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VIDEO: Educating children hailed as key to preserving principles of liberty
By Grassroot Institute @ 6:37 PM :: 1673 Views :: Education K-12, Family

Educating children hailed as key to preserving principles of liberty

from Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, September 29, 2023

We cannot carry on our country’s spirit of freedom and liberty without preparing the next generation to do so.

Children’s’ book author and liberty advocate Connor Boyack shared that message last week as the featured speaker at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii’s final luncheon event of the year.

“We would never think to send our children off to battle in some faraway land without a uniform and body armor and weaponry and knowledge of the enemy, right?” he asked the audience. 

Boyack is founder and president of the Libertas Institute in Utah and the creative force behind the popular “Tuttle Twins” books and cartoon series that teach children about the importance of freedom.

Speaking to a sold-out audience at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, he said the “Tuttle Twins” series emerged from his efforts to teach free market principles and America’s founding values to his own children, but he could find no such materials anywhere.

He began producing the books, which now have sold more than 5 million copies, and now the twins have their own cartoon series as well.

One “Tuttle Twins” reader recently captured national social media attention. Jaiden Rodriguez, a 12-year-old boy from Colorado, went viral for a video in which he and his mother stood up to a school administrator who had removed him from a class for wearing a Gadsden flag patch on his backpack, which the official incorrectly associated with slavery. 

The video was posted by Boyack, who said it now has reached more than 50 million views. Jaiden was ultimately allowed to return to the class, including with the patch on his backpack.

“[M]y mission, my goal,” said Boyack, “is let’s create a million more Jaidens. Let’s educate kids that understand their rights, that understand what freedom is. What these free-market principles are that Grassroot is fighting so hard for.”

Boyack emphasized the profound impact the “Tuttle Twins” series has been having on adults as well. He said that by “approaching [parents] in a way that helps them help their children,” the books have “[enhanced] our ability to persuade adults by focusing on their children.” 


9-19-23 Connor Boyack presentation at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

Keliʻi Akina: Well, aloha, everyone. I want to welcome you to the final luncheon of the Grassroot Institute for this year. And thank you so very much for joining us today. It’s just wonderful to see everyone here. 

At the outset, let me say aloha to some of you who have brought friends of yours today, particularly our board of directors. Freddie, great to see you and your friends today. Fred Noa, member of our board of directors. [applause]

And as I continue on the room, Jonathan Durrett. Jonathan, aloha. [applause]

Mark Monoscalco, Mark. [applause]

And chair of the board of Grassroot Institute, Robin Stueber. [applause]

It’s so heartening to see many of you who have stood with us for years — are members. And yet, at the same time, we’re just delighted to see those of you who’ve come here for the first time to a Grassroot function. 

If you just raise your hand if this is your first time. Let’s look around — give them a big hand, everyone. [applause]

We’re honored that you’re with us. You may not know that the Grassroot Institute is the leading free-market think tank here in the state of Hawaii. We believe deeply in the principles of individual liberty, economic freedom and limited accountable government. 

And although these are noble principles with deep-rooted philosophical meaning, they also affect our practical living every single day here in the state. And that’s where we work. We work in the trenches daily. 

I just want to acknowledge — as I know this is on all of our hearts — the tragedy over the last month and a half with the wildfires, particularly on Maui and the town of Lahaina. That has brought to all of us a tremendous personal and spiritual loss. And we have tried our very best to honor that at the Grassroot Institute. 

We’ve had many friends, many supporters whose families and whose businesses were affected deeply by the Lahaina fires. We’re still learning about that. Last night, some of the staff and I and our speaker were on Maui, and we learned that another one of our supporters had lost six homes in Lahaina.

As real as the personal cost is, at the Grassroot Institute, we are focused on the economic cost and the cost to the state, and what it really takes to recover. One of the things that our team has been learning is that there’s nothing really new after Lahaina, that wasn’t here before Lahaina. The issues, the problems, the needs of greater engagement of our government are clearer than they have ever been before.

And I just want you to know that Grassroot Institute is there to bring forth the best thinking, the best collaboration on how to do government right, how to build the economy back and how Hawaii can be a place where everyone can thrive. 

Today, I am delighted to bring to the Institute a dear friend who’s doing — much in the same vein as we are in Hawaii — the valiant work of fighting for freedom. And you’re going to enjoy what he has to say. 

Connor Boyack has been the founder and full-time leader of Libertas Institute in Utah. It’s a free market think tank — part of a network of such organizations, which are independent but work together in order to bring our country back to its founding principles.

What I like about Connor is he’s very down-to-earth. He’s a deep thinker. He’s a bit of a philosopher, I think. And he can take some very dense works like Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” and translate that into “The Road to Surfdom,” spelled s-u-r-f. So, that a totally new generation will be attracted to this classic work that talks about what happens when people lose their freedoms as their government becomes too big and out of control.

He’s written little books like “I, Pencil” based upon the original classic [by Leonard Read], but for young people in a way that they can understand. These are part of a series of books called the “Tuttle Twins.” And if you are looking for something for children in order to teach them the basics of economics and basics of freedom and common sense politics, “Tuttle Twins” is the series.

But, the reality is, I learn more from them than I think kids do. They’re my CliffsNotes. They help me to sound smart because they take some of the deepest concepts and translate them into everyday language. 

Connor’s a wonderful family man. He has been working for years, not only to fight for freedom, but as a leader in education. And I’d like you to welcome him today to the Grassroot Institute. We’re gonna have a conversation and then open it up to questions and answers for everyone. 

Please welcome Connor Boyack. [applause]

Well, first off, Connor, this is not your first time in Hawaii. 

Connor Boyack: No.

Akina: In fact, many years ago, you were here for a conference of economists on the island of Maui, and you’ve actually had some exposure to the islands. 

Boyack: Yep. 

Akina: Want to share a little bit about that and yourself? 

Boyack: So, I’m the father of two children; they’re 14 and 12. We’ve homeschooled them their whole lives. We were in Oahu last year. My wife went to BYU Hawaii for a semester, and so we got to see some of her old stomping grounds, if you will, and had a blast. 

I had the opportunity to go to Kauai last year. I think that’s my kinda spirit island there; just the sleepy town vibe. I had a blast. Went skydiving for my first time ever and I was telling a couple of folks last night, “I think I’ve ruined it because I can never go skydiving anywhere else.” I’ve seen the footage and it’s just spectacular all the way down. And so, it was a big blast.

So, we were in Maui last night, as Keli‘i mentioned. Going to the Big Island tomorrow and just kind of sharing the word about what it is that we do, what it is that you can do, and partner with organizations like Grassroot to fight for a freer future. So, I’m excited to have this conversation and be here with all of you.

