Tag Archives: Henry Yang

President Obama Announces Kamaaina Observatory Experience at Mauna Kea

It’s an honor for the best telescope in the world to be sited on our Maunakea. And it’s very appropriate for the President of the United States, a local boy, to highlight the great contributions of our astronomy sector. It’s also very appropriate that some of our voyaging people from the Hokule‘a were present when he acknowledged those contributions.

This is the spirit of “Not, no can. Can!!”

These are the things that Hawaiians are noted for!

“This is an extremely exciting time, with President Obama’s announcement underscoring the significance of Maunakea and Hawaii to astronomy,” said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board. “TMT is honored to be a part of Hawaii’s astronomy community. We remain committed to integrating science and culture, providing the best possible stewardship of the mountain, and enriching the local community through education and outreach programs.”

Free Monthly Community Event to Welcome Hawaii Residents to the Maunakea Observatories

The Maunakea Observatories and Imiloa Astronomy Center announced the Kamaaina Observatory Experience, a monthly community event that welcomes Hawaii residents to the science reserve atop Maunakea to see world-class telescopes and learn about the cultural and environmental importance of the mountain.Hamakua Springs

The Kamaaina Observatory Experience was introduced yesterday in a speech by President Barack Obama at the White House Astronomy Night in Washington, D.C. The event, held on the South Lawn of the White House, brought together scientists, engineers and visionaries from astronomy and the space industry, including guests from Hawaii’s Imiloa Astronomy Center, Gemini Observatory and the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who shared an evening of stargazing and learning with students and teachers.

“We were honored to represent Hawaii’s tremendous contributions to the world of astronomy, education and culture on the White House lawn tonight,” said Kaiu Kimura, executive director of Imiloa Astronomy Center. “As part of Imiloa’s partnership with the Maunakea Observatories, we look forward to sharing these contributions with even more of our friends and ohana at home in Hawaii through the Kamaaina Observatory Experience.”

Hamakua Springs The new program will occur once a month and will include transportation to and from the summit and the Visitor Information Station, a cultural briefing, a one-hour safety and environmental briefing at Hale Pohaku, and a one-and-a-half hour visit to two of the Maunakea Observatories-the most scientifically productive collection of telescopes on earth. Participation will be free of charge and open to all Hawaii residents.

“The Kamaaina Observatory Experience will be the first program of its kind in the 50-year history of astronomy on Maunakea,” said Doug Simons, executive director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). “The Maunakea Observatories make Hawaii one of the most respected sites on earth for astronomical discovery. It is our sincere hope that this program will inspire a passion among kamaaina for astronomy and an appreciation for the cultural and environmental future of Maunakea.”

Participating Maunakea Observatories in the program will include the CFHT, Gemini Observatory, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (EAO), NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Subaru Telescope,
Submillimeter Array, the W.M. Keck Observatory, and in the future, the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The Kamaaina Observatory Experience will launch in early 2016 and will be open once a month to individuals 16 and older with a valid Hawai’i ID. Registration is required and will be available online on a first come, first served basis.

For more information about the Kamaaina Observatory Experience and to reserve a spot for an upcoming tour, visit www.kamaainaobservatoryexperience.org.

White House photo CC BY-SA 3.0 


What the TMT Controversy is Really About

All the controversy about the Thirty Meter Telescope is not about the TMT. What it’s become is a convenient vehicle for focusing on the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, and on the University of Hawai‘i not doing a good job in the past of caring for the mountain.

When celebrities got involved and the TMT subject went viral, it galvanized the energy of the younger folk. These folks were only in middle school when the TMT project started, so there is a very steep learning curve.

Over the last seven years, the TMT has gone through all the legal requirements and the judge ruled that it is the telescope project can begin construction.

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that in order for a project to be sustainable, it needs to be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. The TMT fulfills all these requirements.

I think people have the erroneous view that the TMT is a big, investor-owned, money making corporation. It is not. It’s a non-profit organization and Henry Yang, its president, doesn’t even draw a salary. He does it because he knows it will bring benefits to our community.

I recognized this from early in the project and it’s the reason I’m such a supporter of the TMT. I’m also a big supporter of the TMT’s THINK education fund, which will allow our youth to dream big.

The problem with dreaming small is that your dreams might come true.

