Pat Matsueda

Welcome Remarks for MLK Day Ceremony on 17 January 2011

Much will be written about Martin Luther King and the idea of peace. I think I can speak for those of us here today when I say that our peace resides in part in the presence of such old trees as the one that stood here. In that place where one exchanges breaths with such a tree—where such a tree stands between earth and sky and gives us shade, and inspires us with its magnificence and beauty—there is a deep, loving peace.

That peace was disrupted last August when the university ordered the destruction of the fig tree. Why did it do that? Why didn’t it try to spare the tree? Why didn’t it hear the appeals of the many people who tried to save the tree? These questions have haunted us for many months.

Today we try to put those questions to rest. A beautiful tree stood here—and honored us with its presence. We will try to honor it with these words.

I want to say a few things about the people who will be speaking, then invite the rest of you to share your thoughts if you are so moved. Jennie Peterson is a natural historian and a curriculum specialist at the Hawaii Nature Center. Leialoha Perkins is a writer, teacher, and scholar who received the Hawaii Award for Literature. Adam Williams was a botany student in 2009, when he started the petitions to save the tree. He is now a support technician for the Ko‘olau Mountains Watershed Partnership.

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