discussion

#METOO, Now What?

#METOO, Now What?

 

Join executive producer/host Zainab Salbi and a range of guests for open, authentic conversations about sexual harassment. Women and men discuss how we reached this point and how we can effect positive and lasting change.

 

 

AMANPOUR ON PBS

Amanpour on PBS

 

Amanpour on PBS, a new weeknight public affairs program hosted by CNN International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, premieres Monday at 11:00 pm. Amanpour on PBS fills the programming hole left in the wake of PBS’ cancellation of the late-night program from Charlie Rose. Amanpour on PBS will feature conversations with global leaders and decision makers on the issues affecting the world today.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Billie Gabriel

 

Billie Gabriel’s life was forever changed when her brother James “Kimo” Gabriel Jr. was killed in the Vietnam War. She was only 11 when he died, and the tragedy left its mark. She has dedicated much of her adult life helping to preserve the legacies of the more than 270 Hawai‘i servicemen who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Feb. 4, at 4:00 pm.

 

Billie Gabriel Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Everyone gathered around the television to watch the special about Vietnam. And then, they showed … the chopper landing. You could hear bullets flying, so the Vietcong were there. And them jumping out … tying rope on the legs of two American soldiers, and dragging them … to the helicopter. I didn’t know that was my brother, until the announcer said: We have recovered the bodies of. And at that point, my mother … it was a wail; it was a cry that you … never want to hear.

 

Her brother, James Gabriel, Jr., was the first Native Hawaiian soldier killed in action during the Vietnam War. Five decades later, she continues to honor his sacrifice. Billie Gabriel, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Billie Gabriel of Honolulu lost her older brother, James Kimo Gabriel, Jr., to the Vietnam War in 1962. Not only was her brother the first Native Hawaiian soldier to be killed in action, but also one of the first U.S. Special Forces soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. Four years later, Sergeant Barry Sadler released the song, The Ballad of the Green Berets. The original lyrics were written to pay tribute to James Gabriel, Jr. In 2010, Billie Gabriel used her public relations contacts and experience to spearhead the Hawai‘i Call for Photos project. She tracked down photographs of two hundred seventy-six Hawai‘i soldiers who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. The plan is to display photos from across the nation in an education center to be built in Washington, DC. Billie Gabriel read the letters from her late brother, hoping to gain an understanding of his views on Vietnam. What she found brought her closer to the big brother who died when she was just eleven years old.

 

Yes. My mother is pure Hawaiian, and my father is half Hawaiian and half Filipino. So, yes, there’s a lot of kanaka in us. There is; there is. And there were nine of us. And my father was … quite the disciplinarian, very old school. It was his way, or his way.

 

Was he affectionate?

 

He was not. My father was not; he was very stern, hard worker, a perfectionist, and he expected the same out of his children. My father was a voracious reader. He would make me read the dictionary with him. That’s what I had to do; read the dictionary. And every week, I had to randomly choose a word, and I was told that I needed to use that word in conversation with him for the entire week. And my mother, on the other hand; she was a very humble, giving, loving, local girl from Waialua. When she was going to the eighth grade, my tutu pulled her out of school and told her: From now on, your classroom will be our lo‘i, the ocean, and my kitchen.

 

Wow …

 

So, she never went past eighth grade. That became her schooling, and she may not have, like my father, been a voracious reader, or loved words, but her family and her home; that was her life. So, she was the balance in in our home. She filled that part that gave us the softness.

 

Nine kids; that must have been a hard household to support.

 

It was.   And you know, and I grew up in Palama. Proud to say that I’m a product of Mayor Wright Housing. And when I tell people that, either it raises an eyebrow, or they laugh because they can’t imagine; You grew up in the projects? You know. And I thought, Well, back in the 50s, Mayor Wright Housing was not what it—you know, back then, families, they manicured their lawns, they watched the other kids. If you did something wrong, you know, Auntie would come pull your ear and take you home, and then you would get double spankings, you know, for doing something wrong.

 

And your father was working?

 

He was working. My father was with the Royal Hawaiian Band, and he managed all of their engagements, and their travel, and everything. My mother was a homemaker, stay-at-home mom. And she was there for the family. We always, you know, came home; there was always something on the stove. We never knew that we were low-income.

 

Because you felt like you had enough?

 

We had enough, and we were happy.

 

I think you’ve said that your mother … she never yelled, and she never complained. And I find that so hard to believe, having been a mother myself.

 

Me, as well. She never raised her voice. She never did.

 

With nine kids?

 

With nine kids. She didn’t. Because my father ruled with an iron fist.

 

Now, I think you were seven among the nine children.

 

I was the seventh; yes.

 

And what was your brother, Kimo?

 

He was the first. So, there’s a thirteen-year difference between Kimo and myself. So, really, the only thing I remember is … he was the brother who taught me how to spit-shine my shoes. So, whenever I, you know, do that, I think about him. But, you know, he was always in his ROTC uniform. Just looked immaculate. I remember him being happy-go-lucky, always having his ukulele, and singing a lot, joking. Always hugging my mother. Always; Hi, sweetheart. You know, just very loving.

 

But loved the JROTC program at Farrington High School.

 

Yes; yes. And I believe that that’s where, for him, a seed was planted about serving your country, was in the ROTC.

 

Did he talk about joining the military after high school?

 

He talked to my parents about that, you know, and they both said: If that’s what you want, you know, we’ll support you.

 

In 1956, James Kimo Gabriel, Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army right after graduating from Farrington High in Kalihi. He excelled in the Army, and qualified for the elite U.S. Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. In 1961, Kimo was sent to Vietnam as an advisor to train the local civilians who were recruited to serve in the South Vietnamese Army. That meant teaching those villagers to fight North Vietnam’s experienced regular army, as well as the elusive Vietcong Guerillas in the south.

 

He would write to my mother every two weeks. Because I still have her letters, and when I look at the date, every two weeks, he would write to her.

 

What did he write?

 

Well, when he was in basic training, he’d write about, you know, how the boys, the Hawaiian boys, they were just joking, playing jokes on each other, and how they missed the Hawaiian food.

 

To have succeeded in Special Forces, he must have been quite the person. I mean, that’s something most soldiers don’t want to do.

 

Yes.

 

Or aren’t able to do.

 

Aren’t able. He was very focused. So, from my father, I believe, he got those traits. Being focused, setting you mind on doing something almost to perfection. And he really did want to, my mother said, become a Special Forces soldier.

 

Your brother entered the Army before the war began. Had his feelings about the war, about his service changed over that time, I wonder?

 

Once he got to Vietnam?

 

M-hm.

 

I could see the transition in his letters. The earlier letters would talk about, We’re here training, I can’t tell you what I’m doing, but I know we’re preparing for something big. But even he didn’t quite know. So, he would talk about things that they were doing. He’d also talk about the jungle, the conditions in the jungle, or the weather, how bad it was there, and that there were these giant ants, and … leeches. And local boys, we don’t know what leeches are; we see slugs on the ground, but you don’t see leeches. And so, he would say, these leeches would attach themselves on you, and they would expand.

 

With blood.

 

Yes, as they suck out your blood. And you can’t hit them off, because you’re in the jungle, and you don’t want the Vietcong to hear you, to see you, any kind of movement. And the last few letters were really about not just the conditions, but … I remember one in particular where he told my mother; he said: When I’m in a quiet place, I ask myself, What am I doing in this hell hole? These people don’t want us here. Sometimes, I wish could trade places and be home; and he says, But then again, I realize I need to be here. Better me than my brothers or others; I’m here to fight for all of you.

 

Close to the time he died, he sent something. He enclosed something in a letter to your mother.

 

M-hm. He enclosed the Green Beret Creed. So, I read the creed. And it’s almost like he knew, or he was preparing himself. He knew that, I may not get out of this.

 

And in the creed, I believe it says, you know, Even if I’m the last, I’ll keep fighting ‘til the end.

 

Yes; yes.

 

That’s my profession, and I’m a consummate professional.

 

Yes; exactly.

 

It probably took you a while to find out what did happen to him in Vietnam.

 

M-hm; m-hm.

 

Are you able to tell that story?

 

Times had a magazine article that was written in 1962, and the title of it is, We Are Overrun. And in that, they chronicle what had happened. But what I read then, and what I just learned about a month ago; two different stories.

 

Okay; tell us the difference.

 

Well, the first story that I’ve been led to believe for … forty years has been that there were four Special Forces that were advisors. And they were among the first Special Forces sent there. And the advisors go there to train the villagers how to fight.

