Observed annually on his birthday in March, Prince Kūhiō Day honors the life and legacy of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole.
This year, the esteemed servant leader’s life, leadership, and legacy of community service will be formally observed as a state holiday on Friday, March 25.
Kūhiō was born on Mar. 26, 1871, in the Kōloa District of Kauaʻi to High Chief David Kahalepouli Piʻikoi and Princess Kinoiki Kekaulike, the youngest daughter of Kaumualiʻi, the last King of Kauaʻi.
Nicknamed “Prince Cupid” by a schoolteacher, Kūhiō was named a prince at age 13 by a royal proclamation from his uncle, King Kalākaua.
Educated at Honolulu’s finest schools, Kūhiō then attended St. Matthew’s Hall Military College in San Mateo, California, where he and his brothers were the first to introduce the sport of surfing in America. Kūhiō later studied at the Royal Agricultural College in England, traveled throughout Europe, and spent a year as a guest of the Japanese Government.
He served in the Kingdom’s royal cabinet as Minister of the Department of the Interior and participated in a counter-revolution to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom Government in 1895. For his part, Kūhiō was arrested, charged with treason, and imprisoned for a year. He was later pardoned.
Following his pardon, Kūhiō wed Chiefess Elizabeth Kahanu Kaʻauwa. The newlyweds left the islands traveling extensively in a self-imposed exile before returning to Hawaiʻi in 1901.
Prince Kūhiō served as a non-voting delegate from Hawaiʻi to the House of Representatives in Congress from 1902 until he died in 1922. He became known as Kealiʻi Makaʻāinana, the Citizen Prince.
A few of his notable accomplishments include a $27 million appropriation for dredging and construction of Pearl Harbor, a lighthouse at Makapuʻu Point, the Territorial building, the Hilo Wharf, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Kīlauea National Park, and a hospital at Kalaupapa.
To further perpetuate and rehabilitate the Hawaiian people and their culture, Kūhiō helped form the first Hawaiian Civic Club in 1918. This movement has grown to over 50 distinct organizations across Hawaiʻi and the United States. He also re-established the Royal Order of Kamehameha I and served as Aliʻi ʻAi Moku until his death.
Beyond his immeasurable community undertakings, perhaps Kūhiō’s legacy reigns the loudest for his political endeavors. He was responsible for instituting the county government system that is still in place today, and he sponsored the first bill for Hawaiʻi statehood in 1919.
On July 9, 1921, President Warren G. Harding signed Kūhiō’s most significant legislation, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.
His expert diplomacy, vision, and measured compromise helped to shape the foundation for Hawaiʻi’s modern government structure, while his signature legislation has served native Hawaiians for 100 years and counting.
Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole’s body of work serves as an example of daring and courageous servant leadership that continues to inspire and will be forever engraved on our hearts.