought he was staff at first.
I got elected that November of 2002 and quickly became friends with Speaker Calvin Say, Rep. Jerry Chang, and of course, Rep. Bob Nakasone. As a young representative at 27 years old, I had my way of thinking, but I quickly realized that I had so much to learn. The three of them played a big role in strengthening my legislative and political foundation. What I learned from them, you can’t get from any degree, including my political science and law degrees. I went to Rep. Nakasone’s office often on a regular basis to seek his point of view, understand history on an issue, and review laws and bills. I enjoyed spending time with him and so many people that went in and out of his office. At night, his office was called Club Bob’s. There were healthy debates on issues. Most importantly, there was always laughter and happiness there. It was like a haven from all the stress of politics and life in general. Rep. Nakasone had this strength that made you feel that everything was okay.
In the 2005 Legislative Session during the conference period, I was worn down after being yelled at by a couple of chairs in the House and a Senator. I always just took the hits and tried my best to stay calm. I was working on a middle ground on one issue and there was miscommunication on another issue. The stress and emotions within me was at a threshhold. I entered Rep. Nakasone’s office and just yelled out my frustration in three words. I walked straight to the balcony and repeated my statement. Speaker asked me, “what’s the matter and told me to come by him?” He was sitting in the dark with Senate President Bobby Bunda on a couple of lawn chairs. I sat on the concrete slab by Speaker Say and Rep. Nakasone came out of his office and sat by me on the concrete slab on the other side. Speaker talked to me and made me feel better. Rep. Nakasone didn’t have to say anything, but his presence just made me feel better. I will never forget that night.
In the 2007 Legislative Session, I was Vice Speaker of the House. During the conference period, Speaker Say told me to stay with Bob and make sure everything goes okay with the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation bill. That bill went to the midnight deadline with the language Rep. Nakasone wanted.
Before the 2008 Elections, I had a small talk with Bob in his office. As usual, he asked, “So how’s everything?” I told him everything was okay. He told me, “Don’t forget your dream.” I looked at him and said, “Rep. Nakasone, I don’t know. I can’t see past tomorrow.” He stated again, “Jon, don’t forget your dream.” I looked up to him, smiled, and nodded. Those were the last words he told me. He was hardly in his office and I was campaigning like crazy, so we didn’t get a chance to talk to each other again.
This past Tuesday, December 9, 2008, I laid in my bed all night thinking about Rep. Nakasone. I couldn’t sleep. I listened to music with my Ipod and headphones, but some of the songs just made me more sad.
Last night, December 12, 2008, I was working late at my office. My friend and her daughter came by. At about 9:15 P.M., we decided to walk to see the Christmas lights at Honolulu Hale. As we walked down the stairs towards Iolani Palace, I heard a crowd making noise above us and then there was a loud laughter from a lady. When I looked up to see where the noise was coming from, it was in the area of Rep. Nakasone’s office. All of a sudden, there was pure silence. There was no one there and no lights on anywhere. No one was around us on the ground floor either. I asked my friend if she heard what I heard and she said “Yes.” All of a sudden, rain began to pour down heavily, so we returned back into the capitol to my office where I finished my work. Later, we went to see the Christmas lights at Honolulu Hale. I truly believe the noise was from another Rep. Nakasone gathering with some of his old friends at his office. From the sound of it, there was so much joy and happiness. Rep. Nakasone is happy and still here for us. I will continue to seek advice from my dear friend and mentor. He is in my heart forever.