K. Mark Takai Papers
About K. Mark Takai
Kyle Mark Takai was born in Honolulu on July 1, 1967. He graduated from Pearl City High School, then attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa on a swimming scholarship, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1990, and a master’s degree in public health in 1993. While an undergraduate at UH, Takai was active in student government. He served as chair of the lobbying committee of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi (ASUH), and was elected the association’s president in 1989. From 1990 to 1991, Takai served as editor in chief of the university’s student newspaper, Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi. During this period, the paper was a lightning rod for some of the most critical issues that the university was struggling with, including racism and sexism.
In 1994, at age 27, Takai was elected to the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives, representing ʻAiea and Pearl City. In his campaigns, he pledged to “[Restore] faith in government by putting people first.” Takai served in the state legislature for 20 years, where he was known as a dedicated, energetic, and well-liked public servant and a champion of education and of veterans’ issues. He secured a significant increase in Federal Impact Aid for Hawaiʻi schools. In 2005, he established the Hawaiʻi Medal of Honor to honor servicemembers with Hawaiʻi ties that had been killed in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Takai himself was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard and was activated in 2005, and again in 2009, when he deployed to Kuwait for 6 months.
Takai was elected to Congress (representing Hawaiʻi’s First Congressional District) in 2014, and was named to the House Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Natural Resources. In October 2015, he introduced the Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act to compensate military personnel exposed to radioactive debris in the Marshall Islands. Later that month, Takai was diagnosed with a small tumor on his pancreas, and in May 2016, he announced that he would not seek re-election. He died at home in Hawaiʻi in 2016. Governor David Ige, who served with Takai in the state legislature, offered this remembrance: “In the often tumultuous world of politics, [Mark Takai] has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.”
Takai’s veterans legislation continued to be championed by his colleagues after his death, as the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act. The measure became part of the 117th Congressʻs PACT Act, which expanded benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. It was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022.
About the K. Mark Takai Papers
The K. Mark Takai Papers document Takai’s campaigns, his work in the Hawaiʻi state legislature, his time in Congress, as well as his tenure as president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi and editor of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student newspaper Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi. Please see the finding aid for more information.