HONOLULU -- Aloha! I'm here for the launch of our newest edition, HuffPost Hawaii. We are delighted to be partnering with Honolulu Civil Beat, a beacon of journalism in Hawaii focusing on public affairs and investigative reporting, with deep roots in the local culture. In its three years, Civil Beat has committed itself to the mission of its founder, Pierre Omidyar -- who also founded eBay -- and has created a "a vibrant civic square."
They've published investigations of topics ranging from the condition of Waikiki's iconic Ala Wai Canal to police disciplinary files and why they are kept secret from the public. And their investigative series on the skyrocketing costs of school bus contracts prompted state officials to revamp the way contracts are handled. This is real impact journalism. Not surprisingly, the Society of Professional Journalists has named Civil Beat the best news website in Hawaii for the past three years.
We couldn't be happier to be bringing HuffPost to Hawaii -- and I'm not just saying that because of the gorgeous beaches and perfect weather, though I have to say, seriously, the beaches are gorgeous and the weather is perfect. But there is also something very special about launching HuffPost in Hawaii at the moment when the Third Metric -- redefining success beyond the first two metrics of money and power -- has become such an important editorial initiative for us. Hawaii's aloha spirit, which has made Hawaii such an oasis of unplugging and recharging, is after all the essence of the Third Metric, encapsulating well-being and our ability to wonder and give back.
As any visitor can tell, the people of Hawaii are miles ahead of the rest of us in terms of living the lives we want and not just the lives we settle for. There's "Hawaiian time," which leaves more time for reflection and wonder and leads to less stress. The aloha spirit is also present in the notion of 'ohana -- or "family" -- a word that goes well beyond our blood relatives to encompass our larger community. Since community has been central to HuffPost's mission from day one, we're delighted to be welcoming the people of Hawaii into our own growing ohana, telling the stories that matter most and, just as important, inviting the people of Hawaii to tell their stories themselves.
Many who have lived in Hawaii have been moved to capture the beauty of that spirit in words. Paul Theroux paid the islands this compliment: "I have lived in Hawaii longer than any other place in my life. I have murmured to myself in Africa, Asia and Britain, 'I'd hate to die here.' But I wouldn't mind dying in Hawaii, which means I like living here."
And Barack Obama recalled the Hawaii of his youth this way:
The trembling blue plane of the Pacific. The moss-covered cliffs and the cool rush of Manoa Falls, with its ginger blossoms and high canopies filled with the sound of invisible birds. The North Shore's thunderous waves, crumbling as if in a slow-motion reel. The shadows off Pali's peaks; the sultry, scented air.
For those of us who haven't lived here, but have visited -- or long to visit -- Hawaii has a unique hold on our imaginations. It seems no corner of popular culture has gone untouched by Hawaii's influence, from the authentic to the kitschy: Gilligan's Island, Hawaii Five-0, Elvis Presley's "Aloha from Hawaii," every Pearl Harbor movie, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling in the Oahu surf in From Here to Eternity, and an Aloha-shirted George Clooney in The Descendants. The list goes on -- if nothing else, evidence of our continuing fascination with a way of life that seems, at least to us landlocked, hurried mainlanders, a world apart.
And of course there's the food -- from the abundance of fresh fish to traditional dishes like loco moco and haupia pie (which can even be found at McDonald's here). When it comes to food, as with so much else, Hawaii belongs to a different orbit, pulling in influences that don't often make it to the rest of America. As HuffPost Taste put it, "Drawing inspiration and traditions from Japan, Korea, Portugal, the Philippines, America, China and other Polynesian islands, Hawaiian recipes never really fit into one ethnic category. Which is why we are so enamored of them."
While HuffPost Hawaii will be putting the spotlight on all Hawaii has to offer, we are not here to romanticize Hawaiian life. Neither will we be viewing Hawaii as a monolithic place; we will be using all the tools at our disposal to spotlight each island's distinct identity, history and culture.
We'll also be looking at the "price of paradise" -- with real consequences on people's lives, the environment, and sustainability. For example, rising sea levels pose a risk to Hawaii's beachfront resorts. And the state's high cost of energy means electricity rates are the highest in the country.
When we look at Hawaii not just as a postcard, but as a community, it's clear that there's much more to people's lives here than beaches and water sports. On the one hand, Hawaii is one of the world's major tourist destinations. Nearly eight million travelers visited last year, a huge increase from the lean years of the recession. At the same time, with tourism dominating the economy, there's also a need to diversify and bring more higher-paying jobs to the state. Hawaii's veterans face a longer wait for disability benefits than most other places in the country -- a huge problem for a state with a large active military population, where one in 10 residents is a veteran.
By bringing together Civil Beat's local journalism expertise with the Huffington Post's global platform, HuffPost Hawaii will be a powerful forum for storytelling and the exchange of ideas, a place to celebrate Hawaii's way of life and to put the spotlight on what needs improving. It has been such a pleasure working with Pierre Omidyar, as well as Civil Beat's general manager Jayson Harper and of course Civil Beat's editor Patti Epler, who I'm thrilled will be HuffPost Hawaii's editor-in-chief. Our team at HuffPost Hawaii will also include associate editors Gabriela Aoun and Chloe Fox, and social media editors Gene Park and Carla Herreria.
Our launch day lineup of bloggers includes Hawaii Tourism Authority president Mike McCartney on the future of the state's tourism industry, North Shore Community Land Trust executive director Doug Cole on the future of 20,000 acres of North Shore land currently for sale, Blue Planet Foundation president Jeff Mikulina on Hawaii's clean energy future, education doctoral candidate Coreen K. Lee on the importance of early education for Hawaii's children, beach volleyball Olympian Kevin Wong on how children learn life lessons through sports, and Holly Brown, of Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii, on why she dropped everything and moved to Hawaii.
Aloha means many things, but one of the best definitions comes from Hawaii's beloved Duke Kahanamoku, a surfer and Olympic swimmer. "Aloha," he said, "is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawaii 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."
So Aloha to you, and to all our readers in Hawaii and around the world. We are delighted to welcome Hawaii to the HuffPost family. And, as always, please use the comments section to let us know what you think.