Kumu Hina



Over the course of a momentous year, Kumu Hina, a native Hawaiian mahu (transgender) teacher, inspires a tomboyish young girl to claim her place as leader of an all-male hula troupe, as Kumu Hina herself searches for love and a fulfilling romantic relationship with an unpredictable young Tongan man.








Follow three low-income teens in Brooklyn who take it upon themselves to make a difference by becoming peer college counselors in their schools. They are high school seniors who are fighting to defy the odds not only for themselves but for every single one of their classmates, becoming the very resource they don’t have themselves.



Episode # 907 – 2017/2018 Fall Semester Compilation


This special compilation show features some of the top stories from the Fall Semester of the 2017/2018 school year. In all of the selected stories, HIKI NŌ students explore the truth about the people they are featuring.


Students from Moanalua High School in the Salt Lake district of O‘ahu profile Perry “Mooch” Fernandez, a surf instructor headquartered at the “Bowls” break near Ala Moana Beach Park. Halfway through the story, it is revealed that “Mooch”, having separated from his wife, lives out of his van. He not only survives, he thrives – through exchanges of kindnesses with the close-knit community of surfers who consider him a fixture, a mentor, and the center of their lives at “Bowls.”


–Students from Maui High School in Kahului tell the story of a Maui Waena Intermediate School student who does not let his disability, caused by a genetic spinal condition, hold him back from pursuing sports, music and all the joys of life.


–Students from Kapa‘a Middle School on Kaua‘i tell the story of a woman who discovered her truth through her life-long commitment to dance.


–Students from Kamehameha Schools Maui Middle tell the story of wheelchair-bound school counselor who, after his debilitating diving accident, found his truth by connecting to a Higher Power.


–Students from Wai‘anae High School in West O‘ahu tell the story of a high school student who finds his truth in his aspiration to carry on his parent’s pig farming business.


–Students from Kapa‘a High School on Kaua‘i discover the truth of how a Vietnam War veteran copes with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


–Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i show how a video about a special-needs elementary school student produced by a classmate led to a greater understanding and acceptance by the student’s peers.


–Students from Kaua‘i High School in Lihu‘e express their concerns about their generation’s over-reliance on screens to see and experience the world around them.


This special compilation show is hosted by Brooke Kanna and Haven Luper-Jasso, two HIKI NŌ students from Kaua‘i High School who were among the students that participated in PBS Hawai‘i’s live town hall special KĀKOU: Have You Fact-checked Your Truth?


This program encores Saturday, Sept. 15, at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Sept. 16, at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website,


Episode #903 – Young Pig Farmer



Students from Wai‘anae High School in West O‘ahu tell the story of Matthew Reyes Jr., an enterprising young pig farmer who helps his parent run Reyes’ Hog Farm in Ma‘ili. Matthew is so dedicated to his family’s business that he sacrifices any semblance of a social life. All of his waking hours are taken up by attending high school and working on the pig farm. Through this dedication, he has developed an in- depth knowledge of the pig farming business and a great sense of pride in his profession. He does want to study business once he gets to college because he feels it will give him an edge in this very competitive industry.



–Students from Waīakea High School in the Hilo district of Hawai‘i Island introduce us to a high school track star who, through the friendship and camaraderie she developed with her teammates and coaches, learned to love a sport she once dreaded.


–Students from Kalama Intermediate School in Makawao, Maui, feature a Hawaiian Immersion teacher who connects to her culture by painting words that express its values.


–Students from ‘Ilima Intermediate School in ‘Ewa, O‘ahu, tell the story of a young French horn player who learns about herself in the process of learning the music.


–Students from Kamehameha Schools Maui Middle introduce us to a wheelchair-bound school counselor who sees challenges not as obstacles, but as a way to grow.


–Students from Kaua‘i High School in Līhu‘e tell the story of young Thai immigrants who learn the value of hard work in Hawai‘i’s fast food industry.


–Students from Pacific Buddhist Academy present a primer on the ancient Japanese martial art of kendo.


This program encores Saturday, Aug. 18, at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Aug. 19, at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website,



Seven Songs for a Long Life


Visit Strathcarron, a Scottish hospice center where patients face pain, uncertainty and the possibility of life’s end with song and humor. Hear tunes belted out by patients and caregivers alike between reflections on life, love and mortality.


Victor Marx


As a young boy growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, Victor Marx was beaten, electrocuted, and tortured by his stepfather. By the time he graduated from high school, he was “using drugs, fighting and stealing.” It took the discipline of the United States Marine Corps and faith in God to help him recover from his traumatic childhood. Today, Victor Marx dedicates himself to helping troubled and abused youth and traumatized war veterans.


Victor Marx Audio


Download the Transcript




You know, most people who are victimized as a young kid will feel an X on them, ‘cause it doesn’t stop. It’s typically not an incident. And for me, the instability of fourteen schools, seventeen different homes, all the different stepfathers coming in. You know, one’s a murdered, one was in prison. I mean, just the craziness of it, you believe, that becomes normal as a kid. Again, you can’t process as right. But for me, I will say this. I never wanted to give up, because I just kept thinking, When I’m older, when I’m older, I’m gonna have a good life.