 

M-hm.

 

And so, he was in a platoon of four. And what I read was that their camp was overrun, and that my brother and Sergeant Marchand were the only two who were injured, and that the other two Special Forces soldiers were forced to carry them into the jungle, so that the U.S. troops weren’t gonna come back there and find Vietcong. I was led to believe that they carried them into the jungle, and … they were too heavy, they were slowing them down, so they were told to just leave my brother and Marchand there, and the Vietcong executed them. Tied both their hands behind their backs with their tee-shirts, and shot them in the back of the head. That’s what I have led to believe all these years. And just recently learned that two of the four Special Forces, they were down at the river. So, they had left the camp, went down to the river.

 

This was before the fighting began?

 

Before the fighting began.

 

Okay.

 

They went down to the river to bathe. So, that left Marchand and my brother there, and they heard the sound of these bells, like bamboo bells. So, they sent up flares to see if they could see who was out there in the jungle. They were just ambushed at that time, while the other two were still down the river. So, that left two men fighting about fifty Vietcong guerillas who were coming in. But the signal came from someone in the camp, that these four Special Forces were training. So, what I’ve learned is, they plant villagers in the camp to serve as spies, and they relayed to the Vietcong: Here’s where we are positioned here, we’re gonna be moving here, now’s the time to attack. I had never known that there were only two in that camp when they were killed. Now, I understand why my brother’s last words were: We have run out of ammunition, we’re being overrun. So, they said that he was changing clips. He had already been shot twice; changing clips, shooting, on the phone calling for backup.

 

What do you remember about the day you heard?

 

You know, it is almost like yesterday, when I think about it, and I share the story with people. I was eleven, and this was in 1962. My mother and I, we were in the garage doing chores. She was hanging clothes, and I was, you know, outside doing my chores. And this black bird, this Alala flew into our garage, and just fluttered up in the garage, on the ceiling. And I looked at it, my mother looked at it, and it looked like she was in distress. And my mother told me: ‘A‘ole ho‘opa ‘e manu. Don’t touch the bird. So, I ran in the house, and came out with a bowl of water. When I came out, my mother was sitting on the ground with the bird in her lap. And she was stroking the bird, and the bird died in her lap. And she looked at me and she said: Tomorrow, we will have visitors. I had no idea how connected she was to our ‘aumakua, ho‘ailona. Even I was not exposed to that, at that age yet.

 

So, she knew at that point.

 

She knew, at that point. She felt that this was my brother coming to her to say goodbye. So, the next day, I was at school, and my brother and I were pulled out of class, and told we needed to go home. So, when we got home, parked in front of our home was an unfamiliar car. So, I thought: They must be the visitors my mom talked about.

 

Because she didn’t explain further at that time.

 

Did not.

 

Okay.

 

Did not. So, from there, the ‘Alalā was the ho‘ailona to prepare her.

 

And what does hoailona mean?

 

Ho‘ailona is a sign; it’s a sign. Hawaiian culture, we believe that our ‘aumakua, our spirits, come in different forms, our ancestors. It could be a good sign, it could just be an omen of something to come. So, I knew that she felt that the ‘Alalā was her visitor carrying a message. But I didn’t expect that they came to tell her that he had been killed. I thought maybe to say that he was coming home, or something. And when I walked in, and my mother was just … crying.

 

Did your dad cry?

 

You know, that really is one of the only times I did see my father cry.

 

James Kimo Gabriel, Jr. was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor, and a Purple Heart. At the time of his death, Kimo’s wife, who was living in Okinawa, was expecting their first child. Later, the Gabriel family would welcome her to Hawai‘i, along with James Gabriel, III, the son Kimo never saw. In 1963, Kimo’s remains were recovered from Vietnam, and he was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

 

And his wife, who is Japanese …

 

Japan national?

 

Japan national. Well, he met her in Okinawa. And so, when he passed, she was six months pregnant.

 

Mm …

 

So, she came here. And to prepare for her coming here, my father taught himself to speak Japanese; to prepare for her. Because he wanted to make sure that she was gonna be comfortable coming here.

 

Your father did that?

 

Yes. Fast forward thirty-two years later to 1994, and the memorial that’s down at the State Capitol, Korean-Vietnam Memorial. There was a dedication ceremony, and I was asked to be on the planning committee to represent the families. For the dedication itself, they asked: Would your mother come and lay the wreath to represent all the families? And I said: Absolutely, I’m sure she would. So, I brought my mother. And General Cockett was standing on my left, General Richardson on my right; both Hawaiian generals, very proud that she was standing there with the wreath. So, the Taps played. Then, they did the flyover, the Missing Man formation. So, the three jets, and one flies off.

 

M-hm.

 

So, we were watching that. And as that jet flew off, a black bird flew in its place. And my mother looked at me, but this time with a smile, and she said: Kimo’s here, your brother is here.

 

Billie Gabriel says the hoailona of the black bird also appeared at the dedication ceremony to honor her brother at the Gabriel Memorial Field at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 2010. Also in 2010, Billie Gabriel would become part of the photo project that would make her feel closer to her late brother.

 

Call for Photos is part of a national project that was being launched in Washington, DC. And the gentleman who founded the Vietnam Wall, Jan Scruggs, felt that he wanted to put a face to every name; fifty-eight thousand plus names engraved on the wall. He wanted to put a face and a picture because they were building an education center in Washington. And this education center would be for future generations to learn about the various wars that the United States has been involved. One room would be dedicated to Vietnam, and it would be called The Wall of Faces.

 

How many faces would there be?

 

Fifty-eight thousand, plus. So, Jan’s vision was to put the face and a story to every name.

 

Billie Gabriel spent much of her professional career as a fundraiser who coordinated and publicized events such as the Kapi‘olani Children’s Miracle Network Telethon and the Easter Seals Taste of Honolulu fundraiser. In 2010, she answered the call to spearhead what she considers the most important project of her life: tracking down the photos of two hundred seventy-six Hawaii soldiers who never came home from the Vietnam War. Completing the Hawaii Call for Photos project would take several years.

 

I decided, okay, here’s where the PR skills come in, here’s my networking with friends. So, I contacted the various stations, and Honolulu Star Advertiser. And I went to see the president then, Dennis Francis. And he’s one of those who was accustomed to me knocking on the door for money, and he says: Okay, Gabriel, what do you need this time? And I said: Something very simple. And I put the list on his desk. And he says: Well, what is this? I said: Here’s a list of two hundred and seventy-six men who were killed in Vietnam, they were all from Hawaii, I need to find their pictures. He said: Okay, so what is it that you want me to do? I said: I’d like you to publish their names in paper and state that I am searching for their photos, and if you have a photo to contact me. And I’d like a full-page ad. So, he said: This is about your brother. And I said: You know it’s not just about my brother; he’s one of the two hundred and seventy-six. It’s about all the families and all of these young men, and it’s a project that we need to make sure that we put a face to every name that’s engraved on the wall in Washington.

 

So, you ended up speaking with many of these family members.

 

I did; I did.

 

I can’t imagine the emotion involved in those calls.

 

Heart-wrenching. Yes; yes. One man called me, and just berated me for five minutes on the phone. How dare you, how dare you publish these names of all our men who died in Vietnam, in a stupid war. And then, he said: My nephew was nineteen when he enlisted. So, I thought: Okay, this is a family member, I can understand now why he’s so emotional. And he says: That boy, poho his life; he’s going over there to fight for people he doesn’t even know. Why? So, I told him: Uncle, I know how you feel, because my brother also died in the war, he was the first Hawaiian boy. And his voice changed, and he says: Oh, you local girl? And I said: Yes, I’m from here. And he says: Oh, I saw the article in the paper, I thought I was calling somebody in Washington, DC. I said: Oh, no, no; this project is for here, and I’m trying to find all the pictures so that we can honor them. So, he did send; subsequently, he did send a picture in. But that’s when I understood that this project was bigger than just finding the pictures. I became an ‘umeke, a bowl for many of these families to pour their emotions into. We cried together, we laughed together, you know, and we talked about our respective loved ones. But collectively, we knew that we had to stand by the fact that no matter which side of the fence you stood about the war, how you felt about it, we were here to see that our loved one would be honored for their courage, for the sacrifice they made, and that they would never be forgotten. That was our bond; our bond.

 

And you could come together over that.

 

We could come together on that; yes. They soon became family to me. Some of them called and said: I just want to meet you, just to hug you, to say thank you. But it just allowed so many people to have a voice, and to finally say what they’ve been wanting to say for fifty years.

