Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard evoked “the spirit of aloha” as the prescription to overcome the nation’s ills in her first public appearance in the Los Angeles area since declaring her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

After noting what she sees as a “dark shadow caused by a corruption of spirit that is ruling our land” because “the voices of the people are not being heard,” Gabbard told supporters gathered Saturday at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles in Koreatown that to “overcome these sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges” the America people must stand united “in the spirit of aloha, this spirit of care and love for each other, for our country and for our future.

“When we stand united, we will overcome There’s no challenge too great. No mountain too high. No sea too turbulent because there is nothing more powerful than when we stand together motivated by this spirit of aloha.”

Gabbard later said she regularly uses aloha in her speeches, not just because she is from Hawaii, officially nicknamed “The Aloha State,” but because “there is such a powerful meaning behind this word.”

“The real meaning of aloha is I love you, I care about you,” said Gabbard, who had previously conducted several interviews in the Los Angeles area.

“It’s a recognition of our connectiveness as brothers and sisters, that we are all children of God regardless of our race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, where we come from, how much money we have in our pockets, what kind of education we have. Aloha inspires us to recognize our unity, to care for each other and then to take action because of that care.”

Gabbard was among three candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination speaking in Los Angeles Saturday.

California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker both spoke at the Human Rights Campaign’s Los Angeles Dinner in downtown Los Angeles, benefiting the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a potential candidate for the nomination, was in Los Angeles Friday to be interviewed on the HBO talk show “Real Time with Bill Maher” and conduct a series of private meetings, according to his communications adviser Lis Smith.

Buttigieg has formed an exploratory committee to study a possible presidential campaign.

Gabbard announced her candidacy Jan. 12 during an appearance on “The Van Jones Show” on CNN, saying the main reason she was running was “the issue of war and peace.”

In her Feb. 2 speech in Honolulu launching her campaign, Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, said she would “bring a soldier’s principles to the White House — restoring the values of dignity, honor and respect to the presidency. And above all, love for our people and love of country.”

While serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives in 2003, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard. She volunteered to deploy with her fellow soldiers in 2004, dropping plans to campaign for a second term.

Her first deployment was a 12-month tour at Logistical Support Area Anaconda in Iraq, serving in a field medical unit as a specialist with a 29th Support Battalion medical company. She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal at the end of this tour.

Gabbard again voluntarily deployed with her unit to the Middle East in 2009, leading her platoon on a variety of security missions, conducting non-military host-nation visits and serving as a primary trainer for the Kuwait National Guard.

She was one of the first women to set foot inside a Kuwait military facility and became the first woman to be awarded and honored by the Kuwait National Guard for her work in their training and readiness program, according to a biography provided by her congressional office.

Between her deployments, Gabbard was a legislative aide to Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, advising him on energy, homeland security, environmental and veteran issues.

Gabbard was first elected to office in 2002 as a member of Hawaii House of Representatives. At 21, she was the youngest person elected in Hawaiian history, a congressional aide said.

Gabbard was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010. She was elected to the first of four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, the first Hindu member of Congress.

Gabbard was born April 12, 1981, in American Samoa. Her mother is white, born in Indiana, grew up in Michigan, was raised Methodist and later converted to Hinduism.

Her father is of Samoan and European descent, grew up in the South, attended a Catholic seminary and is a lector in the Catholic church.

Gabbard’s family moved to Hawaii when she was 2 years old. She was home-schooled through high school except for two years at a missionary academy for girls in the Philippines.

Gabbard received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Hawaii Pacific University.

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