Victor Marx survived the upheaval and abuse he suffered during his youth, growing up to become an excellent shooter in the U.S. Marine Corps, a martial arts master, and a weapons instructor. Now, he uses his lethal skills to heal troubled youth. Victor Marx, 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. Victor Marx is known for many things, including his seventh-degree black belt in Keichu-do karate and Jiu-jitsu, fourth-degree black belt in weapons, and a record time in fastest gun disarm. A resident of California, and the founder and president of All Things Possible Ministries, the Louisiana-born Marx once operated a martial arts business in Honolulu at the Ward Warehouse. At the time of our conversation in 2015, Marx travels around the world, offering hope to young people who are suffering from abuse. Before he was able to become an inspiration to others, though, he had to first recover from the severe trauma of his own childhood. In a way, it started even before he was born, in Lafayette, Louisiana.


I was born in the 60s, and I had three siblings already. My mother, who was young, she had her first child at sixteen. Their marriage didn’t make it, and they were divorced when I was born. My father actually became a drug dealer and a pimp. And the night that I was conceived, he actually put a gun to her head. Didn’t claim me when she was pregnant. He actually told her, That ain’t mine. Didn’t call me a kid; he said, That ain’t mine. Because she had gotten into other relationships already. And the next man she married we call Mr. K in the book. You know, this wasn’t like some drug dealer on a street corner. This was an educated man who had served in the military, who had been in counterintelligence.


So, he seemed like a respectable man.


Correct. And at the time, he actually even owned a bookstore, a college bookstore. Hemmingway was one of his favorite reads. And you know, my mother—I think she was twenty-two at the time, four children. You know, she’s thinking, Ah, okay. But something intuitively knew he was kinda messed up.


He was horrifying. He would torture you.


Yes. Yeah. Yeah; you know, there was perversion, but there was also intentional, what the experts would say, torture. You know, being electrocuted, being dunked in a tub until I would pass out. I remember waking up on the cold bathroom floor to him breathing into my mouth. And I’m sputtering. And he just said, Boy, don’t ever forget I’m the one that gives you life. And those are what I call lies based on reality. And until you really come to exchange those out for what the truth is, a person will remain really hamstrung by what’s happened in his childhood, ‘cause that’s implanted into you, becomes part of your fabric. ‘Cause as kid, all you can process is … I wasn’t breathing, I am now, he was the one dunking me in the tub, holding me in. I guess he does give me life. Actually, I thought he was my biological dad. I wasn’t told, you know. But I want to share this publicly. He wanted to seal to what he had done to me. And the way of protecting themselves, abusers will always use fear. Fear of death, or whatnot. And he actually had brought me to a house one night out in the country, early morning. It was a little wooden house, and there was single light in it. There was another guy, and there was a hole in the floor. It was wooden floor. And then a hole had been dug. And I thought at that point, This is when I’m gonna die. And you know, fear is a different thing. When you’ve experienced terror for a while, your mind associates. There’s no fight left in you. You just yield. And for him, he was having a conversation with man. And I remember hearing the guy say, I don’t want to do this anymore. And my stepfather was a very good communicator. He made him relax. He said, Oh, I understand. When the guy relaxed, he hit him. He cracked him and knocked him unconscious. And he was a fighter. But when he drops, he handcuffs him and he drags him up to this hole, pulls him up on his knees, handcuffed. And he pulls out a pistol, his pistol. He said, Come here, boy. And then, he put the gun in my hand said, You’re gonna shoot this man. And he raised my hand. And the guy is semi-conscious, and he sees what’s going on. Because I think he thought this was what was gonna happen to me, and now it’s happening to him. And you know, I have the pistol to the back of his head, and I remember trying to pull the trigger, and I couldn’t. And I don’t know if it was the pounds per square inch. You know, I was seven. But I’m squeezing, and I can’t pull it. And I feel his hand come over and grab my wrist, and then his right hand comes around and he slips his finger over mine, and he presses until the revolver goes off. When it fired, it hit the guy in the back of his head, and it killed him. And then, you know, he pushed his body into the hole. And then he told me, Boy, you know, this is your first kill.




And he buried him, and he took that pistol and wrapped it in a handkerchief. And he said, If you ever tell anyone what I’ve done to you, it doesn’t matter how old you get, he said, I’ll tell the police that you killed this man, and I have the pistol with your fingerprint on it. And he said, They’ll electrocute you. And I knew what electrocution was, ‘cause he’d done it a few times. And so, it sealed and instilled in me a fear where I never talked about that ‘til I was an adult.


What a horrible thing. And your mother didn’t know this, any of this stuff was happening?


She did not know.


Victor Marx acknowledges he can’t substantiate this account. He said he as a kid did not know the location, the body was never found, and the crime was not reported. Marx’s mother finally escaped from her marriage to Mr. K, but she continued to marry men who were abusive to her children. By the time he finished high school, Victor Marx had already been in trouble with the law. Rather than go to jail, he made a decision that took his life in an entirely new direction.


You didn’t join the Marines ‘cause you wanted to.


