local

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall

 

“Fake News.” “Trolling.” “Social media bubbles.” These are new additions to our society’s vocabulary and are often blamed for the increasing division among us today.

 

But should we be pointing fingers? As individuals, do we prefer our own version of the truth? And for that matter – is the truth overrated? For most of us who think there can only be one truth, it’s an outrageous question. A Buffalo Springfield song from the 60’s could have been ahead of its time by declaring, “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

 

In Hawai‘i, more than 90 percent of adults spend time on social media. Most have a selected a mix of preferred media outlets and “friends” with whom they enjoy sharing almost everything. This makes for a very comfortable community of engagement. It’s a customized community that we can hold it in the palms of our hands.

 

Is it time for us to come together, face-to-face, and actually listen to each other? Reach out beyond our “friends” to try and understand someone else’s “truth”? Or, at least, agree to disagree without completely disrespecting another person’s opinion?

 

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall will take on this subject of “truth” by hosting a diverse community of people for some old-school engagement. Face-to-face, civil conversations in real time.

 

“Kākou” – we’re all in this together.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Sam Low: Raising Islands

 

As a crewmember on the Hōkūle‘a, waterman Sam Low experienced the chicken skin moments when, as the canoe would approach a Pacific island, the island itself would appear to be raised out of the distant horizon as the canoe sailed closer.  As a documentarian, author Sam Low heard the vision, fears and dreams of master navigator Nainoa Thompson and those involved with sailing the canoe. On this episode, Sam Low shares his stories of sailing on Hōkūle‘a.

 

Sam Low Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Nainoa has said that early on he’s been hindered by a fear of failure. Do you know how he resolved that? Because he certainly succeeded.

 

Courage. He resolved it by being courageous, I think. It was Nainoa’s job to be the first Hawaiian in perhaps a thousand years, after that devastating accident, devastating loss of Eddie Aikau, to take the canoe as navigator on the first voyage in a thousand years that a Hawaiian has navigated. So, naturally, he was fearful. He was fearful for his own ability, but he was fearful for his people. Because if he failed, that would have been, Oh, Hawaiians, yeah. I have the feeling that his father helped him understand that there’s a deeper mission. That everything is based on helping your community, helping your people, and that your fear or your immediate reluctance is nowhere near as important as pushing through it to get that mission accomplished.

 

In researching his book, Hawaiki Rising, Sam Low spent hours interviewing his cousin, Nainoa Thompson, talking to him about the double-hulled canoe Hōkūle‘a, and what drove his dream to voyage in the wake of his ancestors. Sam Low, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Sam Low was born and raised in Connecticut. His Hawaiian father left the Big Island to attend prep school on the Continent, where he got married, never to return home again. Their son Sam inherited his father’s love of the ocean and of boats, and grew up spending summers at the beach on Martha’s Vineyard, where he still lives at the time of our conversation in 2014. Sam Low made his first trip to Hawai‘i as a young naval officer, and has been coming here ever since, connecting with his family that includes Nainoa Thompson. Sam’s background as a documentary filmmaker, his ocean skills, and his family connections eventually led him to become a crewmember on Hōkūle‘a, where his role on the voyaging canoe was that of the documentarian. His job was to observe, and through that, he got to experience what life is like sailing on a canoe in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles away from land.

 

My role on Hōkūle‘a has always been as a writer, as a documenter. Usually, on Hōkūle‘a, you’re a crewmember, and so that’s basic. You know, you stand your watch, and you do all that. But you have another role as well, which is, you could be a cook, you could be a watch captain, you could be a carpenter, or you could whatever. And my role was as documenter. And so, that fit, you know, what I had been doing for so many years prior to that, going out and documenting, either filming or writing about, or doing a thesis at Harvard about a way of life that I wanted to bring back and I wanted to give you, wanted you to have this gift. I have seen this, I have been there. And now, I want you to have it. And that was a perfect blend of what the job was. As a documenter, the kuleana, or actually as any crewmember, the kuleana on Hōkūle‘a.

 

Isn’t it interesting that all your interests sometimes come together and inform each other into one wonderful culmination?

 

Yeah. I probably never would have gotten on the canoe if it hadn’t have been that I did have this skill of being able to write. And of course, it didn’t hurt that Nainoa was my cousin, and I had a relationship with him. I was invited on the voyage to Rapa Nui. And that was actually my first trip on the canoe. The voyage to Rapa Nui was supposed to be the hardest voyage, because the prevailing winds are against you. And so, Nainoa had predicted that it would have to be tacking into the wind. So, this would be a zig-zag all the way. So, what was maybe, I think about seventeen hundred miles could easily become three thousand miles, if you had to tack. So, he chose a veteran crew. He had on board those folks like Tava Taupu, and Michael Tongg, and Snake Ah Hee, and Bruce Blankenfeld, and you know, Kalepa Baybayan. The best of the best. They set off. Now, I should say that this was the first voyage that I was actually invited to go on. But Nainoa wasn’t quite sure about me. I had made one voyage on the escort boat, and that went fine. So, he just wasn’t sure, and he put me on the escort boat and he said, You’re gonna be on the escort boat for four or five days, we’re gonna see how it goes, and if everything’s going okay on the canoe, then we’ll bring you over.

 

Why was Nainoa unsure about whether to have you on the Hōkūle‘a? ‘Cause you’re a waterman, you’ve been around water all your life in different kinds of craft.

 

Right; but you have to remember that on that voyage, there were the tested men, they were the best of the best. These men had probably voyaged thirty thousand, forty thousand miles. Not only that, they’re surfers, and they’re athletes.

 

And did Nainoa figure you could document it just as well from the escort boat?

 

I think he knew I couldn’t do that. But I think he wanted to just be sure. I think he wanted to go out and to see, and if it was a slog, and it was what he expected it to be, the most severe test of endurance, then maybe I would have stayed on the escort boat. But it didn’t turn out that way; it turned out to be easier. And so, I think that’s why he invited me.

 

So, it had to do with physical conditions?

 

Physical training.

 

Not fit?

 

Not fit. Not like those guys. No; uh-uh. Those guys, well, look at them. I mean, look at Tava. You know, look at Snake. All of those guys are watermen, all the time. You have to remember, New England, it’s the winter, so I get to swim four or five months out of the year. I was not in the kind of shape that those guys were, so I think that’s what his reservation might have been. So, I think on the fifth day, we got word that they wanted me to go over. And I’m like, Yes! And it was one of those rainy, kind of drizzly days, not a lot of wind, and I was rowed over by one of the crew on the escort boat. And Hōkūle‘a is up here, and I kind of crawled in. You crawl over the hulls, and then you crawl up over this canvas kind of space shield. And I remember crawling out and looking up, and there was Mike Tongg. His appearance is like this gentle, loving Buddha, you know. He has that kind of loving appearance. And the rain was just dripping down off his face, like this. And he was looking down at me with this beneficent smile. He didn’t say a word; just … Welcome, good to see you. And so, I just immediately felt at home with Mike’s blessing. He’s such a veteran on that canoe. But Nainoa had felt that we had to be prepared for the slog of wind. But as it turned out, fortuitously, at that time of year, down in the roaring forties … I hope I’m right, but I think that we were probably up around twenty degrees south. And down around forty degrees south, there were a number of low pressure areas that were spinning storms up toward us, spinning wind up toward us. And so, they broke the trade winds, and they created following winds. So that Nainoa seeing that, set off basically in a storm, and sailed along with the wind coming from behind, spun up by these storms down in the roaring forties, until that storm went through, and then we were kind of the calm. And then the trades would fill in again, and we’d do a little tacking, and then another storm would come along. And we made the trip so much faster than what was predicted, that we got there a week before our welcoming party.

 

Nice when storms are your friends.

 

Yeah; yeah. So, it turned out to be a lot easier in terms of the crew, and in terms of the endurance than we thought it was gonna be. More difficult from the navigation point of view, because often you would have cloudy skies. In fact, on that voyage to Rapa Nui, two or three days before Nainoa found the island, we started to have cloudy skies, and he had no real sight of his guiding star. He was steering pretty much by swells, and he was navigating by dead reckoning. So for three days, he was navigating by instinct, trained instinct. And on the day that we sighted Rapa Nui, the winds shifted. He was going to do a zig, and instead of doing a zig, the wind shifted and kind of pushed us in the direction that he thought we wanted to go. And he said, We’ll follow the wind; we’ll just stay, we’ll follow the wind. Hōkūle‘a knows where she wants to go.

