discussion

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall



KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall

“KĀKOU” means “all of us.” But it doesn’t mean we all agree.

 

When we can speak to each other honestly and listen earnestly… When we recognize that we are all in this together… When we are engaged in working toward a common goal, that is “kākou.”

 

PBS Hawai‘i hosts a periodic series of live town hall events called KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall. You can email us with your thoughts in advance or during the live conversation 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.

 

 

Join The Conversation Online!
#PBSKakou

KĀKOU: HAWAI‘I'S TOWN HALL – Join the Conversation

 

Join the online conversation about KĀKOU by using the #PBSKakou hashtag on Twitter. See what your community has said so far!

 




IN PRINCIPLE

IN PRINCIPLE

 

In this new series, co-hosts Michael Gerson, a syndicated Washington Post columnist, and Amy Holmes, a political news commentator, interview guests to explore the framework of today’s news and political conversations, examining history, faith and culture.

 

 

AMANPOUR ON PBS

Amanpour on PBS

 

Featuring conversations with global leaders and decision makers on the issues affecting the world today, Amanpour on PBS adds to the long tradition of public affairs programming that has been a hallmark of public media for decades.

 

 

The Great American Read

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

Our favorite books occupy a special place in our hearts. They help us to exercise our imagination, shift our perspective and open our minds.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

Vote for your favorite novel!

 

Our favorite books occupy a special place in our hearts. They help us to exercise our imagination, shift our perspective and open our minds.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

This summer, PBS puts a spotlight on the power of reading with The Great American Read, hosted by Meredith Vieira. This eight-part PBS series and community engagement campaign is designed to spark a national conversation about reading, and the books that have inspired, moved and shaped us. The project also explores the ways that our favorite books have shaped our collective imagination – asking what they have to say about our diverse nation, and how these stories affect us as readers.

 

Launching with a two-hour special on May 22 at 8:00 pm, the series hopes to encourage a multi-generational, multi-platform dialogue about literacy in America.

 

 

Just prior to the May 22 launch episode, PBS will reveal the list of 100 novels the public will be voting on throughout the summer. The online voting campaign is the first-ever national vote to choose “America’s Best-Loved Books.” The novels on the top 100 list were chosen by the American public in a specially commissioned, demographically representative national survey conducted by market research firm YouGov.

 

Prominent authors and celebrities such as Margaret Atwood, Juno Díaz, Lauren Graham, John Irving, George R.R. Martin, Devon Kennard and more will lend their voices and share their personal stories and connections to their favorite titles.

 

The series returns in the fall with five one-hour specials designed to take a deeper dive into the books on the list, grouped by theme. Leading literary experts will help us understand how these books and themes relate to our history, culture, psychology and the human condition – and what they mean to us today.

 

By Emilie Howlett


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 Sunday, May 13 at 4:00 pm and 11:30 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.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Kamuela Enos

 

Kamuela Enos’ vision for his community of Waiʻanae on West O‘ahu considers his deep regard for ancestral values, as well as an appreciation for contemporary innovation. He serves as director of social enterprise at MAʻO Organic Farms, a non-profit that aims to connect Waiʻanae youth to the land, while fostering in them workforce and life skills.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Apr. 29, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Kamuela Enos Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

The poverty we see in our community—and I say this a lot, was recent and learned behavior.  Our ancestors weren’t poor, we were taught to be poor.  Like anything that you’re taught, you can unlearn too. So, it became like, well, how do I unlearn this, how do I find a way to restore, you know, that sense of purpose, that sense of connection.

 

He comes from an ohana of cultural practitioners who turned to the wisdom of the past to create a better future for their struggling communities. Kamuela Enos, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawaii’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kakou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Kamuela Enos is the director of social enterprise at Mao Organic Farms in Waianae, Oahu, a low-income area where he offers internships to teenagers and young adults.  They work on the farms in exchange for a stipend and college tuition assistance. After a few stumbles of his own, Enos found his path to his calling in life: serving others, while perpetuating Hawaiian ancestral responsibilities.  Kamuela was born into the Enos ohana of Waianae.  His father, Eric Enos, is a cultural practitioner and activist who co-founded Kaala Farms years before Mao with a similar mission to heal at-risk youth by having them connect with their roots.