Well, yeah; it was … again, at that point in my life, I’d just graduated high school. Hallelujah. But I was spiraling, using drugs, fighting, and stealing. And again, for me, stealing was my way to say, This world owes me, and they’re gonna start paying me back. And every opportunity that I could take advantage, I would. But I got caught, and I was looking at being sentenced because of my stealing and getting in trouble. So, my best option at that point was to join the United States Marine Corps. And I did, and that’s what really kept me from going to jail, ‘cause they would have prosecuted me. And the Corps was a very good thing for me, ‘cause, one, it was structured, disciplined, and it showed me that life isn’t about being fair. So just, you know, suck it up, buttercup, and time to do the deal. And it worked for me tremendously. And I really like the Marine Corps. Never loved it, but I liked it. So much, I put ink on my shoulder. And you know what? They were able to teach me skillsets I didn’t have before, which gave me a level of confidence, including starting to train in the martial arts, shooting. You know, I hunted as a little kid, but when they taught me how to put ten rounds into a target of a man from five hundred and forty-six yards without a scope—




–that gave me a skillset that, you know, felt good. And again, there was there, ‘cause you know, I’m training, martial arts, karate, jujitsu, kempo, judo, anything I could, boxing. ‘Cause I said, If I can’t beat a man this way, I’ll beat him this way, ‘cause I never want to get hurt again. So, that was kinda my driver.


And you did well. But you didn’t want to stay in; you left after, what, three years?


Yeah; I did one term of enlistment. And I had actually got in trouble while I was in, which I was facing, you know, brig time. Again, there was a pattern. ‘Cause you can only do things for so long, but your character and your baby’s gonna tell on you. And I was in trouble, was facing some stuff. And actually, this was when my biological dad came back into my life, which is really the redemptive aspect of this whole deal. You know, really, an absentee father all my life. At that point, I’m twenty. But really engaged me, apologized for not being a father. Which blew me away. He wanted to call me son in a letter, which made me mad, ‘cause I thought, You don’t have a right to call me son. But he told me had a spiritual encounter that really changed his life, and it’s not about perfection, but the direction of his life had changed. So much so that he said, Why don’t you come visit me?   And the Marine Corps actually let me go visit him, ‘cause they knew the circumstances, you know, I’d never known him. And they just said, You come back to face your court martial. I said, Okay. I said, I’ll be back. And I went, and it was interesting getting to really spend time with him in depth.


This was the pimp. This was the guy who held a gun to your mother’s head.


Yeah; yeah.


The guy who wouldn’t claim you.


Yeah; by all means, he was a loser. He was a loser as a father, and had justified his own absentee. And so here he is; his life, I can tell is different. And okay, not perfect, but different. He cared about me, and I knew he wanted to make a new start. So, I gave him an opportunity, and it was really through seeing his faith of a life change that, you know, really impacted me so much that I had a life change through faith. And you know, I told him; I said, Well, I’m going back to face court martial. What should I do? And I had developed an elaborate lie—it was a pretty good lie, to try to get me out of it. Which it wouldn’t have, but your mind thinks it will. I’ll never forget; he looked at me and he said, Son … learn from me. Just tell the truth. ‘Cause a lie, you gotta keep it going. And I was like, Okay. I went back, and I actually told them the truth. You know, I didn’t fight it; I said, I’m guilty. You know, I told them; I said, I was gonna lie. You know, I said, but here’s the truth. I did this, this, and I deserve my punishment. And they were actually so taken back, because my nickname, my handle on the Marine Corps was Thumper.


‘Cause you were a hothead?


I was a hothead. I tell people it was because I like the little Bambi bunny.




You know, in the movie, the little bunny, Thumper. But it’s because I liked to thump people back then. And so, they were all shocked, and I’ll never forget the commanding officer who presided over it, he said, Well, this is a shock. And he goes, You are gonna pay the price for the crime, you’re breaking the code of military justice. He said, But I’m gonna suspend the sentence; you won’t have to do brig time, but I’m keeping you to your barracks. Which was unbelievable. And it really was the first time in my life, first time, that I thought, Telling the truth is a better way to go.


And was your dad for real? Had he really had a conversion?


He did.


He changed?


He did. Which, it stuck all the years until his passing. You know, twenty-something years. And again, I’m grateful that coming to faith or you know, finding a higher power, it’s not about perfection. But the direction of your life changes. And you know what? It not only worked for him, it worked for me.


Victor Marx’s acceptance of his father didn’t turn his life around immediately. He would still have to come to terms with the trauma of his childhood before he could start to put it behind him. And his newfound faith would play an important role in his healing.


I can see you saying, Why did God allow all that to happen to me? Why couldn’t He have kept me from some of it and distribute it equally?


Right. You know what? That is such a great question, and one that anybody who’s suffered, it’s an honest question.


Right. It’s the old, Why me?, question.




A variation of.


Right. And for me, it came in a dramatic form where, you know … because you know, I’d been to church as kid, and those things. You know, Jesus loves all the little children of the world. And I’m like, Yeah. No, I believed that, ‘cause He’s good, so He loves all the kids, just not me. That’s how you start to process it as a kid, because bad things happen. And I’ll never forget when it changed for me. And it was actually a counseling appointment, as a result of it. This old country boy counselor, boot-wearing Texas guy. And he was just like, Hey. But he had all kinda degrees on his wall, so he knew what he was doing. He just said, Well, you know, where was God in all this? If He’s so loving, and He can stop evil, why did He allow it to happen to you? He said, Why don’t you ask Him? And I remember telling him, You need to shut up. That you need to just stand down; that’s not a question I need to ask God. And he’s like, Why not? Because … and this is real, and it’s deep, but people who’ve been … people who over a lifetime or a number of years have experienced disappointment and failure again, and again, and again, and you assign it to God, you know, Why don’t you give me a better break, why don’t you give me better parents, I mean, I’m stuck in hell, or whatever it is … to ask God that question, for me, I’d rather have a false hope than not have … the right answer, and have my hope dashed forever. And people in their heart know if they’re living off of false hope. Well, He’s—oh, and it’s okay. But the reality is in your heart; you’re just too scared.


