Targeting El Paso



How El Paso became Trump’s immigration testing ground and then the target of a white supremacist. Through interviews with border patrol agents, militias, local advocates, and migrants, the inside story from the epicenter of the border crisis.




Sex Trafficking of Minors in Hawaiʻi


In the midst of Hawaiʻi’s beauty, there is a dark side, hidden from plain view. It is a world in which children (legally defined as individuals under age 18) are trafficked for sex. Hawaiʻi was the last state in country to pass an anti-sex trafficking law. Advocates say Hawaiʻi still lacks a law mandating training to help law enforcement personnel and others identity victims. Is Hawaiʻi doing enough to prevent the Sex Trafficking of Minors? Join the conversation on INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAIʻI. You can phone in, or leave us a comment on Facebook or Twitter.


National Human Trafficking Hotlines


Hawaiʻi Trafficking Hotlines


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




Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.


Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights




Marilyn Cristofori


For 24 years, Marilyn Cristofori headed the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance, a statewide nonprofit that champions the arts through advocacy and education. Upon Cristofori’s retirement, the very nonprofit she headed selected her as its 2017 Alfred Preis Honoree for her lifetime support and leadership in the arts. In this conversation, she recounts her experiences as a dancer, a university educator and a nonprofit leader.


This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.


Marilyn Cristofori Audio


Download the Transcript




Once upon a time, arts was considered a basic part of life.




A formal piece of education.


And it still is. Because what we do at the Arts Alliance is … the big picture. But if you want to be a ballet dancer, you’ve got to get your body to a ballet studio and stand at the ballet barre, and learn … that particular discipline. If you want to be an opera singer, you’re not gonna do it … in a school classroom.




I mean, you can be exposed to it, you can learn about it, you can … the history and the composers, and so on, and so forth. But if you want to be a performer or a creator of that discipline … gotta go there. There is no other choice.


Marilyn Cristofori headed the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance for twenty-four years. Upon her retirement, she was selected as the 2017 Alfred Preis Honoree. That was a prestigious acknowledgement of her lifetime support and leadership in the arts. She joins fellow Preis Honorees next, on Long Story Short.


One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing

people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.


Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Marilyn Cristofori always knew she’d have at least two careers, because she started out as a dancer, a calling prone to injuries and other physical wear and tear. Next, Cristofori became a university dance teacher. And then, she enjoyed a long third career heading a nonprofit organization advocating for arts. Upon retirement, she was named 2017’s Preis Honoree for her arts achievements by the very organization she headed, Hawai‘i Arts Alliance. She joined a long line of distinguished honorees, many of whom she helped to select. We’ll revisit some of these arts champions during the half hour, and get to know Marilyn Cristofori. As a child, she spent summers and many other times away from her family home in Sacramento because her mother was often ill. Young Marilyn would stay with her grandmother in the Bay Area.


I loved my grandmother. It made me identify with the things that were part of that life. And I loved it. San Francisco.




Italian. She loved the opera, I loved the opera. I can’t sing, but she loved the opera; she always played opera in the house.


And you were the only child in the house?


The only; yeah. She had three children, my mother being one of them, but they were all grown up. I was the only young child. My grandmother did not intend to raise another child; that was one of those … it happened.


And you felt at home at school, and at your grandmother’s house?


I felt very at home at my grandmother’s house, and I adjusted to my other home.


Was your grandmother your most formative influence, then, as a child?


I consider her that; m-hm. Yeah.


Did she give you any explicit advice about the future?


Oh, god. She was … a woman of her era. And I think the year she got married, the women’s vote was finally put in, and she was determined I was gonna get an education.


Did she know how she would pay for it, or anyone would pay for it?


Oh, no. I just had to get good grades and earn a scholarship.


So, you knew that from an early age?




That you were gonna go to college through a scholarship, and you were gonna make the grade to do it.




Did you know what you wanted to do?


When I was raised, Leslie, there was the idea that as a woman, you did nursing or teaching, or mothering, or sometimes a secretary, and occasionally you might have another profession. But those were the main ones. So, I thought I was gonna be a teacher.


M-hm. And you did get a BA in education.


I did.


From a very good college.


I did.


You got into Stanford.




On scholarship?






At that point in time, it was kind of fun, because women were still new to Stanford, so the ratio was about four to one. So, it was a great experience.


Lots of men. And did—


And I was young, so …


Did you feel younger than eighteen?


I was twenty when I graduated.


Oh; how did you get into college so early?


Well, when I was much younger, and all that shuffling back and forth to my grandmother’s and so on, they skipped me a full grade in school.


Wow. So, you graduated from Stanford University at age twenty.




As a … teacher.


Teacher. Yeah. And then, we had an opportunity to take a trip to Europe. And … I thought, that would be fun.


