Tales from the Royal Bedchamber


Dr. Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, snuggles up with Britain’s monarchs to uncover the fascinating secrets of the royal bedchamber. From Hampton Court to Hever Castle to the great English country manors, Worsley shows the opulence of Royal State bedrooms and explains how these private spaces were once very public hubs of English politics and policy. It was in these rooms that royal marriage ceremonies were held, royal births were observed by crowds eager to verify the baby’s sex. Even the process of creating royal babies took place in a semi-public context, Worsley says, because everyone had a stake in its outcome.


The Forever Wisdom of Dr. Wayne Dyer


Celebrate the late iconic thinker Wayne Dyer’s wisdom, teachings and unique ability to translate abstract ideas into down-to-earth lessons that can be applied to everyday life. This inspirational memorial tribute includes memorable stories, both funny and soulful.





This five-part series takes a fresh look at humankind’s relationship to the planet’s wildest places and most fascinating species. Dr. M. Sanjayan, a leading conservation scientist, takes viewers on a stunning visual journey to explore how humans are inextricably woven into every aspect of the planet’s natural systems. The series features spectacular natural history footage from the most striking places on Earth, filming encounters between wild animals and the people who live and work with them. With up-close looks at a range of species, from giant pandas to humpback whales and African lions to Arctic reindeer, Sanjayan reveals that co-habitations with animals can work – and be mutually beneficial.

Dr. Sanjayan explores humankind’s relationship with the Earth’s most important resource: water. Unraveling dramatic connections between fresh water and the health of the planet, he uncovers spectacular wildlife stories that center on managing the natural pulse of the planet’s water. The episode includes a kayak journey that follows the Colorado River to the sea; the elephants and people at the “singing wells” of Kenya; the connection between AIDS and a small fish in Lake Malawi; and a look at how hunters in America saved one of the greatest gatherings of birds on the continent.

Amy Agbayani


Original air date: Tues., Nov. 10, 2010


Encouraging Diversity at the University of Hawaii
In this edition of Long Story Short, Leslie Wilcox introduces us to Amy Agbayani, who oversees the University of Hawaii’s diversity programs. Dr. Agbayani came to Hawaii from her native Philippines to study at the East-West Center in the turbulent 1960’s. The antiwar protests of the era helped set the stage for Agbayani’s lifetime fight for civil rights and social justice.


Agbayani first found her calling helping her fellow Filipino immigrants adjust to life in Hawaii through a group called Operation Manong, which she co-founded 40 years ago. She soon broadened her efforts on behalf of other immigrants, women, and almost anyone needing a voice, becoming the first chair of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.


Over the years, Agbayani’s office at UH has expanded into one of the most comprehensive university diversity programs in the nation. She now oversees more than 20 programs to recruit and assist students who are diverse in terms of culture, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation.


Amy Agbayani Audio


Download the Transcript




I think people who don’t know me are really quite surprised when they do meet me, because I’m not frothing at the mouth. Because some of my statements might be outrageous, but on a personal level, I’m kind of mild, I think. But I do take strong positions on these issues.


Have you taken a position, where you really put yourself out there on the very edge?


Oh, yeah.


Amy Agbayani came to Hawaii in the turbulent 1960s to get a graduate education, and she stayed to shake things up with her activist approach and sense of social justice. She has spent the past forty-plus years, on campus and in the community, chipping away at the barriers holding back immigrants, women, gays, and other underrepresented groups. Her story is next, on Long Story Short.


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


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In this edition of Long Story Short, we’ll get to know Amy Agbayani, a Hawaii civil right pioneer who’s built a career and a reputation fighting for the underdog. Her activist roots date back to the anti – Vietnam War protests in the 60s at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Instead of returning to her native Philippines after graduate school, Dr. Agbayani found her calling in working to improve the lives of Filipino immigrants here in Hawaii.


Over the years, she expanded her efforts to include other minorities and almost anyone on the fringes of society. Known as a tireless advocate, Amy Agbayani picks her battles, and never gives up the fight.


I’ve always known you as Amy. But now, I learned that that’s not your legal name; it’s a nickname. What’s your real first name?


My father made it up, and it’s Amefil. And it stands for America, Philippines. I was born during the war. Some people say, Which war?




But I was born during World War II, in Manila. And so the Philippines and America were working together. And so that’s how I got my name.


Now, I believe your dad was a diplomat; wasn’t he?


