Thursday, January 29, 2009

Island life

We lived on the island of Kauai for three years. While there we joined an ocean paddling club, (Kaloa outrigger canoe club in Kaloa). One of the lessons a paddler learns right away is how powerful and unforgiving the ocean is, and how quickly the boat will Huli, or capsize, if we fail to pay attention, or disregard its balance. If the team forgets the essentials, leans too far away from the amah, or the steering person aims the boat at the wrong angle approaching a wave the boat will Huli in a heartbeat. And the ocean is deep.
We're in the beginning of a new president's administration, the term of a leader who grew up in the islands. From growing up on Oahu President Obama knows about the aloha spirit, personal responsibility, and the team interaction needed for success when paddling in the vast and unforgiving sea. Obama entered the White House with sky high expectations. He's charged with steering us away from the most treacherous reefs we've encountered, perhaps in our history. Failure is simply not an option.
But here's something else we learned in Hawaii: the steering person, number six in the back of the boat can keep us free of shoals and breaking waves, yes, but the others--positions one through five--must pull together in synch to make the boat go forward. So the answer isn't so much to lower expectations for Obama but to raise them for all of us, or we'll all Huli. And the ocean is deep.

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