We want our keiki to feel proud of themselves. We want them to dream big!


OHA & the Thirty Meter Telescope

Richard Ha writes:

I testified at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) on Wednesday regarding the protests over the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Sixty-five people showed up, the vast majority of them in favor of the TMT.

I introduced myself as a Big Island farmer who produced more than 100 million pounds of fruits and vegetables in the last 35 years. I flunked out of the University of Hawai‘i and then got drafted and went to Vietnam, where the unspoken rule was that we all come back or no one does. After we all came back, I returned to school and majored in accounting to be able to keep score. I was the only person from Hawai‘i to attend five Peak Oil conferences. I have attended most of the TMT meetings over the past seven years.

I made two main points.

1. OHA needs to act like parents and kupuna.

We are starting to see lots of outside Islanders coming to stick their spoon into Big Island business. Activist Walter Ritte even came from Moloka‘i to advocate for the removal of all the telescopes from Mauna Kea.

When Big Islanders were in charge, I didn’t worry about public safety. Now, though, I am very worried. We are seeing folks wearing hoodies and bandanas, and they’re hiding their identities. The leaders have got to stop that. It puts a hair trigger on the situation, and it’s dangerous.

We saw someone like that recently, and we knew he wasn’t from the Big Island because he was driving a bright red Jeep. Nobody drives a bright red Jeep; those are only rental cars.

The folks protesting are getting false hope that they can get all the telescopes off the mountain if only they push back harder. And the discourse is pilau. People are insulting people. This is very dangerous.

OHA needs to act like parents and kupuna. This is not rocket science. You folks all know that the process was followed; that is why the permits were issued. Don’t give people false hope. The young people protesting who are college-age now were only in middle school when we started the process to make sure the project was done right. This is why they don’t know about the intricate, seven-year process the Thirty Meter Telescope people went through to work through all the issues the protestors are just now talking about.

It is OHA’s job now to do the right thing. Just tell them—they’re not going to change the law. Letting them think that will possibly escalate the problem and the mounting safety issues. That’s the kind of thing that is going to cause something to happen. We don’t want anybody getting hurt.

2. Remember what the TMT will bring to our community. The Big Island has the lowest median family income of all the counties. And the Kona side is higher than the county average, making the east side even lower than the county’s average. The Pahoa/Ka‘u/Kea‘au school complex is in the top four in the state for the free/subsidized lunch program. This island’s spouse abuse, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy rates are high.

Henry Yang, president of the TMT Corporation, came to the Big Island to talk with the community fifteen times. He came personally and talked to folks on the other side of the table, and he listened. He didn’t assign someone else to come; he came himself. That’s how the THINK fund was born. Nothing fancy, just listen. They are developing a work force so kids now in high school can follow a path to jobs. They did an environmental study, instead of taking the shorter way.

The TMT set the bar for how other big companies should interact with the community. To turn them away would be the most irresponsible thing we could do.

The Big Island needs jobs, and we need to diversify our economy to protect ourselves from rising oil and gas prices. The TMT is free money. The THINK fund helps our kids not fortunate enough to have gotten a Kamehameha Schools education. They are the ones who need help. Once you get an education, no one can take it away.

Acting like parents and kupuna will ensure that you address public safety as well as move up the folks on the lower rungs of the economic ladder—those not fortunate enough to go to Kamehameha Schools, or to take advantage of the GI bill like me. Education is the great equalizer.


TMT Launches Scholarships, Grant Funds for STEM Students

Richard Ha writes:

This is terrific.

As we’ve been talking about all this time, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) people are giving a million dollars per year for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. That’s more than $50 million altogether through the life of the TMT project, and all that money stays on this island for the education of our Big Island keiki.

They’re calling it the THINK fund: The Hawai‘i Island New Knowledge fund.

I wrote a 2010 blog post that explains how TMT President Henry Yang came to understand that keiki education was the lowest common denominator that folks on all sides of the TMT issue could agree upon. That is what led to the THINK fund.

This fund benefits all Big Island keiki, and all Native Hawaiian students will have an additional opportunity for scholarships and grants, as well.