 

Through the efforts of Billie Gabriel and many others who lost loved ones to the Vietnam War, Hawaii became the eighth state to locate all of the photos for its section of the Call for Photos project. Billie says she’ll continue to honor the memory of her brother, James Kimo Gabriel, Jr., and all the soldiers who are casualties of the Vietnam War. She’s working on new memorial projects with Hawaii high schools. Mahalo to Billie Gabriel of Honolulu for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

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

 

I was invited to go to Washington, DC for Memorial Day to represent the State in laying the wreath. My mother told me: Whenever you’re on sacred ground, to remove your shoes. Then, President Obama, I had a chance to meet. And he says: I know who you are. He says: As soon as I saw you standing there with bare feet, I knew you were a local girl. And he just started laughing.

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
How Cyber-Secure Are You?

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I revisits one of the program’s most popular discussion topics from last year – online security. From the internet, to mobile devices, to virtual worlds, it’s becoming more challenging to discern between genuine threats and ones exacerbated by the media. Meanwhile, cyber-criminals are becoming increasingly aggressive in their strategies. The experts who appeared in last year’s discussion, including guests from the FBI’s Honolulu Division and the University of Hawai‘i, return with the latest information and advice on preventing and avoiding online security breaches.

 

Join us during our live discussion by phoning in, or leaving us a comment on Facebook or Twitter. INSIGHTS is also live streamed on pbshawaii.org and Facebook Live.

 

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

 

Email:
insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Facebook:
Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Art Souza

 

As a teacher, Art Souza encouraged his students to approach learning from an experiential and exploratory angle. Now as a Hawai‘i Island complex area superintendent, he supports the 19 schools in his district from an administrative position, guided by his educational philosophy and an unyielding positivity.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Jan. 21, at 4:00 pm.

 

Art Souza Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Students have access to information, and learning, and knowledge that they’ve never had before. They’re more independent in their learning, and these are all good things. Technology has been a tremendous gift to young people, because it sparks creativity in thinking and learning. I think the challenge is … for the adults to catch up with the kids, and to have an understanding that kids can create their own learning because they have that technology available to them. And so, it’s kind of a reverse catch-up, if you wish. School hasn’t ever been that way before.

 

Art Souza’s ideas may sound new, but a lot of his philosophy is based on how he learned best; through experiences. West Hawaiʻi Island public education official Art Souza, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox Arthur Francis Souza, Jr. has gained a reputation as a visionary administrator of public schools. He oversees nineteen public schools and special education services at five charter schools over a large expanse of the Big Island. He started teaching on Hawaiʻi Island in 1989 at Honokaʻa High and Intermediate School. Originally from Honolulu, he was inspired in his teenage years to go into teaching.

 

I was a little local kid growing up. You know, grew up in Liliha and spent my time going between Liliha and Puʻunui, and Palama, and hanging out in Chinatown at the old Chinese herbology shops, and exploring the rivers, Nuʻuanu Stream, playing baseball. Just the way kids grew up in the 50s.

 

So, kids would travel all that territory alone?

 

Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, you went anywhere with a friend or a pack, a herd. And you know, you went up and down the street and just got yourself into any number of adventures.

 

Did you get into adventures that got you into trouble?

 

You know, nothing that ever got us into real serious trouble. I think we were smart enough to know what the limits were. But risk-taking; that was part of the adventure, right? So, we took every opportunity to do that.

 

What’s your ethnic background?

 

I’m Portuguese, Japanese.

 

And your mom was, too; right?

 

My mom was Portuguese, Japanese; yes.

 

So, at this time, that’s probably not that unusual. But for somebody your age, and for your mother, that was unusual. I mean, we have so many mixing of races, but those two races weren’t the most common races to mix.

 

Yeah; I think that’s probably true. Maybe that’s where a little bit of the risk-taking and the adventure comes from. I think my grandparents and my mom were that way. And I think that’s vestiges of the plantation camps. You know, I think the people had to rely on one another, and that sense of community was strong. So, that integration and that opportunity to engage with each other was greater, perhaps, than sometimes it is now. Yeah.

 

Was that an accepted intermarriage in your family?

 

Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah; it worked wonderfully well for my parents. I think my parents’ philosophy was real experiential. You know, they let us explore. At least, I had that opportunity. Maybe it was a little bit more tight-strung for my sisters. But I really had freedom to just kind of get involved in adventure, and to learn experientially.

 

What did your parents do for a living?

 

My dad was a sheet metal worker, Shop 39.

 

At Pearl Harbor?

 

Out at Pearl Harbor. And my mom was a registered nurse at Pearl Harbor as well, and before that, at St. Francis Hospital.

 

And you lived pretty much on the site of the current State Education Building?

 

Yeah, yeah; that’s right. From the time I was a little boy. I was born, and then until I was about six or seven years old, I guess—six years old, maybe, we lived in Perry’s Court, which was just … an interesting little enclave carved out of the middle of Honolulu, right where the Queen Liliʻuokalani Building is now. And there were about six or seven homes for rent in there, and that’s where we lived for the first five or six years of my life.

 

Did you ever report to work in that building on the land where you used to live?

 

You know, interesting enough, I probably do. Because I end up in the Liliʻuokalani Building often enough for meetings and Board of Education hearings, and those kinds of things. So, hadn’t thought about it that way, but yeah, you’re right. Yeah.

 

Did you have a sense that you would go into education?

 

Yeah; very early on. I think my inspiration was, as a sophomore in high school, I had an amazing social studies teacher who let us, you know, talk about things, and express ideas and thoughts, and share what we were pretty radical notions in 1962. And I just thought that was … to allow people to think and speak that way would be a really important thing to do. So, that’s what encouraged me, and I became a teacher, I think, as a result of that.

 

What was the teacher’s name?

 

Terrence Healy; he was a teacher that I had at St. Louis High School.

 

Did you ever have a chance to thank him later?

 

I did. One of the really neat things that happened. There was a reunion at one point; I don’t know if it was our fifteenth year reunion or something. But there was a football game out at the stadium, and he came to the game. And we had a reception before the game, and I had a chance to say that to him. So, he passed on shortly after that, so I was happy to have been able to do that.

 

So, you believe it was one teacher that sort of made you pivot?

 

Without question. You know, I had a lot of teachers, but there was something special about this guy, and he just let me to do what I want to do.

 

That’s when you started thinking, I might want to be an educator myself.

 

Yeah; yeah. Yeah; so that led me to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. And I was fortunate to go to school probably in the most socially dynamic time in the history of our country. I started college at Mānoa in the Fall of 1966, and lived through so much of what was America at the time: the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, the Women’s Movement. And so, boy, what an opportunity. I probably spent as much time at marches and peace gatherings as I did in classrooms. But I learned. I learned.

 

And you continued your education after UH Mānoa, where you majored in …

 

I was a history and English major; a dual major. Yeah; my education was interrupted quite a bit by travel. You know, I spent a lot of time independently traveling, and you know, it was a time when, you know, as a young man, you’re looking to make meaning for yourself as well. So, I spent a couple of years traveling around South America, and you know.

 

Did you do that alone?

 

Yeah. I traveled in South America, and then later, my current wife Vicky and I traveled for another couple of years space in time, and spent time in Africa and the subcontinent. So, I’ve spent a lot of time just on the road, and … you learn an awful lot about the human condition that way.

 

What kind of travel? Is this backpack travel?

 

Yeah; yeah. Just backpack, and you know.

 

No plans?

 

Vague ideas of where you want to go. But when I was traveling in 1971 and 72 in South America it was very inexpensive. You know, for a dollar a day, I was a rich man. Riding buses and hitchhiking and doing that kind of thing. But to be immersed in the indigenous cultures and to see the things that were there to see and experience was amazing.

 

Did you travel continuously?

 

You know, pretty much so. I mean, there were brief stops to do a little bit of work here and there, but it was pretty much continuous travel. And you know, starting in Mexico, and going through Latin America, and then all the way down into South America, and you know, I got all the way down into Tierra Del Fuego, and got out to the Galapagos Islands. And did a lot of things that a lot of people don’t have a chance to ever do.

 

That’s amazing. So, you just kind of broke out of college and said, This is what I’m gonna do right now?

 

Yeah; I needed to do that. You know, college was stale. I was learning, I was experiencing. But I really wasn’t getting what I needed. So, this was something I wanted to do. You know, I tease people now that say that that was my retirement, that’s why I’m working so long now.