 

Now, when you can’t navigate by stars, does he sleep at all? I mean, because he’s always watching current conditions.

 

Yeah; he is. Well, when you’re not navigating by the stars, you’re navigating pretty much by the swells and the wind. Of course, the wind was gyrating around and changing, so he was using the swells to navigate. Normally, if he’s alone on a voyage, then he will sleep in catnaps. He’ll sleep for maybe twenty minutes, thirty minutes, and then jump up and be awake for, say, eight hours, and then lie down for twenty or thirty minutes, and jump up. And he’ll do this for thirty days at a time. One of his great fears on that first voyage in 1980 was he wouldn’t be able to stay awake. That’s Mau’s secret, not mine; I can’t do that. But it was one of those first, as he calls them, the doors of perception had opened. One of those first doors that opened was that when they set sail out of Hilo and started on the voyage, after about fourteen hours, he decided he was really tired, he was gonna take a little nap. And he lay down, and he lay down for about fifteen or twenty minutes, and he jumped up and he was refreshed. And he said that was the first kind of sense that there is something in navigation, there is something in accepting the challenge and the risk that comes from another level, and that he was able to that, on that first voyage. And that’s what he normally does. On this voyage, the Rapa Nui voyage, he had Kalepa Baybayan on board, he had Bruce Blankenfeld on board; he had trained navigators with him. So, he could sleep.

 

If you don’t have enough sleep for enough time, I mean, I would think your judgment becomes impaired. So, I guess you have to have a limited goal in terms of time? How do you do that?

 

He does it for a month at a time.

 

Amazing.

 

I have no idea; I couldn’t do it.

 

So, maybe because you have a goal and you’re trained, and you’re generally in good shape, you can manage your mind and your brain cells for that amount of time.

 

Yeah; it’s a mystery to me, how he can do it. You know, it’s always chicken skin if you’re crew, and/or a documenter particularly, my job being to watch everybody, and to record. But you know, I’ve watched Nainoa pretty intently, and it’s always that moment when he says, Post lookouts, land is near. And then, I would get to go ask him, Well, what’s going on? He’d say, Well, I think Rapa Nui is there. And he put Max Yarawamai, who is Carolinian, who has great eyesight, he put him on watch. And about five hours later, there it was, Rapa Nui. And it was pretty much where he said it was. And Rapa Nui is tiny. And so, he found this island after seventeen hundred miles.

 

After sailing to Rapa Nui, Hōkūle‘a navigator Nainoa Thompson invited Sam Low aboard the canoe for the trip home. This second experience gave Sam even more insights into how Nainoa used nature and his intuition based on experience to guide him to exactly where he wanted to go.

 

The second voyage I got to make was from Tahiti to Hawai‘i. And we’d been at sea for, I think, about twenty-four, twenty-five days. Had lots of storm on that particular voyage, lots of squalls. I’m going to say it was the twenty-fifth day, I forget exactly, Nainoa turned the canoe downwind. We’d been headed into the wind all the time to get to the east of the Hawaiian Islands, and he turned downwind. So, we knew something was up. And steering downwind on Hōkūle‘a, the sails are on either side, wing-on-wing, ‘cause the wind is directly from behind. And we were steering that way for a while. We couldn’t see anything; there was this gentle mist wafting over the canoe. You could feel the sun, but you couldn’t see it. Visibility ahead was maybe oh, I don’t know, half a mile.

 

And during this time, do you say, Hey, Nainoa, what’s going on? Or do people not talk about what’s up?

 

Well, I got to be bratty, because I was the documenter. So, I didn’t say anything for a while, but we went wing-on-wing, and then the wind changed slightly, and so one of the sails came over. So, now, we’re sailing like this. We felt that. And around six o’clock, I saw Nainoa was just back there on the navigator’s platform, just peering intently ahead. Again, this mist was coming over. We couldn’t see anything; I couldn’t see anything. So, being a documenter, I get to go back and say, you know, What’s going on? He said, Well, Hilo is right there. After twenty-five hundred miles, twenty-five days, Hilo is right there? So, I said, How do you know? And he said, Well, do you remember when the sail, when we couldn’t sail wing-on-wing? Well, that’s because we got into that place where the winds are coming and being broken by Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, and churning around the island. And so, that wind shift, that gentle wind shift told me that we’ve gotten into that zone where the winds are breaking. You know, these mountains are fourteen thousand feet high. And he said, Look ahead, you see that mist seems to stall, it seems to slow down. So, I looked. Yeah; okay. Keep going. I know I couldn’t see it. And he said, If you look—the sun was starting to go down. If you look on either side, you can see it’s kind of dark ahead of us, and it’s a little bit lighter there.

 

You couldn’t see it?

 

I couldn’t see it. And so, I wrote it all dutifully down. And then we sailed on for a while, and then he tacked. And I said, Well, why’d you tack? He said, We’re on the Hamakua Coast, and I don’t want to get too close. Of course, none of us can see this. This is after twenty-five days. I don’t want to get too close, and Hilo is right over there. And so, I said, Okay; write it down. And then, we all felt it. And we all went over to the rail, and the whole crew is standing there looking, and Nainoa said Hilo is there, and they know Hamakua must be there. And we waited for about fifteen minutes, and then fortuitously, that low cloud layer lifted; just lifted. And there it was, the twinkle of the coast, Hilo over here, the lighthouse. And at that moment, Nainoa just said, We’re home.

 

Wow.

 

After twenty-five days. So, that’s the chicken skin, that when you’re navigating with someone like Nainoa or Kalepa Baybayan, or Bruce Blankenfeld, or Chad Paishon, or Shorty Bertelmann, any of these great navigators who have dedicated their life to merging with the signs of the sea, and you have the privilege to be on a canoe after that much time, and to see land is there, exactly where they say it is.

 

What happens over the twenty-five days, say, of a voyage? Is there a lot of talk? Is there a lot of laughter? What do people do, day-by-day?

 

I think it depends a lot on the crew and on the chemistry of the crew. And I think it’s all of that. But if I think back on it, I think more of a kind of … quietness, actually. I don’t think so much of laughter; there’s that. I don’t think so much of talk; there’s that. I don’t think so much of music, although there’s that. I think of the quietness of being at sea, and the feeling of being out in an immense ocean, completely alone, and you don’t see another ship, you don’t see another person, you don’t see land, and you get into kind of a rhythm of watch-standing, of being alert, and being relaxed, and being alert, and being relaxed, of the stars turning, and the moon and the sun. And there’s a blending with that diurnal rhythm so that it’s a meditation you get into. I think it’s a meditational state. I think it’s a very relaxed state. I think that even in storm aboard a vessel like Hōkūle‘a, which is so staunch and so seaworthy, and so sea kindly, that you’re not afraid. You know that if you do everything right, if you follow the instructions of your captain, if you bring the sails down, if you stand your watch properly, you’ll be fine. So that’s not it. It’s not anxiety, it’s not fear; it’s contemplation, it’s meditation. And actually, I think for most of us, say after five or six days, you’re just in the rhythm, and then when the canoe turns down and the navigator says, We’re there, we’re almost sort of like saying, Well, that’s good, we can have a hamburger, we can have a beer, but you know, why don’t we just keep going. ‘Cause you’re in this world. You’re with your crew, you’re with the weather, you’re with the canoe, you’re in this meditational almost Buddhist, Hawaiian meditational state, and you don’t want it to stop.

 

Sam Low started working on a book about Hōkūle‘a after he returned home from the Rapa Nui voyage in the year 2000. At first, he didn’t know what would be in the book, but it finally came together, and Hawaiki Rising was published in 2013. It tells the story of Hōkūle‘a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance.