The details:

TMT Launches The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund

$1 Million Annually to Benefit Hawaii Island Students Pursuing STEM Disciplines

Hilo, Hawaii (November 13, 2014) – The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has launched THINK (The Hawaii Island New Knowledge) Fund to better prepare Hawaii Island students to master STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and to become the workforce for higher paying science and technology jobs in Hawaii’s 21st century economy. TMT’s founding gift of $1 million marks the beginning of the construction phase of astronomy’s next-generation telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

TMT’s THINK Fund initiative benefits Hawaii Island students pursuing STEM endeavors with an annual contribution of $1 million over its existing 19-year Mauna Kea sublease with the University of Hawaii-Hilo. Two Hawaii foundations were selected by TMT, Hawaii Community Foundation and Pauahi Foundation, to administer THINK Fund distribution in scholarship and grant making platforms. The two independent foundations are defining their award criteria and decision-making process.

“During our numerous meetings, TMT and the community discussed how to collaborate to fulfill the shared dream of building the world’s most advanced telescope. The idea for the THINK Fund to invest in the education of students in the STEM field was germinated,” said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board. “With the launch of the THINK Fund, we are embarking on two transformational adventures – exploring the frontiers of the universe and providing educational opportunities for Hawaii’s students, both now and for future generations.”

The Thirty Meter Telescope initiated dialogue on the formation of THINK Fund in 2008 by asking a group of community volunteers to outline the mission, vision, purpose and implementation strategy of an education fund benefitting Hawaii Island students. The Organizing Committee that developed TMT’s THINK Fund structure was comprised of Hawaii Island residents.

“After years of THINK Fund planning and reflection, the aspirations of dedicated community members are being realized with TMT’s first annual $1 million contribution, set in motion by the start of our construction phase,” said TMT Community Affairs Manager Sandra Dawson. “As a mother of two teachers, I am so pleased with the THINK Fund’s potential to furnish Hawaii Island students with an easier path to reach for the stars. TMT’s THINK Fund initiative will not only help Hawaii Island students with the tools to excel in STEM areas and the channels to get into college, it can also provide students with the means to get through college.”

The Organizing Committee determined that scholarships, grant making and the establishment of an endowment would ensure the sustainability of improving educational opportunities for Hawaii Island students in STEM disciplines. It further recognized that an emphasis be given to improving opportunities for STEM education for Native Hawaiian students, not as an exclusive preference, but focusing on addressing the needs of Hawaii’s host culture.

TMT’s annual $1 million contribution allocates $750,000 to THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and $250,000 to THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation. The foundations will administer their respective THINK Funds independently and will have autonomy in administering grant funds, determining scholarship recipients, and the selection and governance of Advisory Committees.

THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation

Grants are available by application to THINK Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation beginning November 20th and will support a variety of Hawaii Island STEM student activities in and after-school, internship programs and teacher-generated STEM classroom projects. Scholarships will support current and future STEM teachers on Hawaii Island as well as students pursuing STEM degrees and training. Scholarship applications will be available online on December 1st, 2014.

“For the past 98 years, Hawaii Community Foundation has had the privilege of serving our island communities across the state,” said Kelvin Taketa, president and CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation. “We’re honored to be the stewards of the THINK Fund at HCF that will support STEM education on Hawaii Island for generations to come.”

Advisory Committee members of THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation are Laurie Ainslie, Roberta Chu, Mary Correa, Kaeo Duarte, Hiapo Perreira, Doug Simons and Barry Taniguchi. The Advisory Committee, facilitated by Hawaii Community Foundation staff, will assist with strategy development, review grant proposals, make grant decisions and encourage STEM education for Hawaii Island.

THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation is open to all Hawaii Island students including Native Hawaiians, teachers with STEM classroom projects and organizations providing STEM and internship programs that directly benefit Hawaii Island. Learn more and apply at www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org.

The Hawaii Island office of Hawaii Community Foundation is located in Waimea.

THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation

Scholarship Programs will be the initial focus of THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation. Grant making is being considered for the future.

“With Hawaii Island having the second largest population of Native Hawaiians in the state of Hawaii, our partnership with TMT provides much-needed financial support for Hawaiian learners from Hawaii Island to pursue educational opportunities in STEM,” said Hawaii Island resident and Pauahi Foundation Executive Director Keawe Liu.

Advisory committee members of THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation are Roberta Chu, Kaeo Duarte, Leinaala Enos, David Kaapu, Bob Lindsey, Gail Makuakane-Lundin and Maile Wong.

THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation is open to all Hawaii Island students with a preference given to applicants of Hawaiian ancestry to the extent permitted by law. Scholarship applications will be available online on February 4, 2015 at www.pauahi.org.

THINK Fund Collaboration

THINK Fund was designed as an initiative to encourage and attract other funders who align with the mission and goal to improve STEM education and strengthen Hawaii Island’s workforce, and TMT is serving as the founding member of the THINK Fund initiative. The vision of this collaborative approach is to bring together the island community with funders in a partnership that strives to help Hawaii Island students long term.

What’s Next For TMT?

Construction activities in Hawaii include site preparation and grading.

Offsite work has begun in earnest as well. In China, partners are designing the telescope’s fully articulated main science steering mirror system and developing the laser guide star system. Japan has produced over sixty special zero thermal-expansion glass mirror blanks for the main mirror and is designing the telescope structure in detail. Fabricating the mirror support system is ongoing in India. The adaptive optics facility is in final design and the enclosure is ready for construction in Canada.  The primary mirror and mirror control system is in final design in California.

The advancement of TMT to this stage of imminent on-site construction has been made possible by the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The foundation has spent $141 million to date to fund the design, development, and construction phases of TMT.




Washington Place Reception for People Behind the Thirty Meter Telescope

On Friday I attended a reception at Washington Place, the governor’s mansion, given for the people behind the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Washington Place

It was great to get together. So many people worked so hard to accomplish what we did.

I remember Roberta Chu and I standing in the parking lot in the very early days asking each other: “Do you think we can do this?” We never looked back.

Roberta Chu, Barry Mizuno and Don StraneyRoberta Chu, Barry Mizuno and Don Straney

Henry Yang, President of the TMT Corporation, is a very special person. He flew in and out of the Big Island more than 15 times, and spent all of his time talking to the regular folks. He never once spoke to the press.

Henry YangHenry Yang

He learned firsthand that the lowest common denominator that folks on all sides of the issue could agree upon was keiki education, and so the TMT committed $1 million annually for keiki education on the Big Island.

All throughout the tough negotiations, this was completely off the table. No one could touch it, nor even think about touching it.

Jean Lou Chameau, Richard Ha, Henry YangJean-Lou Chameau, me, Henry Yang

Henry did not come into town telling everyone he was there to save them. He told them what was going to happen. But mostly he listened. And, slowly but surely, people started to trust.

Dilling and Henry YangDilling and Henry Yang, me

Roberta Chu, Dilling and Henry YangRoberta Chu greeting Dilling and Henry Yang

Henry Yang

Henry and I were like brothers during this project. He was the kind of guy I could do business with on a handshake. He and Jean-Lou Chameau, President of Cal Tech, are people persons. The right people at the right time.

Jean-Lou Chameau, president of Cal TechJean-Lou Chameau

I missed seeing my friend Dawn Chang. She and I worked very closely in the tough, early days.

Daniel InouyeSenator Daniel Inouye arriving

Senator Daniel InouyeSenator Inouye speaking

P1000223Senator Inouye, me, Henry Yang

Irene Inouye, MRC GreenwoodIrene Inouye and MRC Greenwood

Ka‘iu Kimura was very brave.

Mazie HironoRep. Mazie Hirono with TMT Board Members

Thirty Meter Telescope

Richard Ha, Rockne Freitas, Herring Kalua, Don StraneyMe, Rockne Freitas, Herring Kalua and Don Straney

And I learned an important lesson from Kumu Lehua Veincent. When I suggested to him that we try to get five “full-ride” scholarships to the best schools in the nation for Keaukaha kids, he asked me: “And what about the rest of them?” Of course he was right.

Thirty Meter Telescope, Washington Place

Barry Taniguchi, Carl Carlson, Jim Omura, Virginia HinshawBarry Taniguchi, Carl Carlson, Jim Omura, Virginia Hinshaw

Mike Bolte and Sandra DawsonMike Bolte and Sandra Dawson

Patrick Kahawaiola‘a told me something profound. He said that it’s all about the process. Then it dawned on me: “You have to aloha everyone, no matter on what side of the issue.”  

