When Hōkūleʻa entered the water for the first time in Kualoa 40 years ago, it was the beginning of a sail plan that has spanned generations and taken us on a 150,000-nautical-mile journey to reconnect the Pacific Ocean family that shares a common history of voyaging and exploration. Here on our island home, Hōkūleʻa became part of a movement to revive Hawaiʻi’s culture, language, and way of life, which is now cherished around the world.
Hōkūleʻa brings people together from all walks of life in a way that very few things can. There is something special about the human effort she represents. It brings together people of different ages, ethnic groups, geographies, and professions.When Hōkūleʻa and her crew arrived in Tahiti in 1976, vast crowds came to welcome them and see for themselves this incredible revival of Polynesian technology, culture, and pride. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
She does this at a time when we are in danger of losing the very fibers that hold us together, just when we need unity more than ever before. I see, in my lifetime, the fish disappearing, the ocean rising to cover more and more of our shores, marine debris on our beaches, houses pushing further and further up the ridgelines and out onto the lava fields, and a decline in our ability to embrace all members of our community. As a voyaging ʻohana, we worry about what kind of home our children’s children will have here in Hawaiʻi Nei. So we take to the sea again, this time not to discover new islands but to share new solutions and bring together a global community that will set the course for our next generations.
Hōkūleʻa’s legacy is to help us set our course and define for ourselves what our individual and collective voyages will be. For the young people I speak with, their voyage will require them to balance tradition, values, technology, nature, and to be our leaders in seeing a new way forward. We can empower them to create inventive, compassionate solutions to some of the most difficult challenges that we face here, so that the Hawaiʻi they come home to is worthy of their children. And their solutions will have meaning to an entire planet struggling with the same challenges.
What is extraordinary about Hōkūleʻa is not what she does—it’s how she encourages people to see what they are capable of, inspiring people to take risks and create their own future, even if it is something they can’t quite yet imagine.