Me ke Aloha no ka Lāhui

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Kūpaʻa (n.v. Steadfast, firm, constant, immovable; loyal, faithful; determined; allegiance.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

When I joined OHA in 2018 as chief operating officer we were developing a new strategic plan for the organization. The previous strategic plan ended in 2018 and we wanted to ensure that the new plan would dovetail with the old plan to continue forward progress for OHA.

Selecting strategic directions (educational pathways, health outcomes, quality housing and economic stability) was easy – these represented continuing focus areas.

Establishing our foundations was more difficult. They needed to align with OHA’s vision to raise a beloved lāhui and be concepts that everyone – Hawaiian or not – could value, believe in and support. And so we landed on ʻohana (family), moʻomeheu (culture) and ʻāina (that which feeds us).

We believed that these concepts perfectly frame the “why” of OHA. People may disagree with “how” or “what” but most agree that protecting our ʻohana, moʻomeheu and ʻāina are things we all support. In my nearly five years at OHA, this has proven true.

I was appointed interim CEO and began this kuleana in July 2019. I recently looked back at my first Ka Wai Ola column, written exactly four years ago, and saw that my vision for OHA has not waivered. In that time of transition I focused on continuing OHA’s beneficiary-focused, research-informed and advocacy-led work on behalf of our lāhui. I emphasized that our new strategic plan would integrate our various objectives into a holistic vision for a thriving lāhui.

In governance conversations over the years, I have reiterated how crucial it is to be the OHA that our lāhui deserves – an organization that advocates for our rights, holds leaders accountable for unfulfilled obligations, champions our collective community needs, is sophisticated and prudent in resource management, is culturally grounded, and is doing everything it can to strengthen our families. Strong families make strong communities that make a strong lāhui. This is what I value and this is what I will always advocate for our people.

So it is with mixed emotions that I share that this is my last Ka Wai Ola column. I am leaving OHA. I will always have aloha for the work of this organization, but I believe the time has come for me to serve the lāhui in another capacity and, in the process, to better care for my ʻohana and myself.

In Ecclesiastes 3 it says that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

No matter what the future holds and where Ke Akua leads me next, I will remain kūpaʻa in my advocacy for our lāhui. And as a beneficiary myself – before, during and after my tenure at OHA – I will continue to have high expectations for OHA to be the organization our lāhui deserves.

It has been an honor for this country girl from Kohala to serve our lāhui as the CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for a season. Me ke aloha nui iā ʻoukou, a hui hou kākou. Ke Akua pū.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Ka Pouhana | Chief Executive Officer