President's Perspective Blog

Live Aloha. Spread Aloha. Give Aloha

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flower on sand

As I sit on the beach and write this, I think about the grains of sand, each tiny one unique and diverse, small and seemingly insignificant. But when collected into one body, these grains of sand create stunningly beautiful beaches. In Hawaii, these beaches sustain and define us. They bring us together in community with each other.

We say “Aloha” every day – greeting each another, saying goodbye, and sending prayers, love and good wishes. It’s as much a part of our culture as lei stacking up around a graduate’s neck until only their eyes are visible, eating a spam musubi after a surf session, or wearing “slippers” (aka flip flops) to work.

Visitors sometimes mistakenly think aloha is a marketing scheme, but they’re wrong. It’s a powerful sentiment that’s the essence of who we are and how we choose to live. It’s how we share and thrive in our island communities where land, resources and opportunity are finite. We even have a law, the “Hawaii Law of The Aloha Spirit,” adopted in 1986 and establishing the threshold of conduct for residents and public servants across the state. It reminds us that aloha binds together the heart and mind of each of us.  

As defined in state statute, aloha means

  • Akahai: kindness, expressed with tenderness;
  • Lōkahi: unity, expressed with harmony;
  • ʻOluʻolu: agreeable, expressed with pleasantness;
  • Haʻahaʻa: humility, expressed with modesty;
  • Ahonui: patience, expressed with perseverance.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not always easy. We have the same stresses, time constraints, money worries, and family concerns that come with life, but aloha reminds us of that shared bond. We can still disagree, and we can argue passionately. But we try to do it with a mutual respect and affection, extending caring warmth without obligation in return. It’s the foundation on which we respect each other and our shared place in these islands. It’s how we make everything work, even when it seems impossible.  

In Hawaii and in communities around the globe, we’re each like a grain of sand—individually singular and seemingly insignificant, yet part of a powerful and potentially transformative collective. We can leverage individual action for the collective good. We can empower each other and stand as one strong voice against injustice.  

As Asian Americans have faced hatred, violence, and vile intolerance across the United States, Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means so much more to me this year. I didn’t grow up knowing hatred like that. Known to be a “melting pot” of cultures from around the world, Hawaii embraces our differences —not always perfectly, of course. But still, we are guided by aloha.

Born in Japan and raised in Hawaii, I’ve been blessed to have deep roots in a state that celebrates multi-ethnic diversity—that thrives because of our differences, not in spite of them. We still have work to do, of course. We all do. But Hawaii knows that our strength and resilience comes from our differences.

As professional fundraisers, it’s our privilege and responsibility to leverage individual action for the collective good. That’s the beating heart of philanthropy—bringing together the grains of sand to create good that makes a lasting difference in our community. As philanthropy professionals, we know one absolute truth: good works are only possible when the mission rights a wrong and is driven by inclusivity and diversity.  

New opportunities for collective action arise through the darkest of times, calling us to reach our highest potential. In Hawaii, we call that Live Aloha. Spread Aloha. Give Aloha. As Asians and Pacific Islanders face these headwinds, it’s my greatest hope that we stand with them, righting a wrong that leaves us damaged and broken. That’s our power and our obligation. That’s aloha.

Jennifer OyerAs principal and chief joy officer for Community Impact Advisors, a boutique nonprofit consulting practice based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jennifer partners with organizations to provide integral and strategic expertise in fund development that impacts their growth and sustainability. Community Impact Advisors empowers nonprofits to make meaningful decisions that increases their capacity to positively impact the community. With nearly 20 years of fund development experience driving strategy, execution, and building incredible teams, Jennifer has partnered with generous donors to raise millions for education, healthcare, and social services across Hawaii.

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