 

I knew it was special.  I think part of what I think the reality was, is to be raised in a family that was doing something that was in front of a curve.

 

Meaning?

 

My father was Eric Enos, one of the founders of Kaala Farms, was doing aina work, restoring traditional practices, what is now an actual industry.  It’s a thing; aina-based education, right?  It was borne out of this idea reclaiming land and identity as a response to the Hawaiian renaissance, of having had that part of our identity kind of been told explicitly to step away from.  You know, it’s important for you to assimilate into contemporary American society, and to, you know, be a good American, and to take all the vestiges of your ancestry, your language, your practices, and put that behind you.

 

When did your father start reclaiming the land?

 

You know, I remember that, ‘cause I was really young. And he, you know, was from Waianae, he went to Kamehameha Schools, and then actually, he went to college.  And going to college at UH in the late 60s, early 70s, you can only imagine, like, colleges across the campus, you know, that was the heart of the civil rights movement, and the birthplace of the Hawaiian renaissance too, when you started actually learning your history and realizing that we weren’t allowed to understand our ancestry from a place of strength.  He was coming of age, and he was heavily radicalized, and he got a job teaching at Waianae High School, where he got a chance to really see it, from how I understand it, his stories.  He’s one of a few men who was of Hawaiian ancestry from the community actually teaching, and he was able to hear how teachers were talking about kids from Waianae. So, he often tells me like, he had to quit, or he would have been arrested.  [CHUCKLE]

 

He was so angry at the messaging.

 

And just like, the disregard and the blatant racism that he saw behind the scenes.  And then, he took up work with an organization that worked directly with at-risk youth.  And it was from that point that … it was called The Rap Center, where he began to take students—young adults, actually, not students, that were kind of out of the system, hanging out at the beach parks, walking in the mountains, to kinda get them away from where they would just hang out and associate, and do all the things that were leading to their delinquency, back up into the mountains to kinda understand, take them out of their environment and put them in a new environment.  And there, he started seeing all the remnants of the taro patches.

 

How did he come to acquire the land?

 

That’s a really interesting question.  I think back in the 70s, it was just like: You know what?  We’re just gonna clear this place out, bring water down, and reclaim it.  And if people don’t like it, then they can come and talk to us.

Was it abandoned land?  Who owned it?

 

It was in the back of the valley, and …

 

Probably State-owned?

 

State-owned land.  And they just decided to have these youth repurpose their time at this—[CHUCKLE] I don’t know what they were supposed to be doing, but what they ended up doing was cutting, clearing out haole koa, and putting in PVC pipes and bringing water back down.  And then, learning from people on the east side of Oahu who were still doing traditional taro farming, like, how do we grow this.  And I think that was a really important thing for me to understand.  Like, he wasn’t just trying to reclaim ability to grow food, but he was trying to reclaim the ability to grow people, and therefore, the ability to regrow community.  You know, I was raised in the context of growing up with an activist parent, where I think the things he was doing, none of my peers that I grew up with, their parents did.  My mother was always very much a fan of reading, and a big fan of education.  So, she would just make us read, so we had our noses buried in Tolkien when we were like, fourth grade, and then we were just reading Albert Camus in seventh grade.  And she just said: Read, read, read.  So, kind of like embracing like, intellectualism, if you will.

 

So, body and mind.

 

But then, also growing up as a Waianae boy. [CHUCKLE]  And just going to all the public schools, Makaha Elementary, Waianae Intermediate, Waianae High School, where I eventually dropped out. And like, I call it the blessed schizophrenia of trying to reconcile these three separate, completely different worlds; right?

 

Okay; the three worlds were?

 

Like, I mean, being part of restoring our ancestral practices and being immersed in not just taro farming, but community organizing.

 

Okay; that’s one.

 

The other was like, just having a love of reading, and especially like, not just reading to escape, but authors that like, more philosophical bent; right?

 

People who really provoked your thought.

 

Provocative thinking.

 

And the third?