Aloha to the Kanaka Council and other folks like Kealoha, and Ku Ching, who do not agree. I’m pretty sure they know that we were trying to be pono.

Jim Omura, Virginia Hinshaw, Mark YudovJim Omura, Virginia Hinshaw, Mark Yudov

MRC Greenwood and Governor Neil AbercrombieMRC Greenwood and Governor Neil Abercrombie

Richard Ha, Greg Chun and Dennis HirotaMe, Greg Chun and Dennis Hirota

Jennifer Sabas, Roberta Chu and Mike BolteJennifer Sabas, Roberta Chu and Mike Bolte

Thirty Meter Telescope

Thirty Meter TelescopeDavid Lonberg, Carl Carlson, Doug Ing

Here are some startling facts about the Thirty Meter Telescope:

  • 9 times more light collecting area than a Keck Telescope
  • 12.5 times sharper images than we can get with the Hubble Space Telescope (This is amazing!)
  • Will be able to see through the universe back to the time when the very first stars and galaxies formed
  • Will be able to image planets orbiting other stars and to look for the signposts of life
  • Will be able to discover and study supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies throughout the Universe
  • Will be able to determine the nature of dark energy and dark matter – These are key to determining the ultimate fate of the Universe.

Richard Wins Distinguished Alumni Award

Richard was honored recently as a 2011 Distinguished Alumni of the University of Hawai‘i.

“This award was less about me and really about all of us,” he told me. “I was pleased to be able to acknowledge June’s contributions, as well as my family’s – especially Mom and Pop.”

He was happy, too, that he had a chance to talk about the “common sense” value of using geothermal energy here in Hawai‘i.

He said it was hard to follow Chef Alan Wong and Dr. Henry Yang. “They are both very, very special individuals,” he said.

“Something like this award was beyond my wildest imagination when I flunked out of UH the first time around,” he said. “It just goes to show: Not ‘no can.’ ‘CAN!’”


The Story of the Adopt-A-Class Project

When I first heard that the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was interested in coming to Mauna Kea, I volunteered to be on the TMT committee of the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB). If the TMT was going to happen, I wanted to have a hand in making sure it was done right.

At the time, I was just a banana farmer minding my own business. But it was clear to me that I needed to learn more about the Hawaiian culture and the effect the TMT might have on the Hawaiian people, whose feelings about Mauna Kea were deep-rooted.

That led me to Keaukaha, the oldest Hawaiian Homes community on the Big Island, and to Keaukaha Elementary School, which is the center of the community’s social structure. Lehua Veincent was the school’s principal.

I thought I had a reasonable plan of action when I asked Kumu Lehua what he thought about asking the TMT folks to give Keaukaha Students five full-ride scholarships to the best schools in the nation. He looked at me, and in a gentle way he asked: “And what about the rest?”

I could feel my ears getting red. Indeed, what about the rest? That was a lesson I will never forget.

The TMT folks engaged HIEDB to do community outreach, and we had done that for about a year when they decided instead to engage the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa directly. But having met and liked the folks in the Keaukaha community, I continued to talk story with Kumu Lehua and then Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, President of the Keaukaha Community Association. Occasionally, I would drop by and give the kupuna bananas or tomatoes—whatever was in oversupply.

One day, I asked Kumu Lehua where the students go on excursions. He told me that they did not go on regular excursions; instead they walk around the community, because they did not have enough money for the school buses.

I thought that everybody went on excursions! Here we were in Keaukaha, the most Hawaiian of Hawaiian communities, looking up at the Hawaiians’ sacred mountain Mauna Kea where there are millions of dollars’ worth of telescopes, and the kids do not go on excursions because they cannot afford the bus?

I was speechless.

I thought, “This no can.” I called my friend Duane Kanuha, and we came up with the idea that we would start an Adopt-A-Class program. It would be designed like the Adopt-A-Child program one sees on TV, where for $25 or so, one could “adopt” a child, and the child would sent a note and photos, showing how his/her live improved.

We did some checking and decided to set $600 as the amount it would take to Adopt-A-Class so they could go on excursions. Three hundred dollars would be for the bus, and $300 would go toward entry fees for ‘Imiloa—Hilo’s world-class Hawaiian culture and science museum—should the teachers choose to take the students there.

We told the community about this, and they responded. We had all the classes from K-6 adopted, for both semesters, within four months. And they all started to go on excursions.

