‘E hana kākou’ works at the dinner table too

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Family and friends gather to celebrate, exchange gifts and make memories.

Everyone brims with a sense of fellowship and harmony.

Until someone brings up politics.

No matter what your beliefs, nothing can derail a family get-together like an unexpected political discussion.

But just as the Grassroot Institute strives to build bridges in state policy work, I’m here to help build bridges at the dinner table. All you have to do is use the principle of “E hana kākou” to restore peace and goodwill at your family celebration.

“E hana kākou” is Hawaiian for “Let’s work together,” and it is one of our core values at Grassroot. In fact, you might have noticed that I close this letter every week with that expression. I do this as a reminder of its importance as we work with others for the betterment of our state.

Some people think “E hana kākou” is just a feel-good sentiment about getting along with others, but that’s not quite accurate. Yes, it’s better if we work together, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean we have to compromise our principles.

The spirit of “E hana kākou” requires staying true to your principles while acknowledging the passion and good intentions of those who differ from you.

It tells us to focus on areas of commonality where we are able to make progress.

When I say “E hana kākou,” I’m not suggesting that we abandon our beliefs. I’m saying we should strive to identify and expand on our common ground.

You can see why I think it’s a particularly appropriate sentiment for the holiday season.

When differences arise — as they are bound to, even within families — you can invoke the spirit of “E hana kākou.”

Instead of focusing on ideological rifts, find points of agreement.

Maybe you don’t agree about a new tax policy or exercise of emergency powers. But you might find that you share a belief in the need to aid Lahaina victims or lower the cost of housing.

From there, it’s a matter of looking for solutions that you can agree upon.

This is the time of year when we reflect on how much we value our loved ones and look with optimism to the year ahead. It is a season for working together, appreciating the virtues of others and resolving to do good in the months to come.

It is, in other words, the season for “E hana kākou.”

Let’s begin with our own friends and families, then extend the spirit of goodwill throughout all Hawaii.

From all of us at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, I hope that you and yours enjoy a very happy holiday.

I also look forward to working with you in 2024 to make our beautiful state more livable and prosperous for all.

This commentary was Keli‘i Akina’s weekly “President’s Corner” column for Dec. 23, 2023. If you would like to have his columns emailed to you on a regular basis, please call 808-864-1776 or email info@grassrootinstitute.org.

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