Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement & Political Manipulation at America's Largest Charitable Trust

Discussion Questions

  • Chapter 5: The Trust Plays Politics as Activism Grows

    • The first sentence of this chapter quotes someone who thinks politics was “at the core of Bishop Estate’s many problems.”  What does that mean?  Do you agree with this person?
    • For many years Republicans dominated politics in Hawaii, then, virtually overnight, it was the Democrats.  Slow change is sometimes called “evolution,” and fast change is sometimes called “revolution.”  Many people call the switch from Republican to Democrat control in Hawaii, the “Democratic Revolution.”  In your own words, what caused such a dramatic change?  When it comes to political change, what is better: evolution or revolution?  Why?
    • In your own words, why did his critics not want Matsuo Takabuki to be a Bishop Estate trustee?
    • Reverend Akaka often spoke up on political matters, especially when the issues directly affected Hawaiians.  Some people think religious clergy like Reverend Akaka should talk publicly only about religious matters.  Others expect their religious leaders to provide guidance and leadership on political as well as spiritual matters.  What do you think?
    • Why did Reverend Akaka say of Hawaiians, “We are now a nobody as far as the government is concerned?”  Do you basically agree or disagree with the quote?  Why?
    • On page 70, the attorney general is quoted as follows: “Neither the trustees nor the staff could explain why they chose certain developers or how they arrived at the terms of development agreements.”  Do you think trustees should be able and required to explain their decisions?  Why?
    • Beginning on page 70, the authors tell a story about a person who almost became a Bishop Estate trustee—Larry Mehau.  Another person—Rick Reed—called Mehau the “godfather” of organized crime in Hawaii.  Mehau proclaimed his innocence and no one—not even Reed—ever proved that Mehau was guilty of any wrongdoing.  Was it wrong for Reed to make serious accusations that he could not prove?  Was it wrong for the newspapers and TV stations to report what Reed had said?  Was it wrong for the authors of this book to retell the story?
    • Oz Stender is referred to as the “accidental trustee.”  In your own words, what does that mean?
    • Trustee Stender described the justices’ way of selecting Bishop Estate trustees as “appalling” and “irresponsible.”  What did they do that was so bad?  Was it brave of Stender to criticize the justices publicly, or was it rude?  What would you have done if you were Stender?
    • On the bottom of page 75, the authors tell the story of an aggressive reporter who got trustee Stender to admit that the trustee-selection process was “rigged.”  What would you have said if you had been in Stender’s position?  How do you think it made the other trustees feel to read in the newspaper that Stender thought they had been the beneficiaries of a “rigged” system?  Did the reporter do anything wrong?  Did Stender?
    • On page 76, the authors describe how trustee Stender grew disillusioned and came close to quitting as a Bishop Estate trustee.  In your own words, explain what made Stender decide to stay.  What would you have done if you had been in his position?
    • According to the authors, Hawaiian protest “became a powerful mix of historical insult and modern-day grievance.”  In your own words, explain what that means.
    • Parts of the “apology resolution” are quoted on pages 78-79.  In your own words, explain the legal and moral significance of that resolution.  Do you think the apology resolution was a good, or bad, thing?  Why?
    • Professor Trask, an American citizen, shouted to a large group of Hawaiians, who also were American citizens, “We are not Americans!  We will die Hawaiians!”  If she did not literally mean that they were not Americans, why did she say it?  What message do you think she was trying to convey?