Friday, August 10, 2018


Civic Square, A Civics Project for Hawaii, goes live today

by Larry Geller

Hawaii is a special place. We really do have a different outlook on life, often described as the "Aloha Spirit". The meanness and cruelty documented by news coverage and tweets that assail us daily seem alien to us.

Yet Hawaii is not perfect by any measure. There is still injustice and discrimination if one looks for it, which is to say, there is still work to be done.

Of course there are already organizations working on fighting poverty, others that provide legal services, and many whose mission is to feed the hungry. Social workers assist children and adults needing protection. Churches and non-profits provide shelters for the houseless. Underlying the mission of these and so many others in Hawaii is the “Aloha Spirit.”

Altruism and caring are real human values, but in today’s political climate it is clear that they cannot be taken for granted. And so it seems appropriate that Hawaii should be the home of a new civic-minded organization, Civic Square, which Les Ihara, Jr., board chair and founder, described as

A project for the civic leader in each of us. The part of us that cares for the whole and will act on its behalf.

“Aloha Spirit” may sound nebulous to those outside Hawaii, but here it is captured in statute (see sidebar).

“Aloha Spirit” can’t be trademarked—it is set in statute in Hawaii

Recently a Chicago restaurant sent cease and desist letters to restaurants ordering pokethem to stop using “aloha poke” to describe a common fish dish found across the islands and elsewhere -- because it had been trademarked.

But “Aloha Spirit” is safe. It is actually defined in the Hawaii Revised Statutes §5-7.5 . Here is the full text of the statute:

[§5-7.5]  "Aloha Spirit".  (a)  "Aloha Spirit" is the coordination of mind and heart within each person.  It brings each person to the self.  Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.  In the contemplation and presence of the life force, "Aloha", the following unuhi laula loa may be used:

     "Akahai", meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;      "Lokahi", meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;

     "Oluolu", meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;

     "Haahaa", meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;

     "Ahonui", meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

     These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii's people.  It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.  "Aloha" is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.  "Aloha" means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.  "Aloha" is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.  "Aloha" means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

     (b)  In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the "Aloha Spirit".

Like most law, it isn’t enforced by a traffic cop, but rather by the daily practice of individual citizens.

According to Tambry R. Young, president of Civic Square,

Civic Square is a learning community interested in building community practices that express civic values and norms,  global and community narratives that trend, and in-person and online practices with viral potential. Civic Square seeks to have the civic spirit and our connection to the whole become a sacred matter in public life.

According to the Civic Square Manifesto, the organization will seek collaboration via networking and in practice among organizations that share civic purposes.

Click the link above to read more, or go to


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