Years before he became Hawaiʻi’s senior senator, Brian Schatz was a Pacific Century Fellow. A member of the 2007 class, Schatz joined the program after serving eight years in the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives. He would go on to become the state’s Lieutenant Governor, before ascending to the U.S. Senate in 2012.
Sen. Schatz’ PCF experience was meaningful, both personally and professionally. He credits the program with giving him the opportunity to engage with people he may otherwise never have met, and the chance to learn new things about the place he calls home.
“At the time I had not had sufficient exposure to military issues,” he explained, “PCF does an excellent job of mixing government and private sector individuals, and making sure that the civilian community is introduced to the contributions of our military to the economy and culture of Hawaiʻi.”
More than twenty years later, Sen. Schatz is still close to many of his PCF classmates.
“It’s the friendships. Of course we are exposed to a variety of exciting learning opportunities, but the quality and diversity of the groups, and their public service orientation, is the best part. We have become lifelong friends,” he said.
“It’s essential, especially in Hawaiʻi, for us to not assume that someone is going to come along to lead us. That’s not how it works. It is time for the next generation to lead and that’s part of what [pacific century fellows] provides.”
For Schatz, making and maintaining those connections is the part of the program that has had the most lasting impact.
“For me, it was about broadening friendships and my professional network, not for the purpose of getting ahead, but for the purpose of knowing that there are lots of impressive, fun, passionate people across Hawaiʻi trying to make our home a better place.”
The Senator’s favorite quote comes from former President Barack Obama, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
In that spirit, he recommends PCF as a way for those passionate about Hawaiʻi to collaborate and lead.
“It’s essential, especially in Hawaiʻi, for us to not assume that someone is going to come along to lead us or that the older generation will bless a transition in leadership. That’s not how it works. It is time for the next generation to lead and that’s part of what PCF provides.”