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Grassroot founder fondly remembered on radio show

“Speak softly and carry a big idea.”

That was one of the many catchphrases of Dick Rowland, late founder of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, who was remembered fondly last week by Joe Kent and Rick Hamada on KHVH News Radio 830.

“Whenever we can invoke Dick Rowland’s role in memory, it’s very waxing for those days and the times,” said radio host Hamada. “I remember going to [Grassroot] events with Dick and helping in some small ways. We’d be lucky to have 20 people show. … It was really as grassroots as it could be.”

Hamada said he also remembers Rowland being adamant about leaving off the “s” in “Grassroot.” 

“That’s right,” said Kent, who is the Grassroot Institute’s executive vice president. “It’s not ‘Grassroots,’ plural. It’s ‘Grassroot,’ singular, and the reason for that was Dick was really interested in the individual.”

Kent said Rowland, who founded Grassroot in 2001, was concerned with “How can we solve problems, where the individual has the responsibility rather than this blob of collectivism? So that’s why he wanted to focus on the one singular: Grassroot.”

Kent said Rowland also had a lot of great sayings — which Hamada called Rowlandisms” — such as: “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch,” and “When the government gets bigger, you get smaller.”

Kent said the point of Rowland’s “big idea” slogan was that “sometimes a big idea at the right time can really shift things.”

“And he had a big hat too,” Hamada added. “He’s the only one that could wear that hat. … Everyone knows.”

In addition to reminiscing about Rowland, Kent and Hamada talked about the Institute’s philosophy of “E hana kākou” (“Let’s work together”), and how Grassroot staffers strive to practice the presumption of goodwill. 

“If someone has a crazy policy, it might be crazy to me, but to them, it might make perfect sense,” Kent said. “So let’s talk to them. Maybe I’m wrong, by the way, so prove to me where I’m wrong and let’s talk.”

Other topics covered in the conversation included the rebuilding of fire-ravaged Lahaina, the pending Honolulu Board of Water Supply rate increase, privatization of the Maui Memorial Medical Center, Hawaii’s energy mandates, the state’s unfunded liabilities — equal to about $100,000 per person in Hawaii — and more.

To listen to the entire conversation, please click on the image below.

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