Our Islands, Our Future

Beginning a new year often involves core values worthy of preservation. During her talk for the Nisei Veterans Ta-Ke Leadership Series, Sharon Suzuki, President of Maui County and Hawaii Island Utilities, shared some of the values she grew up with. “My father, a Nisei Veteran, was a member of the 100th Battalion 442nd Infantry Regiment known for their loyalty and perseverance during WWII,” said Suzuki. “The Nisei values taught to me by my parents influence my life even today. The first of these, Gamon, means to endure. Endurance is a virtue that continues to help me through trying times, and is especially important now for all of us challenged with the Covid-19 pandemic.”

While living and studying in Japan, Suzuki learned that she must be flexible, a Ta-Ke value meaning ‘bends with the wind, strong and grounded, like bamboo’. “I fell in love with Japan,” Suzuki reflected. “With a degree in Japanese studies, I decided to teach Japanese and learned the importance of flexibility while living abroad. During this time, I decided to also earn a business degree, which opened many opportunities for me.”

Another value her parents instilled is Kanzen-sei, integrity. “Learning how to turn a negative into a positive is especially important in this value; to take the high road and do the right thing,” Suzuki noted. “This centers around the Japanese value of Giri, duty and obligation. Kodomo no tame ni, sacrifice for the sake of the children, for the future, is also a key value. At Hawaiian Electric, that means pursuit of renewable energy, new programs and community solar projects. If we can continue to work together we can help grow the economy with clean reliable sources for our future generation.”

Concluding, Suzuki said, “The values from our parents are relevant today. I used Japanese terminology but other cultures share similar values, like the Hawaiian value of Ohana. Values are retained by becoming part of our everyday lives. Their real meaning and significance are not merely a time of obligations fulfilled, but also an occasion for rejoicing and celebrating intrinsic and time-honored meanings that are worth preserving.”

My Dad always encouraged and supported me. His advice, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ helped me to make major changes in my life when needed.

Sharon Suzuki, President, Maui County and Hawaii Island Utilities