Well, I can also see you having a really difficult time with this, because if God is your Heavenly Father … you know, the fatherhood record was really bad on this Earth.


Exactly. And it is hard not to assign that. I remember when someone first told me, Oh, God is your Heavenly Father. It was so offensive to me. I thought … uh, negative. You’re kidding me? But in my mind, I thought, Well, He must be some sadistic, crazy, unloving God. Maybe somebody else. You know, I’m the stepchild. You know, I’m getting the leftovers. But what changed my life and the lie that I believed is, I finally asked God that question.


What were the circumstances of asking Him?


I was in a counseling appointment, and I just said, God, where were you? You know, Jesus, if you’re so loving and you love the kids, what about me? Why did you allow it to happen to me? I’ll never forget, I remember my eyes were closed, and I saw the room, a room where a lot of abuse had happened. And I saw it so clearly, and I saw my stepfather, had a beer in his hand, he had a belt wrapped around his hand. He was getting ready to, you know, beat me with it. He had me lay down on the bed in my underwear; he would just—you know. And I saw everything so clearly. And then, I saw what I knew to be an image of Christ, a spiritual being appearing. And I thought, Okay, great; now turn and touch my stepfather’s heart and blow it out, kill him right now. That’s what I wanted, remembering this. But it would have been the truth. It would have been my own fantasy. The reality of what really happened to me was, right before he got ready to hit me, my stepfather is rearing back, I’m grabbing the sheets. ‘Cause the way he would hit you, he would hit you, bam [SLAP], and then he would wait. He’d wait ‘til all your little muscles relaxed from being tense in anticipation, you relax, and boom [SLAP], he’d hit you again. And he’d do it slow, until you gave up, ‘til there was no more fight in you. And right before he hit me, this image of Christ turned, kneeled, and placed his body on top of mine and sunk into mine so that He would take the greatest part of the beating for me, to allow me to survive. And I knew, if that’s a God who loves me and will share my suffering, that’s a God I can trust. I think God’s heart breaks for all the injustices that happen, all the evil. That’s not what He wants; it’s never what He’s assigning to children. You know, it’s the choice of evil people making horrible choices.


Victor Marx turned his skill in martial arts into a business, and he started teaching karate. He met Aileen, another believer, and a nationally recognized fitness instructor. She was at the leading edge of fitness kickboxing. And soon, they began working together, opening their own gym after they were married. An invitation from a youth pastor in Honolulu to teach a Christian karate school brought Marx and his growing family to the islands. Despite all the good things happening in his life, he still could not shake the horrors of his past.


I like that martial arts, good martial arts, does have a way to teach a person a code of honor, and understand the impact you can make on someone. So, I’ve used it for good. When we had our martial arts center here underneath, you know, the Spaghetti Factory at the Ward Warehouse as one of our locations, we had so many people come in to fight me because I’m this Haole from the mainland, and you know, what are you doing here? And, you know, some things got physical, which changed some people’s minds or hurt some people’s feelings, because they tried to get physical. But I made more friends. You know, I was able to use my words, not necessarily my fists or chokes, or cracking somebody. But it gives you a level of confidence that in a situation. You know, I’m looking at young guy who’s like, Oh, you’re so good. I’m thinking, Oh, my gosh.


You sound like you speak Pidgin. You’ve got that inflection.


Hey, we were here long enough. My children were raised here, my first three. When we went back to the mainland, I’ll never forget; my son’s out playing in the yard. He comes back, he’s playing with kids there. He goes, Dad; he said, there’s so many White kids here.


I said, Come here. I said, You are white. And he’s like, Oh, oh! So, you know, he got his Pidgin, still talks Pidgin. So, I love the islands. I have a little home here. We consider this home. We spent so many years here, through good and bad times.


How many years here?


We were here ’95 to ’01.


And you say some of them weren’t good years?


No. I mean, I had challenges emotionally that people didn’t know about.


Ah …


Right? It was part of my healing. You know, in martial arts, in many ways, I’ve reached the pinnacle. At least for myself. Here in Hawaii, huge student enrollment, you know, large staff. I mean, we were making an impact. ‘Cause after we got over the few things, people realized, Oh, you care about our keiki. And then, training adults. Yeah. And you know, we brought the fitness kickboxing here; it was just great. It was a great time. But I was having emotional problems hidden, and I would never tell anybody. Nobody knew that I was at Queen’s in an observation room, because I had horrible thoughts about hurting myself, or other people. You know. But I chose in that moment to go, I’m so unstable at this moment. You know. We lived at the top of Tantalus, you know, and man, I was having bad thoughts about, Oh, I have a good insurance policy, and I’m causing so much pain for my wife, you know, through my behavior, and all this. I’m like, you know, Maybe I should just end it, let her take the money and go. And I tell people, when someone wants to commit suicide, it’s not always just a rash deal. Sometimes it seems like a logical answer. I tell folks, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t give up; get help. And I did, particularly that night by driving down, checking myself into Queen’s, and I’m glad I did.


So, you’re saying that when you accepted God, accepted Jesus into your life, it wasn’t like it took away all your pain and problems.