Right. My father actually was a journalist, first, and a faculty member, actually. And he was with the Philippine group right after the Philippines got independence, to represent the Philippines as a diplomat. So he was the first crop of Filipinos to represent a new nation. And my father was assigned—his first assignment was to Sydney. And usually, diplomats are allowed to stay a few years, and then are asked to move on. But my father liked it, and we liked it, and it was good for our education, I guess, and so we stayed there for nine years. So when I was growing up and if you had talked to me on the telephone, I spoke like an Australian child.


And what did you speak at home?


We spoke English in our home, but because my mother and father speak two different Philippine languages.


One is Tagalog?



And what’s the other one?


Ilocano, which is eighty percent of the Filipinos here in Hawaii speak in Ilocano.


And you’re still proficient in both languages?


Oh, no; I’m not. Yeah. I left the Philippines when I was five, and so, English is really the language that I’m most comfortable with.


And no more Australian accent?


No, I dropped that in about two minutes, when I went back to the Philippines, ‘cause everyone, would laugh at me.


[CHUCKLE] And you lived other places too, right?


Yes. Actually, I graduated high school from Bangkok; Bangkok International School. It was a small, international school, and I think there were only ten of us as seniors. And then, I went to the University of the Philippines.


When you were growing up, and living in some different countries, and traveling too, was it hard to figure out who you were sometimes, because there weren’t other people like you right there?


I guess I didn’t notice it. I thought I was Australian for a long time.




But then, because of my parents, and they had to represent our country, it was clear that I was Filipino. And so I wasn’t confused about that, and I found it interesting, though, that with the exception of two or three friends, I really did grow up with non-Filipino classmates.


Amy Agbayani says she didn’t experience racial discrimination, thanks to her family’s diplomatic and educational status. And as the third child, her parents did not put undue pressure on her to excel.


Did your mother convey anything to you about people who get left out of the best of society?


She was always kind, and inclusive. So I think that’s what I got from both of them, is that there’s such a variety of people, and that there’s so much talent out there. And so she made friends with everybody, so I just sort of copied her. She was sort of into United Nations all the time. She would dress me up in my Filipino uniform, and I’d be selling United Nations buttons downtown. So I sort of had that international and multicultural sort of idea as a five-year-old.


The Philippines is known as a country of Haves and Have-nots. So you’re obviously a Have.


My parents were Haves, but through education rather than land or property. So my father and mother were very well educated.


And wanted you to be, as well?


It was just assumed [CHUCKLE] that we would be educated.


Did you get any direct advice from them on that?


Yes; I was supposed to be a doctor. I didn’t enjoy that. My first ambition was to be a tennis professional, tennis star. ‘Cause I grew up in Australia, and tennis was the important sport there. But I learned early on that I wasn’t going to survive or get hired as a tennis player. I was the alternate to the alternate on the tennis team, so I wasn’t really one of the best tennis players. And so I think because of that, I sort of understood that I’d better pay attention to school. The next profession was to be a lawyer. And so that’s where I got a degree in political science, and planned to go to the University of the Philippines Law School, which is excellent. But really, there was a very long line for registration, so I decided to go across the street, which is the graduate school. And I was starting a master’s in political science, and that’s when I met a professor from the University of Hawaii visiting the Philippines, Bob Stouffer. And that’s where I heard about the University of Hawaii, and the East West Center, and that’s how I got to Hawaii, as a East West Center scholar.


What was said to you, to get you so interested in giving up your plans, and moving to another country?


Well, the scholarship, to the East West Center and the University of Hawaii. I had no intention of staying in Hawaii. I was supposed to be an international foreign student, and actually required to go back to the Philippines for two years. But I got married, and stayed here, and those plans went out the door. But I had fully intended to go back to the Philippines and hopefully get a job at the University of the Philippines.


And then in Hawaii, you would become associated with a program that was for, expressly, Filipinos.


Yeah. I think it was interesting, because I came to Hawaii in a way, laterally, and it never occurred to me that Filipinos would be in such a disadvantaged position here. And so it was quite a shock when I learned about Hawaii’s history, and the situation of many Filipinos in Hawaii that it didn’t seem right or fair. And so it was an easy transition for me to work in the community.


So you’re at the East West Center, and you do complete not only your master ’s, but you get a PhD. Where did that take you?


