Local Connection: Souki's Retirement

Local Connection: Souki's Retirement

The forced retirement last week of former House Speaker Joe Souki has provoked a lot of fresh discussion about the "Me Too Movement" and whether it has put aspects of our friendly island culture into question.

Souki claims the incidents several women complained about were so unremarkable to him he didn't remember all of them.

It seemed to him that his hugs, kisses and complimentary remarks were welcome and nothing other than typical Hawaii greetings of aloha.  As far as we know nothing ever went beyond inappropriate or reached the level of assault.

Even though he apologized, what Souki didn't seem to understand was that he was Speaker of the House. The women he enjoyed so much felt they had no choice but to accept the uncomfortable situation he created.

That's why the women who complained did so to the state ethics commission rather than the usual agencies that enforce civil rights laws.  And that's appropriate.

The ethics commission enforces abuse of power. Essentially what Souki was doing was taking advantage of his powerful position to behave in a way that would not be allowed someone with less power.

It's important to understand that when you are privileged with power, those who come to you for help deserve to be treated with dignity and respect with the understanding that they probably won't speak up if you don't.

It's good for Hawaii that these women did to make it clear – it's not just about the aloha kiss.

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