 

The third was having the people I grew up with, and like, who were my best friends, who I love to this day, really living in the realities of poverty.  As good, as wonderful people they are, like, their daily lives was really bounded by struggling to make ends meet and all of the things that happen when you live in that context, with the violence, the drug use, the alcohol.  You know, and like, those three realities kind of didn’t sit well with each other, especially as I got older and my peers became more and more who I identified with, and I started to reject the other two a little bit more.  That kind of took a while to weave those three strands back together into something. [CHUCKLE]

 

Is that why you dropped out of high school?

 

Basically.  I think part of it was the school wasn’t challenging enough for me, and second, I had a pretty poor attitude about things, so I won’t put it all on the system. I don’t know, I just felt disconnected. And non-air-conditioned Waianae room and learn about something, and have them fit into the system.  Versus, how do we flex the system to meet them where they’re strong, and take those strengths and have them from a strengths perspective then move into like, okay, now I gotta sit in a classroom because I’m passionate about this.  Versus, you’re stupid, you don’t know how to sit in a classroom.

 

She also brought air conditioning to her media classes.

 

Ho, man.  [CHUCKLE]

 

At what age did you drop out?

 

I dropped out when I was sixteen.  I started drinking when I was like, a freshman.  But we really started in earnest when I was sixteen, and dropping out, and just hanging out with all my friends.  And it’s all people that I love to this day, and I just realized … you know, we were all doing that together as a way to lift each other up.  It was a fun that was really volatile, and it became un-fun really quickly.

 

Did it get bad, sometimes result in people getting hurt?

 

It’s always the case in Waianae.  But to me, it became something to reflect on, ‘cause it’s not just the thing that happens in our communities, it happens in communities all over; right?

 

Right.

 

How people respond to historical traumas, and what vehicles or mediums are there for them to medicate.

 

So, do you think you and your friends didn’t know it, but you were feeling the effects of historical trauma?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Of feeling dislocated.

 

Absolutely.

 

And unseen.

 

Right.  Yeah; and you know, if you’re not given a platform, you make one.

 

And you can make a bad platform, as well as a good one.

 

Oh, a heck of a bad platform.

 

Kamuela Enos’ parents did not insist that he return to high school after dropping out during his senior year.  However, they required two things: he had to earn a general education diploma or GED, and he needed to get a job.  Kamuela did so, working minimum wage jobs after picking up his GED from Waipahu High School.

 

There was this older Japanese guy who was handing out the GED diplomas kinda just looked at me and he’s like: What are you doing? I was like: What?  He was like: What are you doing; you shouldn’t be in this line.  He was just like, staring at me.  And I was like …

 

Did he know you?

 

He didn’t know me from Adam.  But he could see the test scores, and he was like: Everyone here is struggling; you shouldn’t be in this line.  I was like, okay.  Then I went from like, I’m going to celebrate getting my GED, to it was a long and reflective drive home to Waianae.  I was like: What am I doing?  I’m in this line; right?  And then, that was further reinforced [CHUCKLE] when the only jobs that I could get was like, working you know, at the fast food restaurants and different places where, you know, people hardly bother to remember your name as staff.  And you’re not there as a calling, you’re there because you have to be.  And what that really lifted up for me was the time I spent in Kaala with my dad.  And that’s when everything made sense.  Like, we’re working in a place where we’re caring for land.  We weren’t making a lot of money, but we had a sense of purpose, I had a sense of love for what I did.  And it was at that point that I realized the value.  Then things came back around.  I was like, you know, not only was I unhappy in the jobs that I was doing, but more important, I felt a lot of people I was working with was unhappy, and I felt like I want to do something about this dynamic.

 

And then, what do you do about it?

 

You go to college, and you drop out of college, [CHUCKLE] ‘cause you realize that you’re unprepared to go to college.  And then, you know, I was lucky enough to have a partner at the time where she basically gave me an ultimatum: You’re gonna go to college, or we’re not gonna be a couple.  And I was like, okay.  [CHUCKLE] So, she had a degree, so I went to college and I was supported.  And when I went to college, I took a Hawaiian studies class.  It was from Glen Kila; he was teaching Hawaiian studies at Leeward Community College Waianae.  Then my brain just broke open.  I was actually learning things I was really interested in, I was learning from a person who respected me as a learner, and I was learning in a space where I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life.