 

There was a period of time, and I think it was uh, 2010. See, I’d been working on this book for ten years. I mean, I didn’t really know that I’d been working on it for ten years. I was just recording, and I was writing articles. The first idea for a book would be a picture book, and then I went off and did my grandpa’s book. And I got partway there, and then I came back onto this. But there was a time, I think it was 2010, when I did have a chance to interview Nainoa very extensively. I was living in the family compound, and the guest house is, you know, a hundred yards from his house. And I would sit and wait, and every time he came out, I’d say, Hey, Nainoa, how you doing? You know, and he’d say, Not today, Sam, not today. Okay, okay. And then, How you doing? Yeah; okay, come. And so, we’d sit and spend two or three hours with a tape recorder, and I think the exchange did help him bring together all his experiences. Well, it was certainly great for me, because I was able to get this raw material for Hawaiki Rising. But I think it also helped him bring together his own experiences and correlate that, and put it together into kind of a set of values and a philosophy. It’s his philosophy, but I think in being able to exchange with another person who he was fairly intimate with, that it did help him in that. And at that time, about three years ago, the concept of moolelo became very important. And he expressed that; he said, You know, we stand on the shoulders of heroes, and it’s very important that as we move forward around the world, that we look back, and that we celebrate and bring with us the spirit of those people who made all of this possible, and the lessons that we learned from them, from his father Myron Pinky Thompson, from Mau Piailug, from Wally Froiseth, from Ben Finney, from Herb Kane, from all of those who had built the canoe, who had the vision of the canoe, who had sailed the canoe, and that evolving vision, that gift that they gave to all of us who’ve sailed on the canoe. He wanted that to be celebrated, and part of that was the book, Hawaiki Rising. It is a celebration of those heroes whose shoulders we stand on today. He expresses in Hawaiki Rising very clearly how fearful he was of that time of his first voyage. You have to understand that everything depended on it, that the canoe had capsized, that they had lost Eddie Aikau, and that Hawaiians were on the cusp of being able to, through voyaging, and all the other arts as well, not just voyaging, but Hōkūle‘a was the symbol of the Renaissance. Through voyaging, to recapture this great pride of ancestry. And the canoe had capsized. There was a great deal of anxiety, which he expresses in the book. And he pushed through, and he discovered deeper reserves, I think, of courage and of a sense of connection to his ancestors that allowed him to enter a world of understanding and of comprehension that was deep and that was powerful.

 

You went back and talked to a number of the people we associate with Hōkūle‘a over the years. What did some of those conversations yield in terms of insight about the voyages?

 

Well, they were key. The book is made up of what I like to think of as a chorus of voices. See, I’m not in it. It’s not my story. I’m the person that’s behind the camera, if you like, or that’s writing the story, singing the song, I hope. And I had this opportunity to interview dozens and dozens of crewmembers, and I wanted the book to be a chorus of voices. I wanted it to be told in the voices of the people that experienced it, not an impersonal narrator, a personal narrator. And I didn’t know that that would work. It’s like an oral history. And I’ve been very interested in oral histories, something told directly, authentically from the person who experienced it. So, the opportunity—and of course, I was very kind of shy and bashful. I mean, Tava Taupu, and Snake Ah Hee, and Herb Kane, and Nainoa and Pinky, and Marion Lyman-Merserau, and Dave Lyman. I mean, these are heroic figures to me. So, to have the honor that they would sit down and talk with me was terrific. And I didn’t want that to end. You know, so writing the book, you have to eventually do that; right? But the great pleasure was to have those moments, those intimate moments with people on whose shoulders we all stand on, and to have them tell me their story. That in itself, was the process, is sometimes more important than the product.

 

Through the eyes and ears of Sam Low, we all get to experience what it’s like to sail aboard Hōkūle‘a as she makes her way across vast oceans, guided by the stars and other natural elements, to faraway destinations. Mahalo to Sam Low for sharing his stories with us, and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Pinky evolved a philosophy that came out of voyaging. He said, You first have to have a vision, and you have to have a vision of an island over the horizon. And once you have that vision, then you have to formulate a plan to raise that island from the sea, Hawaiki Rising. And then, you need to have discipline to train, to achieve that plan. And then, you need to have the courage to cast off the lines, and then you need to have the aloha to bind your crew together to find the island. So, those are values that were inherent in Pinky’s view in voyaging, and also in the world, and also all cultures of the world. So, he brought this philosophy from the past, brought it to the present, and made it a possible future. And Hōkūle‘a is voyaging around the world with that philosophy in mind.

 

[END]

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Ma Ka Malu Ali‘i: The Legacy of Hawaii’s Ali‘i

Ma Ka Malu Ali'i: The Legacy of Hawaii's Ali'i

 

The 19th century was a time of devastating change for the Hawaiian people. This documentary looks at the visionary efforts of five members of the ali’i, Hawaiian royalty, to provide for the education of the children, healthcare and comfort for the elderly. The charitable institutions they created have endured and are thriving and vital institutions today.

 

NA MELE
Natalie Ai Kamauu and Family

 

Natalie Ai Kamauu’s voice fills the PBS Hawaii studio.  Natalie performs with a passion that comes from the origins of the songs she sings, and the love she has for her family. She is joined by her husband, Iolani Kamauu, on guitar and vocals, and their daughter, Sha-Lei Kamauu, who accompanies the music with hula.

 

Among the songs featured are “Pili Aloha,” which connects Natalie to her mother, kumu hula Olana Ai, and “Shower Tree,” which was written for Natalie and Iolaniʻs son, Chaz. Sha-Lei joins Natalie and Iolani with hula, including the playful “Hula Tease,” and a graceful accompaniment to Natalie and Iolaniʻs performance on “Uhiwai.”

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Ohta-san: Virtuosity and Legacy

 

Herb Ohta is one of the giants of the ‘ukulele who snatched the simple four-stringed instrument out of the background and planted it firmly at the front of the stage. In this special, Herb Ohta, known as Ohta-San, brings his solo ukulele riffs to the PBS Hawaii studios, playing numbers such as “Rhapsody in Blue,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” and his chart-topping ballad, “Song for Anna.” He also teams up with his son, Herb Ohta Jr., for their take on the Hawaiian classics “Hi’ilawe” and “Sanoe.”

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Jim Burns: A Local Boy

 

In honor of the late Jim Burns, PBS Hawai‘i presents an in-memoriam encore of this episode recorded in June 2014.

 

Jim Burns’ father, John A. Burns, always thought of himself as a local boy. Jim, who grew up in Kailua and could easily break into Pidgin English, saw himself the same way. As Jim was growing up, he saw the respect that his father had for Hawai‘i’s immigrants, and learned that being a local boy was about more than just speaking Pidgin.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, April 5, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, April 9, at 4:00 pm.

 

Transcript

 

I’m told that your law clerks, when you were looking for a new one, of course, you checked all aspects of their background, but it was really important to you to find out where they went to high school.

 

Yeah; I started with that. You know, that gives me a picture of, you know, where they lived and who they are. And then, from there, I’d ask them other questions. But, yes. I think that’s true of all the people who lived—local boys, back in the old days. You know, Where you went high school? And if they said Kamehameha; okay, you got a picture of them. They said St. Louis, they said Punahou, they said Iolani, they said Farrington, Kaimuki, you’d get sort of a picture or flavor.

 

So, what did it say about you, that you went to St. Louis?

 

Well … that during school, I had to wear a tie.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know, that it was a little stricter operation than other places, little more controlled. That it was all boys, so you don’t know anything about girls.

 

Jim Burns has always called himself just a local boy. This, despite the lofty trappings of his career, rising to Chief Judge of the State Intermediate Court of Appeals. And he’s the son of one of the most consequential political leaders in Hawai‘i’s modern history, Governor John Burns. Jim Burns, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. James Stanton Seishiro Burns, better known as Jim Burns, retired Chief Judge of the Hawai‘i Intermediate Court of Appeals, was born in Honolulu in 1937 to a father who was a police officer and a mother who was partially paralyzed by polio two years before Jim was conceived. It wasn’t until much later that Jim’s father, the late Governor John A. Burns, became a politician and the driving force that brought Democratic Party to power, changing Hawai‘i’s political landscape forever. It was apparent in Jim’s young life that there was something exception about his parents.

 

When people talk about when they were born, it’s you know, just a fact. I was born on this date. But your story of birth is huge. I mean, I’ve never heard such a dramatic birth story as yours. I’d love to hear it from you.

