I'm filled with excitement, since I'm about to leave for Honolulu to participate in the Pillars of Peace event. The focus will be on Building Peace, through the Foundation of Aloha and Educating the Heart, and they are expecting close to 18,000 people.
I had the opportunity to speak with Kelvin Taketa, who is the president and CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation, which is the largest foundation in the state.
We spoke by phone about the upcoming conference with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Kelvin's passion, caring, and aloha spirit came through. He embodies the spirit of service in a world where elitism and separatism too often take root, and his words are a reminder that we need to learn how to come back together and take care of each other. As we move forward in the spirit of oneness, we look forward to setting up pillars of peace that will extend to the rest of the world.
What do you hope will be the outcome of this event?
Most of all, I hope there will be a cultural exchange between His Holiness and the students and leaders here in Hawaii.
We are very proud of our cultural traditions and this spirit of aloha that makes Hawaii a beacon of tolerance and civility. And we want to invite other peace leaders to Hawaii, so they will be able to reference this place as one of the bright spots in that way of thinking and being.
Finally, we think His Holiness' visit is really the beginning, and we hope the people of Hawaii will not only feel proud but a sense of renewed commitment to the ways we celebrate our differences, and the ways we preserve not only our physical environment but also our inner beauty.
Tell me about the spirit of aloha.
Native Hawaiian culture has a sense of aloha that includes sharing, welcoming, tolerance, and compassion. These qualities are essential to the way the Hawaiian people treat other. Coming from Greece, home to an island people, you understand that you have to open to teaching other and helping each other, because you have nowhere else to look. Aloha is our local way of expressing those universal values.
Your mission is about building community and it's necessary to get funding. Even with this state of the economy, do you find people are coming out to assist and support you?
It's been remarkable. None of this would have been possible without the funding from the Omidyars and their personal relationship with His Holiness, which allowed us to arrange his fairly long four-day visit. There are so many people who stepped forward to support this cause to help make the tickets free for high schools and have free bus rides for the kids. Schools are deeply discounting tickets as well. Everywhere we've turned, people have said, "how can I help?
How do you maintain your sense of center and peace while being so busy?
I love what I do and am lucky enough to know that the work I do does matter. There are times where it can be stressful, but I don't get stressed too much because I enjoy the people around me and love what I do.
What is your family life like?
I grew up in an extended family here and was mentored by my grandfather. I was taught that that everyone is the same and that you can have people from all sorts of backgrounds and it doesn't matter.
My grandfather was an orphan from Japan and started a trucking business in Hawaii. He later turned the business over to his son and spent a lot of time on the cattle ranch with me. That's what I used to do, is run the cattle ranch. Now, I'm married with two children. My son is 26 and adopted from Thailand. My daughter is 16 and adopted from Cambodia. She is a fan of the Dalai Llama.