 

Doing what; learning or what?

 

Being part of … making a living, getting a living wage, being engaged with understanding how our heritage, how our ancestry is being deployed in a contemporary way that helps others.

 

Did that mean you wanted to be a teacher, or did you see another way to do that?

 

I still didn’t know, but I knew like, I loved learning about my culture, but I also loved trying to apply it.  And not just learning about it as a museum piece, but then watching my father and the work that he was doing with Auntie Puanani Burgess of trying to create jobs out of ancestral thinking.

 

So, you’re going step-by-step, not really having a direction, but kind of following the clues as you go along.

 

Yeah.

 

And responding.

 

The ancestors leave you clues that you have to pick up.

 

Nuggets along the way?

 

Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s a swift kick in the butt.  But I think that when … you follow the work, you’ll know when you’re in the right.  I believe your ancestors live in your intuition. And like, there’s something that is telling you, this is what you’re supposed to be doing.  You know, in those moments, you have to listen to that.

 

Like his father before him, Kamuela Enos went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  After contemplating several career paths, he decided to focus on a master’s degree in urban and regional planning.  It led him to his true calling, and eventually, back to Waianae.

 

Well, you know, I was really lucky when I was getting my master’s program, that like as I mentioned, I took a class from Bob Agres, who was then the executive director of HACBED, the Hawaii Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development.  And that nonprofit was a network organization that was basically created out of this idea that Auntie Puanani Burgess and others like my dad had pushed on.  Like, how do communities develop their own economic engines.  Like, how are we not dependent on outside jobs that quite often don’t pay as well, and aren’t maybe the best fit for our environment.  How instead of fighting those types of development, how do we be developers of our own jobs.  And HACBED had asked Bob Agres; they had asked him to help create this organization that helped practitioners across the State wrestle with that question.  And I was lucky enough to be in classes where I really found my love and I was interned at HACBED for a while.  And I began to see that I really want to be at the intersect of how we create jobs in using our ancestral thinking so that we’re creating powerful opportunities for employment.

 

Did you know what that looked like at the time?

 

I’d watched my dad try to do that.  I mean, that’s what Kaala was trying to do.  They had backyard aquaculture programs where they would have families raise tilapia in their backyards.

 

I remember there was a time, was it in the 80s, when practically everybody had a tarp and a …

 

Tilapia, yeah, and aquaculture.  And like, that was an attempt to kind of look at the ancestral practice of fishponds or opelu fisheries, and to have people do it in their backyard as a way to generate revenue.  And I was really fascinated by the idea, and I was able to work at HACBED. And, you know, my younger brother Solomon is one of the founders of Mao.  He was the first intern.  So, I was always tracking what they were doing.  So, right around the time I was finishing up my class, a position opened up. I was working at this other organization called Empower Oahu with Richard Pezzulo and it came out of the EZ Economic Zone initiatives that under, I guess the Clinton administration, where they gave money to communities to be able to start up economic empowerment zones. So, me and Richard was working there, but then a position opened up in Mao as education specialist.  And I was like, I really feel that this is the time to come back to my community.  ‘Cause I had been living in town for ten years while I got my bachelor’s and my master’s.  And as much as I love Manoa, I was getting homesick.  I really felt like I wanted to be back where I could be directly engaged in like, working with my own community, and it’s an opportunity to grow our ability, to be strong again.  So, I took it, and I was working there for ten years.  And while I was doing that, I’d continue to be helping Bob Agres every once in a while in the class that he was teaching at Department of Urban and Regional Planning.  I love both the Hawaiian Studies Department and the Urban and Regional Planning Department, and Leeward Community College as an institution, ‘cause those three places really allowed me to learn who I was and how I serve best.

 

And it’s so interesting that it’s not like you suddenly see your future open up. I mean, you are following, you know, clues along the way, listening for the sounds in the forest, kind of.