 

Well, I don’t remember it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I only know what they told me. Interesting story. My mother had two children, and then while she was pregnant with the third during the seventh month, she got polio. Then called infantile paralysis. And so, the baby was born, my brother, but he didn’t live long. And so, she was paralyzed at that time, from the neck, down, and real bad.

 

Now, this was 1935. But subsequently in 1936, she became pregnant with me., while she was paralyzed. And you know, I don’t know how much of the upper body then was paralyzed, but definitely from the lower body, she was paralyzed. And so, all the doctors told her to abort. And they said they wouldn’t treat her if she refused. And she said, No, I’m not going to abort. And so really, nobody wanted to treat her.

 

So, was she personally at risk? Is that why they wanted her to abort?

 

Yes; both of us were at risk. Yes. And she said, No, I won’t. Fortunately, my father knew a guy, a Japanese body expert, I think you’d call him. He was a jujitsu, judo master, and so, my father found him. And of course, the doctors didn’t want him to touch my mother, said he would kill her, you know, with what he was going to do. But no, my father went with him, and he took care of my mother during the pregnancy; all during the pregnancy. You know, she said, dunked her into bathwater. What was it … seaweed water and et cetera. Massaged her, stretched her. My mother said, It almost killed me, but every time I would scream, he’d say, Go ahead, scream some more.

 

Now, she was paralyzed. It’s indicating that she’s feeling pain, but would she feel pain?

 

Oh, yes.

 

Oh, she did feel pain?

 

Oh, gosh; yes. Yes. She just couldn’t move her body. But she could feel pain. Yes.

 

I see.

 

I never talked to my father about it, but I did talk to her about it. You know, why would you get pregnant while you were paralyzed? And she said, I wanted to show that I could continue to be a wife, you know, that I could be together with him. And being good Catholics, it happened.

 

And you were born perfect?

 

I was born healthy, almost eight pounds, full-term pregnancy. And delivered by a friend who didn’t deliver babies, because there was no doctor to deliver me. He was a doctor, but he was not a doctor who specialized in that particular business.

 

So, I notice that you have a Japanese middle name.

 

Yes, I do.

 

Is that because of the man who helped your mom deliver?

 

Yes. His name was Henry Seishiro Okazaki. Quite famous in the community. And after I was born, you know, my father talked to him, I guess, about, Hey, what can I do for you? I’ve gotta pay you whatever. And the man said, You call him Seishiro. And that’s all my father ever called me.

 

Jim Burns’ brother and sister were only a few years older than him, but by the time Jim came along, the family had gone through many changes. Jim’s father had become a police officer, and he had moved his family from Kalihi to the Windward side, Kailua, where Jim grew up.

 

So, you were the favored child, right, because you were the youngest, who’d come through so miraculously.

 

Well, that’s what my sister says. I’m not sure it’s true, but I guess I had a better life than she did, or my older brother did.

 

Was your father, who was known as very strict and sometimes punitive—

 

Yes.

 

You had it easier than the older kids?

 

Well, I don’t know how they had it, but I know that I had some whacks; some pretty good ones. So, he was very strict with me, also. But I think because I’m younger, he mellowed over the course of time. So, I think they caught it more than me, before he mellowed.

 

You know, when your father was governor, people said—and this was sometimes quoted in the papers—his nickname could be The Great Stone Face; he was very impassive and stern.

 

Yes.

 

What was he like as a father?

 

Same. Exactly. Yes; very. Not too many jokes.

 

They both sound like very strong people. I mean, did you feel like you had room to breathe around them?

 

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Well, you know, depending on what part of my life you’re talking about, I didn’t see him that often. I saw my mother much more than him, and my mother was much easier to deal with than he was.

 

And even your mother went away for a while for treatment; right?

 

When I was two years old, she went to the mainland for treatment, and she was there until Christmas of ’42. Actually should not have come back; she came back sooner than she should have. But she was so homesick.

 

Wow. And your dad was often gone as well.

 

Yes. So, I didn’t see her. You know, I wasn’t conscious of her when I was two years old, and I didn’t see her until I was four and a half.

 

Wow.

 

Or actually, let’s see. Christmas—I’m sorry; five and a half.

 

Five and a half.

 

Five and a half years old.

 

Do you remember seeing her at five and a half?

 

Well, I know that she came home. And we had been writing to her while she was gone. You know. I mean, I’m sure my penmanship was not so good in those days.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But I would write notes to her.

 

Who took care of you?

 

Well, that’s a good question. I recall a lady from down the street, a good family friend, who used to take care of all of us. My father’s mother lived next door. But, lots of kids she took care of, and I remember her. And then, when we got older, I know my father got some gals from the detention home, the girls’ home, and they came and babysat. So, it was just whoever. And then, it was wartime.

 

Tell me about Pearl Harbor.

 

Okay. Well, let’s go back a ways. My father’s a policeman, and prior to the war, he’s in charge of espionage. He’s the chief of espionage in the police department. And I think the United States knew that it was going to get into a war with Japan. It had to, to get into the war in Europe. And so, I think about ’39, the chief asked my father to put together him and four guys, to go check with the Japanese community and find any signs of disloyalty. So, my father gathered together four other guys from the police department, three of whom were Japanese, and one was Hawaiian.

 

Did your dad get to pick?

 

Yes; he got to pick. So, he picked the four. And … interesting story. I always tell this story, and it’s true. Five people … remember Hawaii Five-O?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

That’s where the five comes from. You know, that investigative unit. But anyway, so the five went out and checked all over the place, and came back and said, No, no signs of disloyalty whatsoever within the community.

 

We were at church Sunday morning, December 7th, 7:00 a.m. Church was finished, and we were just gonna start going to home. And we saw this … blast, explosions at what was then the Kaneohe Naval Air Station, which is now the Kaneohe Marine Station. And we could see planes and bombs, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And you know, I’m young, I’m only four and a half years old, and all I know is that there’s a ruckus going on. But he knew what was going on. So, he rushed home, ran into the house, picked up the phone, called, and all I heard him was say, Oh, four-letter word. And out the door he went, and I didn’t see him for a long time. We didn’t see him for a long time.

 

Long time, meaning how long?

 

You know, I recall two, three weeks. But he was gone. And now, we were at home, we didn’t have my mother. You know, just had whoever was looking after us, and thinking that we’re going to be invaded. And then martial law came, and et cetera. We lived under that. And right next door, there was a military camp that they set up in the ironwood pine trees, which was interesting. So, part of my growing up was working with the soldiers, being with the soldiers. They were nice to us.

 

So, very unconventional entry to the world, and very unconventional upbringing.

 

M-hm; yeah. I would say so.

 

How do you think it affected you?

 

Well, it made me very independent; that’s for sure. You know, I didn’t have a lot of social contact, other than my brother, sister, and whoever else was around. So, I learned how to do my own thing.

 

I know you went to St. Louis. I think it was called college at the time.

 

St. Louis College.

 

And you lived in Kailua.

 

Yes.

 

So, Pali Road was there.

 

But it was the Old Pali Road.

 

So, it wasn’t that hairpin …

 

It was the Old Pali Road.

 

With the hairpin turn?

 

Yes.

 

How did you get to school?

 

That way. In the mornings, somebody took us. Either my father, or somebody. Lots of kids went to St. Louis, Sacred Hearts in those days from Kailua. So, somebody, whoever it was, took us to St. Louis.

 

How’d you get home?

 

Well, when I was younger, you know, somebody would pick us up; my father or somebody he got to pick us up. But as I got older, the bus went to Nuuanu, dropped us off. Those days, the buses had electrical lines, wires.

 

That’s right. They were trolleys.

 

Yes; trolleys.

 

More like trolleys.

 

So, Nuuanu was as far as they got.

 

And then, how did you get home from there?

 

Hitchhike.

 

Did you always find somebody to take you?

 

Yes. Yes.

 

Who was it usually? What kind of person?

 

You know, all kinds of people; neighbors, friends, or just people. You know, Kailua was a small town, country town, and everybody kind of knew each other, friendly with each other. Different kinds of people. But there was one man; an interesting story. A guy named Charley Asada, and he drove the kerosene truck. And people say, Kerosene truck?

 

Yeah.

 

Well, in those days, the farmers between the Pali and Kailua, talking along the Koolaus, lots of Japanese farmers. And they didn’t have electricity, so their source of power was kerosene.