No. It took away my past sin, because that’s what He promises, to lift the burden; that’s what the scriptures say. But it didn’t take away the challenges I would have because of my past. But the greatest thing is, He promised me He would redeem it. And I love redemption. You know, redemption is when somebody drinks a soda, throws the can side of the road, someone else comes by and says, Eh, this trash to you, but it’s money to me. And that’s what God did for me; He picked me up. He said, Other people consider you trash; I’ll redeem your life, watch what I do. And again, sometimes the greatest faith is just never giving up.


Do you have flashbacks?


Seldom anymore, because of the counseling and therapy I’ve gone through. But I still feel deeply. And what I’m glad about now is, my suffering has been turned. That purpose; I’ve learned the purpose. There is a purpose in the pain, is to help others who are still suffering, you give them hope. And that’s what I feel like I’m called to do.


Through their All Things Possible Ministries, Victor and Aileen Marx have dedicated themselves to advocating for youth who are troubled and abused. They help people, including war veterans who’ve suffered trauma, and they travel around the world to facilitate the rescue of children who’ve been abducted and trafficked. Mahalo to Victor Marx, now of Marietta, California, for sharing your stories 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 To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store, or visit


My story is one of redemption. ‘Cause a lot of people experience abuse and injustice in their life, but I’m pretty happy to share. That’s why we do it so much. And actually, I didn’t do it ‘til later in life. I was in my late thirties before I started telling my story.


Is that because you didn’t want everyone to know the gory details?


Yes. You know, I stayed away from it because, really, in a lot of ways, I hadn’t healed from some of the trauma of the past. So, you use coping mechanisms, whether it’s excelling at a certain thing or staying away from other things so you don’t get triggered, or never wanting to revisit any of that. I kinda used all of ‘em in that way to protect myself. But when I took time and really trusted that the process of going through healing and counseling would make the greater difference in my life, it’s turned out really good, not only for me, but helping others.




Thomas Kaulukukui Jr.


Part 1


Original air date: Tues., Feb. 8, 2011



Part 2


A Legacy of Public Service


Thomas Kaulukukui Jr.’s dedication to public service was inspired by the examples set by his parents, aunts and uncles who were teachers, counselors and coaches in the community. His father, Thomas Senior, was an educator, United States Marshal and an Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee. He was also a standout college athlete and the University of Hawaii’s first All-American football player. As an athletic coach he left an indelible mark on hundreds of young men and was a prime motivating force behind his own son’s positive approach towards tackling the challenges that life had to offer.


The values imparted helped shape Tom’s character and served him well in the jungles of Vietnam, in the classroom and football field, in the role of Circuit Court Judge, and now as the managing trustee of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust which assists orphaned and destitute children of Hawaiian ancestry.


Thomas Kaulukukui Jr., Legacy of Public Service Audio


Download: Thomas Kaulukukui Jr., Legacy of Public Service Transcript


Original air date: Tues., Nov. 2, 2010


On Leadership


Thomas Kaulukukui Jr., On Leadership Audio


Download: Thomas Kaulukukui Jr., On Leadership Transcript




Well, I learned that people are all alike. They expect from their leadership a high level of character, they expect competency. And when things get really tough, they want to look at the leader and understand that the leader is gonna do their best to pull them through the really difficult times.


Former State Judge and managing trustee of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, Thomas Kaulukukui Jr., and a life of community leadership; 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. Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. grew up in the Honolulu valley of Kuliouou as the son of a Hawaii legend. Despite the father’s small stature and slight limp, he became Hawaii’s first all American college football player. He was a humble man, a fine coach, and a State and Federal public official who quietly brought people together. What do you do when you live in the shadow of a great man? What Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. did was, learn from him. And now, this proud son looks back on his own long and dedicated service in the combat zones of Vietnam, in the classroom, on the football field, in the courtroom, and as a leader of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, which assists orphaned and destitute children of Hawaiian ancestry. All along the way, he has embraced the values he learned at home, from his mother, and from his father, who was known and respected almost everywhere he went in Hawaii.


When he passed away about three years ago, some people came up to me and said, Your dad was a great man, he passed away at the age of ninety-four, you’re Thomas Kaulukukui Jr.; how do you feel now about stepping into his shoes? And my answer was, I don’t have any feeling whatsoever of uncertainty about that. My dad trained me all his life to be Thomas Kaulukukui. I’m Junior, but now I’m Thomas Kaulukukui. And I feel fine about that. Interestingly enough, people have asked my children the same question.




How does it feel to grow—


So that’s—


—up in that house?


—a good thing, right?


Yeah; so maybe it’s a good thing.


And do you think they’re challenged by that, or do you think they just take that in stride?


I think, like me, they take it in stride. I mean, that’s the good thing about having those models in your family. If they’re good models, they become part of your life.


Did your dad ever talk with you about mistakes he made, in the hope that you would not make them?


Not very often, although, most of us knew about his life. He, like everyone else, I’m sure, made mistakes. But he didn’t dwell on them. That’s another positive thing about his leadership training, is he didn’t dwell on mistakes. He just moved forward, and tried to make himself better. And he was very competitive, but he wasn’t so concerned about beating other people. He was really concerned about improving himself. And that’s one of the great lessons I learned.


You grew up in a great old valley, Kuliouou.


You should know it well.


[CHUCKLE] So did I. And you lived in Kuliouou when it was a farm valley, before the development of Hawaii Kai was—


That’s right.


