This is a time of endings and a time of new beginnings. As a re-elected trustee, I look forward to the beginning of a new term. I humbly mahalo ke Akua for the blessing of being able to continue to serve our kanaka. Mahalo to all of my sign-wavers on all the islands, those of you who erected my signs, the endorsements and generous contributions from family and friends. I thank all those who put their trust in me and voted for me. But this message goes out to everyone, no matter how you cast your vote. In offering themselves for election, all the candidates put themselves and their talents on the line and demonstrated a spirit of willingness to serve that should be applauded. I begin my new term with a pledge that I will honor that spirit by serving everyone with dignity, integrity and transparency. The OHA mission of bettering the conditions of our Hawaiian people cannot be realized without that commitment from each of us.
We were asked during the forums what we thought were the biggest challenges ahead. I think we all know what those challenges are because we deal with one or more of them, directly or indirectly. We see members of our ohana or our friends and neighbors struggling with health issues or how to pay the rent or feed their families. The first, and perhaps most important, challenge is how we take care of our health in mind and body. We can do very little to create a better life for our families if we do not enjoy good health. I hope to work with my fellow trustees to ensure that OHA invests in programs that help the community adopt healthier living habits, better diets, more exercise. These are the basic building blocks for good health. We must get smarter about helping those who are struggling with drug addiction, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure. These are daunting problems for sure, but they are not insurmountable. If Hawaiians have the will—OHA must help find the way.
OHA must look closely at education as another critical building block to position our community for greater participation in the economic life of Hawai‘i. We need to turn the statistics around—from being over-represented where there is suffering and hardship to being better represented where there is academic achievement, entrepreneurial spirit and success through hard work and perseverance. Through OHA, and through the conversations we have in our families, we must help our children and grandchildren understand that education unlocks opportunities. The better educated they are, the stronger their credentials, the more influence they will have in public-policy making and the big decisions about education, energy, and economic growth.
OHA must seek innovative avenues to put our kanaka in homes that they can afford. What is affordable? The mortgage payments using the median family income is not affordable for many households.
The road ahead is not easy. We all know that. But I end with the wish that we may tackle the difficult problems facing our people with the spirit of lōkahi and e pūpūkāhi i holomua. As we celebrate the joys of the Christmas season let us never forget who we are. Let us honor our kupuna whose sacrifices made our lives today possible by building a better Hawaii for our children.
May the new year bring many blessings to all. Aloha nui!