Campus & community, People, Profiles

Transfer Kahoku Damaso: ‘We live in a society of spectacle’

"I think that there is a big global conversation going on right now that's heavily focused on political theory," says the 29-year-old, who plans to major in rhetoric, with a focus on public discourse. "I'm interested in being a part of that sphere, pushing for progressive values everywhere."

portrait of kohoku damaso

When Kahoku Damaso, 29, first arrived in the Bay Area from Hawaii a decade ago, he told himself that he would go to UC Berkeley one day. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

“I grew up on the Big Island in Hawaii. I’ve been living in the Bay for the past 10 years. I currently reside in Oakland. When I first arrived in California at 19, I was homeless and kind of a street urchin. I toured the campus many times, and I just thought it was so lovely and that the city was so great. I told myself that I wanted to go to this university one day. And so, we made it happen.

Before I came to California, I stayed briefly in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. I liked California the best. It had the best weather and some of the best people.

For the past 10 years, I’ve been working at various jobs, mostly as a barista. And taking time in between to get through Berkeley City College and finding time to travel and periodically visit Hawaii and my family.

I’m going into the rhetoric department at Berkeley, focusing on public discourse, because I think that there is obviously a big global conversation going on right now that’s heavily focused on political theory. I think you see it all over the place. And I’m interested in being a part of that sphere, pushing for progressive values everywhere.

I’ve always enjoyed the sort of theater and spectacle of political debate, because I know, for the average person, keeping up with all of the rhetoric and all of the ideas is basically a full-time job. But what most people are interested in is the theater or figuring out for themselves who won a debate, who performed better. So, that’s why I want to get involved.

I think we live in a society of spectacle. I think that the right has been putting up a pretty good spectacle. And I think that the left needs a good spectacle, as well.”