The History of Live Aloha

by Robbie Alm (used by permission of the author)

Like a lot of adventures, it started off in one direction and wound up going on in a totally different direction. We were looking to fix government and ended up looking to ourselves as the key to improving Hawai`i. And each step along the way has had its own reason and rightness.

It was the early summer of 1993 when Mike McCartney, Constance Hassell and I sat down to talk about government reform. We wanted to see how we could assist, what citizens could do to support a goal of high quality government. We agreed to start by gathering a wide variety of people to just talk about Hawai`i; where we were and where we were going. The guest list was about forty and if anything was designed to elicit vastly different views.

After a couple of sessions, there were very clear results: we felt the Hawai`i we loved was at risk, we felt that our governance left much to be desired, we felt an absence of leadership in all areas of life, and we felt that individuals needed to take more responsibility for what needed to change.

At that point, the group changed. Many came to one or two meetings and never came back; having spoken their piece or seeking other ways to contribute or just having too many other demands on their lives.

The group that remained number around a dozen, united by a view that the most compelling challenge was to have individuals exercise greater responsibility in their own lives. We all had come to the view that what Hawai`i needed was to have all her sons and daughters take much more responsibility in their own lives for what Hawai`i was and what it could become.

We knew well what we were up against:

Our group believes strongly that the attitudes embedded in the above paragraphs are a major part of the problem and a major blow to the future we all desire. A community is, in the end, the sum of the attitudes and actions of its individual members. A healthy community flows from the individuals whose attitudes and actions are healthy; community-concerned, caring and responsible.

What we wanted to do was to find a way to encourage individual responsibility and action in an environment that did not encourage people to believe that individual action was of significant value.

We decided on the following path:

Thus was born LIVE ALOHA. We are, in so many ways, lucky to live in Hawai`i. One of the greatest gifts of this land is the depth and beauty and wisdom of the culture of the Hawaiian people.

We do not presume to define aloha and we certainly do not see anything we have worked on as a fulfillment of aloha. We do see ourselves as taking a few steps along the path of aloha. These steps we take jointly, these steps we take with honor and with a spirit of caring. We are guided always by the values that we believe underlie the spirit of aloha: respect for others, respect for the land and all that surrounds us, caring for others and the loading of responsibility for living this way within ourselves.

We choose the `ohi`a lehua flower as our symbol at Haunani Apoliona's urging and her words speak best for all of us:

"From the blackened, silent, barren landscape left by the desolation of lava flow emerges the lehua, flower of the `ohi`a. With strength of spirit, it pushes forth from the embers and grows. Favored by Hi`iaka, sister of Pele, the `ohi`a lehua takes many forms from tall trees to low shrubs, adorned by leaves from round to narrow and blunt to pointed with blossoms of varied hues of red, yellow, pink and white. The lehua's diversity, simple beauty and enduring strength mirrors the diversity, simple beauty and enduring strength of Hawai`i."

Live Aloha bumper sticker with ohia flower

We choose the colors of land and of our flower, and we choose a format (and a writing style) that made this an everyday kind of thing.

The program is at one level very simple. Make the commitment to live in a manner which expresses aloha to all around you and as part of building our community of aloha, undertake a set of visible actions that being to demonstrate the spirit of aloha.

And, we began our program by simply passing out a bumper sticker which says "Live Aloha" with a red `ohi`a lehua flower on the side, and a card setting forth the twelve actions and briefly explaining the program. We now have over 150,000 distributed through Hawai`i and across the United States, sought out and requested by over 500 individuals and entities. Just reading the letters we have received (and anyone is welcome to do so) will fill you with a sense of how important all of this is to people.

Grass roots and low-key, our style has always been directly tied to our goal: having individuals make a personal commitment and then individually undertake the life that goes with the commitment on an ongoing basis.

In the future, we hope to find at least two ways of spreading the word further, by encouraging the children of Hawai`i to share their sense of what "aloha" or "living aloha" means, and by encouraging the media to make aloha a more prominent part of their agenda.

Aloha in Action

Respect all elders and children.
Leave places better than you find them.
Hold the door. Hold the elevator.
Plant something.
Drive with courtesy. Never drive impaired.
Attend an event of another culture.
Return your shopping cart.
Get out and enjoy nature.
Pick up litter.
Share with your neighbors.
Create smiles.
Create a list and share it.

What Aloha Stands For

A stands for AKAHAI, meaning kindness.
L stands for LOKAHI, meaning bring unity.
O stands for OLU`OLU, meaning politeness.
H stands for HA`AHA`A, meaning humbled.
A stands for AHONUI, meaning enduring.