Well, I was twenty-six when I got my PhD, and my first job was to work in Kalihi- Palama on a model cities program. And then, the 1965 immigration law was passed, and that brought along a lot of new immigrant Filipinos trickling into Hawaii. And so people like myself noticed that Filipino immigrants were really, really being picked on in the public schools, there was no bilingual education for them, they couldn’t be understood, and there were big fights. And so a group of us started Operation Manong. But I think the reason we were able to do that is because most of us were highly educated. All of us, Sheila Forman, Melinda Kerkvliet, we were PhD candidates, and we had haole last names, and with faculty husbands. And so I think we had a lot of self-confidence to just try anything out. And so, we did start that, and it was really simple. We asked Filipino students, Will you help tutor in the public schools, ‘cause the Filipino children need your help. And the day that week that we got there, we noticed there were Koreans, and there were Chinese, and others. And so we expanded Operation Manong from just Filipino to every immigrant community.


And this was a private nonprofit you started?


Well, we didn’t even have any organization at the time. It was sort of just a group. And then, later on, we got some church money, and then we were able to get a very large federal grant to hire our tutors to work in the public schools. I’m extremely proud of the students that we got. The first two included Robin Campaniano, and Emme Tomimbang. Both of them represent the kind of student that we wanted, who was good at getting through college, but at the same time, getting into a profession, and being community oriented.


I recall meeting you at that time. It was in the early 70s. And the immigrant Filipinos were being picked on by, who, but established Filipino kids.


Right. They wanted to distance themselves, and not be considered the bottom of the totem pole. So they did fight with each other. And so that was one of the things that we had to work on, is to change the paradigm.


How long did it take for things to shift?


Well, we’re still working on it. So every new generation, every new kid has to learn that. But at least, we’ve won the argument, I think, that the schools must— and also, the laws. And that’s one of the reasons why I think I entered or participate in politics, is to change the laws. And civil rights laws are better now, than they were then.


If you’re interested in civil rights, it’s pretty hard not to be politically minded, if

you want to get things done.




So you did enter politics.


And I helped lobby for the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and I was the first chair of the Civil Rights Commission.


Amy Agbayani’s involvement in academic and activist circles led her to become acquainted with some of Hawaii’s future Democratic powerbrokers, relationships that continue to this day.


So many times, when I see you covered by the press, or I see an announcement of some kind, you are the only Filipino person there. And during primary election night, on live television, the wife of the candidate Neil Abercrombie, was introducing you, and she said … she described you as, This little Filipino woman.


Well, she sees me as a mentor. Because I did introduce her to her husband, and actually, got her to uh, finish her college degree when she was a nontraditional student. And you’re right that there are very few Filipinos in a lot of places, and that’s one of the reasons why I am active in politics. It’s because I think that that is a venue for Filipinos to improve their status in the State of Hawaii. And, like, Neil Abercrombie and I do go back a long way, and he is a strong friend of Ben Cayetano also. And so I used to ask Neil Abercrombie to help us on Filipino immigrant issues. So he would.


And so, how did it come to be that you introduced Nancy Caraway to Neil Abercrombie, and they’ve been married for decades?


Well, she was a nontraditional student. She didn’t have a BA. I, at the time, had already gotten a PhD. And she attended a workshop for women returning to college, and I suggested that she interview Neil Abercrombie for her term paper. And they got to meet each other, and that’s history. And as I always tell everyone, I also helped them get their first apartment, which is even harder.


[CHUCKLE] And did you see that happening? Did you see sparks, or did you think that would happen?


No, I didn’t. I didn’t know Nancy that well, either. She was one of the women that I was getting to know. And of course, we have become good friends since then, but at the time, I didn’t know her that well.


In 2010, Amy Agbayani served as honorary co-chair for Neil Abercrombie’s successful campaign for Governor of Hawaii. He’s one of the politicians she has identified with, and supported, in campaign after campaign.


Sometimes it’s hard for me to picture you working in politics, just because there are so many aspects of it that you get your feet dirty sometimes, right? I mean, it’s not a pleasant business some of the time, because of the devil in the details, and the stuff that you have to navigate.


Well, that’s why I’m in politics, and not in a—I pick which things I will participate in. Some people think I should run for office. The only thing I do is run races, 10K or the marathon, but I didn’t personally want to run for office, because then, you have to do that a hundred percent. Whereas, I pick and choose, and so you know, I support this candidate, or that candidate, or I’m interested in this issue, or that or another issue, but it’s not a hundred percent. By the way, I have not won every battle, and I have supported people who have been beaten up and lost. For example, everyone thinks of Patsy Mink only of the successes she’s had, but I’ve helped Patsy Mink when she lost three to one, think, against Sparky Matsunaga. So I’ve been on the losing side on a number of issues. But I keep coming back to the Legislature.


So when people read a position you’ve taken, it comes across strong, and wow. And then, when they meet you, you’re mild mannered.