Akina: Connor, one of the concerns I know you have is also my concern, and that is: How well-prepared is the current young generation to take over the leadership of this country? 

Our founding fathers were deeply concerned about principles — unalienable rights. These are inscribed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

What’s your assessment as to the preparedness of this generation to defend and propagate these principles? 

Boyack: Not good, next question — just kidding. So, the story here that I’d like to share is that recently there was an organization called the National Commission on Excellence in Education — a group of people who care deeply about educating kids.

They spent 18 months going around the country, talking to teachers, parents, students, reviewing curriculum, being in the classroom. They were trying to assess, across the whole country: How is education of our youth going? At the conclusion of that 18-month review — a lot of town hall hearings and research — at the conclusion they issued a report.

And in that report, they warned that America’s educational foundations are being threatened by what they called a “rising tide of mediocrity.” They further said that, “If a foreign government had attempted to impose upon America the very mediocre educational performance that now exists today, we might have viewed it,” they said, “as an act of war. As it stands, we’ve allowed this to happen to ourselves.” End quote. 

So, the reveal is that this group I mentioned — I fibbed a little bit. They did not recently conduct this study; this was in 1983. It was the Reagan Administration that put out this report. If you want to go Google it, it’s called, “A Nation at Risk.” 

And, so, to answer your question, Keliʻi, I think, when I share this with audiences, I’ll typically say, “Raise of hands, who wants to argue or assert that things have substantially improved in our schools in the past 40 years?” And to date, no one has taken me up on the challenge. 

Akina: Well, that’s staggering, and I can imagine how that assessment of mediocrity has actually advanced in the recent years.

Boyack: Right.

Akina: Now, do you connect mediocrity in terms of economic productivity, academic excellence and so forth? Do you connect mediocrity with a decline in knowing the principles and values this country was founded on? 

Boyack: I would say emphatically, yes. Here’s the data point to back that up: There’s a group called the Nation’s Report Card. Every year they come out with educational data about how kids are learning in the government, the public charter schools. 

And they recently released a report about a month ago, maybe two, where they found that eighth graders all throughout America, when they were assessed in their knowledge of American history and these principles that you’re discussing, only 13 of them — 13% of them, excuse me — were proficient in American history. 13 — one, three, not three, zero — 13%. 

And so, I think, who are the future voters and people governing our society, our communities, if they are arising out of these institutions that are doing such a poor job, tragically, of helping kids learn about these ideas? 

A final quick point that I’ll add to that is, we recently started creating American history storybooks that focus on early America’s history, the principles and so forth. And that was the outgrowth of a research effort that we did to look at: How are the social studies books that are used in our classroom — how are they teaching kids these very principles? 

And the very basic summary of that research was that these books, these social studies books that are used in schools, do a fantastic job at educating kids in what I’ll call “superficial factoids of history.” 

On this date, this happened; these people traveled from here to here; this guy wrote a letter to this guy and so on and so forth. What they all miserably failed to do was to teach the substantive ideas that motivated these historical actors. Why did they do what they did? What are the things that we can learn from their experiences and apply it to our world today?

And so, that’s why we leaned into creating our own materials because what we found was depressing. And I think it’s what contributes to this very poor awareness and care about our past. 

Akina: Tell us a little bit about why and how you came up with the concept of the “Tuttle Twins.” 

It’s taken off phenomenally. There are millions of products that have been distributed and you have actually started a phenomenon. And I’m so glad that we can increase the audience for this very fine concept of the “Tuttle Twins.” But tell us how it came about and what you’re trying to achieve. 

Boyack: So, just as Keliʻi is the president of Grassroot Institute, I am the president of a think tank, as he mentioned, in Utah — Libertas Institute. 

And a few years into starting it, my children were 5 and 3. My 5-year-old was almost 6, and I would come home at the end of the day and I would, as most fathers do, ask my children, “What did you do today? Tell me about your day.” And after they would tell me about what cartoons they watched or what toys they played with. 

Over time, my almost 6-year-old started reciprocating that question and started asking me, “Dad, where were you all day? What did you do today?” And I found myself wanting to share with him more than just saying, “I typed on computers today,” or, “I made phone calls,” right? 

But then I thought, like, “How do I teach him that I was fighting eminent domain at city hall battling with these lawmakers, or talking to reporters? How do I express to my kids the ideas that I believe in, that I’m fighting for?” 

And so, as most would do in my position, I went to Amazon and I said, “Books that teach about property rates for kids. Books that teach about free markets for kids” — it was a ghost town. This was in 2013, so 10 years ago. And so, that was the idea that prompted this opportunity.

The question was: Are there parents out there like me who want to share these ideas with their kids? Those of us who are religious have no question about sharing our religious values and beliefs with our children. But what we found is that people who have passionate beliefs that are political or economic — their values — they were failing to transmit and talk about those political or economic values with their kids, even though they were doing fine on the religious side.

Well, that’s because there’s a lot of little Sunday school programs and, you know, Bible study for kids or whatever those resources might be. There was nothing as it pertained to these kind of free-market ideas, and so that’s where the “Tuttle Twins” entered. We’ve sold over five million books now; we have a cartoon. It’s, as you said, it’s blown up, which is just awesome. It gives me a lot of hope for the future. 

Akina: Well, that’s very exciting, and I congratulate you on that. 

Boyack: Thank you. 

Akina: This has really added a level of resourcing as well to your Libertas Institute. 

Now, actually, anyone observing from the outside might see what you’re doing as a fairly benign and innocent venture — writing children’s books. But it’s a little more subversive, isn’t it? Your target isn’t really just children, is it? 

Boyack: Are we being recorded here? No, I’m just kidding. [laughter]

Um, no, I’ve shared this openly. So, yes, however, I do have to admit that I didn’t have the foresight to be subversive like we are; we’ve stumbled into it. 

And what he’s referring to is that when we started, we just thought we were doing children’s books and, “Let’s teach our kids about the ideas of freedom.” What we found over time is the parents were repeatedly saying, “My gosh, I’ve never learned this before. I never was taught this in school.” And lots of comments like that. 

So, over the years, we’ve turned this from just a side-hustle fun project into a major strategic initiative for our organization to lean into. Because, as think tanks like ours know, it’s often very hard to persuade other people to believe in our value systems and our ideas — especially adults who are very set in their ways. They have a worldview that they’ve developed over decades.

What we’ve found is that if I go to a gentleman — we’ll call him Bob — if I approach Bob and I say, “Hey Bob, I’ve got this book for you to read to learn about economics.” Let’s say it’s “Atlas Shrugged” right, a big hit, right?  If I give him this thick “Atlas Shrugged” book, you know, I think chances are probably very low that he would actually read that book. 