We, meaning you and …


And some … Stanford colleagues.




And a professor was doing the trip, and it was like a big deal. We had to go to New York and change planes, and fly over Iceland, and go to London. That was my first time out of California.


And you actually—


I didn’t come back for five and a half years.


Is that right?


I discovered dancing, which I had been doing all my life, but I didn’t know that I really wanted to do it.


What kind of dancing were you doing?


I was doing ballet at that time. So, then, I wanted to be a dancer, but I had gotten a full scholarship to what was then Radcliff at Harvard Business School. Why did I apply to Harvard Business School? Because the guy that I had a crush on applied to Harvard Business School. I thought it would be fun to go. And I went to Europe, and I decided I really didn’t want to go, and I knew that I could always go to business school, but I couldn’t always dance. So, I stayed in Europe.


And where did you dance?


I danced in Rome, and I danced in London, mainly. Those were the two.


And what was it about your experience in Europe that caused—you left the boyfriend behind too; right?


Yeah. But another one came along.


And is that part of the reason for staying in Europe, or was it—




–sheer dance, or a combination?


Well, part of it. Because he decided to go to London School of Economics, so we got married. I was working in a contemporary company. And I went to ballet classes, and I went to the Royal Ballet. I was not working as a professional ballet dancer in London. I experienced a lot of it, and that was what I knew. So, when I came back to San Francisco, I then was with San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Pacific Ballet, and Lathrop Contemporary Company. So then, I worked as a professional dancer. And because I was still young enough, since I had graduated so young, I was able to do it, and have … a fairly decent career.


What other types of dancing did you do?


Then, I did contemporary.


Which was freeform …


Well, modern dance. And that’s why I got involved until I … I needed to get a job, and became a professor and academic, and you’re supposed to write a book. And what did I do instead? I didn’t want to write a book; I made … documentaries for PBS about famous dancers. And so, I got very involved with that part of things.


And you felt passionate about a number of things, it sounds like.


Yeah; yeah. Well, I loved dancing. That’s definitely my first love. But every dancer needs at least two careers.


And you know that, going in.


Well, because you can’t dance beyond a certain age … adequately. I got to be a professor, I got to teach. And then, I went to business … eventually.


Because that’s what you were going to do years before. You know, it’s not a natural jump, it doesn’t sound like, to go from dancing to professor of dance, to an MBA at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.


At least in my day, it was more natural to go from a professional dance career, or to parallel with teaching, and to move into academia.


You were a professor, and then, you left California and came here. Why?


Because I married … Gregg Lizenbery, my husband, and he got offered the position to be director of dance at UH Mānoa. So, I had taken an early retirement, and then it just so happened he got offered that position. And then, we moved here. That was almost three decades ago. I did not look for my career with the Arts Alliance. But after we moved here, we realized that the cost of living was a little bit different than we were used to.




And so, I had thought: Oh, I’m retired, I’ll just … but that didn’t work. So, I needed to find a position. That’s what I did. So, for a while, I worked part-time for the Arts Alliance, and part-time for Early Childhood, and made them partners. And then, when I was into the position at Arts Alliance, I realized that I would hit a ceiling if I didn’t get a new skillset. Which is why I went to business school.


After receiving her executive master of business degree from the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawai‘i, Marilyn Cristofori felt she had all the tools necessary to grow the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance.


How do you get funding for the arts?


Oh … so many ways. One of the biggest, biggest … important things that people don’t always get. I find when I say to somebody “arts”, the shade comes down, and what they see is a painting on a wall in a museum.




Or they remember, because there used to be arts in the school curriculum, when they were in school as a child; they had a music class and they had a drawing class, and they had maybe sometimes a dance class, and they could be in their … high school production, theater production. And they remember those things, and they don’t know that it’s not there anymore.




So, you have to tell them … No, it’s not been there for quite a while.


Do public schools have virtually no arts classes? Is that what you’re saying?


Not exactly. It’s heading upwards, but mostly, one of the things the Arts Alliance does now, partners with the State arts agency to run what we call Artists in the Schools.




And that’s … funded by public monies for public schools.


But how do you argue the case when lawmakers or charitable organizations are saying: Look, I mean, we need to support the basics; reading, writing, and arithmetic, and computer technology. We can’t do art; that’s something you’ve gotta get on your own.


One of the biggest convincing arguments has to do with brain research. And they’ve done a lot of research to find out—one of my favorite studies was done, a longevity study. And they followed kids in high school who were either in like boy scouts or girl scouts, or some other community service organization, and where there school arts event in some way, whether it was after school or in school, or if they were in sports. And then, they followed them for … ten years, and how did they do ten years later, by which time they were usually married with some kids, and in a career of some kind. The ones that were happiest, most successful, had come from the arts. So, then they looked further back into that, and they examined what happens when you have those … experiences as a child.