—ever maybe even conceived.


Right. That’s when Lunalilo Home Road held farms, pig farms and watercress farms. And Lunalilo Home Road was the end of the Earth, because the next thing was Waimanalo. But it was a great place to grow up. We lived way back in the valley. Everybody knew everyone else. If you did anything wrong, your neighbor would probably spank you and send you home. And therefore, you tried not to do anything wrong, because everybody knew everyone. A wonderful place. And I didn’t leave there until I went away to college.


And you must have gone to a lot of football games, ‘cause your dad was seriously into football, and he was a coach.


I was going to football games by the time I was five or six years old.   I have memories of standing on the sideline while he was coaching, and watching a whole herd of large football players headed towards the sideline, and having one player look up with horror on his face, ‘cause he was about to kill the coach’s son. And all the bodies flew over me, as they got out of the way. And that’s the way I grew up. I was the water boy for the football teams that he coached. He coached at, of course, University of Hawaii, he coached at Iolani, he coached in the Hula Bowl. And I spent many, many hours down the lower reaches of the old Honolulu Stadium.


And you would see him sketching out plays, right?


At night, he’d sit up at the kitchen table, and not only sketch plays, but he’d take the black and the red checkers, and he glued a cork to each of them as a handle. And so, the—




—red checker would pull around the end and block the black linebacker.




And then, he’d write it down. So, I watched that growing up.


Were you a good athlete?


Probably for my size, I was all right. But I was small. I always told him he should have married a big Hawaiian woman. He married a—




—a small Chinese woman. I would say that I was competitive in nature, and more competitive probably, than skilled.


And so, you went out for all the sports?


I went out for most of the sports that I played until in high school, we had a really terrific—I was at Kamehameha School. We had a terrific football team. By then, I had discovered surfing, so I spent most of the time surfing after that.


Did you know what you wanted to do at an early age?


No, of course not. Nobody does, and I didn’t either. As a matter of fact, I graduated a year early at Kamehameha, and was set to go to college somewhere. And I remember the last night, I went surfing, and didn’t want to come home. ‘Cause I didn’t really want to go to college. Especially since college was Michigan State University, where it snowed and it was cold.


And who had decided that?


My dad had a lot of friends at Michigan State, so it was something that I agreed to do. I got used to the cold, enjoyed it. People were really nice to us. It was the mid-60s, it was the last time Michigan State University really had its glory years. There were two national championship football teams, and one of the big reasons was because my dad was the scout for Duffy Daugherty, the coach, and the Hawaiians reigned up there. In fact, one game, I think it might have been Penn State, all of the points were scored by Hawaiians, so the Detroit Free Press had headlines the next day, sports section said, Hawaiians 13, Penn State 3. It was the first time that Hawaiians, I think, left here and made their name in sports in a school like the Big Ten. So I really enjoyed it. And after college, taught a year in Michigan. I was a PE major—I met my wife there. We were married right after college, and while I was teaching, I came home one day. The Vietnam War was on. So I came home one day, and she was standing in the doorway, crying, with this long envelope that had United States Selective Service on it. And I had been drafted. So I went into the Army in 1968.


From 1968 to 1970, Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. served in Vietnam as a platoon sergeant with the paratroopers. It was in the jungle of Vietnam that he cultivated some of the leadership skills that would stay with him.


Well, I learned that people are all alike. That no matter where they come from, they have the same primary motivations. They want to be respected, they want to be kept safe. They expect from their leadership high character, a high level of character, they expect competency. And when things get really tough, they want to look at the leader and understand that the leader is gonna do their best to pull them through the really difficult times.


And you had all those things going for you?


Well, if I didn’t have them, I learned them. Because another thing about being in battle is that young men at the time, they’re like a pack of wolves. And they will do whatever the pack wants to do, unless there is an alpha wolf that keeps them on track. And if you’re not that person, they will get rid of you and get somebody else. So you really have to learn to step up. I’d never been in a fight in my life. I was in three fights in the first month I was there, because the men decided to test me. You have to realize, this is Vietnam War—


And you—


—and look at the way I look.




I’m not a six-foot, fair-skinned, round-eyed person. I was brought in to lead them, and I was obviously Asian. So I looked more like the enemy, than I did look like them. Part of it was, there was another leader there who they wanted, who had been there a month longer than I was, and they weren’t sure about me.


So you had to fight. There was no—


Gotta fight.


—other way to do it?


Yeah. Fortunately, I was a black belt in taekwondo by then.




Before I got there, so without having to really hurt anybody, I guess they kinda … got some religion and said, Well, I guess he can beat up everybody else, so he’s all right.


That’s good. And you’ve continued to do martial arts all of this time.


Yeah. I started when I was nineteen, and I continue to do it. There is a philosophy in martial arts, which mirrors the philosophy of almost any great philosophy. And the main tenets are the same; balance, discipline and self-control is important. Competency, practicing competency is really important. The development of one’s character is very important. Treating people fairly is very important. But all of those principles are the same principles that I’ve been taught outside of martial arts. But I enjoy it because it allowed me to be a little bit physically active, it allows me to teach and continue to transmit that information to people. It allows me to develop in people … strength. Because martial arts develops strength of character, it develops courage, which I think is really important.


How does it develop strength of character?