However, by contrast, if I say, “Hey Bob, you have kids, right? Do you think it’s important for them to learn how economies work or how the world works?” And I think Bob says “yes” 100% of the time, and I say, “Hey Bob, here’s a children’s book that’ll help you do that.” And he loves his kids; he gets “FOMO” — most parents do — on behalf of … “fear of missing out” for those who don’t know the term FOMO. We want our children to not miss out on any opportunity in life. We want them to learn all these things. 

So, Bob is gonna read the book with his kids. Well, what we’ve done is we’ve lowered Bob’s defenses. Because now, I’m not giving him a book and saying, “Bob, you’re ignorant. Read this book so that you get smart,” which is the implication when you recommend a book like that to an otherwise competent adult. But I’m just saying, “Hey Bob, I wanna help you help your kids.” 

And so now, we have a relationship of trust and mutual adoration. And I’ve built some rapport that on our policy work, we’re able to now enhance that relationship and say, “Bob, you’ve been reading these books with your kids. Can I now talk to you about repealing the Jones Act?” Or, you know, whatever the topic du jour is. 

But we start by planting these seeds and approaching them in a way that helps them help their children. And we’ve seen it really enhance our ability to persuade adults by focusing on their children. 

Akina: That’s incredible. And I can just imagine government leaders at the highest levels, or even world leaders, learning by reading stories to their children at night: “Good night Hunter. Good night Amy. Would you like to have a story told?” [laughter]

Boyack: I’ve often been asked the age range for the books that you have. We have books for toddlers and teens and other age ranges, but when I’m asked for these, I usually say, “Well, these books are for ages 5 to 10 and members of Congress.” [laughter]

Akina: Wonderful. Now you’ve been  — go ahead, applaud. [laughs]

You’ve been tracking to some extent — to the extent that you can — some of the results of young people reading your literature and learning to be a little more courageous and standing up for their beliefs, and indeed, shaping their beliefs. Do you have a story or two to tell us?

Boyack: I think the one you’re referring to is one that some in the audience might know. This was just a couple weeks ago of a 12-year-old boy in Colorado who was kicked out of school because he had a Gadsden flag patch on his backpack. That’s the yellow, don’t tread on me  … 

Akina: Don’t tread on me.

Boyack: Yeah, with the snake. And the teacher complained to the administrators. The vice principal pulled young Jaiden [Rodriguez] into her office, called the mom over. Mom was smart; she secretly recorded this whole conversation. 

And the vice principal proceeded to tell the mom that Jaiden would not be able to return to class unless he removed the patch. She said that that Gadsden flag has origins in slavery and therefore is a disruption to the class environment. 

Well, that is 100% false. That flag was an anti-British flag only; it had nothing to do with slavery. And so, here’s an academic institution that should be teaching true history and they’re, you know, totally wrong. So, Jaiden leaves with his mom. He wanted to stand his ground. 

Jaiden is a “Tuttle Twins” reader. So, he’s driving — his mom is driving him home — and he says to his mom, “Mom, in one of the ‘Tuttle Twins’ books,”… It’s actually the “Food Truck Fiasco.” Those of you who have the green book, that’s the book in reference here. “In one of the ‘Tuttle Twins’ books, when they have a problem, they go get the media involved. Do you think we could get the media involved?” And mom is like, “Uh, alright.” 

She, to her credit, she drives him straight over to the TV station, an NBC affiliate. Jaiden goes up to the front door — kid’s got a little bit of bravado to him. He rings the doorbell — the little security camera doorbell because it’s a locked building — and he asks, “Can I speak with a reporter? Will someone come out and talk to me so I can share my story?” No one would. 

And so, he went home with his mom, and they were talking about what to do. He was very adamant that he wanted to stand up for his rights. He knew that the vice principal was wrong. They were trying to figure out what to do.

So, the mom messaged me on Twitter, said, “My son’s your biggest fan, you know, he wants to stand up for himself, can you help?” She sends me the video. I watch this thing, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is, like, viral treasure, this video.” The following morning, with her permission, I posted the video on Twitter.

I go into a meeting — this was at a conference that many of the Grassroot team were at along with me. I go into a meeting, and I come out 45 minutes later, and the post already has like 5 million views. Libs of TikTok has shared it, all these accounts are just sharing it. It now has almost 50 million views across social media. And needless to say, Jaiden was able to return back to school. We brought the heat to that school. 

But, to me that story — I’m actually flying out to Colorado this weekend with my wife to go visit Jaiden, which will be a lot of fun for me. He did a lot of … The challenge with me being the middleman of sharing that post was that I was the recipient of all of these media requests, right? Because they didn’t know who the mom was or they didn’t know how to reach them, so they would message me. My phone was just blowing up. 

And so, we said yes to a lot of the requests that were bigger names, you know, opportunities to really get the word out. One of them was Ben Shapiro on Daily Wire. And so, the next day he was on Ben’s show. 

And Ben’s interviewing him for a while, and he says, “Gosh, you’re such a smart kid. You seem to know a lot about American history. How is it that you know so much?” And he says, “I give credit to my mom, and Connor Boyack cause I read his ‘Tuttle Twins’ books.” I’m like, “Gotta slip that kid a $5 bill, thanks for saying that!” 

But, my mission, my goal is: Let’s create a million more Jaidens. Let’s create kids that … Or educate kids — I’ll leave the creating to you and your, you know, that’s not something I want to be involved in. Let’s educate kids that understand their rights, that understand what freedom is. What these free-market principles are that Grassroot is fighting so hard for. 

What I’ve been blown away with is that kids not only can understand these ideas — if you present them in a simple and a story-based way — but they want to.

Think of Thanksgiving dinner. If your family reunion dinners are anything like mine, there’s so many people that the large table can only accommodate the adults. And then there’s the kid’s table. But when you’re a teenager, you do not want to sit at the kid’s table. You want to sit with the big kids, right?

And so, every kid wants to be a big kid. Every big kid wants to be an adult. We aspire, when we’re young, to stretch and to grow. But so much of our reading material for kids meets them at their same level. “Billy and Susie did this and went … ” like, who cares, right? It’s fluff. But we can challenge our kids to rise to a higher level, and if we present them this material in the right way, they lean into it.

Can I share another brief story really quick? 

Akina: Oh, absolutely.

Boyack: OK, so, a couple weeks ago, a dad reaches out to me and — a couple months ago, excuse me. He’s walking down the grocery store aisle with his daughter, and they’re going down the chip aisle. And a few days prior, they had read “The Miraculous Pencil,” which is the blue one for those of you who have that one.

And this book is all about free markets and how there’s no one in charge of making pencils, and yet we have pencils. There’s no pencil czar. There’s no command and control, you know, pencil clearing house that orders everything. This is a term called “spontaneous order,” right? We have order, we have pencils, spontaneously, not as a result of central planning.

