Brian Schatz '90Steeped in Service
Brian Schatz '90 admits grumbling a bit when community service became a graduation requirement at Punahou School, with his Class the first to meet the standard.
But the teenager who would grow up to become Hawai'i's lieutenant governor soon realized how lucky he was to be in that group, and its emphasis on volunteerism and activism has defined his life for the 21 years since high school.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has given him a major role in the administration. Since being sworn in on Dec. 6, 2010, Schatz has focused on the ongoing Fair Share Initiative, which seeks more private and public investment in Hawai'i, and on the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, set for November 2011. The trade and investment forum is expected to draw more than 10,000 people to Honolulu, and Schatz is tasked with making sure the state does all it can to make a good impression. In January, he began visiting APEC sites to assess the need for beautification efforts, safety and security upgrades and traffic mitigation, and is working closely with the host committee.
APEC provides "a tremendous opportunity for Hawai'i in terms of repositioning ourselves toward Asia," he said. "You're going to have 21 heads of state from the major Asian economies and hundreds of chief executive officers representing nearly half of the world's wealth."
Hawai'i must showcase not only what it offers in terms of hospitality, but also economic opportunities in renewable energy, agriculture and higher education. "What we want to get out of this is that we're a serious place to conduct business," he said.
The lieutenant governor credits Punahou with steering him toward public service, as he witnessed through his student volunteerism that one person truly can make a difference. After graduating from Pomona College with a philosophy degree in 1994, Schatz founded the nonprofit Youth for Environmental Service and later sought elected office, serving four terms in the state House before mounting a losing congressional bid in 2006. Out of public office, he continued as CEO of the nonprofit Helping Hands Hawai'i (which he helmed from 2002 to 2010), chaired the state Democratic Party and pitched in more at home as wife Linda completed her doctorate in architecture. Their three-generation Makiki household includes son Tyler '22, daughter Mia, and Linda's parents, George and Ping Kwok.
Besides witnessing public service in many walks of life, Schatz recalls another life lesson from his Punahou days: the importance of perseverance. A self-described "decent" water polo player, he didn't make the starting lineup until his senior year.
"The intensity of the competition ... I think really prepared me for adulthood. It wasn't as though I had immediate success, and so that was part of the preparation for the future," recalled Schatz, who entered Punahou as a sixth-grader from Kahala Elementary School. "Just like that mandatory community service. We may have grumbled at the time, but we really appreciated the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves."
By Christine Donnelly