It develops strength of character, because it teaches you, among other things, how to deal with inequities and power. As I told my kids, two rules in life; never hit anybody smaller than you; second rule, never hit anybody bigger than you. Okay. Knowledge in both sides. So it develops strength of character, because it teaches you to deal with the self-discipline that you have to have in interactions with people, and to stay your hand. When you want to … you may wish to strike out, you have to learn to stay your hand. And that’s self-discipline, which is one of the primary principles of character. If you’re well trained, your demeanor, the way you carry yourself, sends a message to somebody else that maybe you’re just not the right person to beat up today.


Were you different when you came back from Vietnam?


I don’t think anybody can go to war and come back, and not be different. My mom said to my wife, I’ve lost the part of my son that was easygoing, and that laughed so easily. And I think that’s true. But time kind of heals that, and some ways, being different is not good, and some ways, better different. And for a lot of our veterans, they’re going to face the same challenge of trying to take a difficult experience, and find the good parts in it.


Your platoon had a saying, didn’t it?


Well, my—


Something inscribed that—


Yeah, my platoon leader had a inscription on his helmet that said, For those who have fought for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know. Which I thought was a really interesting thought about having to go to battle for your country, or for the ideals of the country, and really having a sharp appreciation for what it means to do that. And that’s why veterans tend to be kind of a different lot. Kinda like putting on the uniform for your football team. You played, and you’ve sweated, and you’ve sacrificed for it, and some people have died for it. So a couple of things come out of that. One is a love of country, in the sense of the value of loyalty and service. And the other thing that comes out of it is, you tend to hold your leaders to a high level of responsibility.


Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. would become a physical education teacher at Kailua High School in Windward Oahu, and he coached wrestling and football. Then in 1974, he enrolled in law school at the University of Hawaii. With his wife Joyce, he had three children, and the Kaulukukui family struggled to get by on money from the GI Bill, and from the job that Tom worked twenty hours a week while going to law school fulltime. Three years of hard work and sacrifice ended with a plum entry level job in law, clerking for Hawaii’s Chief Federal Judge, Samuel P. King.


First of all, he had a great wit, so he was a Federal judge, so he was appropriately dour when he needed to be, and serious when he needed to be. But there was a certain lightness that he added to proceedings. So he had a great wit, and was a funny guy. He was a funny guy. He was a great jurist; meaning that he was terrific in terms of his knowledge of the law, and how to apply it. He was a very pragmatic man. I remember there was a case once, where there was a union election, and one party brought an action in Federal court to get an injunction to keep the other candidate from badmouthing him in the union papers and everything else. And I remember that Judge King said, This is not the Kahala PTA, this is a union election; if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Which I thought was a very pragmatic way of looking at things.


And he was full of those pronouncements from the bench.


He was full of those pronouncements.


In this very lofty, beautiful—


He had a card—


—stately courtroom.


He had a card that said, The greatest lawgiver since Moses.



And the lawyers would come in and ask to see him, and knowing that they were out there, Judge King would bellow to Rebecca, his assistant, Find out what they want, and tell them that they can’t have it.




Interesting guy.


Did you incorporate any of Judge King into your persona?


Well, eventually, I became a judge, a Circuit Court judge. And the first thing I did was, go to see Judge King to get some good advice. One of the things he told me is, You gotta outwork the lawyers, otherwise they’re gonna run rings around you; you have to be better prepared than they are. And so that’s what I tried to do during my term on the bench.


What’s foremost in your mind when you’re a jurist?


To make sure that the process runs fairly. As Judge King and others have said, the only thing that stands between the accused and tyranny is the judge. The requirements are really high, and I was always aware, as most judges are, that you have to make sure that the process runs fairly. It’s like being an umpire. Things have to run fairly. However it comes out, it comes out. And for a while, I was a motions judge on the criminal bench. And I remember suppressing evidence of drugs that was brought in by one young man in his luggage. But the search was illegal. So once I suppressed the judge and granted the motion for suppression, there was no case. So as they pounded the gavel and I was leaving, the man stood up, and he was so relieved, young man. He called out, Thank you, Your Honor. And I remember stopping and turning around and saying, Don’t thank me, it’s not personal, thank the constitution.


Did it frustrate you to know that sometimes, it was a matter of, yes, procedure and protection, but on the other hand, sometimes that covered a multitude of sins.


Sometimes, it did cover a multitude of sins. It never frustrated me, and it doesn’t frustrate good judges, because that’s their job. Their job is to make sure that the protections are upheld, because without it, none of us is safe. I think the judge’s role is to make sure that justice is done within the framework of the law, and I am convinced that the framework of the law, if it is a living law, mirrors our life experience, and that its standards should mirror the standards of the changing society. I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, The life of the law lies not in logic, but in experience. And so, the law should not, in my mind, be completely logical if it runs afoul of common sense and experience. And that’s how case law is made. Judges look at things, and all of a sudden, you’ve got a principle that has changed, because a judge has decided in the light of their experience, in light of the community experience, something just needs to be changed a bit.


Did you get reversed at times?


Yes, I did get reversed. But an appeals judge once told me, he said, If you don’t get reversed, it’s because you’re not making decisions.


Did you enjoy being a judge?


I loved being a judge.


Okay; well, here again, you left the judgeship.


Yeah. But I love what I’m doing now.


Judge Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. left the bench after five years in 1993 to pursue a role in advancing the health of native Hawaiians. Well, at first, he turned down the position at the Queen’s Health Systems. What changed his mind? A bumper sticker.