That it shapes your brain differently. You have those connections, neuropathways. And if they aren’t formed by a certain age, usually puberty, they kind of wither and die on the vine.


It’s a key to happiness.


A key to happiness and success in life. So, that’s why back in ancient days now … arts were considered to part of the curriculum. So, the big deal is to get it during the formative years. So, right now, the way our Hawaii school system is built, by the time … children go into high school … there are art teachers, and music teachers, and band, and there are options, after school performing arts centers, all of which work very, very well. But a lot of the times, the kids that want to do those things didn’t have them when they were young, and so, they don’t have competitive skills to be involved. We teach about the arts and how the arts can enrich an experience and change your life.


How big is the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance? How many staffers?


Well, we’re all the way up to seven.


Seven staffers; and what’s your budget?


I took over in ’94.


’94; okay.


Yeah. So … it was thirty thousand. And I said: That won’t do. And then, we got up to … it’s varied, depending on what comes … from national, mostly. Not two million; just under two million. But that was a good jump. It needs to now double again. I feel really good about … we have a base that’s established in the education part. And there’s something to work with, and expand, and go to, and staying with education is essential.


You mentioned three careers, and it’s a very long work record. I don’t know what seventy-seven looks like, but to me, you don’t look like you’re seventy-seven years old.


I really am. And a half.


Do you feel it?


Starting to happen.


Marilyn Cristofori was the thirty-seventh recipient of the Alfred Preis Honors for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. In the past, we’ve featured other Preis Honorees on Long Story Short. We look back now at three recent recipients, and their contributions.


Sarah Richards was the 2015 Preis Honoree. As president of the Hawai‘i Theatre Center for a quarter of a century, she spearheaded an historic restoration, transforming the once dilapidated theater into a national award-winning performance center. A former college dean of students, Sarah Richards switched careers and actually succeeded the legendary architect Alfred Preis himself as chief of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.


You succeeded a man who has got a lot of aura around him in history.




Alfred Preis.




As head of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.




In 1980?


1980; m-hm.


What was he like? Did you know him before you took over?


I got to know him. He was a wonderful man. He was a Prussian architect. And so, he was very Prussian in character, in modus operandi. And he was the one who really initiated the Art in Public Places program, really, on a European model. He was a lovely man, with a great vision.


And when it was time for him to step down, the foundation looked for somebody who was a good administrator, and who could handle the strong voices in the arts community.




And they selected you to do that.


They did; they did.


What kind of strong voices?


Oh, well, the arts, as you know, because the State Foundation dealt with all the arts, whether it was visual arts, performing arts, literary arts. And so, there was a lot of variety of art groups we were dealing with. And of course, since we were the granting agency, we had a lot of very personal contacts with how much money grants were gonna be given to what groups.


Right; and projects are like babies.


Oh, yes; oh, yes.


You give money to one, and it’s my baby.


That’s right.


You know, it seems like a dream job to have all this money that you can give to wonderful art projects. But you probably are under criticism, no matter what you do.


Oh, yes. Giving away money is not just a piece of cake. You need to be clear on what your mission is, what you want to accomplish, and then also who makes decisions and who are qualified to make decisions. It wasn’t just sort of, Here’s some money. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or in the eye of the creator. But there are certain standards that the art community has, and that’s why you ask a group of knowledgeable people to review and make a judgment. We were proud we were number one in the nation in per capita state support. So, we did a fair amount of lobbying the State Legislature, and also getting money from the federal government.


You’re a very determined person, aren’t you?


I am determined.


You’re very goal-oriented.


I was very goal-oriented; yes, I was. Yes.


And you’re a missioned person.




Here’s 2016 Preis Honoree, Michael Titterton, former president and general manager of Hawaii Public Radio. Under his leadership, HPR expanded its broadcast reach across the State.


You got your master’s degree in public speaking and rhetoric.


Rhetoric; yes.


Why did you choose that?


Bear in mind, this is the very, very early 70s. It’s 1971, actually. And … coming into ’72, and I knew the U.S. was … I mean, this was … social mobility was here, and that’s what I was really after. I didn’t know it at that time, ‘cause I didn’t know the words. But social mobility. And meritocracy. You know, if you work hard, you can get places. And that’s really what everybody dreams about, when they dream about America, when they’re not from here. If I was going to understand this place, the quickest way to do it might be to study the media, because that seemed to be the bottleneck through which everything passed. And it was a very busy bottleneck at that point. Watergate, for example, Vietnam War, all the unrest on college campuses. Glorious time. And all of it was being fed through a media, which was under suspicion, as much of it is now. And so, I specialized in that.


