BY MARSHALL SILVER
Harvard Law School alumnus Stanley Chang ’08 returned to Cambridge on February 27th as a special guest and panelist for the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association’s (APALSA) annual conference and to promote his candidacy for the Honolulu City Council. Friends and former Boston area colleagues of Mr. Chang hosted a fundraiser for his City Council campaign at Rialto Restaurant. Over 75 friends and supporters, including HLS students and alumni, came from as far as Texas, California, and Hawaii to attend the event. Guests were treated to drinks and fresh flower lei that created an “aloha” atmosphere. The program began with greetings from event co-chairs Albert Chang ’09, Ping Song ’10 and Suffolk University 2L Trevor Ozawa. They introduced Boston resident and Hawaii transplant Al Wong, who performed an oli, or Hawaiian blessing chant, and presented ti leaf leis to Hawaii State Senator Colleen Hanabusa and Stanley. Hanabusa, who serves as President of the Hawaii State Senate attended the event to announce her support for Stanley.
“Stanley is the best of the new generation,” she told the crowd to enthusiastic applause. “There is a generational gap in Hawaii Politics…and Stanley is what Hawaii needs.”
Born and raised in Honolulu, Stanley explained his motivation for forsaking the familiar career track at a law firm in a big city. “I understood exactly what Mark Twain meant when, old, jaded, and nearly bankrupt, he said about Hawaii, ‘no other land could so longngly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done.'” In addition to the natural beauty of the islands, Stanley recalled growing up in a multicultural environment of rich diversity in Honolulu. “I learned to love pho, kim chee, Portuguese sausage, saimin, and pork hash all together,” he said, drawing knowing chuckles from the Hawaii residents in attendance. A defining moment in Stanley’s decision to run for office came when he read an interview with a participant in the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world’s largest hula competition. “She said that the reason she had worked so hard was not for the competition, but to honor her ancestors by showing them on stage all they had learned about her culture. I realized then that it wasn’t just about me, but about devoting my life to something bigger than me. Hawaii is that inspiration.”
Stanley’s speech moved many in the audience, including Aaron Halegua ’09. “Here’s someone with every opportunity, offers to make tons of money all over the world, and instead he is devoting his life to public service. That takes character.” Friends from his HLS days praised Stanley as a talented, committed leader. “Through vigorous fundraising, a vision for great new community-building programs, and plain old hard work, Stanley vastly expanded the reach of APALSA” when he was its chair, said Ping Song ’10, current APALSA co-chair. “His work turned APALSA into an organization that brought value to our member base, and anyone interested in our activities and everyone who benefits from this organization today is indebted to Stanley.” Phil Lee, assistant director of admissions, who worked with Stanley on APALSA projects, remembered, “Stanley’s leadership ability, commitment to public service, and genuine desire to make a difference in the world made his efforts at Harvard truly transformative.”
The warm response at the event was encouraging to Stanley’s campaign manager Kekoa McClellan. “This event represented everything this campaign is about: bringing together people of all backgrounds to embrace Stanley’s fresh vision and his values.” He predicted a long but rewarding campaign. “We’ll spend the next two years tirelessly spreading Stanley’s message and build a real grassroots movement to victory.” The primary election takes place in September 2010, followed by a general election in November 2010. Roughly 100,000 people live in each Honolulu City Council district. Stanley is running in an open seat vacated by Charles Djou, who is term limited out. City elections in Honolulu are non-partisan.