So, they’re in the grocery store a few days after reading this. And the father turns to his right to talk to his 9-year-old daughter, and she’s no longer next to him. She’s back at the potato chips. And he walks back, and he’s like, “Honey, what’s going on? What are you doing?” And she’s just staring at the potato chips.

She turns to her dad, and she says, “Dad, I get it. This is spontaneous order. There’s no one in charge of potato chips, and yet we have sour cream and onion and sea salt and barbecue. We have wavy ones.” And like, for her it was this synapse firing, right, that connected things. 

And, and I’ll say here, the power in what we do, I think, is that, like, we do a lot of school stuff, we get into a lot of schools, but that’s not where the sweet sauce is. The magic happens in the home. Because if we reach kids in the classroom with a little — let’s say we teach them how pencils are made, and we have a little free market lesson that we often will do. 

The kid goes home and mom says, “Hey sweetie, how was your day?” “Fine.” You know? “Tell me what you learned today.” “I don’t know.” Right? And there’s a disconnect between parents and children. And there’s no ability to build on a foundation. 

By contrast, when we get that parent a book to read with their kids, there’s a shared language. That dad in the grocery store aisle knew what she was talking about. He knew the term “spontaneous order,” and he could build upon that with conversation and other ideas and experiences. So that not only the kids are learning, but the parents are learning too. And so, that’s the magic that we’re after: trying to reach entire families. 

I’ll conclude this point with one final thought, and that is: I don’t believe that we’re going to save our country at the Capitol. Even though organizations like ours engage at the Capitol and that’s very important to do, I don’t think that’s where we ultimately save our country. I don’t think we’re going to save our country at the courtroom by suing the government for wrongdoing. 

I think if our country is to be saved, it’s at the dinner table. And it’s engaging families and it’s rebuilding social fabric. And it’s fostering critical thinking, demonstrating to our children what civic engagement looks like. That’s, I think, where the magic can happen and where so many of us are trying to apply our efforts. 

Akina: It’s fantastic. [applauds]

Boyack: Thank you.

Akina: Connor, some people would be very threatened by what you’re talking about. You have gone on record saying that the family is the most important institution and that it’s the key to the future. And yet, across our country, in places as far away from Utah as Hawaii, there are battles taking place over what constitutes family, or the value of family, or the extent to which families should have rights over their children in schools. 

You’ve done a lot of thinking, and you’ve actually done a lot of work in Utah on this. Do you want to share some of that, and how that might be relevant to the rest of the country? 

Boyack: Anyone read dystopian fiction? We got a few. I’m a big fan of dystopian fiction. You’ve probably seen the meme that, you know, “1984 was supposed to be a warning manual, not a training manual,” right? Like, let’s keep dystopian, dystopian and not real-world.

What I like about dystopian fiction is it portrays the kind of extreme of what things can become if we do not stand for our rights and defend them, right? This is what a totalitarian society might look like. What’s fascinating to me is when you review dystopian literature, there’s a common thread throughout most of the stories: This big oppressive state is just, you know, ruining everyone’s lives and controlling everybody. 

And so, that, you might say, is the obvious thread. You have this totalitarian state; that’s the obvious answer. What is less obvious, and what I didn’t realize until I had read a number of these novels, was that a common thread between all these stories is that not only is the state large and omnipotent, the family is nearly or actually non-existent.

Oftentimes in these stories, children are born in birthing centers, there’s a time of mating, children never see their parents. They grow up in basically like orphan care where the state — like permanent daycare systems. Over and over, all these different writers have described a dystopian future in which the family is non-existent.

And so, that was kind of curious to me. And I thought, “Well, why do they depict it that way?” And then it was a few months after that, I watched online, there was this ad from this woman from MSNBC. And she was doing this commercial for public school investment. She was … They were, for whatever reason, MSNBC did this little 30-second promo about why we need to invest more in our kids.

And in the post — in the video — she said something to the effect of, “We’ve always had this notion that our children are ours, this private notion of children. We’ve never had a collective notion of this is our children. And once we can finally make collective investments, that’s when we’re going to succeed.” 

So she was diminishing … Like, Joe Biden does this all the time when he’s talking to teachers in the classroom. He’s on record a number of times saying things like, “Well, when the kids are in your classroom, they’re like your kids.” 

And you might say this is a modern phenomenon, but then you go back to Horace Mann. He’s the early architect of our modern school system. He borrowed it from the Prussians, this very kind of authoritarian schooling model. Horace Mann, he has a number of doozies, but he says that, “We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education have the right to look at parents as if they have given hostages to our cause.”

And so, what I’ve come to realize and what I believe is that, number one, there are many well-meaning people in institutions that I consider to be corrupt to the core. Pick your organization. There are many well-meaning people there trying to do the right thing, reform from within. However, I believe there are a number of nefarious people in our society who see my children as raw material for their agendas.

You look at all the dictators throughout world history; they always went after the kids, consistently. Why would they do that? Hitler has this quote from 1933 where he says something to the effect of, he’s talking with another adult and he says, you know, “Who are you to believe that you stand in the way of what you’re doing? Your children now stand in our camp. Pretty soon, you’ll be done away with, and your children will know nothing but this world that we’re creating.” 

And obviously, Hitler and the Nazis is an extreme example. But I share it to suggest that there are people who believe like that — like the Joe Bidens and the MSNBC women and all these people who believe in a collectivist approach. In economics, there’s this concept called the “tragedy of the commons,” and I’ll share a very crude example to illustrate this. 

When I’m walking my dog, if my dog does its business on my front lawn — we’re all done eating, right? So I can share a little poop story, right? If my dog does his duty on the front lawn, I’m gonna clean it up, right? Cause I don’t wanna step in that. I don’t want anyone tracking it in the home. 

But when I’m at the park and my dog is off-leash, chasing some bird or whatever, and I see the dog on the far end of the park relieving himself, there’s just this little thought that tickles in the back of my mind: “Ah, maybe you don’t need to walk over there and do that,” right? 

I have this kind of little incentive when it’s collective property that it’s not my own. And there’s a number of stories here to validate this. The point is that when things are collectively shared, any one individual’s motivation and incentive to do anything about it is diminished. This is why private property is so important over collective property. 

If you go back to the early pilgrims, the story of Thanksgiving — by the way, you know, a couple months away —  the story of Thanksgiving is a story of individualism over collectivism. The folks who came over here had a collective bargaining agreement to pay back their loans. 

And Gov. [William] Bradford, in his journal, continued to talk about how they were lazy. They were effectively calling in sick. You would have all these people who would not show up to plant corn and to grow. And so, they weren’t meeting quota. They weren’t producing what they needed to. And they were in dire straits and many of them were dying.

