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 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.
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.
Many who have lived in Hawaii have been moved to capture the beauty of that spirit in words. 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.
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. 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.
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.
(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is email@example.com.)