E Lilo Kākou i Mau Alaka'i me Ke Aloha E Pono Ai: We Need to Become Leaders with Aloha
Commencement Address Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
December 18, 2009
Sarah Marie Puananimaikalani Maneha
Sister Beck, Brother Christensen, President Wheelwright, family, friends, honored guests, and graduates, Aloha!
In a recent "President's Report," President Wheelwright's opening letter says: "Since its founding more than 54 years ago, Brigham Young University-Hawai'i has been developing young men and women of character and integrity. Recent events around the globe have once again confirmed the importance and need for leaders who have such character and integrity and who are willing to take responsibility for not only themselves but for all they influence. . . . It is our charge, even our obligation and sacred duty, to help facilitate this influence through education and leadership development. The mission of BYU-Hawaii is to develop leaders and to do so while combining both a spiritual and an academic foundation for a lifetime of learning. Much is required to do this. . . . We have focused our efforts on accelerating this leadership development through a coordinated emphasis on three imperatives: continued improvement in quality, continued efforts to lower cost, and serving even more students."
President, may I suggest that under "continued improvement in the quality of education," we emphasize instilling the true aloha spirit within each student on this campus. We can have educated leaders come from this school, but what are they without true aloha within them? It's like kulolo without kalo. Think of your favorite food and what it would be without the main ingredient. That's what a leader is without aloha.
Aloha is not something you just say; it is something instilled within you and thus influences your actions. When actions are done in the spirit of aloha, in love, your leadership will be greatly enhanced and you can truly be that influence for peace internationally that President McKay prophesied about. There's no better place for a student, a future leader, to come and feel and grow this special spirit than here at BYU-Hawaii, a place with both the aloha spirit and the gospel spirit flowing strong! That is the mission of this school! Here at BYU-Hawaii, the seeds of leadership fused with aloha are planted within you, and now for you graduates, it is time to continue to cultivate it as you go on with your lives after your graduation and continue to be that influence for peace. We're always told that we were sent to this specific institution for a reason, and I really believe that developing the aloha spirit is truly a reason for everyone, in addition to other personal reasons.
What is a leader with aloha? I am so confident that that's who I stand before today; here are these wonderful graduates and I am so confident that they will be instruments for spreading peace through this love. There are many aspects of aloha, but let me read you the definition of aloha in scriptural terms:
Moroni 7:45: "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, and seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
If Moroni spoke Hawaiian, he would've said "aloha" instead of "charity." Now let me tell you what a leader with aloha is about. The Savior Jesus Christ is the perfect example of a leader with aloha and we need to be more like Him. Allow me to explain "aloha" and its connection to the gospel.
C-Compassion: A leader with aloha has compassion for others. When my brother passed away over a year ago, I was in the Hawaiian Club presidency, and the other presidency members had compassion for me and took over my responsibilities while I took care of other things during this difficult time. Christ had compassion for His fellow men; He healed people with all manner of sickness and disease, those who were lonely, those who were blind, and those who were deaf, dumb, lame, dead, possessed with evil spirits, and in great spiritual need.
H-Humility: A leader with aloha has humility. This past spring, I sailed on the voyaging canoe Iosepa, which is part of a class here on campus. There are two captains aboard the canoe, and many times I have seen these great men humble themselves before the Lord and plead with Him on our, the crew members, behalf. That is humility. I have heard and seen Hawaiian Club presidency members who never acknowledge their accomplishments due to their own strengths, but always acknowledging Ke Akua, God, and the club members for their hand in making things happen. Christ was the ultimate example of humility; His whole life was in accordance with the will of His Father. He was never condescending toward anyone nor did He make a big spectacle of Himself. He told those He healed not to make public the miracle.
R-Respect: A leader with aloha has respect for others, no matter their different backgrounds of faith, ethnicity, gender, nationality, culture, or anything else. In all my Hawaiian studies classes and even Hawaiian Club, I see teachers and club presidency members accept people of all backgrounds with their aloha; there is truly no difference between any of us, for we are all children of God. Indeed, God Himself said that He is no respecter of persons, that He does not value one type of people over the other. "Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God" (1 Nephi 17:35) and God "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26).
I-Interest: A leader with aloha takes interests in those he or she leads, knowing the great value of each person. How else will you be able to lead them if you do not know them? I have noticed that most teachers here take genuine interests in their students. I work in the Social Science Building and I see students often come in. And I know that the teachers they come to see are interested in them as more than just a student, that they like to get to know them as a child of God! These teachers are amazing! Jesus was interested in everyone and took time to get to know them. He especially loved the children and suffered them to come unto Him, even though others said that they shouldn't. There's a beautiful painting-it's in the ID office in the Aloha Center-but it has Christ and He is surrounded by many children, each adorned in their unique national attire.
S-Service: A leader with aloha serves those he or she leads. During our Iosepa journey, we have had many opportunities to serve, but working right alongside us were our two captains. And they often made personal sacrifices to help us for the different things that we needed as a crew. It says in Matthew 20:27, "And whosoever will be chief among you, let Him be your servant." Christ once washed the feet of His disciples. In those times, upon entering a house, a person would remove his sandals and have the dust of his travels washed away by a servant because this was considered a lowly task. Christ at the Last Supper washed His disciples' feet, teaching them the principle of service.
T-Trustworthy: A leader with aloha is trustworthy. Those he or she leads can trust him or her to not lead them astray. On the canoe, we obeyed every order because we trusted in our captains that they knew what they were doing, because they did! We did not doubt them or their abilities because there was no need to. We can always trust Christ and His ways and know that by following Him, we will be supported in our trials and we will be led to our eternal happiness.
Once again, there are many aspects that aloha encompasses. I am so confident in each of you graduates that you will be that force for peace through the genuine aloha that you have. I am so confident in each future and current student that they will, if they have the desire, develop genuine aloha in their preparation for the work they will be called to do following graduation. I am so confident that each and every one of the leaders of this school will maintain this special aloha feeling so precious to our school.
Leadership with aloha is ultimately becoming an instrument in the Lord's hands and striving to be more like Him. A song beautifully expresses:
"My hands are the Lord's hands. Without me, how can His work be done? I will reach where He would reach, loving kindness in my touch. I'll be His healing hands to everyone."
May each of us, graduates, future and current students, faculty, and administration, remember what it really means to be a leader with aloha, so that we may be like Christ, that we may be an instrument in His hands in the establishment of peace and the building of His kingdom here on earth, is my pule, my prayer.
Ma ka inoa 'o Iesu Kristo, 'amene.