And you’d already had experienced storytelling, because you had stories to tell along the way.


Well, everybody does. Yeah. Just because of the basic courses that I had to then take as part of being in the rhetoric program, I began to learn something about the mechanics of storytelling, if you like, the idea of a narrative arc. And I was very quickly drafted into teaching public speaking. So yeah, that was … I hadn’t really thought about it, actually, as being part of the whole storytelling business, but I seem to keep coming back to that. But that’s what it is, that’s what life is; it’s the stories we get to tell.


And sometimes, you do things without having a name for it; right? And then, you find out—


Oh, yes; most of the time, actually.


Your real self keeps popping up in the form of what you do.


Yes; that is true. That is true. But storytelling … I guess that’s a lot of the attraction that I have, or that radio has for me, because it’s a storytelling medium, and storytelling is … there’s very few human behaviors that that go back further than storytelling. It’s the quintessential social act. It’s a wonderful vehicle for healing, for illumination, for understanding, for being civilized.


And radio has that intimate quality.


Mm. It’s a one-to-one medium, and it’s frighteningly intimate. And the best radio is indistinguishable from pillow talk. It’s that intimate. And that’s what I love about it. I mean, what’s not to love?


Henry Akina, who retired from the Hawaii Opera Theater, was the 2014 Preis Honoree. Born and raised in Honolulu, Henry Akina spent much of his adult life directing opera in prestigious opera houses around the world. He even founded an opera company in Berlin, before moving back home to Hawai‘i. Under the guidance of its first ever Hawai‘i-born artistic director, the Hawaii Opera Theater became known for vibrant, creative productions, sometimes incorporating modern updates and collaborations with top international artists.


I love that approach, in a sense modernizing with Harajuku costumes.


You’re referring to The Mikado, then.


Yeah, Mikado.


Right; yeah.


And you feel free to do that. You don’t take the same opera and present it again. You add new touches. You’ve had Anne Namba’s designs, you’ve had Dean Shibuya change things up.


We have a resident designer at HOT, Peter Dean Beck, who’s resident in New York, but who’s nonetheless been seminal for design here.


How do audiences feel about those changes?


I’m not sure. You know, people say nice things to me, so I’m assuming that they’re honest about those things. But I think that the audiences in Hawaii respond well to good stories, and we try and make good stories wherever we are, from wherever we are.


Do you look for ways to take a classic story and localize it or modernize it?


Well, modernize it, perhaps. Localize it, not so much. But modernize it, perhaps. And in the case of Mikado, for instance, we knew that we couldn’t go backwards; we had to go forwards. And we had to look at the Japan of today, which was a lot different than the first time we did Mikado, which was ten years ago.


So, in ten years, it changed.


In ten years, life has changed. Yeah.


Did audiences know Harajuku girls? Because that was the play.


I think that we tried to let the audience know that we were doing the style. But you’ll have to ask Anne about the Harajuku things, because it was based on one of Anne’s trips to Japan. But I think that in contemporary life, we would be someplace else in ten years.


Right. I think she reimagined those characters as hip shoppers out for retail therapy.


She did; she did. And using cell phones every five minutes. Right. And using an iPad; things like that. So, whatever we’re using in ten years will be reflected in the staging.


You’ve already been announced, I believe, as the 2014 Preis Honoree in Arts, which is a tremendous honor, probably the largest honor we have in Hawai‘i in arts.


Well, I knew Alfred Preis, and I think that that’s … I was saying that, you know, people who know me well don’t expect this honor. And I didn’t expect it, either.


Why? Why didn’t you expect it? I wasn’t surprised to hear that you were named.


Well, I was, in a weird way. And I went to a board member, Jean Rolles, who had been honored herself. And she said: You will do it for this organization. And since then, I have decided that I will do it for the organization.


Congratulations to 2017 Preis Honoree Marilyn Cristofori of Hawai‘i Kai. And mahalo to all of the recipients of this award over the years for the work you’ve done to advance the arts and keep them vibrant in Hawai‘i. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.


The key thing, whatever you’re doing … is to support creativity in our society as a whole. Keep your passion about creativity, and moving forward with what is right … what is just, and what helps everybody. ‘Cause if we don’t preserve our creativity … the rest of it doesn’t matter.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie

Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with

Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit


I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to contribute so far to education. We’ve been able to create and move forward significantly with Arts First and get admirable, high quality arts back in the schools, particularly elementary schools. So, I’m really feeling good about that.



The Grades Are In

Our State senators and House representatives have wrapped up the 2017 legislative session. How did they do? Legislative leaders and journalists will grade this session – see if you agree with them on this INSIGHTS.


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.


Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights


Claire Hughes


Original air date: Tues., May 3, 2011


Raising Public Awareness for Hawaiian Health


This week on Long Story Short, Leslie Wilcox talks with Claire Ku’uleilani Hughes, who has spent more than three decades raising public awareness of Hawaiian health needs. Dr. Hughes became the first Native Hawaiian registered dietitian in 1959 and became the chief of the nutrition branch for the State Department of Health. She was recently named one of 2011’s Living Treasures of Hawaii by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii in recognition of her groundbreaking work in drawing attention to the benefits of returning to a more traditional Hawaiian diet and for her advocacy for health programs on behalf of the Hawaiian community.


Claire Hughes Audio


Download the Transcript




They don’t see the professional woman. They don’t know I have a doctorate. And so they treat you like they presume who you are. Discrimination is alive and well. And I can only tell you that there are many Hawaiians that have no means of being recognized. They’re just ordinary people. We will hear from people about their treatment when they go to get services somewhere.


She’s a strong woman. Push her and she’ll push back. Next on LONG STORY SHORT, a longtime champion for Native Hawaiian health care needs and advocate of the traditional Hawaiian diet…Dr. Claire Hughes.


Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. We’re about to talk with a Living Treasure, Dr. Claire Hughes, the State of Hawaii’s first registered dietician of Hawaiian ancestry, awarded the honor by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, in 2011. But Dr. Hughes didn’t always feel valued. In fact, there were many times she felt dismissed. That’s one of the reasons for her lifelong pursuit of education, which included earning a Ph.D. Her tremendous dedication and strong will have helped her advance Native Hawaiian health care initiatives, including research showing the benefits of a traditional Native Hawaiian diet. Claire Hughes’s “small kid time” was spent on a sugar plantation. Growing up in the late 1930s, she was among the thousands living in various plantation camp communities that were generally segregated along ethnic lines. At Kekaha Sugar on Kauai, Claire and her parents and two siblings lived in Haole Camp, with its superior acccommodations.


We were the only Hawaiian family that lived in Haole Camp. And Haole Camp is where all the managerial staff are. So my father started out as the engineer on that company plantation, and then he moved to personnel director. So we lived in Haole Camp. And at the time, I wasn’t really aware that I should be on edge, because I was the only Hawaiian. And it wasn’t too obvious to us, ‘cause there were a couple other graduates from Punahou School, which is the school my father graduated from. And so we were quite at home. We had friends that lived maybe a block and a half away that were Hawaiian, so we were not alienated totally from people who were Hawaiian. And I really had no idea that Haole Camp was that special until I was way into adulthood, and met a young lady who lived on a plantation. And when I disclosed that I lived in Haole Camp, she was so impressed.


What made Haole Camp different from the other camps?


Okay. Well, we had homes that were ranch style, one level. They were on about an acre of property. The back yard went back forever. My mother had uh, a banana tree farm, and pets back there, ducks and all kinds of things. But down in Japanese Camp, the homes were much closer. And things were not as pretty. We had gardeners that helped us do the yard work and then Filipino Camp was just about like Japanese Camp. But there were definite camp demarcations, and you could tell by the look of the camps, that Japanese Camp had a lot of shoji door type things. And so Portuguese Camp was where there was a big outside oven. And it was right next to the school, and on certain days, all of the Portuguese ladies brought their bread out and cooked it in this big oven. And as a kid, I can remember thinking, Ooh, the smells were so good.


So Haole Camp had bigger yards, free gardeners, and—




—what else?


Well, we had the latest of things. We had a washing machine, number one. And uh, everybody was outfitted with that. And then, we had a crank phone, party line. And so, there was just a box on the wall with a speaker that came out, and an earpiece you picked up. And when you wanted to call somebody, you picked up the receiver, and you cranked the phone. And our phone was one long, and two short. So you cranked one, two, three, if you wanted to call home. And then, if you wanted to call anybody else, my mother would say, Auntie Esther is three shorts and one long. So we go, one, two, three, and then crank one more time around.


When you say party line, who could listen in?


Anybody…everybody heard the ringing, and they know, Ooh, the Hughes are getting a phone call.


Even though you had these big lots, they could hear it?


Oh, yes. Oh, well, they pick up the receiver. And in those days, if you picked up on the ring, nobody knew, and you could listen to the whole thing if you wanted to. Children didn’t get to use the phone a lot. It was usually to deliver a message. There were many things we were not allowed to do, and we listened.


You did listen? Were your parents considered strict for the time?


Well, my mother was the strictest mother. And my father was kind of not so strict. And so, we knew we could work my dad for things, and that my mother was very difficult. I ran away from her one day. Because I didn’t want to do something, I ran away. I mean, physically ran. And I ran into the neighbor’s yard, and she called us. [CHUCKLE] All the kids over there were, Catch Claire. And they caught me, and I got a … whipping with a Panax hedge


With Panax hedge branch?


