Rainbow over the valley

University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner shared a message on January 16 to the UH community.

Aloha UH ʻohana,

This message for the second week of classes began solely as a reminder that January 17 marks the 125th year since the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani and the Hawaiian Kingdom. This is a significant day for all of us who call Hawaiʻi home, whether for a short time or for a lifetime.

But since this message began, we experienced an unprecedented false alarm of a missile attack, a concern that had dissipated for decades since the cold war. And I am writing this on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the 35th year since its establishment as a national holiday under President Reagan. So my apologies for the length of this message, as these events have become interconnected for me.

As you all return to campus, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will have passed, but the challenges to equity and justice he championed remain front and center in the national dialogue. We all have a part to play in ensuring that our campuses, communities and islands are safe, just and welcoming for all.

As our staff returns to campus we will be gathering to debrief on the lessons learned from Saturday and make concrete plans to do better in the event of another missile alert. Improved plans will include providing crystal clear instructions in advance and during an event on where to shelter. Hopefully we will see a peaceful de-escalation of today’s global tensions and these plans will never be needed in reality. But given the seriousness of the potential impacts, we all need to prepare for even remote possibilities. Stay tuned for additional information from your campus in the weeks to come.

The angst many felt remind us how we need to care for one another. Counseling staff across our campuses are available to support and refer members of our UH community who feel threatened or stressed, whether by a potential missile attack or other events and conditions.

The overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani is not an easy event to comprehend nor a comfortable part of our history. Nonetheless, it is important for all of us to strive to understand and reflect upon, particularly in this time of makahiki when we seek peace and renewal for all. And it’s important to understand and appreciate the deep pain felt by many at the reminder of this 125th anniversary.

There is no institution more important to the future of our state than the University of Hawaiʻi. On a daily basis, we educate current and future generations, we address the challenges and opportunities that face Hawaiʻi and the world, we discover and reveal new knowledge in the search for truth and meaning, and we respectfully bring people together from many backgrounds and perspectives who often disagree about almost everything. It is our job to make sense of many truths and to utilize lessons from what we learn to move ourselves, our families and our communities forward to increased well-being for all.

We have all chosen to do this in Hawaiʻi, the most remarkable and, I believe, most respectful place on earth. So as we advance our university’s unique commitment to be a model indigenous-serving institution, I encourage all of you to learn more about Hawaiʻi’s history and undertake peaceful yet critical and brave conversations that engage all of us for whom Hawaiʻi is home.

Here are just a few ways you can learn more about the overthrow:

And consider attending the community ʻOnipaʻa Kākou events on Wednesday, January 17, 2018. For those at UH Mānoa, the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services will be dressed to honor the queen and this day. And special arrangements have been made including:

  • 8 a.m.—Free commemorative shirts for the first 200 students
  • 8:30 a.m.—Free shuttle service from Varney Circle to downtown events

With aloha,
David Lassner
UH President and Interim Mānoa Chancellor