Iolani Palace was decorated on Nov. 16 in the royal colors of Hawaii’s late monarchy. The date marked the 183rd birthday of King David Laʻamea Kamanakapuʻu Mahiulani Naloiaehuoklani Lumialani Kalākaua. Attendees shared their experience of the commemoration of the King’s birthday.
University of Hawaii at Manoa Lecturer Dr. Niklaus Schwezir said, “It was always a big festivity in his day, and he was one of the more – most far reaching monarchs of Hawaii. He was the first head of state to go around the world. Nobody had ever done that before him, not only the first king, the first head of state.
“He built up the diplomatic service which had already started with Kamehameha III. When it was in its heights there were 136 diplomatic missions around the world of Hawaii.
“His trip around the world had aim of showing the flag. Showing that Hawaii is an independent country in the middle of the Pacific, and he met just about everyone who was important at the time.”
Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Honolulu Museum of Art Tory Laitila said, “I thought it was great, I mean this is his 183rd birthday observance and there were some things that they have done in the past like the review of the Royal Guard and the Royal Hawaiian Band, but there was a new ceremony done by the Royal Order.
“We had the Masonic Orders of which Kalākaua was a member present “hookupu” and a nice crossover with some Tongan entertainment.
“I think it is great at the palace that they festoon or decorate the front of the palace with the monarch flag, the white field with the crest – coat of arms, as well as the national flag. It really brings back how the palace looked for his jubilee. So, I think it is wonderful and it is the only time of the year they do that.”
Another attendee of the event, Adam Jensen, a Hawaii State Archivist, said, “We are celebrating the 183rd birthday of His Majesty the King. It’s an amazing experience and opportunity for us to reflect on what it meant to be a progressive inclusive leader. Particularly in this day in age, we need role models to look up to on what a modern progressive inclusive leader looks like.
“...I don’t think anybody encompasses that more than Mo‘i [King] Kalākaua. His around-the-world journey, he was the first monarch to make world progress. He met all the world leaders of the day. He had the first state dinner in the United States. [President] Grant welcomed the king of Hawaii as the first formal guest at the White House.
“And now that we look back on the 183rd birthday it is an opportunity for us to really eternalize what we need to do; how we can emulate his direction to bring Hawaii forward.”
A King’s Legacy
“He brought Hawaii to a world stage which is an absolute remarkable thing when you consider the geography and the population of Hawaii at the time. It was a very small kingdom relatively, yet he was received with highest honors by the most powerful nations of the day which shows the importance of Hawaii to the world. The fact that he met all the luminaries of the day, not just world leaders, but scientists, theologians, philosophers and learned as much as he could,” said Jensen.
According to Jensen, King Kalākaua took a trip to California to visit a modern dam that could possibly benefit His Kingdom and Hawaiians. After the King returned from his California trip, Jensen said, “... he puts Hawaii on a silver standard [...] for the first time we have a real monetary coin issued by the kingdom.”
Jensen mentioned the King’s accomplishments, such as electrifying Iolani Palace. “He was very progressive, anywhere he saw anything in the world on his tour that would benefit his people, he brought it back.”