 

And getting slaps in the head when I step out of line.  [CHUCKLE] You know, I think it’s never about us; I think it’s always about how people guide us.  And like, you know, we have to learn how to humble ourselves to the fact that we’re put on paths, and kicking and screaming, and resenting it is part of it at times.  [CHUCKLE]

 

Or taking the wrong path.

 

Taking the wrong path.

 

Taking the wrong path.

 

You know, I think there is no straight path.  My dad used to always tell me: You gotta walk the crooked path straight.  It’s like, it’s not a clearly laid out path for you.

 

Kamuela Enos walked the crooked path straight back to Waianae, where he felt he could best serve the community through his work at Mao Organic Farms, an organization that provides college tuition assistance to area students in exchange for their work on the farms.

 

When people hear your title, I think many people, including me, are not quite sure of what it means.  You’re the director of social enterprise at Mao Farms.

 

I know; right?  That’s the cool thing about running your own business; you can make whatever titles you want.  [CHUCKLE] But I think to me, the idea of social enterprise is, we measure two things on a daily basis on our farm. There’s the sales of our product and the GPAs of our students.  And all the revenue from the farm doesn’t go to staff; it goes back into the mission of the program.  And the mission is to make sure that our land is productive again, and the people who are working in the land are empowered.  And that’s, to me, a really important narrative.  When people talk about what does it mean to be a Native Hawaiian business, to me, it doesn’t mean that people have Hawaiian DNA running a business.  To me, it means that to create a product or a service for society without externalizing the cost on people or land.  ‘Cause our ancestors did that.  That was how they ran an ahupuaa.  They were the first social entrepreneurs.  They were able to create tons and tons of kalo, tons and tons of fish without exploiting people or diminishing the land’s carrying capacity.  That’s how ahupuaas work.  So, I feel that’s why it’s really important to root our practices in ancestral thinking.  And that’s why the two things we track on a daily basis is sales and GPAs.  That’s what our ancestors tracked.  And I believe our makahiki ceremony where the chiefs would come and look at abundance of land and fitness of people, those two measures, those two metrics are the same metrics that we’ve translated into sales and GPAs.  The sales of our product is our land is abundant again, GPAs is our people are fit. I mean, it’s not a full measure, of course.  There’s other things we’re trying to add into it.

 

But grade point average is the recognized college standard.

 

You’re reporting to your chief.  Like, that’s what our ancestors did when the chief came and checked on his or her people.  They say: Are my people fit, is the land productive?  My responsibility is to have that happen.  So, if we create our businesses that emanate from that same idea, then I can say the programs that we’re running is ensuring that not only is food being grown, but it’s being grown organically.  And the difference in organic production is that you care about the soil’s regenerative health over annual yields.  What’s more important is that the future generations have the right to grow from that soil.  So, that means that we’re generating revenue in ways that’s caring for the soil specifically, and that the farmer is not someone that’s getting a minimum wage with no upward mobility.  Like, they’re using this opportunity to pay for their college. Which for some people is a pathway out of their community, but I want to focus that as a pathway back into your community as a person who has a degree now, that can advocate.  You know, if you’re given a gift, you better make sure that you are using it to help others.  And to me, as a parent now, like, I wrestle with like, with doing the work that I do now, knowing all the challenges environmentally, economically, socially, politically that we’re facing.  Like, you know, what kind of things am I asked to set up for my grandchildren, so that they can thrive in climate change, thrive in all these different things that are happening, and then be a part of changing it and recalibrating it.  So, I did want to acknowledge that, you know, we do what do ‘cause people invest in us, and invest like at their own expense and provide incredible sacrifice so that we can thrive.  Right? When you work with youth and land, then you’re kind of creating a breaking point in generations of poverty, and you’re with them authentically, working alongside them.  Then, they actually begin a chance to clear that space to actually see their worth.

 

To see things differently.

 

Yeah.  And to apply the things that they learn, and see a future for themselves.  That for me, the big thing I always think about is, I had a really rare childhood.  And that what I just stay awake at night thinking about is, how do I make the childhood I had available to as many students as possible. where you are able to have a deep sense of what your ancestors did in a place from a strengths perspective.

 

And you have your own children now, too.