 

Oh …

 

And so, he would drive his kerosene truck, and he’d go fill up the tanks for all of these people. You know, different places, different days. And so, I went with him. And people say, Why did you do that? And I say, Well, number one, he was fun to be with; he was very educational, entertaining, et cetera. But number two, while he was filling up the tanks, guess what we were doing? We were eating. I mean, those people had good food.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And so, by the time I got home, I was full.

 

There was a time when your father left the police force to become a fulltime politician. And your mom started running a liquor store.

 

Well, yeah. Initially, he ran it. So, he bought a liquor store, and he was running it in Kailua. But then, he got so involved in politics. Now, we’re talking about ’46, ’47. And then, he ran in’48. And so then, my mother started running it. And we lived five blocks away, so we’re talking a lady in a wheelchair going to the liquor store. And sometimes somebody took her, sometimes she wheeled herself, and sometimes I pushed her.

 

And she basically took charge of the purchases and the ordering, and …

 

She was there all day. You know, I don’t know how she did it, but she did. And when I could, I went and helped. As I got older, I did more and more help. But, you know, we had shelves, and she couldn’t reach. So, the customer would just reach and take whatever they wanted, and … you know, then they would make their purchase.

 

I thought that was an interesting choice of a type of business, because hadn’t your father previously had a problem with alcohol, and he’d stopped? But then, he bought a liquor store.

 

Well, his father was an alcoholic, and then deserted the family. And so, he was a very angry man. I think my father grew up very, very angry and bothered. So, he was incorrigible when he was young. And in fact, so much so their mother couldn’t handle him, sent him off to Fort Leavenworth to live with an uncle. And when he came back, he bounced around and finally became a policeman. But while he was a policeman initially, in the 30s, he got into an accident and had liquor on his breath. Now, nobody said he was drunk, but he had liquor on his breath, and apparently, policemen weren’t supposed to do that. So, he was sanctioned for it. And I guess his mother sat him down, and eventually, he promised, Okay, I’m not gonna drink anymore.

 

And he did; he quit cold turkey at some point.

 

I never saw the man drink.

 

Amazing.

 

No.

 

And could handle the liquor store, no problem.

 

Yes. But he drank coffee [CHUCKLE] constantly. But, yes. And then, as I say, my mother ran the store, and they ran ‘til the early 50s. And then, Piggly Wiggly came to Kailua, and ran us out of business.

 

The old Piggly Wiggly. It was during Jim Burns’ high school years that his father, John Burns, started becoming politically active. It would be many years before John Burns would win an election, but through his organizing activities, the elder Burns was laying the groundwork for what would become major social change in Hawaii.

 

When you were a kid, here you are with a Japanese middle name. You’re going to St. Louis. And I bet you there weren’t many Caucasian boys at St. Louis.

 

Well, Caucasian; if you include Portuguese, there were plenty.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] Yes. So, I don’t think they knew whether I was Portagee or Haole. I was just one of the local boys. I spoke Pidgin, and I associated with everybody.

 

Yeah; that’s true. If I hear you, and you’re talking with your St. Louis buddies, I would never know what race you are.

 

Yes; yes. So, yeah. No; we just mixed, and nobody ever said, Eh, you one Haole. The only difficulty I had was, my father was a loser as a politician.

 

In the beginning.

 

He lost from ’46 to ’56; ten years. I went to college before he won an election. So, it was all during my grade school and high school, he was a loser. And I used to catch heck for that.

 

Why did people mind that your dad was losing political battles?

 

Well, because he’d run for office, and he’d lose. And they would say, What the hell is your father doing, running for office? You know, losing. And in fact, even worse, they used to call him names. And I went home one time and I said, Daddy, what‘s a Communist? And he said, Why are you asking me that kind of question? I said, Well, that’s what my classmates say you are. And he never really answered the question. I had to go find out by myself.

 

So, all those years, his political aspirations and the ability he had in bringing people together, that was not a plus for you?

 

I wasn’t involved. No. All I knew is, he was involved with running for office or organizing the Democratic Party. And I think he was on the other side of most of the kids that I was hanging around with, and you know, they were all on the other side of the track. And so, he was sort of an outsider and everybody’s wondering, What’s he doing? Why is he over there? You know.

 

What do you mean, other side of the track?

 

Well, the Republicans were totally in charge. So, anybody who wasn’t Republican was on the other side of the track.

 

And it’s true; at that time, the leaders in Hawaii tended to be Republican and Caucasian. But your dad was Caucasian, but from Kalihi, and the son of a single mom who eked out an existence, and like you said, he was an angry young man who, I guess, knew something about street gangs growing up.

 

Well, yes. Number one, he grew up in Hawaii. Grew up in Kalihi; he was very much a local boy. Again, he went to St. Louis. So, I don’t think you would call him a Haole. Same as me.

 

Would he consider that fighting words?

 

Probably. Yes.

 

So, your dad really had a way different profile than any of the others. He was on the Democratic side.

 

Yes.

 

And he was from an impoverished background. 

 

From the streets. Yes; yes.

 

I know he wasn’t a man to sit you down for father-son talks. But did you get the sense of his passion for equal opportunity for everybody in a place that marginalized many ethnicities?

 

Oh, yes. I mean, I’d sit and listen when he had conversations with other people, and you know, I could get the sense of what he was talking about. And so, I didn’t have any difficulty understanding what was happening. I didn’t know that the Haole was in charge of everything, you know, but I did know that we couldn’t be members of Oahu Country Club. You know, there were certain things that I knew that they had, but we didn’t have. And I knew the difference between Punahou and St. Louis.

 

What is the difference?

 

Well, in those days, it was more the Haoles than St. Louis, which was more of the local people. I knew that difference.

 

So, you grew up with that sense of the local people are getting a bad shake, bad rap.

 

I don’t think I really realized it, other than through my father. You know. Why is this man so committed to doing what he’s doing? Why isn’t he out there working for the family, kind of thing. Other than that, I don’t think I thought about it.

 

And you knew it wasn’t getting him any traction while you were growing up, because he wasn’t winning elections.

 

Right; right. So, you know, I didn’t think about too much, but still, you’re wondering, Hm, why is he doing what he’s doing?

 

When your friends at school or anybody would criticize your dad or say things about him, did you feel proprietary and defensive, or how did that make you feel?

 

Just made me wonder. That’s all. I didn’t think they were fighting words. At St. Louis, every word was a fighting word, if you took it that way, you know, if you were insulted. Everybody talks stink about everybody, so I sort of got used to it, and I got to be pretty good at it myself. I think during the course of his growing up, and especially as a policeman, he got to realize what kind of society Hawaii was. And he got to realize that this bunch of White folks were totally in charge of this place, and nobody else had an opportunity or chance to do anything. He was at the police department one time, and this businessman, one of the Big Five people in control, picked up the phone and said, Governor, come to my office. And my father said, That’s kind of backwards. You know; Governor, come to my office? Isn’t the governor supposed to say, You come to—you know. But that’s the way it was; who was in charge, who was in control. And you know, and I guess he could see the prejudice against the local people; Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans. And he just eventually said, No, no, I’m gonna do something to change this. And he totally committed himself. So, he quit the police department. Which was sad, because he loved the police department. I say this to people; all his life, he was truly a cop. In his heart, he was a policeman. He loved it. And that’s part of the problem with his family. You know, policemen—it’s very tough on the family, because they go to work and they get to see what’s going on, then they come home and say, I don’t want you to be like that. You know, so they’re very strict on you.

 

And did you ever talk to your mom about your father’s political aspirations, and what was he doing?

 

Well, no, but I knew she was getting frustrated.

 

Because she was working at the liquor store, while he was organizing?

 

She knew that he was doing what he wanted to do, and she knew he was doing the right thing. So, I think she supported him in that way. But on the other hand, I’m sure she said, Hm, I wish I had a little more family life.

 

And so did you, no doubt?

 

Yeah; sort of. But, you know, I saw my father more, I think, than others. I used to caddy for him, and you know, I spent time with him in the car, listening to him, or time when he was running the liquor store. So, you know, I associated with him.

 

And your mom looked at his time away from the family as something that he just had to do, and she accepted it?

