¡Mis quierdos amigos! (My dear friends),

You may be surprised to learn that during my early twenties, I lived in Venezuela for 1½ years during the height of socialist dictator, Hugo Chávez. In a sense, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Venezuela was once a prosperous country fueled by oil and democracy. When President Chávez assumed power in 2002, he initiated sweeping socialist reforms that seemed beneficial to the poor but ultimately robbed them of their freedom.

You’d think that having everything brings happiness, but I observed the opposite. I saw people stripped of hope and the government getting in the way of their goals and dreams. Today, in Hawaii, we are combating COVID-19, crime and corruption, an uncertain economy, and a contentious political landscape. This may feel like the worst of times but I am optimistic that the best of times will still come.

We are fortunate to live in a place that allows us to choose for ourselves, our families, and build a brighter future. We must exercise our freedoms; if we don’t, we may lose them. My experience in Venezuela was a firebrand for my civic engagement and political activity. I am committed to Giving Hawaiʻi Hope and as long as I can work, I will not allow the fire for a better future to be lost.