So, he made a unilateral decree to renegotiate the loan, this collective approach. And create private property, and apportion to everyone their own. They could keep what they grew. They no longer had to plant and grow on behalf of other people, like, what’s yours is yours, what’s yours is yours. Production skyrocketed — absolutely skyrocketed. 

And that was the bounty that they began to celebrate. Was this, like, being based in property rights and individual freedom rather than this kind of collective approach. So, I think those are the lessons that too often aren’t taught in our schools. I think they reflect in a lot of the policies that we work on at the Capitol.

But I think it really boils down to this question of parental rights are supreme, and there are other people out there whose agendas require diminishing them. And the final point here is, I like to say that you’ll lose every battle that you don’t realize is even being fought. If we don’t realize that there are these kind of nefarious agendas, intellectual agendas, psychological agendas. Like, I believe our children’s minds are ground zero in a conflict that too few even realize is happening.

We would never think to send our children off to battle in some faraway land without a uniform and body armor and weaponry and knowledge of the enemy, right? Those are basic prerequisites for engaging in military conflict. But too many of us send our children out into the world without psychological armor and weaponry, knowledge of who the enemy is that’s trying to manipulate their minds, who see their parents as having given hostages to a particular cause.

I think some of these battles are happening, that Henry David Thoreau has this quote where he says, “For every thousand hacking at the branches of evil, there’s only one striking at the root.” And a lot of what we do as think tanks is try to identify what are those root causes. We can go amend this law or file this lawsuit or do these things. What are the root causes in our society that are going to have the biggest downstream effects? 

Akina: Now, Connor, I would dare say that some of us here in the state of Hawaii — in our social and our political and educational environment — might feel a bit uncomfortable with some of the things you’ve said. You haven’t spoken very highly of the village — the collectivism. You have talked about parents’ rights. You have mentioned Thanksgiving and told a story that is no longer being told in our schools.

How do we face institutions? How do we begin to restore them when they have started to move away from the principles upon which our country was founded? In particular, public schools. I know you’ve done a lot of work in that regard. 

Boyack: After the Jaiden story happened, this Gadsden flag story that I mentioned … Interestingly, do you know Hillsdale College? This school — Hillsdale, has a program for charter schools and so forth across the country. This school that Jaiden attended used to be a Hillsdale school. And a week after that story happened, one of the founding members from 30 years ago wrote a letter to the editor in the local paper —  this was in Colorado Springs.

And she explained what the vision was when we created this school. We wanted patriotism. We wanted conservative thought. We wanted classical education. We wanted to really edify the kids were doing way better than their, you know, counterparts in other schools. But she said that any institution, this was her quote, “Any institution left on autopilot will inexorably drift to the left.”

I thought that was very interesting. She talked about how over time people got busy, you know, the founding board members left, new paths of life, new people came in, right? And you didn’t have that same intentionality. 

The Hungarian Revolution offers another compelling story. Hungary was occupied by the Soviets and they were under a kind of a lighter touch. The Soviets kept tanks there that were older and smaller. They didn’t have a ton of soldiers there. They were less experienced soldiers because they weren’t too worried about Hungary. 

Well, some teenagers and young adults started throwing some Molotov cocktails around one day, and it spread like wildfire. A lot of other people joined in and they were able to successfully repel the Soviets from Hungary. And they were just elated with themselves, “Look what we’ve done! Does this mean we have freedom now?” 

They took over the single radio station and started broadcasting messages of freedom. They started figuring out how to appoint people to government and, you know, self-govern. It was a very intoxicating time. 

And then the Soviets came back with bigger tanks and more soldiers and they crushed the rebellion. The empire struck back, and thousands of families fled. They crossed the bridge at Andau into Austria. 

And one of the families, the Hadjok family, they crossed this bridge and they were met by an interviewer who — like a journalist — they were there to capture stories. And there were two kids in that family; one of them, a 12-year-old girl named Vera. And Vera just starts spouting off, “They were teaching us all kinds of lies in the school. It was propaganda. I’m so glad to be gone.” This, that, and the other, right? 

And the interviewer’s like, “Oh, wow,” you know. Turns to the mom and says, “How is it that your daughter is so opinionated and is so vocal about these issues? All these other kids that we’re talking to are shells of their former selves. They’re drawn into themselves. They won’t look you in the eye, right? They won’t assert anything declaratively. They just — ‘Oh, whatever you want.’ They’re very passive. Why is your daughter different?”

Mrs. Hadjok said, “Every night, when the lights would go out, we would gather our family by candlelight in the cellar. And we would read the Bible as a family. And we would wash from our children’s minds, all of the filth that had been put into their brains during the day.”

This daily intentional act is what the Hadjoks were doing to understand, “What are my children being exposed to? Is it truth? What can I teach them? What foundation can I give them?” We, our families, like that school in Colorado Springs, can inexorably drift in wrong directions if left on autopilot. So, if I had a call to action at all for those of us in the room today, I would say it’s intentionality.

We can’t be on autopilot. These battles are happening. People need your help. Organizations like Grassroot Institute need your help. We can’t do this alone. Running a think tank is very hard; you need allies, you need supporters. So grateful that you guys are here to do that. But we can’t leave these things on autopilot. We have to engage in the fight. 

And we see the difference that it can make. Jaiden’s story, you know, 50 million views. He had kids, peers at school — they bought Gadsden flag stickers. They’re now putting it up on their lockers. All the … You look at the Google search term for “Gadsden flag,” you can like see trends, right — it skyrockets. So now, people are learning about American history and some of these principles. 

All it takes, a lot of times, is one person to stand up and do the right thing. Even if it’s hard, even if you live in a community where many people might not agree like you do. Even if you feel unsure about yourself or don’t know what to do, it’s the individuals. I mean, I used to be a web developer, I built websites for a living. I am not qualified to be in a chair like this at all, running an organization. There’s no manual to do this. I’ve made so many mistakes. I really don’t know what I’m doing, I just can pretend very well, right? 

If I can do it, so can you. We can all stand up and be part of this fight. We can all create value. We can all try and find, within our spheres of influence, ways to make impact. We need it. We need people to stand up. And so, that would be my invitation to all of you. [applause]

Akina: Well said. I’m sure that many of you have some questions for Connor. Please come up to the microphone over here so that we can hear your question, and Connor will be glad to respond. 

Even as [University of Hawaii Professor of Chinese Political Economy and Grassroot Scholar] Kate Zhou is coming up first. Professor, please come to the microphone. And feel free to line up after her because we want to make sure that you get the opportunity. So, we’ll take a couple more people behind Kate before we ask her to start. 

Anyone else want to stand there with her so she’s not afraid? 

Boyack: See, stand alone even when no one else is doing it. 

Kate Zhou: OK, thank you so much. It’s very inspiring. 

