When you are sitting back and watching a gorgeous sunset over the Pacific Ocean with palm fronds waving in the breeze, drinking a fruity concoction out of a hollowed-out pineapple, thousands of miles from home, it's sometimes easy to forget that when you are in Hawaii, you are still in America. Outside of the highways and the errant Costco or two, there is still a great deal of Hawaii that feels like it is an exotic foreign land. But I was reminded today that all our states are part of a greater whole, and that it is important to honor and respect that in ways that make a difference.

So that's way I took a bit of time out from my vacation this afternoon to make a trip to the Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda to attend the "We Are One" rally, sponsored by the Hawaii AFL-CIO and part of a nationwide pro-union rally remembering the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated 43 years ago today when he was in Memphis, TN. standing up for sanitation workers' rights to obtain collective bargaining. By god, if the union workers in Hawaii (whose right to collective bargaining is written into the state Constitution) could turn out to support the workers in Wisconsin, I could turn out and support them by being counted in their numbers, and cheering them along.

So after lunch I stopped by Office Max and picked up some posterboard and some sharpies and made a sign. MissEight made the little flag on it.

Parking was tough, but I got there only a few minutes late, signed in, and went inside. So many unions were represented, and each one thanked. Quite a bit of the Hawaiian workforce belongs to a union, and they too are facing struggles and cutbacks. As I am sure you know, Hawaii is an incredibly expensive place to live, from groceries to housing -- six bucks for a gallon of milk and an average house costs 500K? How does anyone manage it, much less the working and middle class? A good variety of leaders spoke to the crowd, and they all received enthusiastic applause and shouts of approval.

I was so surprised when Governor Neil Abercrombie got up and gave an impassioned speech, and showed the crowd his Teacher's Union card from 1970, which he still carries proudly. He was awesome. How many other American governors would have the guts to stand with unions publicly, hmm?

Here's a mini-video sample of what it was like. Apologies all around for the one-handed camera work...the sign, you know.

After the "Solidarity Forever" song on ukelele, the crowd dispersed, and I talked with some people and took a few more photos in and around the Capitol.

News dude making a report. The report:

In a Capitol elevator.

To my great surprise, several people came up to me and thanked me for coming, liked my sign, took photos, and shook my hand. I told each one the same thing, and I mean it sincerely: it is an honor to be able to attend. There was nowhere else I wanted to be more.

What I will remember most was when I was walking down the sidewalk, rushing my way to the Capitol before the rally with my little sign. A tall, thin older woman in a white blouse and tan shorts caught up with me, read the sign, and gave me thumbs-up. She told me she was a nurse who worked across the street at the hospital. She asked me if I was in a union, and seemed very surprised when I told her I wasn't, that I just wanted to be there because it was the right thing to do. She put her hand to her throat, and told me that she was getting a little choked up. As she walked next to me, she took my hand, and we walked the rest of the block together that way, until I went into the building, and she went back to work.