Chef Alan Wong was one of the first to get involved in the Adopt-A-Class program. One day he called me and said, “I want to go talk to the class I adopted.” This led to him visiting and presenting a class to the 6th graders. Leslie Lang wrote about it here on the blog:

…The principal of the school told me they never get people of such celebrity speaking to, and inspiring, their kids. Richard says that one of the teachers told him, too, that no one comes to Keaukaha Elementary to tell the kids they, too, can do it. He says the teacher had tears in her eyes when she told him that.

It was really an incredible morning. Read more

Alan Wong has a new book out, The Blue Tomato, which came about as a result of that visit to Keaukaha Elementary School.

The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation heard about our Adopt-A-Class project and they took the idea islandwide. They were going to sponsor half of all students on the island to visit ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, but then the bus company heard about it and offered such a huge discount that instead they were able to pay for every student on the island, in every public, private and charter school.

During that one year that the TMT disengaged from dealing with Big Island folks, the feeling in the community was overwhelming that the TMT would be going to Chile, not coming to Hawai‘i. The TMT people were not successful when dealing directly with UH Manoa.

But Dr. Henry Yang, Chancellor of UC Santa Barbara and the new President of the TMT Corporation, wanted to assess the situation for himself. So along with his friend Dr. Jean Lou Chameau, President of Cal Tech University, he came to visit the Big Island.

I was at that meeting. Dr. Yang asked what I thought. I told him it would take a lot of work and they would need to talk to the community directly.

Henry is a “people person.” By the end of the meeting, I could tell he is the kind of person one could do business with on a handshake.

He and Jean Lou visited the Big Island at least 15 times after that, and because of the relationships I had built up in the Keaukaha Community with the Adopt-A-Class project, I was able to bring them to community meetings with the real, grassroot folks. To their credit, Henry and Jean Lou wanted to meet with even the most strident activists on the island.

They visited Keaukaha Elementary School four times. Can you imagine, the President of the TMT and the President of Cal Tech visiting Keaukaha School so many times that they became a fixture? As in: “Eh, where you guys going now? Come, come. Go eat!”

The relationship and the trust grew. Henry and Jean Lou started to understand that the lowest common denominator, on which folks on all sides of the issue could agree, was keiki education.

So one of the first foundation pieces they agreed to was committing $1 million per year for keiki education. It would start as soon as the construction permit was issued, and then continue through the construction period and for the life of the TMT. This is estimated to be 58 years.

Imagine, $58 million dollars for the education of our kids on the Big Island!

The TMT is applying now for the construction permit. If it is approved and we get the $58 million dollars for keiki education, it will be largely because people cared about other people, and sent kids on excursions just because it was the right thing to do.

My Pop used to tell me, “Get thousand reasons why no can. I only looking for the one reason why CAN!”


TMT – A New Paradigm

Last week Keaukaha Elementary School welcomed some very important visitors: Dr. Henry Yang, President of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) (he is also Chancellor of the University of California at Santa Barbara) and Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau, President of Cal Tech University.

I’ve survived in a very difficult business for 25 years, and one thing I’ve learned is that with some people, you clench your fist and say, “Don’t mistake kindness for weakness.” There are others you can do business with on a handshake. Dr. Henry Yang and Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau are both people I would do business with over a handshake.

Last week’s meeting came about because Dr. Yang asked me if I would arrange a meeting with Kumu Lehua Veincent, the principal of Keaukaha Elementary School.

Kumu Lehua invited Patrick Kahawaiola’a, President of the Keaukaha Community Association, and Luana Kawelu, Director of the Merrie Monarch Festival and daughter of its founder Aunty Dottie Thompson.

I took it upon myself to invite ‘Ahia Dye, the second female Hawaiian astronomy graduate from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and Hoku Cody, a Marine Biology major who is in the UH Hilo Keaholoa STEM program.

We met in the Keaukaha Elementary School library and sat around a simple table on straight-backed chairs. I brought doughnuts from KTA and we drank instant Sanka coffee. Nothing fancy.

Kumu Lehua talked about the history of Keaukaha Elementary School and how it had underperformed for so long that people thought it was the permanent state of things. He is very low key, but it became clear that this school went from underperforming for as long as anyone can remember to being a “role model school” in just the three years that Kumu Lehua has been its principal.

