Seeking a new ambassador of aloha

Today, it seems that our elected officials spend almost as much time promoting Hawaii to the world as they do managing Hawaii’s day-to-day business.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle went on eight business trips and spent 60 days out of the state in 2011, traveling to Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Santa Fe; as well as Honolulu’s sister cities in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. Compare this with former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who went on seven business trips and spent 35 days on official travel in 2009 (Hawaii News Now, 1/31/12).

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie traveled to Los Angeles for the US-China Economic Trade and Trade Cooperation Forum and Signing Ceremony; and to Washington DC for the National Governor’s Association Winter Meeting in February 2012. He spent nearly two weeks in Tokyo, Okinawa, and Beijing to promote tourism and strengthen relationships with Asia in 2011. This year, Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz went on a one-week trip to Asia to discuss partnerships for clean energy and a green economy.

These business trips outside the state can strengthen relationships with other cities and leaders, as well as promote Hawaii for its natural resources, unique products (commerce), and industries (tourism, science, and film). Some meetings help Hawaii connect with representatives from other states, to discuss problems, compare options, and reenergize; or compete for federal funds.

But it also means less time doing the job at home, meeting with constituents, and working on solutions to our state’s problems. It means using taxpayer funds for travel or relying on sponsors to pay for travel expenses, which creates a sense of obligation or reciprocity.

And as one of the most remote states in America, it also means long travel times. Out of state travel translates to at least five hours by airplane, plus waiting time at airports, ground transportation, and hotel check-in. Other people might be able to get work done on long airline and car rides, but when I travel, my attention is scattered and I am easily distracted.

I believe that we need another official Ambassador of Aloha to take on the responsibility and privilege of travel, ceremony, and goodwill. Surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku was appointed the Hawaii State Ambassador At-large and City Official Greeter from 1960 to 1968. Entertainer Danny Kaleikini was named Ambassador of Aloha in 1988.

An Ambassador of Aloha would allow elected officials to focus on the business of government, which only they can do. They could take charge of ceremonial duties – greeting foreign dignitaries, hosting visiting officials, visiting sister cities, attending ground-breakings and ribbon-cuttings, promoting Hawaii in other states and countries.

It could be an appointed or elected office; it could even be a cabinet position, with access to the governor. Ceremonial functions and activities could be coordinated through the state press office.

I think we need an Ambassador with the warmth and generosity of entertainer Danny Kaleikini… with the kindness and sincerity of Senator Daniel Akaka… with the friendliness and charisma of the late entertainer Don Ho… Someone who believes in Duke Kahanamoku’s creed:

“In Hawai’i we greet friends, loved ones and strangers
with Aloha, which means with love.
Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality,
which makes Hawai’i renowned as the world’s
center of understanding and fellowship.
Try meeting or leaving people with aloha.
You’ll be surprised by their reaction.
I believe it and it is my creed.
Aloha to you.”

Should our elected officials spend more time at home? Can they do their jobs while on the road? Who would you nominate as the next Ambassador of Aloha for Hawaii?

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