 

Yes. That was the kind of person she was. You know, same way she handled her paralysis; it was, That’s the deck of cards that they dealt me, and that’s what I’m gonna deal with. You know, and I’m not gonna agonize over it or worry about it.

 

And your dad was busy trying to change the world.

 

Yes. That, he was doing, and my mother put up with it.

 

Jim Burns was in college on the mainland by the time his father was finally elected to office as Hawaii’s Delegate to Congress in 1956. During his term, Hawaii became a State, and John Burns came home to run for Governor. He lost his first two tries, but finally won in 1962, well after Jim had finished college and law school. Mahalo to Jim Burns for sharing his childhood memories with us and what it was like to grow up with a father who sacrificed so much, including time with his family, for his social and political ideals for Hawaii. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

You noted that that’s you here.

 

Yes.

 

Cut off from view.

 

Yes.

 

And then, there’s another picture where you’re also cut off, and you’re wheeling your mom, and in a very important occasion.

 

That’s my day off from basic training to go attend the inauguration. And I’m in my uniform, and I’m behind her, and pushing her. And nobody had a clue who I was. They just thought I was a soldier pushing Mrs. Burns. The local paper said: Unidentified Soldier. They didn’t know that I was related to them.

 

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
Quiet Title

 

Mark Zuckerberg’s lawsuits to force the sale of kama‘aina lands may have been withdrawn, but it serves as a reminder that land acquisition through quiet title is still a distressful issue for local families who have inherited ownership of family lands. How frequently is quiet title used in local land disputes? And are Native Hawaiians still being alienated from their traditional land?

 

Your questions and comments are welcome via phone, email and via Twitter during the Live Broadcast.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:
insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 




HIKI NŌ
Hosted by Farrington High School

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Farrington High School on Oahu.

 
Top Story:
Students from Iolani School on Oahu tell the story of a young Iolani graduate who, despite becoming a quadruple amputee due to a devastating disease, continues to live life with grace and appreciation. She visits her alma mater, sharing her inspiring message of perseverance.

 
Also Featured:
Students at Maui Waena Intermediate School on Maui explore the controversy surrounding  the construction of a new Central Maui Sports Complex; students at Kainalu Elementary School on Oahu profile a Kailua woman who shares the art of ribbon-lei-making with people from around the world; students at Mid-Pacific Institute on Oahu show how science and spiritualism are coming to the aid of a historic Waikiki icon – the Moana Hotel’s majestic banyan tree; students at Lahainaluna High School on Maui share the story of a Lahaina woman who proudly maintains her Hawaiian heritage through pa’u riding; students at Waiakea High School on Hawaii Island spotlight a locally owned surf company in Kapaa, Kauai that gives back by supporting the community’s sports teams.

 

 

HIKI NŌ
All Kauai Schools

 

This is a special, first ever all-Kauai edition of HIKI NŌ, hosted by Island School in Lihue, Kapaa Middle School in Kapaa, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Lihue, Kapaa High School in Kapaa, Kauai High School in Lihue and Waimea High School in Waimea.

 

Top Story:
Students from Island School on Kauai tell the story of Josh Miller, a junior who recovered from a traumatic trail-bike injury to become captain of his cross-country team.

 

Also Featured:
Students at Kapaa Middle School on Kauai profile the island’s youngest and only female fireknife dancer; students at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauai share the story of Gail Mande, who overcame her drug addiction and now counsels troubled youth; students from Kapaa High School on Kauai show how a local juice shop is finding fresh ways to support local farmers; students at Kauai High School turn the spotlight on a teen mentor who is motivated by personal tragedy to help others; students at Waimea High School on Kauai share how an alumni foundation is providing vital support to their school; and students at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauai speak with the firefighters who rescued more than 100 stranded hikers last April from a popular but treacherous hiking trail.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Glenn Furuya

 

Growing up on the island of Hawaii, Glenn Furuya was raised by what he calls the “village” of Hilo. There, he learned the importance of hard work and building relationships, and saw how local values and humility helped build successful businesses. Furuya now channels these local attributes as he teaches leadership skills in Hawaii and around the world.

 

Glenn Furuya Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

We teach through a lot of protocols, rituals. It’s gotta be simple. ‘Cause I’ve come to realize that the simpler you can make it, the closer you are to universal truth. So, I play for simplicity, practical, simple. But this is really important; sticky. A lot of what happens in education isn’t sticky. I mean, nobody can remember. You can go to any one of my clients, and there’s a language out there; bowls, bananas, rocks. And finally, it has to be transformational. Why would I teach something that does not have the potential to transform someone’s life?

 

We’re all products of our upbringing; where we grew up, who raised us, the lessons learned along the way. Glenn Furuya has embraced his roots and his heritage, and applied them not only to his life, but to the lives and careers of leaders around the world. Glenn Furuya, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Glenn Furuya has made it his business to teach others how to be effective leaders. He has presented his lessons to hundreds of businesses in Hawaii, throughout the Pacific Rim, and around the world. His distinctive style of teaching, incorporating local metaphors, nicknames, and playing for simplicity has become Glenn’s trademark. And while many of his lessons on leadership address complex situations, his practical messages are deeply rooted in the ethics of his parents and the community that raised him.

 

Leslie, I grew up in Hilo, Hawaii. Went to public schools there, started my career there. Went to University of Hawaii Hilo for a year or so, before transferring to Manoa. But, Hilo roots.

 

And what was your family like?

 

My father was a salesman for Fred L. Waldron & Company. He sold Kraft cheese, Kraft dressings, and he went around the island selling those products.

 

Did you ever go with him to see how he sealed the deal?

 

Yeah; every once in a while, he’d take us. But it was a very relationship-oriented type of sales. It was not, you know, hard selling. So, they all became friends, and when he’d go to these places, it’s basically taking orders. You know, and some of the stores that he’d go to were the tiny, little stores. Like, I remember one in Waiohinu, Kau. And the owner there, his name was Jack Wong Yuen, Wong Yuen Store. They became very, very, very, very good friends in the process.

 

Oh, that was a big circuit, going all the way there.

 

And like, once a month, he’d get in his car, and he’d go right around the island selling his products.

 

And was he a born sales guy, he loved making the sale?

 

Yeah; my father was more of a relationship type of guy.

 

So, he liked making them happy.

 

Yeah. And, you know, just knew how to build a friendship. And it was through that friendship that the sales came. So, that’s where I kinda learned early on about relationship selling. It’s not necessarily about the hard core type of way of doing things.

 

And what about your mom? Tell me about her.

 

My mom, was a clerk in a store in downtown Hilo. It was called Star Sales & Service. And she worked there for maybe thirty years. And in her fifties, the owner of the store passed away. And so, my mom decides that she wants to start her own store, so she started a little, small store. My mom had a passion for things Japanese. So, she created a store called Panda Imports. It was like a mini, mini Shirokiya.

 

Oh …

 

All Japanese products, food, music, et cetera. And my mom, she didn’t graduate from high school. Very intelligent woman, became very successful. She ran the store successfully for over a decade before she passed it to my brother. Hilo was a very, very interesting place to grow up. You know, very, very humble beginnings. A lot of the beginnings were in sports. Leslie, I lived right next door to the Boys Club of Hilo; just right next door. So, we were constantly at the Boys Club, playing baseball, football, shooting pool, having fun. So, a lot of my time in my youth was there. And I also was pretty active in Boy Scouts. My scoutmaster took us camping every month, so we went to every little nook and cranny corner of the Big Island, from Waipio Valley to the top of Mauna Kea.

 

Really outdoorsy stuff.

 

Yeah; yeah. So, between Boys Club and the Boy Scouts, I had a fun youth.

 

It sounds like a lot of relational stuff, like your dad did.

 

Yeah. I think when you grow up in a small town like that, where everybody knows everyone … I’ve always believed that behavior is a function of social and systemic context. So, I grew up in this context that sort of shaped my behaviors, but if you look at Hilo people, we’re pretty similar. There’s a way about Hilo people. And I was very, very blessed to be brought up in that environment. So, it was a place where I had to behave myself, because if I didn’t, before I got home in the afternoon, somebody was gonna call my parents, and then I would be disciplined [CHUCKLE] for having done whatever I did. So, it was this very interesting place.

 

The village raised you too; right?

 

It was the village that raised us in Hilo.

