The 50 States Against Bullying campaign began October 1st at my alma mater in California. Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, I spoke at one high school in every state, plus the District of Columbia. The tour ended, fittingly, in the last state added to the Union.
Other than Oregon, where we have family, this is the only state where my family joined me on the journey. Since this is the Aloha State, we had to fit in some touristy things, too...
...like swimming with dolphins (but not for me, because I'm too chicken for that)...
...and visiting the beautiful Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, which highlights Hawaiian culture and natural history. They also currently host a dinosaur exhibit, which Isaiah loved.
While in Honolulu, I was also able to speak at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival. And that meant there were new authors to meet! At midnight the night before, as people do when surrounded by such tropical beauty, Austin Aslan and I met at...Denny's! His book, The Island at the Ends of the World, is a survival story set on these islands, which I can't wait to read. (Read the book's description on his website. You'll want to read it, too!)
At the festival, I met Lisa Freeman and got a signed copy of her novel, Honey Girl. Ms. Freeman had acting roles in some of my all-time favorite movies, so the autograph was extra cool!
For my speech, I was introduced by Stephanie Wang, Miss Chinatown Hawaii. She founded Bully Free Hawaii USA, making her another one of the very inspiring people I've been so fortunate to meet as an author.
All of the quotes were beautiful, but I was drawn to the one by Walt Disney, one of my lifelong creative heroes.
In the gym, I first spoke to 7th and 8th graders who walked over from the neighboring middle school. As they arrived, I noticed myself playing with my #ReasonsWhyYouMatter wristband, which matches those that were passed out at each school on the tour. I've worn my same wristband at every stop!
At lunch, I ate and chatted with several students, including members of the Lit Con Club. If this awesome club was around when I was in high school, maybe I would've actually been involved in something!
Then it was back to the gym to talk to mostly freshmen, plus a few sophomore classes.
The following pic was taken by a student during the Question-and-Answer part of my visit. After a few questions, another student shared with the rest of the room how my book helped her through a rough time. And then the other students applauded her bravery! That will remain one of the moments from this tour that will stay with me forever.
Leading up to the Hawaii visit, as the tour began to wind down, I'd been reflecting on what I'd seen and heard since October 1st. I'm still processing it all, and probably will for a while, and this made me reflect on aspects of my own life and what had to line up to bring me here. Being only a few minutes from Pearl Harbor, which I would soon visit with my wife and son, I left Campbell High and drove to Asher Court, a street named after my grandfather. You can read about his role on December 7, 1941 by clicking here.
Along with the wristband, I took another item with me on every stop of the 50 States Against Bullying campaign, but this one no one knew about. The day before that first tour stop was my 39th birthday. When I blew out my candle, I made a special wish concerning this tour. I can't share that wish with you (you know the rules!), but I will say it came true. And the evening after my tour finished, I lit that candle again. JoanMarie and Isaiah helped me blow it out.