HONOLULU - This May marks the second year in a row that the National Security Agency (NSA) will incorporate the celebration of Lei Day into Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
Lei Day, a holiday in the state of Hawaii since 1929, honors not only the making and wearing of lei — necklaces of colorful flowers — but the indigenous culture of Hawaii and the “aloha spirit” of coordination between mind and heart within each person.
“We are excited to celebrate Lei Day across the Agency and the Extended Enterprise as it infuses AAPI Heritage Month with such a positive tone and helps highlight the many amazing cultures within the AAPI community,” said the NSA AAPI Employee Resource Group (ERG) Chair.
There are deep connections between the art of lei and the culture of aloha. Though the word itself has many meanings, weaving lei for others and giving them away are unspoken ways of expressing friendship and aloha. When making a lei, there is the belief that the weaver must have a clear, negativity-free mind because one’s thoughts and energy become woven and intertwined into the lei themselves.
For this reason, lei-making is not taken lightly. The lei itself may last for only a while, but the thought it symbolizes lasts forever.
“The cultural influence of lei-making seeps into my work and professional life by helping me to be mindful and cognizant of my attitude,” said the former AAPI ERG Chair at NSA Hawaii. “Our mission-driven projects and products are typically of higher-quality when our attitudes are ma‘ema‘e (clear and free of negativity). When our minds are not clear, some of us practice walking away to take a breather — re-center and refresh — and then return to the mission in a better state of mind to tackle the task at hand.”
The AAPI ERG hopes that in honor of Lei Day and AAPI Heritage Month, the NSA workforce can live by a common Hawaiian adage: E aloha kekahi i kekahi—Let us look after one another’s well-being, be present with each other, and uphold a kapu aloha (showing grace to one another) state of mind.