 

There’s one expression you use, and it’s very traditional, and it goes back generations in your family. And many Japanese families have this as something that guides them.

 

M-hm.

 

What is that?

 

I believe it is this concept called okage sama de; I am who I am because of you. And I really believe in that, that because of my parents and the sacrifices they made the discipline they gave us, the love that they extended, I think that made me who I am. But my grandparents also set a phenomenal example for me of hard work, diligence. You know, okage sama de. My father is a crusty, old Japanese man; he was more of a disciplinarian. He spent a lot of time with his friends, but my father, I am extremely, extremely proud of. He never really expressed much love, but he was a member of the 100th Battalion. And you know, if you think back to the prejudice, the hatred, the discrimination against people of Japanese ancestry because of the Pearl Harbor situation, and yet, these young men at that volunteered to fight for the American army, and all this hatred, and their families are sent to internment camps.

 

And everything was taken from them.

 

Everything taken from them, and yet, they had it in them to go to war, fight for America. And they come back the most highly decorated military unit in entire United States military history. There are two words that I really—another Japanese thing that I learned in my growing. One word is the word gaman; the other word is ganbatte. Those two words. I have little rocks on my desk, and one is gaman, one is ganbatte. Gaman is just, whatever happens, you just gotta be strong; you just gotta suck it up. You just gotta be patient. Ganbatte is, man, whatever you gotta do, you just go for it, man, just full-on move, go, get it done. You know, my father’s group; they exemplified those two qualities. Gaman; all that prejudice, all that hatred, right? Called names, and yet, they sucked it up, they said, That’s okay, we’ll show these people we’re Americans, and we’ll fight for America. Then they pulled out the ganbatte, go for broke and come back the most highly decorated military unit in entire United States military history.

 

And your father was one of the very decorated. What did he win as a medal?

 

Well, he wasn’t highly decorated, but they recently were awarded a couple years back the Congressional Gold Medal. You know, because of that okage sama de, I am who I am—I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but I always had this thing in me that whatever I did, I just wanted my parents and my grandparents to just be proud of what I did, in whatever I endeavored to do. I’m sorry, but that was kind of the driving force in my life.

 

Whether they were alive to see it or not?

 

Yeah, yeah. Right. Just do what you can to make ‘em proud.

 

For Glenn Furuya, the road to doing what you can to make ‘em proud started on his family farm, preparing for a career in agriculture. But Glenn realized that his heart wasn’t in it.

 

Did you have a sense of what you wanted to do when you grew up?

 

You know, it was an interesting journey. I really didn’t have a real clear idea. We had a family farm; my grandparents, who came from Japan as immigrants, were able to buy eighteen acres of farmland, so they had this farm, and every weekend, we’d go there and work on this farm; mac nuts, et cetera. You know, hard work. So, initially, I thought maybe agriculture, go into agriculture, become a horticulturist or something like that. Um, but then …

 

That cured you. [CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Working on the farm.

 

No; what cured me was my first year of college, I took this horticulture class, and then we had to grow plants, and there was vermiculite and whatever things are that you grow plants in. And we had to go care for ‘em on weekends and things, and I just didn’t like that. And I also had an issue; to get a degree in agriculture, I had to have a foreign language. And I just couldn’t pass second year German; it was just too hard. So then, I had to kinda maneuver and figured, okay, what am I gonna do? So, I decided to switch my major to education, and got my degree in ed.

 

You are in education now, but a different kind of education. How long did you stay in the Special Ed education?

 

I was there for eight years. And those were very good eight years. You know, today, I work on leadership, I teach leadership today, is what I do. And those eight years taught me how to lead. That was a very, very interesting experience. I challenge all the people that I work with; try it sometime. You know, just try it for one hour; special ed classroom, sixteen kids. And in those days, it was self-contained; it was kids with mixed disabilities. And you’re in this room all by yourself.

 

I can see it as a lesson in management.

 

Oh, absolutely.

But leadership, you’re saying?

 

Yeah.

Which is different.

 

Yeah. I think there were two elements there. Classroom management was number one. You had to keep these kids in order, clearly defined rules, people following the rules, managing that environment. The leadership came through the requirement to inspire these kids. You know, these were seventh, eighth, ninth graders; they came from disadvantaged communities, most of them single parent homes. They couldn’t read, they couldn’t write, and you know, defeated in the spirit. And the leadership part was to try to encourage these kids, inspire them, to just give them some hope that, you know, life can be good for them, and they can find success.

 

How did you do that?

 

I felt that the greatest gift I could give these kids … and it was not easy to deliver this gift, was to teach them how to work. Because unfortunately for many of them, they’d end up in the kind of labor jobs, custodial job, you know, the simpler clerical jobs. So, I figured if I can help them and teach them how to work, and how to be a good worker, they could sustain themselves, you know, through a career. Those days, there was a lot more flexibility to what teachers could do in the classroom. And I decided that, you know what, if I’m gonna teach them to work, I need to have a business within which they could work. So, my classroom was right next to the teacher parking lot. So, I thought, I know what the business is gonna be; I’m gonna have these kids polish the teachers’ cars, form a business, and charge the teachers for polishing their cars and cleaning and vacuuming; right? It gave me an opportunity, therefore, to have these kids be a participant in an organization. They could learn things like customer service, productivity, quality of work.

 

And there’s detailing and then, there’s broad-brushing.

 

Absolutely. You know, teamwork. But the way I set it up was—and this was part of the management side of the equation. In the mornings, if they studied hard, they followed the rules, they behaved themselves— ‘cause there were a lot of behavioral issues. Okay? Then, they could go out in the afternoon when the classroom got really hot, and work in the car polishing business. And they all wanted to get out of that classroom. They they actually liked polishing cars. [CHUCKLE] So, I’d take the proceeds and I’d reinvest back in the kids. So, we would go camping, we’d take them to Special Olympics, we would give them treats, we’d even do steak fries. Right in the middle of campus, we’d cook steak, and the the whole school could smell the steak. We had so much fun.

 

While Glenn Furuya was working at a special education teacher, he also worked part-time at KTA Super Stores, a locally owned grocery store on Hawaii Island. At the time, KTA was beginning a period of transformation from a small country mom & pop market to a modern day supermarket. Glenn found himself in the middle of that transformation.

 

After eight years, I left. I went to the market, KTA Super Stores, grew up in Hilo, and I went there to work fulltime.

 

What did you do there?

 

I was sort of an assistant to the president. I worked for a very, very enlightened leader there. His name was Tony Taniguchi. And he was just a remarkable, remarkable man. And I was sort of an executive assistant type person. He allowed me to facilitate the meetings of the executive team, I ran advertising, kinda participated in the strategy.

 

And you had a lot of leeway?

 

Yeah; he gave us a lot. Tony was the kind of leader; he would give us an assignment and give us some space to do what we had to do. Very encouraging, but he’d also invest in us. He gave me an assignment to work on developing supervisors, but he told me, You know, go to whatever training you need to go to. He also told me, You gotta join Jaycees, though, and you have to join Jaycees ‘cause they have these courses in the Jaycee movement where they teach you how to lead. So, I did all those things. I have a lot of aloha for Tony; he did so much for me in my career. I started to think about in my head, this duality. In the market, I was learning systems, and how important systems were to transform an organization. Okay? ‘Cause you had to have systems to deliver the results. But in the classroom, I had to really understand how do you engage people who hated you. They didn’t want to be there, they were somewhat disgruntled, and they were defeated. They had defeated spirits. Then it dawned on me; what if you could create an organization that did both, that had systems that could transform it, like we were doing at the market, but you really knew how to take care your people in the process. What if those two forces came together; what would happen?

 

Were there examples of businesses that do that?

 

At that point, I started to research a lot. And one of the first books early on that came out was this book, In Search of Excellence. The first attempt to try to define some of the patterns of the most successful companies. And I began to read these things. I says, Wow, a lot of the patterns I’m seeing show up in this book. So then, I started to read, like read a lot, just research a lot, trying to figure out these patterns, will they work? It ended up in a mantra that I came up with. The mantra was, if you want results, systems make it possible. People make it happen, though. You still need people. Somebody’s gotta do the work. The third element I discovered was, leadership is the key. Leadership is what pulls it all together. Because leadership develops the system, and leadership has to grow the people; right? Without those two, it won’t work. So, that’s where my initial thrust came from, you know, philosophically and theoretically, from that combination of elements.

