comscore Hannemann still needs to grow into greatness | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Lee Cataluna

Hannemann still needs to grow into greatness

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It was sad to watch Mufi Hannemann’s concession speech on election night. Sad because it’s hard to see a big character like that struggling to come to terms with his comeuppance, and sad because despite all his graceful conceding, he still doesn’t get it.

"Shakespeare said it best: ”Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,’" Hannemann said.

Actually, Tennyson wrote that.

But as long as he’s invoking Shakespeare, Hannemann might go back and reread what old Willie S had to say about stuff like leadership and hubris and people who take themselves too seriously:

"Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Hannemann might believe he’s in the first category, but perhaps this experience will force him to accept the truth: that he is not yet great and must continually work to prove himself. Hannemann has many impressive qualities and achievements, but a great person does not dally with the many instances of juvenile jeering from his campaign like the infamous "Compare and Decide" mailer and the website that crudely mocked rival Neil Abercrombie and his wife. A great person rises above the muck and brushes off what doesn’t matter. A great person does not see every bit of criticism as attempted murder.

"Mind your speech lest you should mar your fortunes," King Lear tells his daughter in Shakespeare’s play. The infamous "I look like you" speech was off-putting even to those who do look like Hannemann. He lost this election because of his own words, not because of anything anyone said about him.

"It is not the stars that hold our destiny but in ourselves."

In the face of Saturday’s surprising, overwhelming defeat, Hannemann all but promised to run for office again, assuring his supporters, "We’ll live to compete another day."

Which is good, because Hannemann is a smart, bold, visionary leader in a state lousy with milquetoast politicians. Hawaii needs the energy of a guy like him.

But we need him at his humble servant best, working for the good of everyone, not expending so much energy to smack down any and all opposition. Change is possible; look at Neil Abercrombie’s makeover. Not just the hair and the beard, but the whole image. The loudmouth in the yellow taxi came off as thoughtful and sincere compared with Hannemann’s incendiary ego.

If Hannemann can learn from this defeat, take the true message to heart and come back a changed man, a man able to take criticism and devoted to a clean campaign, he can win. As Shakespeare said, "Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course."

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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