Yeah. We had to go pick it ourselves, and then bring it to her.


Did you try to find one that wouldn’t hurt?


Well, I always, lolo, thought the skinny ones were the better ones. So I’d try and get a small skinny one. Well, those were more pliable, and we were stung, yeah? When they hit you, go whack. So I learned very quickly, get the big brittle one, because it might break. [CHUCKLE]


And then she’ll stop?




How many whacks did you get?


Oh, it depended. That day, I think I got quite a few. Yeah, I did.


Dr. Claire Hughes’s family eventually moved to Oahu where she attended Kamehameha School. She says her career path involved a bit of serendipity. When her mother pressed about her career plan, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind, because she’d just read an article that mentioned it: dietitian. Once committed, she stuck to that off-the-top-of-her-head choice. Fighting homesickness and struggling though her courses at Oregon State University, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Science. On her return to the islands she couldn’t find a job in the dietetics field and settled on work in school food services. In the late 1960s she found a foothold in State government which became a career of more than 30 years at the Department of Health. She started out a Clinical Dietician and Public Health Nutritionist. While working and raising two children, Claire Hughes studied for and received her Master’s of Science in Public Health Nutrition. She saw education as an equalizer in an imperfect world.


And then later, much later in my career, I was representing Hawaiians and Hawaii sometimes in national meetings. And especially in the Hawaiian things, I noticed, because you’re with other ethnic groups, yeah, that I was being looked down upon often. Because I was Miss Hughes to them. I was not Doctor, right?

One time, I got very angry at this one man who was about six-foot-ten, and—


And what did you do?


And ooh, I was so hot. And I thought, I’d like to just punch him. And I thought better of it, ‘cause he was so much bigger than I. And he’s one of the ones that said, Oh, I don’t know what to call you. I said, What do you mean? And he looked at my table tent, and I turned it around and it said Claire Hughes. So I said, Well, you can call me Claire, you can call me Hughes, or you can call me Hey You. I don’t care. So whoo, he was really angry. And he had all these bars on his shoulder. So I just said, Okay, Claire, don’t get smart. You’re playing a game in a arena with people who have skills that surpass yours. So don’t get smart. Go get a degree, so they have to treat you like you’re an equal. And besides that, you will better represent your people. So I bit the bullet, and I went back to school. It took me eight years, because I worked fulltime, and went to school.


In the late 1980s Dr. Claire Hughes collaborated with medical Doctors Emmett Aluli and Kekuni Blaisdell on what was to be groundbreaking work, establishing the value of returning to a traditional Hawaiian diet to restore and maintain health.


They had done in 1985 a cardiovascular study, cardiovascular disease study. And they looked for risk factors, and they found many. And they found many untreated, and previously undiagnosed problems. So, both doctors were trying to devise some kind of a approach to reducing those risk factors. And they were looking for a crosscutting issue. What can we take that would lower the risk for hypertension high cholesterol, overweight, and all of these things. Well, what’s a crosscutting issue? Eating. [CHUCKLE] So they decided, diet. Okay, diet. We studied a lot of Kawena Pukui’s work with the Handys. They were two professors. Kawena Pukui worked with them to identify all of the plants, and then to describe how they were used, and describe the diets usually for children and for pregnant women, and for adults. And so, when I worked with both doctors, we decided that, Okay, this is what the diet was gonna be, we’re gonna include all of these foods. And on that diet, no one was allowed to lose weight. Okay.


Why is that?


They wanted any blood change, blood fat and blood sugar, and all of those changes, they didn’t want it to come from the body losing weight and getting rid of those things.


I see.


They wanted to maintain the body weight, so any changes in the blood would show uh, what was being changed. Which we were, what we were changing was the food that was going in. So with the change in the food, would that be enough to lower blood um, cholesterol. That was the main emphasis. And so anyway, we ran this diet program. One week was adjusting, and then we went to a straight-on Hawaiian food only and traditional Hawaiian food. Didn’t look anything like a luau table looks like today.


No squid luau?


No squid. [CHUCKLE] Well, maybe squid luau, but, no cake—


And no lots of sugar—




—put into the—



—squid luau.