My dad retired from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. He and I both helped with the investiture ceremony of the new set of trustees the following year. On the steps of Kawaiahao Church, an elder came to me and said to me, Junior, your dad is retired and he’s one of our leaders; when is it that you’re gonna step up and help your Hawaiian community? And I thought about that. So I thought about that, and over New Year’s, I got in my car to go to the aikido dojo to teach aikido, and old truck drove past me from Waimanalo. The doors were barely hanging on; it was all rusted out. And as I pulled up behind it, I saw a bumper sticker, and the bumper sticker said, Eddie Would Go.




Eddie Would Go. And I looked at that, and I thought, Well, there it is. Eddie would go, Eddie went; Tom is going. So the next day, I went to work, and I wrote a letter to Governor Waihee and said, I think I have another calling, and I’m leaving the judiciary to do it.


What did you do at Queen’s? You were vice president.


I was vice president of community affairs, and my main job was to help work on programs, foster programs that improved the health of our Hawaiian people. And I did that for five or six years.


And did you enjoy that job?


I loved that job.


Okay; and so why did you leave that job? [CHUCKLE]


I left that job, because Monsignor Kekumano, who was one of the three trustees at the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, passed away. And when the remaining two trustees considered a replacement trustee, somehow, my name came up. At about the same time, we were thinking about reorganizing at the Queen’s Health Systems, so I thought it’s a good time to leave, so I did leave. I left there and went to the Trust in let’s see, 1998. And I’ve been there ever since, and currently, I’m the chair and the managing trustee.


Tell me what the Trust does.


The Trust was founded a hundred and one years ago, last year was our centennial, by Queen Liliuokalani, in order to care for orphaned and destitute, poor Hawaiian kids. They are eighteen years old or younger, although, in special cases, sometimes we carry them over the age of nineteen. Every possible misfortune that you can think of has befallen some of these children. Some of them are orphaned when one of their parents commits suicide. Parents quite often are the victims of violence, in many cases, domestic violence. They are functionally orphaned by parents who end up in prison, and cannot take care of them. They may have one parent who is not in prison, but who is incapacitated as a parent by drug use, or by illness. Everything you can think of has happened to them. And so, they come into our fold, and through nine different children’s centers, which are really run by the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center—that’s the program side, we try to take care of them. We do community programs which help improve the lives of these kids in many, many different ways, hundred and fifty different programs. Our budget is about $17 million a year. We charge not one cent for every program that we run, so it’s the function of the trustees through the lease of lands and the management of an investment portfolio to raise money for these endeavors. Most of these kids are remarkably resilient; remarkably resilient. It amazes me sometimes, what they’ve gone through, and how they can overcome it, or at least cope with it. And what they really need is, they really need to have one really caring adult. Now, whether that’s the chairman of the board of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, or their grandfather, or a social worker who works for us, that can make all the difference in the world.


Do you end up being the person who’s the adult in their life that—






Well, we try to go to about everything that we can go to. And for example, when we went to that hospice camp up in Kona, I had the opportunity to sit next to a fourteen-year-old girl whose father had been killed in an automobile accident. Only fourteen years old; she was kinda now helping take care of her brother. And we had a chance to talk. And then, finally, that evening, I gave a class on music and grief. I like to play music. So I sang a song. I said, This is a song for my father. I had him all my life. Some of you lost a parent early. But it doesn’t really matter, ‘cause grief is grief. I miss him just as much as you’re missing your parent. So I sang a song, and it was kind of a sad song, but it remembered my dad. And when I was through, that fourteen-year-old girl came up and sat next to me, and she kinda put her arm on my shoulder. I said, I wasn’t sure I was gonna sing that song, but after I met you today, and I knew you lost your father, I sang that song for you, as well as for my father. And she put her hand on my shoulder, and she went, I know.




So the child has a nurturing—they have the ability to nurture also. And they understand. If they understand what the adult is going through, that you are—Hawaiian would say, paa, that you are together. You’re pili, you’re close together.


Here, you’ve gravitated to a calling, where it’s not all very comfortable. You’re dealing with kids who’ve been so subjected to pain, and difficulty.


Yeah; it’s not surprising to me. That’s why I became a teacher. My dad loved children, and he loved to coach and teach children. And from what I observed, the greatest victories in that area came with the kids who had the most to lose, and who had the hardest life. When the light goes on, it really goes on with those kids. So I believe that I’ve been lucky, that every part of my career that I have pursued, I’m meant to be there, and I was trained to be there.


So, is this the position that you’re gonna keep for a very long time, or—I know you’re enjoying it; does that mean you’re about to leave? [CHUCKLE]


No. [CHUCKLE] That’s a good question. No, my plan is to stay here for the near future. Eventually, I’ll retire from this job. I don’t expect to retire from life. There’s probably something else out there for me; I just don’t know what it is yet.


Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. is a leader’s leader. He has influenced other people of influence. In addition to his work with the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, he enjoys teaching leadership skills to young people of native Hawaiian ancestry. Mahalo piha, Thomas Kaulukukui, for sharing your long story short, and thank you for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.


For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit


What kind of leadership did your dad have? Was it leadership by example, or did he sit you down and give you lessons?


Mostly by example. Rarely did he have to sit me down, or anybody down, to give lessons. If you saw what he did, you wanted to be like him. I’m sixty-five years old. I still want to be like him when I grow up.