How OHA Benefits All People!

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Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

As a Trustee-At-Large for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, my primary responsibility is to ensure that OHA works toward the betterment of the conditions of the Hawaiian people. That’s why I am so pleased to see significant improvements and growth in OHA’s Grants program which is administered for organizations that serve the Hawaiian population. This is just one of many ways we are fulfilling our constitutional mandate to better the conditions of Kanaka.

But I am also pleased that OHA brings benefits to non-Hawaiians as well. Perhaps the most significant way in which OHA serves all constituents in Hawaiʻi is through the quality of decisions made by the Board of Trustees. Our decisions impact virtually every area of life on the islands. For example, as the 13th largest landowner in the State, OHA has committed to the development of its 31 acres in Kakaʻako Makai now known as Hakuone. OHA’s long-term vision for its parcels has the potential to benefit residents and visitors by providing commercial space, cultural preservation, entertainment, and housing. Similarly, OHA owns valuable real estate in Iwilei, just a short distance from Kakaʻako Makai, which has the potential of significantly renewing the urban center of Honolulu and providing critically needed housing.

Photo: Chinese Chamber of Commerce with Trustee Akina
Chinese Chamber of Commerce with Trustee Akina (Left to right): Executive VP Shengri “Sonny” Zhang, VP Angeline Shiroma, Trustee Akina, President Mike Young, Past President Russell Lau. – Photo: Courtesy

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to share the relevance of OHA during visits with diverse community and business groups such as the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaiʻi and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi. It was fun to visit these organizations, hear how we share many of the same concerns for Hawaiʻi, and discuss how we can build a better future together.

I am grateful for the goodwill and warm welcomes provided by these organizations, and I am impressed by their aloha for the Hawaiian people. I am also glad that we were also able to discuss some “tough” issues. For example, one “tough” issue is that the building of the Thirty-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea could result in significant cultural and environmental impact, but at the same time, it could result in significant economic benefits for Hawaiians and everyone. I was pleased to discover a real spirit of willingness to work together toward a solution.

That spirit of working together is what I find so evident in all the peoples of Hawaiʻi. We can work together toward the advancement of Hawaiians and all people in everything we do. Yes, we have differences. But while these differences may define us, they shouldn’t divide us.

The bottom line is that there’s no zero sum game that pits people against each other. What’s good for Hawaiians is good for Hawaiʻi, and what’s good for Hawaiʻi is good for Hawaiians.

E hana kākou! / Let’s work together!