Yeah. Yeah; nothing like that. So it was just plain Hawaiian food. And there was not enough food on that island. So quite often, I’d get a call early in the morning. Okay, Claire, we need so much taro, we need so much poi, can you get it for us? So I’d have to call around downtown and find out what poi factory would be able to give me these items, and then I would run it on my lunch hour, I’d run it down to the airport, and they’d throw it on the plane toMolokai. So the diet ran four weeks, I believe it was. And then, the same people went on the the new regime, which was to go back to what they were eating originally. So all the high saturated fat, all the salt, all the awful things that we had told them were awful. And their blood picture changed. And it frightened them. And so, I would never be part of that again, uh, test on a human test, where you take away things and show people how healthy they’re getting, and then you put back the harmful things and let them see how sick they are. So anyway, what we did find out, that just changing to poi and taro, and sweet potato, and banana, and all the greens, Emmet Aluli allowed absolutely no Western food. So with all of that, we found that their blood sugar dropped, their cholesterol dropped significantly. There were fewer allergies. I mean, there were just a whole array of improvements that the people felt.


Now, what is the magic of poi? Why is that such a great food?


Well, for Hawaiians, of course, it is representing the god Kane, the taro plant. And he is the most primal force that we have in our belief system. That has a spiritual essence that surpasses any other food. We found out with the University studies that were done in the 40s, they found out that it is one of the easiest foods for babies to digest. There are B vitamins in it. There’s a little bit of calcium in it, more than potatoes have. And because Hawaiians ate such a large amount of poi, it actually amounted to something. The calcium amounted to something. If you ate the leaves of the taro, the luau, you’d have plenty calcium. Plenty iron. There’s a little bit of iron in the,taro corm as well. So it’s chock full of all kinds of minerals, as the—calcium and iron being two.


And then, of course, it’s starchy, so you have a good source of calories for the day.


When you’ve talked about doing things on behalf of native Hawaiians to study diet, you’ve talked about rushing to do it during your lunch hour, or after hours. Is there a reason for that?


Yeah. There was no support for my doing it on company time.


And you worked for the State Health Department.


Yeah. Yeah, yeah.


So you represented all people in the State.




Health wise.




Why wasn’t there support?


Well, it was the particular decision of my boss. So I had to do this when the calls came in from Molokai, they had to be very short. No talking and getting into long, drawn out conversations. That was frowned upon. And then, I would have to make the arrangements very surreptitiously. Is that the word? And make the call to the poi company. And I had one poi company who thought, surely, I was Chinese, and so he’d allow me to have poi. He was Chinese, old Chinese man. And I’d go and ask him if had … You got taro? No. No. And he’d look at me, and I’d have this forlorn—forlorn look on my face, and he’d say, Wait. [CHUCKLE] And then he’d go behind, and he’d get what I wanted and bring it to me. Here. [CHUCKLE] So I just let him think I was Chinese. My mother taught me that long ago. People think you’re something, just say yes. And act nice. [CHUCKLE] And so, I would have to do all of that work on my own time. So lunch, I often had no lunch.


And yet, this is what you’re known for.






Now. Yes.


On the Molokai diet study we called it Hooke ai. Dr. Aluli called Dr. Jack Lewin called—


Department of Health Director.


Yes. And he said to Jack Lewin, We need Claire. And so, Jack Lewin came down and told his boss, Claire is needed. So they had to find money to send me over there, to be part of this. ‘Cause that was what the Department was supposed to be doing, supporting doctors in the community. So that’s how I got to do that.


So you got to be legit on your—




—native Hawaiian diet.


Yeah, and that, Jack Lewin was not too long ago. So that’s in the—


Took a while for this …




—way of thinking—




—to come back.


Yeah. To this, to give support. Yeah.


What do you think people should know, but don’t know, about a native Hawaiian diet?


Our calculations were seventy-five to seventy-eight percent plant food. So if you picture a clock, from the twelve all the way around to ten, on your plate would be full of sweet potato, taro, poi, all the greens in the world, limu, yams, whatever. And we had a few fruit, not many. And many were forbidden to women, like bananas, we couldn’t eat, women couldn’t eat. So, three quarters of your plate would be full of vegetables and plant food. The twelve percent would be for protein. And with Hawaiian diet, it’s fish. And everybody says, Well, there’s pork. Well, pork was a really ritualistic food. I mean, it was saved for the big celebration, it was a ritual food. It was not really eaten every day.


And then the last little bit would be fat. Because the fat was not added. You didn’t put gravy, you didn’t put butter, you didn’t put oil, ‘cause there was no such thing.


So where did the fat come from?


From the food itself. From inside the fish, inside the chicken. There was also chicken, and they ate birds too, and that’s why Hawaiians were not fat.


The first Europeans described them as tall, lean, muscular, very agile, and very athletic. Yeah. We were taller than Captain Cook, who was about five-foot-two, or three.




He was a squirt.




They were very impressed with the stature of Hawaiians.


Outside of her full-time job with the Department of Health, Dr. Claire Hughes helped secure federal funding for culturally-based health and nutrition programs. Her drive and dedication led to a comprehensive report on Hawaiian health care concerns. Dr. Hughes was selected to be a part of a panel called upon to testify before the U.S. Senate. The end-result was the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act of 1988.


