My Vision as An OHA Trustee


Keli‘i Akina, Ph.D., Trustee, At-LargeThe start of a new year is a great time to dream. What are your dreams? What do you want for your life and for future generations? As an OHA Trustee, my vision is a Hawai‘i where Hawaiians and all people have the freedom and economic opportunity to fulfill their dreams!

Let me explain four key parts of this vision.


In ancient Hawai‘i, freedom was limited to those at the top of the ruling class. Most Hawaiians lived under a rigid system of laws and social rules then, whereas today, Hawaiians possess the freedom to pursue their personal visions of self-determination. There is much diversity among us as to what self-determinism means. For some, the focus is upon the opportunity for individuals and their families to advance and pursue their dreams. For others the focus is upon Hawaiians as a community or a nation advancing together. I am committed to making OHA an institution that empowers all Hawaiians to achieve self-determinism, however they conceive of it. This means OHA cannot dictate what self-determinism is, but must allow the freedom for respectful differences, as it empowers Hawaiians to freely pursue dreams.

Economic Opportunity

As a Trustee, my duty is to work every day towards the betterment of the conditions of the Hawaiian people. Research has shown that economic opportunity and freedom are the key to bettering the conditions of a people in every area from housing to income to health. The majority of Native Hawaiians know this is true according to past surveys commissioned by OHA. The data shows that Hawaiians want OHA to concentrate on the bread-and-butter issues of empowering Hawaiians with jobs, housing, education, and health care. Economic opportunity and freedom are key to fulfilling dreams.

E Hana Kākou (Let’s work together!)

Our ali‘i envisioned Hawai‘i as a great ‘āina in which all peoples thrived together. As King Kamehameha III stated in the 1840 Constitution, “God hath made from one blood (koko) all nations of men to dwell on the earth in unity and blessedness.” In Hawai‘i, we are so interconnected, that to raise the water level of one boat, we must raise the water levels of all boats. We must live in harmony with and work toward what is good for everyone. That’s why the vision of Hawai‘i where Hawaiians have the freedom and economic opportunity to fulfill their dreams requires that all people have the means to fulfill their dreams. OHA must be seen as a valuable partner, not an opponent, to the broader community. E Hana Kākou!

A Strong OHA

In order to empower Hawaiians to pursue our dreams, OHA must be strong as a financial trust. First, we must protect the trust. That’s why I have advocated a comprehensive, independent audit to keep fraud, waste, and abuse from depleting the trust. We must also protect the trust by reducing the amount that is spent every year without being replenished. Secondly, we must grow the trust. For example we need to maximize the financial return on the commercial land owned by OHA in Kaka‘ako. Third, we must spend the trust wisely. This means that OHA resources must go to bettering the conditions of Hawaiians in tangible ways, rather than to further narrow political visions.

As we enter the new year, I pray for a Hawai‘i where Hawaiians and all people have the freedom and economic opportunity to fulfill their dreams!

Trustee Akina welcomes your feedback. To reach him, call (808) 594-1976 or email

Note: Trustee columns represent the views of individual trustees and may not reflect the official positions adopted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.