 

But it was the most important learning that I ever have experienced. It was worth twelve PhDs to have been able to do that kind of thing, and to just absorb people, and absorb cultures, and understand how people think, how people learn. It was really amazing.

 

After spending several years traveling the world, Art Souza came home. He went back to school, eventually earning two Master of Arts degrees in community leadership and in educational administration. In the meantime, he started teaching on Oʻahu, and later made a permanent move to the Big Island.

 

What made you move to the Big Island?

 

Thirty years ago, Oʻahu was crazy enough for me and my family. So, my wife and I just had our first child, and it was a chance to get to the Big Island and get to some place quieter.

 

Did you move directly to Waimea?

 

Yeah.

 

That’s where you live now.

 

Yeah. We did.

 

And why’d you choose Waimea? Did you have family?

 

You know, my wife and had been on vacation going up to the Big Island a number of times, and we just kinda fell in love with the area. And it all worked out nice, because the school I wanted to work at was at Honokaʻa High School. I wanted to teach at Honokaʻa High School. So, we ended up living in Waimea. I taught English at Honokaʻa, and eventually became a vice principal there. Went off and did principaling at Waikoloa Elementary School, and came back to be principal of Honokaʻa High School. So, it all worked out.

 

I think a teacher and a principal are not necessarily—I mean, that’s not necessarily an incremental step.

 

No.

 

Those are two different jobs. Really; aren’t they?

 

Yeah; they’re very different jobs. And you know, in all of my years of education, as an educator, there’s nothing that will replicate that time I had in the classroom. That’s the best work; working with the kids that way.

 

So, why did you go into administration?

 

You know, it’s one of those things. You do it for the right reasons. First of all, I was asked. And I said, If I’m gonna be asked and you have that kind of faith in me, Mr. Kainoa, I’ll step in and help out where I can. But over time, you come to understand that your span of help, your span of influence that you can over kids and communities becomes greater as an administrator. So, one thing led to the next.

 

So, the systems part of it attracted you? Being in charge of not just a classroom and individual lives, but a systems approach.

 

I guess you could call it a systems approach. Not a systems in in terms of the structural bureaucracy, but the systems approach in terms of, Wow, can do more for more kids.

 

Reach.

 

I can reach. And what if we did this with this community? You know. So, it was that kind of thinking. Yeah.

 

The community leadership masters came in handy?

 

Yeah; it did. It did. I think it just sparked a way of thinking about how we might be able to do education a little differently. Yeah.

 

So, from teacher to vice principal, to principal.

 

M-hm.

 

And, then what?

 

And then, to the complex area superintendent position. I was principal at Honokaʻa High School in 2005 at the time when Pat Hamamoto, who was superintendent then, asked if I could step in. There was a vacancy; the previous superintendent had left. And again, it was as much as anything, a call to duty. I was asked to do it. And you know, I hadn’t really thought about being a superintendent, but when asked to serve, and you think you can serve that purpose, you do it.

 

You know, for those who aren’t familiar with the structure of the DOE, people may not realize what a critical and strategic job the complex area superintendent is.

 

Yeah.

 

Would you explain that, what exactly it is that you do? And there are others statewide as well. Others in the state, as well.

 

Yeah. It’s an interesting structure. It’s one that was created by by Pat as a way to try to decentralize the Central Office and personalize supports in a very unique way for each unique community. So, a state superintendent sits at the top with a deputy and five assistant superintendents at the state level. And below that are fifteen of us; my colleagues. And we are scattered about in different areas of the State. So, my particular area is on the Big Island in West Hawaiʻi. My colleagues are Brad Bennett in Hilo-Waiākea, and Keone Farias in Keaau-Kau-Pāhoa. I have nineteen schools in my area; they’re all Title 1 schools, which means that they meet the poverty guidelines. So, we have access to federal dollars through that means. I also am responsible for special education services in five charter schools.

 

That is a huge responsibility. And you know, when you say West Hawaiʻi, I know that’s the title. Honokaʻa is really northeast; right?

 

Yeah.

 

So, you kinda go right around the top of the island, and down on the other side to Kohala.

 

Yeah; it’s an interesting geographic area. I go as far as east as Hilo to Paʻauilo, which is the school that’s furthest east. And then, I’m responsible for all of the schools in Waimea, Honokaʻa up to North Kohala, and then down through the Kealakehe complex in Waikoloa in the central part of the island.

 

That is a huge and diverse area.

 

Yeah; and then down to Kona. Yeah.

 

Down to Kona, too.

 

Yeah; down as far as Hoʻokena, near Miloliʻi, is where my area kind of stops.

 

That is monstrous.

 

It’s a large area.

 

That’s like an island in itself.

 

Yeah; I spend a lot of time on the road.

 

DOE Complex Area Superintendent for West Hawaiʻi Island, Art Souza, strongly believes that community building will help to build academic success in these rural areas.

 

The opportunity is the challenge, and the challenge is the opportunity. It’s how you reconcile all that. And it’s about how you lead, how you choose to lead, and how you build those partnerships and relationships with all those entities. And you get better at it over time. And I think I’ve gotten better at it over time.

 

How long have you been complex area superintendent?

 

This is my twelfth year. No one teaches you how to be a superintendent. You don’t go to superintendent school. So, I remember the turnover from the previous superintendent to me was about a thirty-minute meeting where I said, What is this job, what do you want me to do? He says, just read those books. And that was it. It was exploratory learning and experiential learning.

 

And that’s exactly what you love to do.

 

That’s exactly how I learn best. So, that wasn’t a challenge for me. I mean, yeah, you have to learn the rules and regulations, and yes, I did have to read those books. But finding my way, and creating the learning and creating the leadership as I learned it was really a remarkable opportunity.

 

Now, everyone talks about collaborative leadership.

 

Yeah.

 

And I believe you’re a collaborative leader. Were you always? Was that your nature?

 

I think so. Yeah; I think so. And I think that’s the only way we can learn and lead. You know, can I tell a story real quick?

 

Sure.

 

So … because it just strikes me as kind of a metaphor for education. But Gloria Steinem tells a story about a time when she was in graduate school, and she was out on a field trip with her class. And she watched as this turtle perched itself on the side of the road, a very, very busy thoroughfare. So, she raced over, picked the turtle up, and took the turtle back down the hill from whence it came, and dropped it back at the pond, and feeling good about herself because she salvaged a dangerous situation. Her professor came up to her and said: You realize what you just did; it took that turtle six weeks to get up the mountainside to come to a place where she could lay her eggs safely, away from the predators and allow her children to scamper down to the pond to safety. And so, Gloria Steinem asked him in return: Well, what should I have done differently? He said, Next time, ask the turtle. And I think it’s a great metaphor for education; it speaks to why we try to do education by infusing policy, whether it’s at the federal or state level, or we infuse millions of dollars in technology or fancy curriculum, but we don’t ask the turtle, we don’t ask the kids, we don’t ask the communities, we don’t ask the people who are most impacted by our work. So, I think if we kinda flip the notion of how we do education, and make it more of a community business, I think we’d get further with our outcomes.

 

And yet, there’s less and less of a sense of community, even in rural areas, because people are working or they’re isolated. How do we get that community fabric?

 

You know, I think it’s incumbent upon us as educators in schools to create that opportunity for community. You know, school traditionally has been a standalone process where kids come at eight o’clock in the morning, and they’re dropped, and at three o’clock they go home, and we’ve done our job. But we haven’t made ourselves very welcoming to community, and we have to recognize that there’s huge wealth and resource. The teachers are in the community, so how do we create the community as the classroom. So, I think it’s that reciprocal trust that has to be built. And we’re getting there; that’s kind of the process of what we’re trying to do in West Hawaiʻi now.

 

So, how does that actually help the students?

 

What happens is that we’re creating opportunities for site-based and place-based learning opportunities, mentorships, internship opportunities for kids. It’s a funding source that can hopefully help to develop opportunities for more money for our dual college and dual credit programs. And I think it just creates an opportunity to have more voices tell us what education should look like. Because you know, I believe that our authority and our accountability, and our authenticity as school leaders really comes not from us doing it, but from us being able to say, Are we acting that way on your behalf. And so, that’s kind of why I believe that through this partnership, and through this community building we’ll make some gains.

 

So, you feel empowered and free in your position to do what you think best? I mean, ‘cause you know, you just hear of so many people who feel like they’re just in straightjackets of bureaucracy.

