Former Mauians to attend Obama Asia Pacific gathering
Five-day event in Kuala Lumpur begins Tuesday
Attending the inaugural Obama Foundation Asia Pacific Leaders program will be an incredible honor, Breanna Rose and Alec Wagner said Wednesday morning.
Rose, 31, and Wagner, 25, who grew up on Maui but currently reside on Oahu, were chosen to join a cohort of 200 emerging civic leaders from 33 nations and territories in the Asia-Pacific region to gather in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from Tuesday to Dec. 14 to kick off a yearlong leadership program. They will be given an opportunity to learn how to empower and connect to create positive change.
“The program’s goal of empowering values-based leadership is more important now than ever, and the chance to join this global network of change-makers is inspiring,” said Rose, director of operations and partnerships for Hawaii Green Growth, which incorporates green policies and sustainability solutions into the island-style economy.
“This is an opportunity to not only learn, but for Hawaii to also share solutions and island values that can contribute to tackling the complex challenges we face as an international community,” she said.
Rose added that Hawaii Green Growth — one of the world’s first United Nations Local2030 Hubs — supports statewide action on Aloha+ Challenge, Hawaii’s local framework to achieve the U.N. sustainable development goals, which include no poverty, climate action and reduced inequalities. Her organization works with Native Hawaiian culture and values.
Rose, who was born and raised in Upcountry, also is board chairwoman for Kanu Hawaii, a nonprofit that connects people to take individual and collective action “to build more compassionate, resilient communities.”
The application process included a written description of their current work and future vision for their community, a video submission, background documents and professional references, she said.
Wagner is director of Purple Prize and Purple Mai’a Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches coding and computer science to Native Hawaiian students and low-income or underrepresented youths. He said the Obama Foundation Asia Pacific Leaders event will be a once in a lifetime experience.
“This opportunity is an incredible honor and an amazing privilege that I am deeply humbled to have been granted,” said the Lahainaluna High School graduate. “It’s an opportunity to expand my worldview and learn from global leaders from all industries and disciplines, which I am super fortunate to have the chance to do, and it’s also an opportunity to educate others on the work we are doing here, our culture and our perspectives, which, in my opinion, is important for others to know.
“There are some amazing efforts in Hawaii toward sustainability, cultural resurgence, scientific research and innovation that others may use as inspiration to create impact in their communities and regions.”
He said the goal of his nonprofit is to educate students on the link between indigenous ecological technologies and modern digital innovation, but most importantly, to increase the representation of Native Hawaiians and other minority groups in tech.
“We’re hoping to shift the narrative of what makes a tech startup here to one where being intentional and regenerative to our communities and ecosystems are just as important as profitability,” he said.
The other Hawaii leaders selected include: Troy J.H. Andrade, law professor and director at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Ulu Lehua Scholars Program; L. Kealoha Fox, Native Hawaiian liaison at AlohaCare; Kaiwipunikauikawekiu Lipe, Native Hawaiian affairs program officer at UH-Manoa; Kaleo Manuel, deputy director of the state Commission on Water Resource Management; Benjamin Eduardo Trevino, sustainability planner at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation; and Vehia Wheeler, consultant at Sustainable Oceania Solutions.
The 200 leaders represent the public, private and nonprofit sectors, with the Hawaii cohort working on a selection of issues, such as indigenous justice, sustainability, women’s rights, urban infrastructure, affordable housing, economic access, health care and climate change.
“I am also excited to learn from the other emerging leaders that make up the cohort, as each will bring unique experiences from their communities and work across the region, and to see how we can collaborate on something together,” Rose said.
While in Malaysia, the cohort will participate in workshops, leadership development training, community service projects, as well as listen to a speaker series that includes former President Barack Obama and wife, Michelle Obama, and other prominent entrepreneurs and leaders.
“All of the speakers have risen to leadership in their respective industries and disciplines, so I’m hoping to hear their stories about what early experiences or choices they made to propel them to their current position or what made them a better leader,” Wagner said.
Although the gathering is closed to the general public, the presentations are available via livestream at www.obama.org starting Monday at 5:30 p.m. HST.
“I hope to learn from the wealth of knowledge, expertise, and perspectives over the five days in Malaysia, and especially look forward to hearing President Obama and Mrs. Obama,” Rose added. “My goal is to learn and integrate as much as possible from the program to help better support our efforts in Hawaii, and look for new ways that we can expand our global impact.”
For more information on the Asia-Pacific cohort members, the program and a livestream schedule, visitwww.obama.org/asia-pacific-19/.
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at email@example.com.