Today, I received the terribly sad news about the untimely death of Keitani Graham, one of my former students at Xavier High School who has become a friend, an inspiration, national hero. There is so much sadness in my heart for his family in Chuuk who are undoubtedly going through a painful mourning at this time.
What can we do? How do we honor Keitani’s legacy? Until something more official comes out from his family on the best way to honor Kei, I am starting an online petition on change.org asking the FSM Congress, Chuuk State Legislatures, and the Chuuk State Governor to allocate funds to build the much needed multi-sports complex in Chuuk in honor of Keitani. This complex would train the next leaders in sports, education, social entrepreneurship, youth advocacy work. It would be built beside the grassy track & field in Chuuk where Keitani spent much of his years of service to the young people of Chuuk.
t’s important that we as a nation carry on the dream and legacy of this young Chuukese hero. His hope as the first FSM citizen to wrestle in the London Olympics was to lay the foundation for coaching future Olympic medalists and global ambassadors of the FSM. He inspired us with his passion for helping the young people of Chuuk and our nation through his work as youth advocate, Olympic athlete, leader of a nonprofit organization for historic preservation and self-empowerment through sports. We must build the multi-sports complex by the grassy Anderson Field where Keitani spent so much of his life to form healthy minds in healthy bodies.
Keitani packed so much into his short 32-year life. He was a youth leader, sports advocate, social entrepreneur, community organizer, educator. Kei began his athletic competition as a young student at Xavier High School in Chuuk and at Punahou School in Hawaii. He went on to become a member of the track team at College of the Holy Cross. An injury altered the course of his life towards wrestling. With the same zeal, enthusiasm, hard work, and positive attitude that was his trademark, Keitani learned to wrestle and competed his way through the FSM, Oceania, globally until he qualified to represent the FSM in the London Olympics in 2012.
But sports was only the means to his deeper passion; i.e. to form the young Chuukese youth to believe in their abilities and be proud of their roots. He lived that passion to the core in his life and through his nonprofit organization Society of Historic Preservation / Helping Ourselves: Outreach Programs in Sports (SHIP/HOOPS) and Akoyikoyi School which he helped founded in his village of Penia. As he said in the interview (click on the photo) on The 4th Branch, Chuuk has other more important needs over sports naming education, healthcare, but Keitani has been able to reach kids through sports than anyone has. It is all about perspectives. And Keitani always had it right.
Today we mourn with the Graham family (Clark, Chineina, Keitani, Kimberly, Curtis, Dubo & Caden) and their loved ones with the loss of a beloved family member. Tomorrow we must thank them for the gift of their son, brother, uncle Keitani…our friend, our hero, our teammate, our coach, our role model, our advocate, our student, our teacher, and our champion. Building a multi-sports complex in Chuuk is the right thing that our leaders can do to help us honor the legacy of this young national hero for years to come.
We love you, Kei, and miss you so much.