 

You know, there are elements that are straightjacket-like. I mean, it’s the bureaucracy. But I think within that, there’s plenty of room for flexibility, there’s plenty of room for autonomy. But you have to be willing to take risks, and you have to be able to know that it’s not always gonna be easy to fund. There are those challenges. But you have to start somewhere; right?

 

What’s it gonna take? That’s a very complex—speaking of complex. You talked about that several times. That’s a tough thing, to change somebody’s way of thinking based on their experience and their concerns.

 

You know, one of my favorite metaphors, if I could share with you, is one I read in a Paul Theroux book some years back, where you know, we have so many entities that are involved in education; right? We have the department, we have the collective bargaining units, the legislature, the governor’s office; you name it. But traditionally in education, when we bring all these entities together, it’s much like two bald men arguing over a comb. You know, because—

 

Who said that; Paul Theroux?

 

Paul Theroux, it’s a great visual because when you think about it, ideally and philosophically, you’re there for the right reason. We’re here for kids, we’re gonna do the right thing for kids. But you so quickly default to: But I gotta take care of my kuleana first, and I’m gonna do what I need to do for my entity. We have to switch that thinking. And so, yeah, that’s the hard work of transformation, is it’s changing traditional ways of thinking, and getting agreement that, Can we get a common agenda around hopes and dreams for kids?

 

 

You’re not a digital native.

 

No.

 

No such thing as cell phones in your time, or nobody was using the web or smart TVs.

 

M-hm.

 

So, you’re teaching children who are all digital natives.

 

Yeah.

 

And obviously, infrastructure has been added, and policies have been made. But also, you know, there’s an argument that children are even hardwired differently now.

 

Yeah.

 

What have you seen?

 

I think students have access to information, and learning, and knowledge that they’ve never had before. I think they’re more independent in their learning, and these are all good things. I think that technology has been a tremendous gift to young people, because it sparks creativity in thinking and learning. I think the challenge is for the adults to catch up with the kids, and to have an understanding that kids can create their own learning because they have that technology available to them. And so, it’s kind of a reverse catch-up, if you wish. School hasn’t ever been that way before.

 

 

Where teachers sometimes have to get out of the way, or they have to be able to lead and follow.

 

That’s right; that’s right. And so, the role of the teacher is different, because you’re not just the dispenser of information and knowledge, but you’re a facilitator of learning. And that’s a different way of looking at it. The young people today are just absolutely brilliant. I’m amazed by, when I go and see what these guys are learning, what they’re capable of doing, when you see their senior projects and you see what they’ve accomplished at graduation. Sometimes, we just have to get out of the way and let ‘em learn.

 

And yet, you say all the schools in your district are Title 1?

 

Yeah. Yeah. So, we have those challenges, and you know, the social and emotional needs of our communities are such that, yeah, we have issues with drugs, and we have issues with teen wellness and teen suicide, and we have issues with teenage pregnancy and all. And the role of school has changed dramatically, and all the more reason why we have to understand we can’t do all of those things, and educate. But our job is to make kids well, to create leaders who will sustain their communities. You do that by having the community involved. So, if you have a successful student, I believe that has to be mirrored by a successful community. They’re one and the same, and we should have the same measures in defining what a successful student and a successful community look like.

 

You know, as you named some of the challenges, I thought, you know, you have to have a certain mindset to do the job you have. Because many people, when there’s a problem, when there’s a fear or a problem that takes precedence because that’s a danger. You have all of those things on your horizon, you know, as possible problems or threats, or immediate.

But you have to see the bright skies around the darkness, or you couldn’t do your job.

 

 

You know, I like to think of myself as irrationally optimistic. And I think you have to be. And I think if you ask any of my colleagues in any of the fourteen other complex areas, they have the same challenges I have. You know, some might be larger than others, but we have to remain positive in our belief that, you know, if we do it right, those goals, and aspirations, and hopes that kids have will be realized. They will be realized.

 

Although, on the other side of the fence, if you do it right today, it doesn’t mean it’ll work tomorrow.

 

Yeah.

 

So, you’re always having to change, as necessary.

 

Yeah; that’s a good point. You know, the work of the educator is probably the most dynamic one there is, and you always have to be aware of that. And that’s the biggest challenge in education when I’m asked. It’s not about lack of funding or resources; I think we have enough to work with. The challenge is changing mindsets. You know, I’ve been an educator for forty years, and we’ve been talking about transformation, but we haven’t really come much of a way toward real true transformation. So, it’s a constant effort to do that.

 

 

Following his philosophy of asking the turtle what it wants, State DOE Complex Area Superintendent for West Hawaiʻi Island, Art Souza, allowed his sons to find their own way in school. His older son Nathan graduated from private Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy in Waimea, and gravitated to the arts. He now lives in Portland, Oregon. Ethan graduated from public school at Honokaʻa High, and works in environmental conservation on the Big Island. Mahalo to Art Souza for your passion and vision for quality public education in rural areas. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaiʻi and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

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

 

Do you ever want to just get your backpack and hele out?

 

Oh, you know it; you know it. I don’t have too much longer for my formal working with the Department. I’m kind of ready to start that transition, I hope it includes some backpacking. Absolutely.

 

Where would you go now? You’ve been to South America and Africa.

 

Yeah, yeah. No, there’s a lot of places that I haven’t been. I’ve always had this fascination with the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and getting up into some of the more remote areas of what was previously the Soviet Union. I’d love to get to China; I’ve never been to China. Those would be two destinations.

 

[END]

 

 

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall:
Have You Fact-Checked Your Truth?

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall

With ever-increasing divisions in our country, PBS Hawai‘i introduces a new series of live town hall events called KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall. In this first live discussion, we ask: “Have You Fact-Checked Your Truth?” We take on the meaning of “truth” and how we view truth in an era of “fake news,” “trolling” and filter bubbles on social media. Is there one truth – or is truth in the eye of the beholder?

 

You can email us with your thoughts in advance at kakou@pbshawaii.org, or post on Twitter using the #pbskakou hashtag. The town-hall will also be live streamed on pbshawaii.org and on Facebook Live, where you can also join the conversation.

 

What is KĀKOU?

 

 

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall
Have You Fact-Checked Your Truth?

Original broadcast date: Thursday, October 5, 2017

 

 

 

Top 10 Facebook Stories from 2017

Feel like negative news dominated 2017? You might be surprised by which of our stories got the most attention this past year on Facebook.

 

1. American Epic – Joseph Kekuku and the Steel Guitar

Joseph Kekuku, regarded as the inventor of the steel guitar, is at the center of the Hawaiian slack key story. This American Epic episode traces his story, and the hybrid cultures evident in Tejano music, along with stories behind Cajun music and the music of the Hopi tribe.

 

2. HIKI NŌ Report by Wai‘anae High School – Max “Blessed” Holloway 

Students at Wai‘anae High School in West Oahu feature Wai‘anae High School graduate and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter Max Holloway, who feels it is his kuleana to represent the Wai‘anae community in the most positive way possible when he competes. Max also takes his responsibilities to his wife and young son very seriously. Having been severely neglected by his own parents, Max wants to make sure his son does not have to suffer the same sort of childhood.

3. PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS: The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific

Directed by Sam Low and Boyd Estus, this documentary explores the heritage of Polynesian wayfinding, and how indigenous Pacific societies sustained their navigational practices and practitioners. The film features Mau Piailug, who was at that point the last known navigator to be ceremonially initiated on Satawal, an atoll in Micronesia’s remote Caroline Islands.

 

4. The Films of Eddie & Myrna Kamae – From the Heart

PBS Hawai‘i partnered with the Hawaiian Legacy Foundation to present a televised and online film festival, The Films of Eddie and Myrna Kamae, From the Heart. This showcase featured all 10 award-winning documentaries in Eddie and Myrna Kamae’s Hawaiian Legacy Series, released between 1988 and 2007.

 

5. HIKI NŌ Report by Kua o ka la PCS – Traditional Opelu Fishing

Students from Kua O ka La Miloli‘i Hipuu Virtual Academy Public Charter School on Hawai‘i Island tell the story of traditional opelu fishing in the remote South Kona fishing village of Miloli‘i. For many Miloli‘i residents, opelu fishing is more than a tradition—it is a means of survival. Families sell their catch as their main source of income and are trying to pass the practice down to their children so that the tradition and income source can continue.