 

I have two children.  I have an eight-year-old and a five-year-old, who I love dearly.  And like, to me, the fact that I can kind of replicate that experience for them, but also give them more agency in helping to—they can say what they like about it too, and they can give input is really exciting.  One of the joys I get in the work that I do now in Mao which really drives me is the same joy I think my father had when he was doing Kaala, is I get to show up and go to work every day in what people would have considered impossible.  I get to go to a job where young adults from Waianae are running the largest organic farm on the island, while getting a 2.0 in college.  If you would have asked people fifteen years ago we were gonna do that, they would have told you: You are crazy, there’s no way that the largest organic farm on Oahu is gonna be in Waianae.  Much less that kids from Waianae are gonna work there, much less kids from Waianae are gonna work there as college students maintaining a 2.0; that is impossible. So, the fact that I get to work every day in a space of what the other people consider impossible really helps me think that things that people are saying are impossible now, can be possible.

 

In 2010, President Obama recognized the work of Kamuela Enos, and appointed him as a member of his advisory commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Kamuela says he’ll continue to live by the examples of his ancestors, while keeping a focus on modern day problems like climate upheaval and the health and wealth disparities of his community. Mahalo to Kamuela Enos of Waipio and Waianae, Oahu.  And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawaii.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

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.

 

When you work with youth and land, then you’re kind of creating a breaking point in generations of poverty, and you’re with them authentically, working alongside them.  Then, they actually begin a chance to clear that space to actually see their worth.

 

To see things differently.

 

Yeah.  And to apply the things that they learn, and see a future for themselves.

 

[END]

 

 

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall
The Global Squeeze: How Do We Keep Hawaiʻi Hawaiʻi?

 

In our second live town hall, we pause to consider where we are, and where we want to be. Change is inevitable. Some changes come quietly, incrementally, over years; others seem to emerge all of a sudden and nearly full-blown. How is Hawai‘i changing – for better, for worse, or both?

 

This is not a conversation about major controversial events that have been dividing our community. This is not a conversation about pro-this, or anti-that. This is a discussion about the finer details of life in Hawai‘i that affect our sense of place. What details compromise the core essence of Hawai‘i – and where are we willing to draw the line?

 

We’ve invited 40 individuals from across the state to participate in this frank, respectful and community-based discussion in our studio. We invite you to join the conversation through email and social media, using the hashtag #pbskakou. You can watch the live broadcast on PBS Hawai‘i, or the live stream on pbshawaii.org and PBS Hawai‘i’s Facebook page.

 


<< Return to the KĀKOU home page.

 

 



KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall

“KĀKOU” means “all of us.” But it doesn’t mean we all agree.

 

When we can speak to each other honestly and listen earnestly… When we recognize that we are all in this together… When we are engaged in working toward a common goal, that is “kākou.”

 

PBS Hawai‘i hosts a periodic series of live town hall events called KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall. You can email us with your thoughts in advance or during the live conversation 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 does KĀKOU mean to you? We asked a few people in our community.

 

“The Global Squeeze: How Do We Keep Hawaiʻi Hawaiʻi?”

Premieres LIVE Thursday, April 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

 

 

In our second live town hall, we pause to consider where we are, and where we want to be. Change is inevitable. Some changes come quietly, incrementally, over years; others seem to emerge all of a sudden and nearly full-blown. How is Hawai‘i changing – for better, for worse, or both?

 

This is not a conversation about major controversial events that have been dividing our community. This is not a conversation about pro-this, or anti-that. This is a discussion about the finer details of life in Hawai‘i that affect our sense of place. What details compromise the core essence of Hawai‘i – and where are we willing to draw the line?

 

 

We’ve invited 40 individuals from across the state to participate in this frank, respectful and community-based discussion in our studio. We invite you to join the conversation through email and social media, using the hashtag #pbskakou. You can watch the live broadcast on PBS Hawai‘i, or the live stream on pbshawaii.org and PBS Hawai‘i’s Facebook page.

 

“Have You Fact-Checked Your Truth?”

Original broadcast date: Thursday, October 5, 2017

 

 

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?

1 2 3 12