Dick Rowland was devoted to making a difference — and he did

How many individuals can boast of leaving a legacy for liberty?

Last week, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii lost its own Founding Father, Richard “Dick” Rowland. Dick started the Grassroot Institute nearly two decades ago, when it became clear that our state needed a strong and consistent voice to defend liberty and the free market.

The Grassroot Institute wasn’t started with a foundation grant or as a billionaire’s hobby. It was born from the passion and hard work of a few dedicated people. And it was Dick Rowland who shaped the vision and mission of the institute from its earliest days.

A lot has changed at the Grassroot Institute since those first years, and Dick was an integral part of those changes. Always enthusiastic and energetic, Dick had a great humility in his dedication to the cause of liberty. As the Grassroot Institute grew and took on new challenges, Dick was happy to be a part of its evolution. Even after he moved away three years ago, he remained the organization’s founder emeritus and was still an active part of the institute’s affairs.

While the organization he started does not bear Dick’s name, he is an indelible part of both its history and its future. His aphorisms have become part of the lingo of the institute’s office, and we often quote Dick in policy discussions. Sayings such as “When the government gets bigger, you get smaller” and “Values change, but principles don’t” will always be part of the Grassroot Institute’s culture.

Dick had a great gift for forging connections with others. As a mentor, as an advocate, and as a friend, he was tireless in his efforts to make a difference. The many messages I’ve received since his passing are a testament to how much Dick meant to so many people. In particular, I’d like to share a part of what Robin Steuber, Grassroot Institute chairman, wrote in her remembrance of Dick:

“Dick was a lover of liberty, a consummate optimist, a believer in the human spirit, an indefatigable activist and a fabulous storyteller who always included a hearty, belly-driven laugh. I will forever be grateful for him as a mentor, a cherished friend and as a fellow American.”

I know that many of you would also like to share your memories of Dick Rowland, and I would like to invite you to an online memorial service that we will be holding for him on Saturday, Dec. 19, starting at 10 a.m. I hope that it will be an opportunity for us to share both our grief and our loving remembrances of Dick’s wisdom, wit and character.

Dick was devoted to making a difference, but he would have resisted the idea that establishing the institute was about creating a legacy for himself. More likely, he would agree with Cato the Elder, who reportedly declared, “After I’m dead, I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.”

However, Dick did leave a great legacy behind — not only in our hearts, but in the organization he founded. While Dick may no longer be with us, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will continue to carry on his vision and his work.

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