 

6. Surfer Girls in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh’s only beach town, there are just a handful of girls who ride the waves. In fact, most people there frown upon seeing girl surfers, who have faced threats from conservative Muslims in the neighborhood. But surfing makes them feel empowered when they might otherwise be expected to assume traditional roles and marry before they become adults. Special correspondent Tania Rashid reports.

 

7. Hawai‘i’s Own and Their Stories: Ron Schaedel

Ron Schaedel, a retired Marine, touched on his struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome, and his concern for his own sons in the military. “I’ve got PTSD to the max, I’m trying to deal with my own issues, and I’m worried about my two boys, but who’s the rock? My wife,” he said. “I owe my health and my life to my wife.” To this day, he said, “I take it a day at a time, and life goes on.”

 

8. Insights on PBS Hawai‘i: The Grades Are In

How did our State senators and House representatives do during the 2017 legislative session? Legislative leaders and journalists graded this session – see if you agree with them on this INSIGHTS.

 

9. Most Likely to Succeed 

Most Likely to Succeed examines the history of education in the United States and reveals the shortcomings of conventional education in today’s modern world. The documentary also follows students at High Tech High, a network of San Diego charter schools that promotes hands-on, project-based learning, with the goal of producing real-world workforce and life skills.

 

10. Insights on PBS Hawai‘i: The Airbnb-ing of Hawai‘i 

Short-term vacation rental companies like Airbnb are changing the tourism industry – and quite possibly your neighborhood. Opponents of this phenomenon say illegal or “underground” vacation rentals drive up housing prices and change the character of neighborhoods. Airbnb proponents say it has stabilized Hawai‘i’s housing market. Local data indicates 19 percent of homeowners partner with Airbnb to avoid foreclosure, and 60-65 percent participate so they can afford to stay in their homes. Differing perspectives on this issue are heard on this INSIGHTS.

 

BONUS: Top image from our social media pages

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
The News Stories and Events of 2017

 

For our last live discussion of 2017, INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I reviews the major news stories of the last year, from investigative to inspirational and more. Our guests will also explore outstanding examples of “truth to power” stories, and will offer their suggestions on the stories to watch for in 2018.

 

Our scheduled guests include INSIGHTS moderators Yunji De Nies and Daryl Huff, and Ka Leo O Hawai‘i Editor-in-Chief Spencer Oshita. A HIKI NŌ student journalist will also be participating. Beth-Ann Kozlovich is scheduled to moderate this discussion.

 

An encore of this program will air on Thursday, December 21 at 8:00 pm. INSIGHTS will be on hiatus until Thursday, January 11.

 

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

 

Email:
insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Facebook:
Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

Don’t Just Wait for Your Turn to Speak, Listen!

 

CEO Message

Don’t Just Wait for Your Turn to Speak, Listen!

 

Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEOWas it an “Only in Hawai‘i” phenomenon?

 

Talking with me on Long Story Short back in 2008, Hawai‘i Island Mayor Harry Kim singled out a barrier he faced in settling contentious community issues.

 

The problem isn’t getting people to the table, he said. They show up, all right.

 

But too often, they’re interested only in telling their side. Mayor Kim has seen the abyss between hearing and listening.

 

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim: "Will you at least listen?"

 

“Will you at least…listen?” he would ask assembled opponents. “Will you listen to the other side, then talk?”

 

Author Stephen R. Covey put it this way: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

 

Or as John Wayne commented drily to a big talker in one of his cowboy movies, “You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”

 

Hardly a new phenomenon, this practice of not listening has picked up steam. Talking heads on cable television have made it a tradition to shout over each other, and political town halls devolve into parallel rants. Courtesy is a quaint notion.

 

Here at PBS Hawai‘i, we don’t claim to have the answers. We believe that a path to understanding is civil discourse. We’re convinced that listening is as important as speaking.

 

That’s why we’ve become a trusted space for roundtable forums, one-on-one interviews and diverse group discussions.

 

The idea is to rely on active listening and grow a conversation that is far more illuminating than the setting forth of respective opinions.

 

If nothing else, listening guides you in knowing what to say and when, to best effect.

 

As 2017 comes to a close, I think of competing strident voices I’ve heard over the year; of many simmering issues in this country; and of people facing each other to talk, not listen.

 

My wish for the new year is a leavening of respect for others and understanding.

 

I’m not saying this will cure our ills, but I bet we’d have some breakthroughs.

 

We can start by being short on mouth and long on ears.

 

Wishing you peace,

 

Leslie signature

Leslie Wilcox
President and CEO
PBS Hawai‘i

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Ted Dintersmith

 

As a child who played a lot of baseball in rural Virginia, Ted Dintersmith wanted to be a Major League Baseball pitcher. By serendipity, he says, life took him on a completely different path, when he got a job at a high-tech startup. For 25 years, he made a name for himself in the venture capital realm, before leading the charge in America as an advocate for transforming education. He is Executive Producer of the documentary Most Likely to Succeed and a co-author of the book by the same name. In the 2015-16 school year, Dintersmith visited all 50 states to meet with parents, students, educators and politicians, and encouraged communities to work collectively to re-imagine school and its purpose.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 12, at 4:00 pm.

 

Ted Dintersmith Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

So, you start to realize, what is the point? Is the point of school to weed people out and to rank people on relatively irrelevant measures, or is the purpose of school to help every individual, every child develop their full potential? I think right now, in American education—this is not a Hawai‘i statement, but a fifty-state statement, the purpose of school is to rank kids’ potential on a very artificial limited measure that gives outsized advantage to the affluent. And we have to do better than that.

 

He’s on a personal crusade to bring about change to the American school system. Ex-venture capitalist turned champion of education reinvention, Ted Dintersmith, next on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. After a career as a highly successful venture capitalist, Ted Dintersmith of Virginia found a new calling as a crusader and philanthropist committed to seeing the reinvention of our education system. He’s been traveling eighty percent of the time, and dedicating millions of dollars of his personal finances to bring about change and innovation in the U.S. school system. To show how classroom education could be more effective, Ted Dintersmith produced a documentary called “Most Likely To Succeed”. Starting in 2015, Dintersmith took the film to all fifty states to encourage communities to rethink how children are educated in this country. Among the states where he’s found real promise and breakthroughs in innovation is Hawai‘i. More on that later. Ted Dintersmith grew up in a small town just twenty miles from Washington, D.C., but the family wasn’t much interested in the political scene. The family struggled to make ends meet with blue collar wages.

 

Oh, my dad, you know, for most of the time I was growing up, was a carpenter. You know, my mother stayed at home. She was really the intensity in our family. And so, she was the one who, in a fierce way, fought for her kids and wanted life to be better for us. Had a lot of good aspects to it, it had some things that might not be entirely positive. But we were just sort of, I’d say, fairly, you know, lower income, lower middle income. We didn’t have a lot of money, for sure. And you know, it was one of those neighborhoods where there were no fences. People just rolled out of the back. Every family had two, three, four, five kids. And we would just play all the time. Back then, school was maybe a third, maybe less than half of our life, and the rest of the time had nothing to do with it. You know, very little to no homework, just kinda do things.

 

You didn’t have play dates?

 

No. No. You know, it was like, it was just random. And you know, you realize the incredible value of growing up in a situation where you just are given that kind of space to go figure out yourself.

 

You learned something about your father after you grew up.

 

Yeah.

 

And it made all the difference in understanding him.

 

So, my dad was in World War II. And he enlisted in the Navy before he was eighteen years old. So, didn’t finish high school. And within a month or two, he was on a destroyer in the Pacific Rim, and he went through six combat exchanges. You know, the really bad one. People blew up around him, he came close to dying multiple times. But you name a major Pacific Rim exchange in that window, he was in it, and affected. And in number six, something happened. I obviously wasn’t there. And he was discharged with a partial nervous breakdown.

 

What was the battle?

 

I think that was Iwo Jima. And so, he came back home, and met my mother, and they got married. You know, in the postwar, you know, euphoria, they got married. And you know, then they had kids. And he was not easy to be around, growing up. You know, angry a lot. You know, my mother pushed him a lot to do more with his life. You know, there were some difficult things as a kid in that family. And my siblings, we talk about it, and I think we’d all share that perspective. You know, we grew up the whole time knowing kind of that he was in World War II, but nothing about being discharged with a nervous breakdown.

 

Even your mother?

 

She knew. But this was not to be talked about. Now, what that dynamic was, whether they both agreed never to talk about it, or whether … well, I don’t know. And only when he died, did we find—now, he died twenty years ago. So, I was forty-five-ish when he died, and then we found out. And for all of it was like, oh, my gosh. You know, like had we known growing up.

