Noelani Kalipi was born and raised in Hilo, Hawai‘i. She attended both public and private schools and is a proud graduate of Hilo High School. She attended George Mason University, earning a degree in Government & Politics and Economics. She received her law degree from George Washington University. Throughout her career, she has worked a number of jobs providing her with valuable insight into the diversity of perspectives that people share due to differences in ethnicity, culture, language, socioeconomic status, and life experience. This diversity has helped her to see the world through multiple lenses.
Noe grew up in two very large families, the Correa family (maternal) and the Calles family (paternal). She was raised on baseball and softball fields with both sides of her family being very athletic. Noe is married to Gaylen Kalipi from Moloka‘i and they have two children, Hau‘oli and Ku‘uipo Kalipi. Gaylen and Noe met in Washington, D.C. when she was interning for Senator Daniel K. Akaka as a college student. Aunty Millie Akaka convinced them to date each other and they’ve been together for the past 28 years.
As an attorney, Noe had the fortune to work in the areas of criminal defense, policy, advocacy, renewable energy, government, project development, systems management, and community empowerment. The quest for justice and positive collective impact has always been her motivation for working very long hours in challenging situations seeking these solutions.
Noe was incredibly lucky to have had very good bosses who afforded her the room to grow. She met Senator Akaka when he was running for Congress for the first time. He told her, a six-year-old, that one day she could work for him. Noe took him up on that promise and enjoyed every opportunity to join him in his quest to serve the people of Hawai‘i.
Senator Akaka felt very strongly that it was their kuleana to demonstrate aloha in the U.S. Senate – a very difficult task in an environment where kindness is often mistaken for weakness. Senator Akaka believed in empowerment and self-sufficiency and did as much as he could to empower all people in Hawai‘i, including Native Hawaiians. He believed that a process of reconciliation was necessary to address long-standing issues resulting from the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and he was confident that with Native Hawaiians at the table, Hawai‘i, as a whole, would become stronger and more resilient.
Guided by Senator’s wisdom and his values, Noe continues to support positive collective impact by focusing on building relationships and connections between people with diverse perspectives and creating the necessary space to focus on connection and collaborating despite these differences. Whether at Kohala Institute or via the Hawai‘i Leadership Forum, Hawai‘i Investment Ready or First Nation Futures Program, she has sought to challenge the concept that we must live in a polarized world with winners and losers. Noe believes that all of us in Hawai‘i are fully capable of collaboration and creating new solutions thereby reversing the global trends we are seeing and serving as an example to the rest of the world.
Noe shared this. “We have the tools to succeed. Our willingness to engage, to be curious, to share empathy, to embrace diversity, to continuously learn, and to be accountable for our actions can create new and innovative pathways forward. We shouldn’t fear failure, we should fear inaction and the unwillingness to step beyond our comfort zones. I believe our Hawaiian community has the will, the knowledge, and momentum to lead and join with others to create the proactive pathways that make Hawai‘i stronger and more resilient.”