My current visit to the Asia Pacific Leadership Program is the eighth time I have had the privilege to visit Hawaii and experience the ‘aloha’ spirit. The traditional aloha greeting, goes far beyond the simple ‘hello’. The traditional greeting would involve a touching of foreheads in the course of greeting and aloha literally means exchanging breath (alo – the shape of face; ha – breath). It is a deep way of welcome, of union, and here it is not a greeting but rather a spirit. Those who get to experience the aloha spirit will be impacted for life.
But as with most parts of a connected world Hawaii has a complex and mixed background which for some, continues to be the source of anger and resentment. On Oahu where I am currently, the West side of the island is where one will encounter ‘authentic Hawaii’. I am currently reading Stu Coleman’s book, ‘Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the soul of Hawaiian surfing’ which tells of life on the west side and some of the memorable characters that have left an indelible mark on Hawaiian culture.
The story of Makaha reveals a complex and often uneasy relationship with the rest of Oahu as the latter has become increasing under the influence of what is viewed as an intrusive, and at times disrespectful cultural invasion from the mainland and beyond. When many think of Hawaii they conjure up images of Waikiki but the ‘true’ Hawaii is not to be found in such places. The diversity issues and tensions here are not uncommon to those found elsewhere. They invoke emotion and resentment and have no easy solutions. Change continues to happen regardless of the impact on those who see it as a bad thing as well as those would welcome it as a gateway to the future.
Today in the classroom of the Leadership Program I will get to discuss the future of leadership with a class that represents over 20 Asia Pacific countries. The world in a classroom…almost. It is a place of rich learning and one where I (the ‘teacher’) usually emerges having learnt the most.