 

Had you known, what? I mean, what would you have done differently?

 

You know, as a kid, when you’re seven years old and your father is furious at you, you don’t think: Oh, so he’s got an issue going on from his past and it’s not me. You think: What did I do? Like, you know, like it ripples down generations.

 

Did you feel he thought you weren’t good enough?

 

I think I probably felt that at some level. I certainly felt enormous pressure to do well on behalf of the family. And I felt—you know, it’s like always feeling so nervous around the house, because you never knew what would trigger something.

 

Was he violent, as well?

 

Never hit; nothing ever physical.

 

Your father, you say, was a carpenter.

 

Yeah.

 

And I believe your grandfather was bricklayer.

 

He was.

 

Were you expected to follow in the family tradition of, you know, blue collar work?

 

Well, no. And I actually speak about this a lot, because I think we underestimate the power of learning by doing. We underestimate and don’t give kids a chance to do more. My vintage was vocational education or career and technical education, so I actually today have sort of come full circle. But when I was growing up, my mother was crystal clear; all of her kids were going to college, period. And in those years, right, college was, you know, kind of an equalizer. I mean, my college tuition, senior year—so, I went to a public college in Virginia. for the entire year, the tuition was two hundred and fifty dollars. Not for an hour, not for a course, not for a quarter or semester; two hundred and fifty bucks. You know, I mean, I could make that much money easily in the summer, you know, minimum wage. I bagged groceries in a grocery store. You know, today, it’s a totally different story. But for my mother, that was really an important value. And we all did go.

 

What about your dad? Did he want you to go to college?

 

Honestly, in our family, with our dynamic, my father wanted what my mother wanted. You know, it was pretty clear who the CEO of our family was. And it was my mother; no question about it.

 

So, you went to college.

 

I did.

 

And majored in?

 

I majored in, which people will say, Ah, he must be a Gemini; I majored in physics and English. I did. And I am a fierce advocate for the liberal arts. Those are great vehicles for developing the skills and the mindsets that help you later in life. I often tell people that majoring in English helped me a lot more in a career in business and technology, than the physics ever did.

 

Well, what did you do after attending your college?

 

I got into a graduate program in physics at Stanford. I said: Don’t know if I’m really gonna want to stay in physics, but California, that sounds pretty good. And they have a lot of different things, so it would give me different options. Best decision I ever made. And I got there, and I’d say within a month, I said: Uh-oh, you know, like, these people that I’m in graduate school with are way smarter than I am in physics, and far more interested than I am in physics. That’s not a good leading indicator. And I just said: I’m going to be a mediocre physicist if I stay here. Then I started just meeting and talking to other people, and I found this different program that was, for me, very interesting. It was sort of math modeling, applied math to real problems. Switched into that, got my PhD there. And I was just happy to be in Silicon Valley, where every month or two, a new building would pop up for Intel, or Apple, or you know, all these companies, many of which have disappeared at this point. And I just kind of said: You know, this high tech stuff sounds interesting, like maybe I should do that.

 

Ted Dintersmith of Virginia pursued his interest in high tech, and was hired at Analog Devices, a company at the forefront of the digital revolution. In 1981, he made the move from Palo Alto, California to Boston, Massachusetts, and at age thirty-two, Dintersmith became the general manager of one of the company’s businesses.

 

But I was miserable, and I wasn’t good at managing people, and I didn’t like it. And I did it for like, three and a half years, then I finally just said: Oh, I just can’t do this anymore. And that’s how I ended up in venture capital.

 

Well, okay, that’s not a natural. How did you end up in venture capital?

 

When I joined them, they were pretty small, Analog Devices, and they just got bigger, and bigger. I had some ideas to start a business. And then, somebody said: Oh, if you’re gonna start something new, you ought to talk to these people in Boston called Venture Capitalist. And so, I put together a little outline of the business, and used some friends and connections, and started meeting with some. And in one of the meetings, kinda like this, somebody said: You know, your business, that might be interesting, but have you ever thought about being a venture capitalist? We have a search underway to find a new associate, and you’ve got a really good background for it. It was one of those where I said to myself: Do I be honest and say, honestly, I don’t have an idea of what—I mean, I don’t know what a venture capitalist is, I know nothing, or do I say, which I did, you know, that’s always been something I’ve thought about and wasn’t sure whether this was the right time, but that would be a discussion I’d like to have.

 

It was kind of a fake it ‘til you make it.

 

Yeah, yeah; a little bit. Try not to say something totally dishonest. And I ended up joining this group. And you know, as difficult and as unhappy as I was as a manager of a business, it was just a totally different world for me in venture capital. I just loved the business. It, you know, went well, and those were great years for me.

 

So, you were shaping businesses, even though you hadn’t really owned a business yourself?

 

Right; right. Oftentimes, this is kind of the kiss of death in venture is, you fail every single time if your attitude is: I want to work with people that will listen to me and do what I tell them to do. You want to back people who know what they want to do. I mean, it’s great if they listen, and they should be open-minded, but I always said to people: If you don’t reject nine out of ten of my suggestions, I’ve backed the wrong person. Because if I’m making a bunch of suggestions to you, somebody else is as well, and somebody else is as well.

 

Talk about a judgment call on your part. Because the money is big.

 

Yeah; sometimes. And I did feel like, you know, I picked people well. I mean, if I have any claim to fame in venture, I think I did over forty early stage, kind of one to three person startups. And I don’t have these exact, it’s been a while, but eighty-five percent were successes. You know, it’s an industry where if it’s one-third that succeed at that stage, that’s pretty good. So, my hit rate, my success rate was really quite good.

 

And it’s the Charles River …

 

Charles River Ventures. And so, our eighth fund, which we raised in 1997, on a fund, not on a given investment, but we raised a hundred million bucks, and we returned twenty times that. It’s one of the best funds in the history of venture capital. And it was a cross of a bunch of different companies.

 

As a partner in the Boston-based firm Charles River Ventures, Ted Dintersmith became one of the most successful venture capitalists in America during the mid to late 90s, funding innovative startup companies. High risk, high reward; it was a great run. After a quarter century as a venture capitalist, Dintersmith shifted priorities.

 

My kids were like five and seven. And I said: You know, like, I can either keep doing what I’ve done for the last twenty-five years, and knowing that there’s way too much money in the industry and it was gonna be really tough, or I could just say I’m gonna really spend time with my kids.

 

And how old were you at the time?

 

I was about fifty.

 

Okay.

 

Yeah; fifty, fifty-five.

 

And did your kids go to public schools?

 

I figured if they charged money, they’ve gotta be better. Big mistake. They were in this private school in Central Virginia. Then I got this note to parents saying: Brown bag lunch, come listen us, we’ve got these new programs to teach your kids important life skills. And it got me thinking. Like, why do you need a new program? Isn’t it obvious that schools should be preparing kids for life? I mean, a new initiative to teach kids life skills? I mean, isn’t that what school is all about? And I went to the program, and it was about, you know, like we’ll teach kids to drive safely by showing pictures and videos of car crashes, we’ll teach kids not to smoke by showing them tar-infested lungs and people who’ve had their larynx removed. And it’s like, you know, like I get that, but you know. But I made this list, and I said, you know, like important life skills, irrelevant life skills, and started paying attention to what my kids were doing in school. And very little, almost nothing was falling into the important life skills category, and a lot was falling in the irrelevant. But I had to add a new column, which was: harming them. What was actually going to damage my kids going forward? Because I knew, having lived and breathed innovation, how kids need to be prepared for a world where everything’s changing on a regular basis. And I knew, you know, you ask a million questions, you know, learn how to learn, think outside of the box, question everything. You know, like certain things that I just had seen over and over were the success predictors for people in these innovative companies. Not that they had to start the company, but just to be part of it and on the team, and do well.

 

M-hm.

 

You need to have certain mindsets. And I said, these are all disappearing, right in front of my eyes, for my kids in this school process. And this was a school most parents thought was great, certainly was expensive. I said: Whoa, you know, if this is going on in a school people think is great, what’s going on in other schools? And that just sort of led to complete immersion. I wasn’t feeling like they were doing good things, and I went in and met with the headmaster, and sort of laid out my concerns. And to his credit, he was honest with me. He said: I agree with you completely, but if I tried to do this, my board and the parent community would fire me. And as I say, I joke, but it’s not really a joke. That’s when my life turned into a cause. You know, like a lot of the things that normal people do, certainly at a point where they could retire, I don’t do anymore. And I just sort of am, this is the issue, and I feel it’s the most important issue of our ages.