Boyack: Thank you. 

Zhou: I’m thinking about a good strategy to using the social network to spread freedom. I’m thinking about two things. I don’t know how maybe each state will have Grassroot Institute that can be the leader. 

One is the film. We can make films, focus on the kids. And then producing freedom movies based on family, education-wise. And then maybe we can have … I don’t know who are the good people who can do the film script. We have, you know, have some ideas. We can meet once a week, different people can have different ideas. We have maybe each state producing ten scripts they can combine together and make good movies. 

Because I think that one of the successes of the communist revolution in China, they use movies, music, songs. Even though there’s no social network, they are so influential [in] affecting people’s minds. So, we should learn from them, from the life and people. OK, so the film is very effective. Especially, you know — the book is good, but right now the film and so the YouTube. 

Akina: Kate, that’s a great idea, and we should talk about it more.

Zhou: Yeah. So, we have each state, each state with people like the grassroot-minded institute can be a place for people to [be] producing those kinds of script.

Akina: Did you have a question for Connor? 

Zhou: OK, the other question is that in terms of the family education. I’m thinking about is that, can we have — could a “freedom corner” [be] created in each … in the internet. So that we can … Freedom-loving families can adopt one or two families. You can be international, you can be domestic. OK, they want to learn how you educate your kids. 

For example, you have Christians, you want to — you know, I think that daily prayer is a wonderful thing, you know. And so, I can give you 1,000 families from China willing to listen to this once a week. So, we do not have American families who are willing to … To provide, you know. 

I can, I do it myself. I do it once a week, you know, to a family — and not to one family, ten families. They all can watch, you know, [what] I do to educate other people like that. So, it’d be great that we can — the Grassroot can be a good place to go. But we have, you know, a family adopting a freedom corner.

It’s a freedom corner so that each person — we cannot adopt them physically, but they become adopted by … education-wise, other people can go through that. 

Akina: Thank you very much, Kate. Let me let Connor respond quickly. 

Boyack: Yeah. I appreciate that. Here’s an example of what anyone can do. Adopt a family, right? Buy an extra set of “Tuttle Twins” books, or send a link, or provide resources to people in your family, people in your community, people in another country.

We have a lot of people who will often buy two sets of books, one for their own family and then one to give out to someone else to be a little missionary for freedom. And so, I think that’s something easy that a lot of people can do. 

On the earlier point, I completely agree that we need to engage more in culture. And by “culture,” I don’t mean the current culture wars and how toxic that is. I mean we need to influence culture with good content. So, if you don’t know, the “Tuttle Twins,” we have an animated cartoon series as well. So you can Google, “Tuttle Twins” cartoon and you’ll find it; it’s all free. And so, we have a season and a half.

And I need to put in a plug here for Lee up front. So Ken Schoolland [Hawaii Pacific University] is creating a cartoon as well for “[The Adventures of] Jonathan Gullible”, and he lives here locally. So, if you want to support that, he’s looking for supporters right now, so come talk to Lee. It’s just another great opportunity to build more content that can help teach kids.

Akina: Thank you. Aloha. Would you introduce yourself, please? 

Maureen Coogan: Maureen Coogan. I bought books, and I donated them to the Boys and Girls Club in Kailua, which is where I live. And the manager there was appreciative and she loved the books. But she said, “The kids don’t read. Kids are so much on their computers.” But she’s going to try to use them for projects. 

But I also — I was thinking about it, I used to, when I worked, I did Junior Achievement. The company would sponsor and you’d get credit for doing that. Could you consider a model where maybe you could do that? Because it’s great, you do it, you have a whole several days of presentation to kids. And then, you know, and a company we’ll sponsor going in there to teach it, so they’re supported by the community. Some kind of model like that. 

Boyack: Yeah, I like that a lot. The … I would dispute the, what I’ll call a stereotype that we hear a lot of, that kids have short attention spans. They don’t want to read. This is a very common kind of thing, and true in many cases — I will definitely concede that. But I have received too many thousands of emails and DMs and messages over the years of parents who are shocked that their kids who don’t like to read, who hate reading, will read these books. And for the longest time, I was like, “What, why? Why is that happening?”

And it gets back to the Thanksgiving dinner table example I shared. The kids, not only attracted by the colorful whatever, but they start reading and it’s engaging them in big ideas. They feel kind of cool learning about these things that most adults don’t even know. And so, I think if presented the right way, books can still be a very effective medium.

Junior Achievement is a great organization. Our model is likely going to remain very family-focused because we want to get into the home. We want those dinner table discussions. So, we often will partner with organizations like that and schools, but it’s not our priority. Our priority is the home.

Akina: Thank you. Please introduce yourself. 

Igor Dubinsky: Hey, good afternoon, Igor Dubinsky. Thank you very much for what you’re doing. We’re … Our family’s an investor in the books and in the cartoon. 

Boyack: Thank you.

Dubinsky: I was wondering how … You know, so it takes a network to defeat a network, right? So, we’ve got this, I think, de facto network that’s gotten built by sort of socialism and the left. 

How do you, as a think tank, and as you know, as an organization, connect across the nation and across the world with other organizations, you know, that are like-minded? How do you build that network? How are you building that network to get them into more than just the schools but into all the organizations that exist out there?

Boyack: I need to slip you a $5 bill because that’s a fantastic question that I’ve been talking about a lot lately. So, we have another program that’s not yet in Hawaii, but within the next year or two will be. It’s called the “Children’s Entrepreneur Market.”  

So, we’re currently in seven states, we’re adding 10 more next year; we’re taking this fully nationally. Think of these like lemonade stands, but on steroids. 90% of the time at a lemonade stand, kids are just sitting there waiting for cars to stop, right? So, there’s not a lot of learning interactions. Our markets are kind of like a farmer’s market. A lot of people huddled together at booths, but then we advertise to the local community and we bring out a lot of people.

So, we’ve been doing this for five or six years in Utah before we’ve now decided to take this nationally. As we scale nationally, this is going to be the, kind of the bottom tier of what I call the “pyramid of impact.” So, entrepreneurship is very American, very friendly, very inviting. Everyone, every parent wants their kid to have an experience like that.

So, we’re going to use these entrepreneurship markets all over the country as a way to reach tens, hundreds of thousands of families. Again, creating value for them. Not beating them over the head with a white paper. Not trying to talk to them about our political ideas — yet. Just saying, “Hey, here’s a fun opportunity for your kids. Come get involved.” We build that relationship of trust. We build that rapport. 

Then the next layer of the pyramid after entrepreneurship is education. So, “Tuttle Twins” … “Hey, here’s some books. Here’s a cartoon. Here’s curriculum. Here’s … ” you know. And then, over time, it’s community. So, we want to connect them with people like events like this, like-minded people in the community so they can rub shoulders, create friendships, create partnerships. 