It also became very apparent that the community is integrated into the school, and that the keiki are supported in many different ways. Kumu Lehua grounds the students in their culture and that gives them a solid foundation from which to go forward. Kumu Lehua, Uncle Patrick, and especially the staff at Keaukaha School are not talkers – they are doers.

Patrick talked about going into the Navy without a high school diploma and some friends insisting that he take the GED test. He passed. Whether or not he has a high school degree is not relevant. Uncle Pat is a true leader. He has common sense and he is clear, articulate and uncompromisingly focused on education for the keiki now and in future generations.

If I had to choose a leader between someone with 10 university degrees but no common sense, and Patrick with only a high school GED, there is no question – I would pick Patrick. The results speak for themselves.

I was the fly on the wall at the meeting, observing everything. Every so often a teacher would drop in to say hello. Some brought a few kids from their class, and the kids introduced themselves with confidence and a sense of purpose.

‘Ahia Dye operates the planetarium at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. I once sat through a planetarium and was so impressed that I had to go meet the person with that wonderful voice who was running that high tech show.

She was attending UH Hilo and working part-time. I was with my grandson Kapono, who was a junior in high school at the time, and he was fascinated with the gadgets and the computer controls. He and ‘Ahia chatted, and then he volunteered and started working there under ‘Ahia’s wing.

One day I decided to see how Kapono was doing, and I sat in. ‘Ahia taught him so well that he was actually running the planetarium show and doing the narrative. It impressed me and made me realize that ‘Ahia must be a great teacher.

By then ‘Ahia had graduated from UH Hilo with an astronomy degree. I told her, “Do you realize that as a native Hawaiian wahine astronomer, you are a role model for Hawaiian girls?” Since then, I’ve bragged about her to everyone.

Hoku Cody is a Marine Science student at UH Hilo. She testified at the last Comprehensive Management Plan public hearing. She spoke about the conflicts she faced in honoring her culture and her elders and reconciling that with her pursuit of a science degree. She slowly and deliberately described how she struggled, trying to reconcile both pursuits while honoring both.

And then she said, in a straightforward and non-personal way, that the things being discussed about Mauna Kea would have an effect on her generation, not previous ones. I looked around the room and noted that most of the testifiers, including myself, had white hair and were kind of long in the tooth. It hit me that she was right: It is not about us; it is about future generations.

The simple power of her speech made everyone pause. Her one speech weighed as much as 10 of the rest—it was that powerful.

Dr. Yang and Dr. Chameau mostly listened, commenting every so often. They are both engineers, not astronomers. Dr. Chameau told everyone that if they needed a sewer fixed, he could do that. Patrick and Kumu both said that they knew where they could use some help and we all laughed.

Henry Yang said that they came to listen to the community and that they were very appreciative of the opportunity.

It was very apparent that the community might have nontraditional educational needs. Both Dr. Yang and Dr. Chameau said that TMT is committed to funding educational opportunities – but that it would leave the actual administration and direction of the educational funding up to the community. They emphasized that this was a new paradigm. That it is different this time.

By the end of the hour everyone felt comfortable.

We went outside for a welcoming ceremony. Hoku had to leave and tutor some young kids. But Dr. Yang and Dr. Chameau, together with Kumu Lehua and ‘Ahia and myself, stood in front of the class that was assembled on the front steps of the school. We were each given a lei and then the students chanted a welcome. There were so many lessons rolled up into that ceremony. Most of all, it is part of the reason that Keaukaha Elementary School is doing so well.

We went to see some of the classes in action, and it made us understand why Keaukaha Elementary School is doing so well. They have incredibly dedicated teachers who are well organized and do not tolerate disrespect, and the kids know that they are loved.

There was a child on the porch taking a test with an adult supervisor. Kumu Lehua explained: “Frequent evaluation. That’s how I keep kids from falling through the cracks.”

At the end, while we were chatting, Dr. Yang told ‘Ahia, “You should go on to grad school and become an astronomy teacher. If you do, I’ll give you a letter of recommendation.” Dr. Chameau told her the same thing: “If you go on to grad school, let me know and I’ll give you a letter of recommendation.”

I walked back to my truck thinking about what all took place. This is indeed a new paradigm.