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The commentary below was Keli’i Akina’s weekly “President’s Corner” column for Feb. 12, 2021. If you would like to have his columns emailed to you on a regular basis, please call 808-864-1776 or email info@grassrootinstitute.org.
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Today is a special day for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

What’s more, it’s the start to a very important year.

Twenty years ago today, Feb. 12, 2001, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was founded by a small group of liberty-minded locals. Many think tanks and policy groups have origin stories that begin with a big money donor, a foundation or a parent organization. But not the Grassroot Institute. We started as we remain today: an independent organization with a mission to promote economic freedom, civil liberties and greater prosperity and happiness for the people of Hawaii.

Over the years, we have made our mark. We have helped foster government transparency and exposed wasteful government spending. We were involved in a successful lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to a state-sponsored, race-based election. We have produced research on everything from Hawaii’s housing crisis to public pension and state budget reform, from how to revive privatization as a public policy option to how Hawaii’s general excise tax adds to the state’s health care costs. We also produced a milestone study that finally quantified how much the federal Jones Act costs Hawaii.

Along the way, we’ve made a name for ourselves as a trusted authority on budget issues, taxes, government accountability and economic freedom.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the Grassroot Institute stepped up to offer a recovery plan that would help Hawaii prosper — not just survive — after the crisis. We also just published an in-depth examination of the civil liberties implications of the lockdown, outlining steps our legislators can take to put a check on the governor’s ability to order endless lockdowns.

Hawaii has changed a lot over the past 20 years, and the institute has evolved to meet these new challenges. Our principles, however, remain as strong as ever.

For this, we have our founder, Richard “Dick” Rowland, to thank. Sadly, Dick passed away last year, but he will always be part of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii family. His love of freedom and his commitment to principle continue to inspire us.

To honor Dick, one of the first ways we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary is by adopting his former phone number as our main telephone number. Those who knew Dick will remember that he delighted in having “1776” as part of his phone number. Not only was it unforgettable, but it stood as a constant reminder of the values he stood for. Dick’s family graciously allowed the institute to have his old number. So starting this week, to reach us, just call 808-864-1776.

Of course, we have other plans in the works for our 20th anniversary year as well. Later this year,  lockdown permitting, we hope to host an anniversary gala.

You will be able to learn more about the anniversary gala and other anniversary events on the Grassroot Institute’s 20th anniversary web page, which will be launching very soon. Be sure to check your email for updates. Once it is live, the anniversary page will be our hub for upcoming events, special presentations, videos and more.

I’m proud to be at the helm of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii as we celebrate 20 years of promoting liberty and economic freedom in Hawaii. We are fortunate to have a top-notch staff and an excellent board of directors as part of the Grassroot team. And I am grateful to all of the donors and supporters who make our mission possible.

I hope you will join us as we work together to make a better Hawaii.