You’re a petite woman, but you strike me as somebody who—


I’m formidable.


—I wouldn’t want go—




—against you.


Don’t get me angry. All my friends know, when I am angry, I am a formidable opponent.


What gets you angry?


Oh, I think most of the time, it is discrimination. Yeah. I don’t like that.




Well, I will fight for others. But I don’t like it when it happens to me, either. And in my old age, I will let people know that I am not at all pleased. If somebody gives me an attitude that—




—I know is trying—is dismissive because of who I am, what they think who I am, I’ll let ‘em have it right between the eyeballs.




Well, I went into a doctor’s office one day, and apparently, I didn’t have an appointment. But I had to stop in downstairs and it was a new situation, and I got my chart, which was an irritant for me. And then I went into the doctor’s office, and this very officious woman came up and she says, You have an appointment with the doctor? Who gave you that appointment? And I said, I don’t know. So she turned to one girl, she said, Did you give her this appointment? And the girl said, No. And then she went to the other. Did you give her this appointment? She said, No. And so, I could see that the girls were kind of frightened of her. So she goes, Who gave you this appointment? I said, I don’t know. It was on the phone. Some officious woman gave me an appointment. And she goes [GASPS]. [CHUCKLE] So she knew I was quite angry. And then she didn’t want to give me my chart back. So I said, Give me my chart, please. And she said, No, this is my chart. I said, Excuse me, who handed you that chart? And she said, You did. I said, Then hand it back to me, I want it now. She gave it back to me. And I walked out, and I took my chart back home, and I threw it away. Never went back there.


Wow. Why would people be dismissive of you?


Well, I don’t know. I can only presume. Okay? ‘Cause my appearance is a dead giveaway. Okay, who I am. And that’s what they see of me, and they treat me like that.


You’re saying you’re native Hawaiian?




Even in this day and age?




And you’re a professional woman.


They don’t see the professional woman. They don’t know I have a doctorate. And so they treat you like they presume who you are. Now, I’m known, so when I go into certain circles, they’re a little bit nicer. Some of them are very much nicer to me.


But …


Discrimination ….


—people are …


Discrimination is alive and well. And I can only tell you that there are many Hawaiians that have no means of being recognized. They’re just ordinary people, which I was apparently to this woman, and they don’t like it, and we hear that often. We will hear from people about their treatment when they go to get services somewhere. And it always is the same, that I felt.


Where does it come from?


I don’t know, people do that because they want to feel more powerful, I guess. I have no clue.




I have no clue. I think they’re annoyed maybe, by certain things Hawaiians want to do, or are doing. I followed Kekuni Blaisdell once, talking to some professionals about the Hawaiian diet. And he said, Well, Hawaiians believe that their foods represent the gods, the four primary gods. And so he said, When we eat our foods—he’s so cute. When we eat our foods, we become godlike, and—


I can see him—




—saying that.


Isn’t he cute? And so, I saw the look on everybody’s faces, you know, in the front row. There was like—there were—revulsion on some cases. So I—I loved it, because it was my turn next.


And I said, You know, um … I don’t know what you were thinking, but by faith, I’m an Episcopalian. And I said, When I go to the communion rail, I’m offered a wafer. And it is called the … and I had to respond, the body of Christ. And I said, Then the minister says, Take and eat it. Ooh, eat it? And I said, And then a chalice of wine is passed, and they tell me this is the blood of Christ. Blood of Christ? Take and I made them say, drink it. I said, [GASP] How heathen. I said, This is the same thing, exactly. And I think it’s a wonderful thing that people picture the foods that they’re eating as strength-giving representations of the gods. I think it’s a beautiful thing. And how wonderful that you can take this in three times a day. Take in this strength, to make you more godlike. And I think it’s a wonderful thing. Puts you very close to your gods.


Dr. Claire Hughes is a Living Treasure honoree—she’s polished, with a bit of an edge. She has fought for respect as a Hawaiian and as a professional in her field. She credits her colleagues and teachers with providing support and direction in her career. In retirement, Dr. Hughes continues to advocate for healthful lifestyles in her column for the OHA publication, Ka Wai Ola. Mahalo piha, Dr. Claire Hughes, for sharing your “Long Story Short,” and thank YOU for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.


And quite often, when they ask me for my CV, I’ll send it to people, and they go right down the list of what degrees I have. You can just see the kids get just so bored, like, Okay … I said, What does that mean? So I said, It means that you could learn your entire life long. You don’t have to stop. You can keep on going, and keep on going, as long as you want to. You can always learn. So I thought, Oh, good one. The ancestors sent me that one I think.