 

Ted Dintersmith of Virginia put to use the analytical skills and out-of-the-box thinking that made him a successful venture capitalist, and he observed and reimagined what he calls an obsolete American education system.

 

I think one of the most misunderstood things in education is, what’s it mean to learn something? Lawrenceville Academy, which is extremely exclusive, very expensive, feeds all the Ivy League schools, and they took kids who had done really well in courses in a year, and when they came back in the fall, they gave them a subset of their final exam questions. Just the essential concepts they thought every kid had mastered. In two years across all these students, the average grade went from a B-plus to an F, and not one kid retained every concept that the faculty thought every kid had retained. And you start to say, the best of our best students in a school that’s on most people’s list of the top twenty private schools in the country, if they’re not really remembering …

 

I’ve heard that, too, from Ivy League grads who said they retained information as long as they had to.

 

Yeah. I think the main skill that gets developed in a lot of schools is short-term memory. We don’t even give them courses on memorization techniques. A teacher in high school in Minot, North Dakota related to me this. He said he told his high school juniors, one class period a week you can work on whatever you’re interested in. He said over half the kids did a Google search: What should I be interested in? And you know, when I relate that anecdote to audiences, the pattern is always the same. Lots of laughter, and then it settles in. And people realize, my gosh, are we hollowing out all the passion and interest, and joy from the kids, all in the sake of covering every possible smidgen of content that some committee has decided they need to know.

 

And how did all of that happen with our school systems?

 

Well, I think the short version is, thoughtfully invented a hundred and twenty-five years ago to prepare people for a world of routine worked well in manufacturing, from manufacturing to paper processing and shuffling, and bureaucracy still worked well.

 

But that was a long time ago.

 

Long time ago.

 

During the covered wagon era.

 

Yeah; long time ago. And then, I’d say over the last twenty years, we sort of made a choice.   And I frame it this way. Do we do things better, or do we do better things? But instead of saying: Let’s reinvent, let’s reimagine, let’s do something really different that makes sense for a world where content is at your fingertips and where you’ve got to solve big bold problems, instead, it was a lot easier to say: Hm, test scores are flat, let’s do everything we can to get test scores to go up. Five years later, ten years later, with No Child Left Behind, they’re not budging. Oh, I know; let’s hold teachers accountable to those test scores. Ah, still not going up; what do we do? And so, doing things better, or I always say doing obsolete things better, you know, doesn’t do anybody any good. We need to reimagine education.

 

To help inspire innovation in American education, Ted Dintersmith funded and produced an education documentary called “Most Likely To Succeed”. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and Dintersmith took the film across the nation, all fifty states, for community screenings and discussion. He wanted to convey the value of project-based learning, and yes, the need to rethink how to educate children.

 

I mean, after I came to this epiphany about life skills, and were my kids really being prepared for life, and then saying not only are they not, they actually may be damaged through this process, it may be actually harmful, I said: I gotta do something. And so, I went through a process. I said, so I’m anonymous. You know, like I’m not famous. I’m not Bill Gates; I’m like, Joe Bag of Donuts. And I said, like, I could write a book, and you know, like, yeah, maybe somebody would read it. I just sort of thought of like, I’m telling you what you guys know so well. I mean, how do you change people’s mind? Visual, something with emotion. And so, I said: This could fall flat, it could be a waste of time and money, but if we could somehow come together and produce something really remarkable, that would have a chance to sort of start changing the discussion broadly.

 

The things I think in life that give us some of the greatest satisfaction is making something that wasn’t there before.

 

I can’t wait for that moment, when it does work and I’m completely done with it. And it’s like always, it’ll be…

 

Kids have that feeling that’s transformative; I made this, and everyone’s going to look at it.

 

We filmed for two years, six hundred hours, times two, two cameras. And just got lucky with something that really does kinda get people energized about what could be done in school, and shows them kids learning in a way that doesn’t look like normal school, that they ordinarily might view as summer camp, you know, that you know, you watch these kids and they’re building things, and making things, and working in teams. And if I’d written about that, people would say, “that sounds good.” When they see it, when they see how it affects those kids, when they see teachers trusted to teach to their passions and do what they entered into the profession to do, it just makes an indelible mark on the audience. And so, we only do community screenings, we’ve done two here with you guys, which have been great. And we wanted to bring people together for discussion.

 

And you’ve had many discussions.

 

Yeah.

 

All over.

 

Over four thousand around the world, four hundred in Hawaii alone. And you know, but it’s what you guys know; right? It’s what’s so special about what your work is all about. It’s community, it’s family, it’s bringing people together.

 

In 2016, Ted Dintersmith made his first visit to Hawai‘i to show the film. He also met with local leaders, and visited a variety of island schools. He saw a fertile field for change, and he’s come back again, and again. His national crusade was intensive, and he’s not yet.

 

And so, this was not just like come there and have a meeting or two. I mean, I had for nine months, fifty states, every day from seven-thirty in the morning ‘til ten at night, meeting, after meeting, after meeting, after meeting. You know, from governors to commissioners of education, but lots, and lots, and lots of school visits, meeting with teachers, meeting with parents, meeting with students.

 

And out of those fifty states, you find yourself revisiting two states.

 

Two states.

 

Would you tell us about that?

 

The two states which are very, very different states, and I’m on the plane tonight to the second one, but North Dakota and here. And for very different reasons. But North Dakota, tomorrow I’ll be there, it’ll be the eighth time in two years. And I’ve gone all over the state, and working really closely with their governor and their superintendent of public instruction. And you know, we’re funding some things that they find helpful, and they’re just very all-in at the state level for preparing their kids for a world that’s really different. And they’ve got a lot of things that I think are great, and I think they’ve got a real chance. And I did almost every town, and we had community events. But with me on all these events were either the superintendent of public instruction or the number two, one of the top two or three from the teachers union, one of the top two or three from the chamber of commerce. You can go to a lot of states where those two people won’t even be in the same city.

 

And you bring money to the table, as well as insight?

 

I give some grants. And so, you know, I don’t charge for any—I mean, it’s always an embarrassing thing, because, you know, when I give these talks, what I know is that I’m doing it all on my own nickel, and I’m actually supporting things. And it sounds braggy to say that. But then it gets like, when you come to North Dakota or Hawai‘i, and you say: You guys can do amazing things, you know, I’d hate it if people in the audience say: Well, somebody must be just paying him to say that. You know, what drew me back here, honestly, I wouldn’t keep coming back if it weren’t for this guy Josh Reppun.

 

And he’s a former educator.

 

A former educator, and now just passionate about his state, about the heritage of the state, about what people can do about giving these kids opportunities. So, that first week was unbelievable. You know, they did a documentary on the visit. And the reason I keep coming back here, you know, the people here doing the innovative work in education—

 

In Hawai‘i.

 

In Hawai‘i. Are the best of the best. I would challenge anybody to go to any other state in the country, and I’ve been to them all, and find other examples that are better. You’ve got remarkable innovations going on in your schools here. But if you want to get really energized about education, you know, go to, you know, Waipahu. See what Keith Hayashi’s doing there. I mean, it’s just like, whoa, this is like, education at its finest.

 

And he is the principal of Waipahu High School, who, you know, left the number two position in the DOE, because he wanted to be at his school.

 

Yeah. Go to Waianae, go to Candy Suiso’s, you know, media arts program. I mean, you sit there and you talk to these students, and if you ask them: What are you working on, and why does this matter to you? They have great answers; right? Most places I go to, if you say to a student: What are you working on? They’re not even sure. You know, you go observe a lab and you say: What are you doing? They’ll say: Step 3. What’s more inspiring than what these kids have in this state? And so, I just say, like these people, they just care about it. So, for me, it’s tiring ‘cause I travel all the time, but it’s inspiring.

 

Former top venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith says he’ll continue to be a change agent for education by personally funding and gathering resources for innovative learning approaches such as those shown in his film, “Most Likely To Succeed”. Mahalo to frequent Hawaii visitor Ted Dintersmith of Earlysville, Virginia for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

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

 

I was in West Maui, and I’m talking to these kids. I said: Well, tell me what you’re interested in. When I ask kids even in sixth grade that question, the question they’re often hearing is: What career should I have? And I always say: Don’t worry about that. Right? You’re in sixth grade. You know, and I tell them, you know, that I did fairly well in business, and if you’d asked me at age twenty-eight what a business was, I didn’t know.

 

 

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