And then the final steps are activation, like Jaiden, right? Here’s a kid who had been reading for years, and then he was activated. He had an opportunity to stand up. So, all that prep work had gone into making him ready for it. 

And then the final piece, the pinnacle of the pyramid, is think tanks like ours. For example, let’s say Grassroot Institute is working on education policy, a couple years from now. And they want a whole bunch of families to come to the Capitol to stand with them at a rally, right? And then go to the committee meeting and, and say, “We want this bill,” right? Well, imagine if Keli‘i could reach out and say, you know, “Hey, Connor, we got this going on. Can you put this out to your network?”

And imagine that we have 8,000 families in Hawaii who’ve been coming to the markets and reading the “Tuttle Twins” books and all these things. A lot — many of you first timers are here because you found out about the “Tuttle Twins.” What if we could 10x that? And what if he could reach out and I could say, “Yeah, let me put the word out, 8,000 people. Boom. Let’s flood the [Capitol].” 

That’s the network we’re trying to build across the country. Using entrepreneurship is the foot in the door. Nurturing them over time with education and then leading them down the path of engaging politically with us. 

Akina: Very good. Thank you. Good question and answer. 


Jonathan Durrett: Yeah. Jonathan Durrett, Grassroot Institute, board of director. We’ve just participated in Chicago with the State Policy Network. And for those of you who are here and not familiar with this network, it is a network of similar think tanks throughout the whole U.S. And they all are based in, on the principles of liberty and economic freedom that we’re talking about.

Very, very powerful experience for the members of Grassroot who were able to attend and be participants in that network. I think you were there, Connor. 

Boyack: Yes. 

Durrett: And so, I think it’s important for the — for all of those who are here, to understand that there are networks. There are … there’s synergy throughout the country towards this movement.

I’m very interested in how your think tank — the origin [of] Libertas. Would like to hear the story of how it began and where you are in sort of that evolution of think tanks. And how many — what’s your staff like? When did you start? Like to learn a little bit about it.  

Boyack: Sure. So, I bounced around a few organizations as a volunteer. Again, I was a web developer, right? I just had this side hobby and interest of engaging politically, so I would participate in different organizations. 

In Utah, there was already an existing think tank — a conservative public policy organization called Sutherland Institute. And the head of that institute and I would butt heads quite frequently, because I’m much more libertarian and he’s very anti-libertarian. And so, we would attack one another in the Op-Ed pages of the local paper, and it was a lot of fun sparring with him.

Well, he asked one day to come over to my home, which was unusual. Like, I — you know, OK, you know, he comes over. And he says, “I don’t know what you’re doing with all this computer stuff, but I see you as being president of Sutherland Institute someday.” This is totally out of left field. And he says, “We’d have to start you out as a policy analyst at $40,000 a year. And you’d work your way up.”

And I’m thinking, “OK, number one, my wife is never going to sign off on that big of a pay cut. But number two, like, I don’t want to be muzzled by you because we disagree with one another a lot, right? I want to be able to speak my mind and not be restrained.” 

But it was that conversation — this is Paul Merrow who you may know, right? It was that conversation that planted the seed of like, “Ah, a think tank.” I’d never conceptualized that as an opportunity to be the outlet for my political activities. So, I wrote up a business plan and found our first early donors and were able to build it. Had no clue what I was doing. Later found this organization, State Policy Network. They provide a lot of training for groups like ours of best practices and things like that. 

We started as a state-based think tank focused in Utah, just like Grassroot is in Hawaii. We’ve since changed quite a bit where we work now across the country. So, we follow what I call a “nail it, then scale it model.” We use Utah because it has such a — we’re at the top of all the rankings for, you know, best economy and all these things. And so, we’re able to leverage that where if I get a good policy passed in Utah, we can go around across the country and say like, “Hey guys, Utah’s at the top of the list and look what they just did. You want to be like them, you know, work on this policy.”

So, it actually has been very effective to spread our ideas. We now have a total of about 80- some-odd people working for us. That’s between the policy side of our work, the “Tuttle Twins” and the children’s markets. I employ about 20 teenagers who every day just pack “Tuttle Twins” books at our warehouse. I call them my “libertarian elves,” and I’m the “libertarian Santa” spreading joy to all the boys and girls across the world. 

And it’s fun. Most of these kids grew up reading “Tuttle Twins” when they were younger, and now they get to come work at our warehouse. So we have a blast with them. But about 80 people, we’re based in Utah … and having a blast. 

I think, did that answer everything, Jonathan? OK, awesome. 

Akina: It’s a great story and we’re looking forward to learning more. 

We’re going to close up with the following three gentlemen. Thank you. And go ahead and introduce yourself.

Ellie Kapihe: Ellie Kapihe. 

Akina: Yes, Ellie. 

Kapihe: Mahalo, Keli‘i. 

Akina: How are you doing, Ellie?

Kapihe: Awesome, awesome. 

Akina: Aloha. 

Kapihe: Mahalo for hosting this. Connor, thank you for being here. 

I saw a vision as you were sharing of every home in Hawaii having your books. But the question is: How do we increase the intent of the parents being engaged with the kids, with the book? And if there are ways that we can equip the parents to be engaged. So those are two questions. 

Boyack: I really like that question. 

Kapihe: Mahalo.

Boyack: One of the challenges with this kids market program, and the books as well, is they require engaged parents. If you have a dysfunctional family or a single mom working three jobs just trying to get by, it’s hard to invest in your kids. And so, that is the downside of having a family-focused model, is you need strong families with attentive and engaged parents.

What we’ve seen over the years, as one answer to your question, is that kids can actually model for their parents curiosity and critical thinking which engages parents in the same. In other words, it’s not mom pushing it and it’s not, you know, dad pushing it. 

Instead, if we can get to the kids and spark their curiosity — maybe they saw the cartoon at their friend’s house and they come home and they’re like, “Oh, you know I learned all these things.” Right, then the parents start to be like, “Wait, what?” You know, “What are you paying attention to?” And we’ve seen parents get drawn in to their children being the ones to lead out and hearing from friends or at school or whatever, about this.

So, I kind of take an approach of “throw mud at the wall and see what sticks.” In other words, I don’t have one perfect answer. We definitely rely on parents mostly to be the ones to purchase the books and to get it for their children. But we definitely employ a lot of marketing strategies designed for grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, caring community members, people who are with literacy programs, libraries … Trying to find as many ways as we can to reach the kids and hope for the best. 

Thank you. 

Akina: Thank you. 

John Sager: Hi. John Sager, blockchain developer. I was gonna ask, do you think there’s an intentional hijacking of our youth by the educational establishment? 