 

I feel a move coming from KTA Super Stores.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

So, you left the stores at that point to develop your leadership practice?

 

Yeah. I spent two years fulltime. I left teaching; I resigned. Went to the market for about two years, and then—this was thirty-three years ago, I left the market and went to start my own consulting practice. Which I’ve been very, very blessed with wonderful, wonderful clients. Large companies, small companies; these are special people. I owe everything to them.

 

By now, Glenn Furuya had learned lessons from his parents that had been passed down through generations. He’d observed how the residents of Hilo worked and communicated with each other, and

 

saw how a business could grow through his experience with the late Tony Taniguchi. It was time to share what he’d learned. In 1982, Glenn Furuya founded his own consulting company, Leadership Works.

 

The way I teach it is this. There are two types of leaders, Leslie. There’s circular leaders. These are people are who are very collaborative, they’re relationship-oriented, they’re kind, they really engage people. Circular. Island people are generally more circular. Okay. And that’s because in Hawaii, we’re a three-way blend of cultures. We are influenced heavily by Eastern culture, ‘cause in the 1940s, forty percent of the population of Hawaii was Japanese. So, heavy bushido code influence here. And yet, we’re all Americans; that’s the Western influence. We’re all Western-educated folk. But at the same time, the host culture here is Hawaiian. We have a major Polynesian influence. And there’s no place in the world these three forces come together like it does here in Hawaii. So, the Polynesian and the Eastern, Asian, right, give us the circular. We understand circular; that’s why people are so collaborative and warm, and aloha spirit, and ohana. Western culture is much more linear. You know, there’s the goal, here’s the plan, now do it.

 

And if you have to run over somebody to get there, it’s okay.

 

Right.

‘Cause that’s the goal.

 

Right. So, in answer to your question, a lot of times … and there are a lot of island people who are just very linear, too. The biggest mistake you can make in Hawaii is take your linear approach, and slam it on the circular. Right? And then, that equilibrium gets broken. Who the heck does he think he is?

 

We’re talking as if leadership is a position. But it doesn’t have to be.

 

You know what I say? It’s more of an essence. It’s about being fundamentally a good person with solid values. It’s more almost like a way of life, and you gotta live it first. We always emphasize in our organization or at Leadership Works, you gotta be able to lead yourself first. And if you can’t lead yourself, you cannot lead anybody else. We always teach it this way. That life will present you hot water; boiling hot water is like difficulty, problems, trouble, pain. It’s whenever hot water comes your way, you have three choices. If I took a carrot, a raw carrot, and I put it in the hot water, and boiled it for fifteen minutes, it’ll come out soft, mushy, break apart; right? Is that who you are as a leader? You going be a crybaby, a whiner. There are a lot of crybabies out there. Second option; take a raw egg, put it in the hot water, fifteen minutes bubble and boil. Pull it out, hard-boiled; right? Second option in life; you can be an angry, bitter person. You can go yell and scream at people; second option. So, what we try to teach is that you have a third option. What if, in the hot water, you put some tea? Just like your tea there.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And stir it up, and all of a sudden, the hot water became a flavorful drink. We call it flipping. You gotta flip it; right? You go make tea.

 

Are you a carrot, or an egg? Or can you be a cup of tea? A personal tragedy in Glenn Furuya’s life made him look at his own life through the lessons he had shared with so many business people.

 

Let’s talk family. You mentioned your wife is your business partner. Can you tell a little about family stuff with you?

 

Oh, family things. Yeah; I have, actually, two families. The first family was from my first wife, who unfortunately, passed away from cancer. So, I have three adopted kids from Kathy. And my second marriage with Debbie, I have the one child I talked about who works on Wall Street today. So, that’s the family. I have three grandchildren; one here in Honolulu, Kiki, and two in Texas, Elijah and Kaila.

 

Did your first wife die at a young age?

 

Yeah; she was in her fifties. That was quite tragic. She was a teacher for almost thirty years. Very hardworking, good woman, and went to the doctor, found out there was a tumor, ovarian cancer, and passed about a month after that.

 

Wow.

 

So, you know, it’s very interesting, Leslie. Like, as I teach many of these concepts, I kinda can personalize them. Like, remember the hot water?

 

M-hm.

 

That was hot water, man. That was like, painful, and that was hard. But three choices; right? I can be a carrot, I can be an egg, be angry at the world, angry at God, angry at the docs. I could turn into a depressed crybaby, or flip it and go make tea; right? And so, you notice people always criticize clichés. In my opinion, you know when you’re in the moment and you’re struggling, the cliché comes in really helpful. ‘Cause I kept telling myself, Got three choices here. Which choice you’re gonna pick?

 

You sound like you’ve had some really interesting life experiences, too, having three adopted kids. Are they related, or are they separate adoptions?

 

Yeah; separate adoptions. Two from Korea, and one local.

 

Babies, you adopted?

 

Yeah; they were young, they were very young. I think the oldest that came was maybe about nine months. The rest were like, two and three months.

 

So, it really makes you stop and think of what is family, and choosing family.

 

Sure; absolutely. Yeah.

 

And then, of course, when someone passes away …

 

Yeah.

 

You don’t have the right of choice.

 

Yeah, yeah. No; it’s tough. So, you know, there’s still ramifications from Kathy’s death. I mean, people grieve in different ways, and you know, still struggle with some of the fallout from that. You know. So, it’s not been easy. That’s the thing about my job. It’s hard sometimes, because you try to teach people the right way to do things, you know, I’m not perfect; I can’t be this perfect, god-like person.

 

You don’t feel very inspiring when you’ve just lost your life partner.

 

Yeah, yeah. It’s hard, and so, you know, you’re gonna break down, you’re gonna react in maybe sometimes negative ways. And so, sometimes, you feel like a hypocrite; right? And so, that’s the hard part of the job, ‘cause I am not perfect. I don’t do all these things that I teach, I fail many times at home, and with the kids. But you know, you just gotta get back up and keep moving along; yeah?

 

Well, that’s the authentic part you were talking about.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s not easy. Life is not easy at all, you know.

 

And you did remarry.

 

Yes. Got remarried to Debbie, who really, again, has made a big difference. Yeah.

 

While Leadership Works is a business, Glenn Furuya takes his job personally, and takes the most pride in how his simple ideas have changed lives.

 

Back in our office, I have, I think, eight binders; thick, thick binders. And they have page protectors inside. For the thirty-three years I’ve been doing business, I saved every thank-you letter, thank-you email, thank-you card I ever got. And it’s like stacked full, eight binders full. So, if I ever get discouraged and think that our work isn’t making a difference, I go back to this binder and read the poignant stuff in there, man. Like, whoa. A couple days ago, Debbie looked into, I think it was Yelp, to see if anybody ever Yelped us; right? And she found an entry. And it was from a young woman named Carly Tsai, and and she wrote how the course really transformed her life. And Carly is a really cool young woman, came to class, was just totally focused. I wasn’t sure if she was getting it, because she was just so, like, focused; right? But later on, I talked to her mom, and the mom told me how Carly really changed, and other people have told me that it really made a difference. And then, she gave me a personal testimony. So, it’s not me, Leslie; it’s just that after forty years of collecting this wisdom and sharing it, I know the stuff works. It can help people. It can change lives. And so, Debbie and I are dedicated, along with our third part of our triangle, Terry Uehara, and we work very closely together to continue to just share this information. Because we know it can help people.

 

In 2012, Glenn Furuya received the Kalama Award from the Rotary Club of East Honolulu for inspiring excellence in business, and service to the community. When Glenn received the award, he accepted it on behalf of his late mother for teaching him the true meaning of giving and service. Mahalo to Glenn Furuya for sharing his story with us; and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

My grandparents were all Buddhist. And at every funeral, they’d read that White Ashes piece. Though in the morning we may have radiant life, in the evening, we may return to white ashes. So, it’s about the impermanence of life, how life is very transitory. It just so hit me, hearing it four times when you’re at a funeral; you’re all sad, you hear the White Ashes being read. It made me realize, we only got one shot here. We got one shot.

 

[END]

 

 

1 2