The reason I ask that is I used to live in Brazil, and I noticed my niece and nephew were two to three years ahead in mathematics and reading, and almost everybody, when I visited their school, was fluent in English. And they were basically sixth graders. 

So, it just seemed so obvious that there was something happening, perhaps from a federal level on down that was kind of hijacking our educational establishment, if you will. And I wanted to see your thoughts on that.

Akina: Thank you. 

Boyack: We’re amongst friends, so I can speak freely, right? I mentioned a few things that connect here. Horace Mann, first commissioner of education in America saying that parents have given hostages to our cause.

John Dewey, he wrote “My Pedagogic Creed.” He was a, basically a key influencer in the early days of building these schools. He has this quote where he says that, “Teachers are the prophets of the one true God ushering in the kingdom of God.” Interesting to note about John Dewey is he’s an atheist. So why would he say that?

Well, “God” was the state; he was a collectivist. He saw teachers as the front line ambassadors for the state. And so, I was speaking to a parents group a few months ago. And this mom raises her hand and complains about this whole litany of issues, you know, critical race theory and the gender books and crazy stuff happening in the libraries.

And she said, “The system is broken!” And I said, “Actually, I respectfully disagree with you. I think the system has been perfected based on a flawed design. I don’t think it’s broken.” When you go look at the early architects of the folks — and this says nothing of the amazing teachers and administrators who I know in my family and friends and others who sign up to help kids.

But that’s what John Taylor Gatto did. He was a New York teacher for 30 years in the public school system. He was someone trying to reform from within, someone who cared deeply about kids. And he would go on unscheduled field trips with them. He would just go on walks outside of campus. He kind of bucked all the rules and all the administrative everything. Just to like, inspire kids and spark curiosity. And the kids loved him, his students loved him. Kept in touch for years, just one of these amazing teachers. 

One year he was awarded New York City Teacher of the Year. The following year, he was awarded New York State Teacher of the Year. By the way, these awards are given out by kind of the establishment, the, you know, the PTA and the teachers unions and so forth. So, he’s winning these awards. The very same year that he won New York State Teacher of the Year, he wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “I Quit, I Think.” In which he goes on to say, and I quote, “If you know of a profession where I can help kids without hurting them, please let me know.”

He saw from within the structural problems of our schools. He wrote a book, which is one of the main reasons why my wife and I chose to homeschool, called “Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.” I read that book and was blown away. It described all the reasons why I struggled in school. I do think, yes, that there is a concerted effort to dumb down curriculum.

If you were dictator for a day, if you were dictator for a long time, would you want a citizenry comprised of independent-minded, critical-thinking, entrepreneurial, freedom-loving individuals? Or would you prefer to govern a society of historically-illiterate, entertainingly-distracted, civically-apathetic individuals who wouldn’t challenge what you’re doing because they wouldn’t really know and care?

I mean, the question’s obvious. And so, those who aspire to power want a dumbed-down society. If we want to restore freedom and reduce the power of these people, we have to stand up. We have to be the independently-minded, critically-thinking, curious and entrepreneurial people, because I do think that there are efforts afoot to dumb it down.

Akina: Very good. Ominous words, yet inspiring. We’re gonna leave here inspired, Connor. 

OK, final question. 

Boyack: He’s like, “This isn’t what we brought you out for, to talk about this kind of stuff.”

Dustin: Thank you very much, Grassroot Institute. This is my first time coming. I’m Dustin from Full Gospel Marketplace Leaders, Hawaii.

My question is going to be preference around influence. And I like the last question in your answer to that. I’m pretty positive that you’ve thought a lot about my question that I’m going to pose to you. And I want to, again, preference this, it’s going to be about faith-based communities, primarily churches, and I’m most familiar with Christianity.

What do you think the root cause would be, for the lack of influence that these churches have on culture? 

Akina: Thank you for the question. A fitting question to end with, Connor, because our whole aim is that the people who want to do good should have the greatest influence. 

Boyack: Yep. 

Akina: I’ll let you respond.

Boyack: Well, I appreciate the question and especially what you just added on, Keliʻi, because our organizations are in the business of influence. We can’t succeed if we don’t have the ability to persuade, to communicate, to try and convince people of the merits of our arguments. And there’s only so many statistics and data points that we can share with people to try and intellectually convince them.

I think oftentimes we have to change hearts before we can change minds. There’s that adage of, you know, people don’t know how much to care how much you know, until they know how much you care, right? And while corny, I think that there’s merit to that. 

I was asking Keliʻi in the car ride on Maui yesterday about his experiences working in a state where there’s a lot of Democrats. I come from a very Republican state and we both share the same ideas and value systems. So, what’s it like to work in a state like this? And his answer to me was that the emphasis for Grassroot Institute is on solutions.

It’s not on committing people to a particular ideology. It’s not beating them over the head with, you know, the specific talking points that we like to use. It’s building consensus around a set of solutions that are common sense and that you can persuade people. So, whether it’s churches or community groups or think tanks, I think we have to be in the influence business. But I think fundamentally, we have to be in the business of changing people’s hearts.

They have to feel that we care, that we want these solutions for them, that we’re really trying to help their lives. That there’s a doctor shortage right now, and so you guys have worked on the interstate compact and telemedicine trying to materially improve people’s lives. 

It’s not just about checking a box and getting a victory. It’s not about gloating to donors. It’s not about looking good on social media. It’s about making people’s lives better. It’s doing the grunt work at the Grassroot Institute office collecting data and building spreadsheets, so that two weeks from now you can hopefully persuade a particular legislator with what you found. It’s all about influence. 

And so, my parting words, if I could, is just for those of you, especially who are newer at Grassroot Institute: Learn more, grab the brochure, go to the website. I know from running a think tank, we need a lot of allies and so they’re here on the ground every day trying to build that influence. And honestly, the best way that they can be more influential is you guys lending your voice, talking to your friends, showing up to the Capitol with them, standing with them, being part of their community.

It empowers them to go talk to elected officials and those individuals will know, “Oh, this is Grassroot. They represent a lot of people; I better listen.” We need more influence. You guys can play a part, so I would invite you to do that. 

Akina: Everyone, let’s show our appreciation to Connor Boyack. [applause]

Connor, your insights are very inspiring. They’re challenging, because you show us both the darkness, but also the light. So, we greatly appreciate that. Hope we’ll see more of you here in Hawaii. 

For those of you who are joining us today for the first time, or anyone, please take an impact report, sort of like an annual report of how we’ve done halfway through the year. We’d love to share that with you. And kindly fill out this card so you can make sure that you receive our materials every week and leave this at the front. 

But thank you so much for being at the Grassroot Institute today. Your time is valuable. We respect that. Mahalo. Aloha. [applause]



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