Well, I think I actually play the special role in Hawaii politics. And that is that I’m on the streets demonstrating on some issue, but at the same time, I have developed access to insiders in the Legislature, and even in corporate business, to try and make sure that we have access to those resources, too. We’re knocking at the door oftentimes, and so I do try to have friends on the other side, or people who are decision making. ‘Cause most of the groups that I am supporting are not at the table.


So you need to know people who have power, to partner with those who—


And some of the young students, they call me Manang Amy. They think that I’ve always had access. I said, Hey, no. I couldn’t even get to talk to the Superintendent of Public Schools before, when I was working in Operation Manong. He wouldn’t answer my phone calls. So we actually—one of the things we did was, we’d have press conferences, and he would say, Who is that? I said, I wouldn’t have had this press conference if you had answered my phone call.


You are still, in a sense, the head of OM, which used to stand for Operation Manong. But now, it stands for the Office of Multicultural—


Student Services. And that’s just one of many programs that I have at the University of Hawaii. I made up the office name; it’s called SEED, Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity. And I sort of say, you can’t have one without of the other. You can’t have excellence, unless you also pay attention, or you should pay attention to diversity, and inclusiveness, and equity.


At the time of this conversation in 2010, Amy Agbayani oversees more than twenty programs addressing the needs of students from underrepresented groups, in terms of age, academic ability, ethnicity, disability, economic class, culture, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation.


This group is just like any other support services I have for Hawaiians or Filipinos. We try to make sure that they get through college, that they know how to navigate the University system, that they feel comfortable, and that they are encouraged to fully participate in student government, or make presentations about their issues. So we have one program like that, and we’re one of the few in the country that has a tenured faculty member assisting gay and lesbian students. My whole program, by the way, used to be threatened all the time. For example, when there would be a one percent budget cut at the University, my program would be identified for a hundred percent cut. Me, Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies; they would line us out. I said, Excuse me. But now at least, we’re on par with Physics and Math, and Geography, and so forth. And so that when they do come to deciding or allocating budgets, we hold our own.


Because we can point to the strategic plan; it’s included in the strategic plan. But we just have to make sure that we keep advocating, and that the leadership understands it really is to the self-interest of the University of Hawaii to have diversity.


So are you the go-to person on campus, and maybe well outside campus, when there’s an issue involving somebody’s rights being marginalized or disrespected?


Oftentimes. I think the newest civil rights battle is the same gender and civil unions battle for equality. And I’m very active in that. And some people wonder why I’m so active in it. And actually, for me, it’s just a no-brainer. I mean, I didn’t even think about, Oh, should I do this, or should I participate in that? I said, it’s so clear, and it’s like breathing, that you would see that as unequal and unfair.


Are you not getting married, out of a wish to support civil unions? If they don ’t get that, then I’m gonna—you know, the Brad Pitt line?


Well, I was married before to my professor, Bob Cahill. Some people may know him. He’s very progressive, liberal and he got me involved in my first campaign for Tom Gill, who ran for lieutenant governor. I have a partner; his name is Gus Gustavson. He’s haole. Swedish American, I think, from Boston. And he’s retired from the Department of Health. And he likes to run also, and I guess the first week he retired, he got addicted to golf. I was married before, and I felt that a relationship should be—you should be there, if you want to be there.


Well, it’s working.


Gus and I, we have been together now for over thirty-five years. We live in Kalihi Valley. It’s a wonderful place. We live in a small plantation home. I think it’s about six hundred and fifty square feet, but we have very large land, and we have bananas, and hundreds of heleconia.


Why did you pick Kalihi Valley?


Oh, well, we could afford it. But uh, um, and you know, it—lots of Filipinos there. Every house with a malunggay tree, we call that the Filipino flag. And I work in Kalihi a lot with the community, Kalihi, Waipahu. I also have programs for Native Hawaiians in Waianae and Nanakuli, so I’m not just in Kalihi. But it’s a nice location, and as I pointed out, I graduated from Bangkok International School, and everyone assumes I graduated from Farrington High School. So I tell everyone I’m a Farrington High School wannabe, and I have purchased a Farrington High School alumni shirt—




I think that’s a great school, and I have programs there, too. It’s sixty percent Filipino in Farrington High School.


Amy Agbayani worries about what happens to those students after high school, because too many do not go on to college.


Filipinos are severely underrepresented at the University of Hawaii, and that’s one of the areas I work on. We’re twenty-three percent in the public schools, and we’re only less than ten percent at Manoa, and we’re less than two percent on the faculty. And so, we’re also underrepresented in um … corporate boards, and we’re underrepresented in many areas. So we’re trying to change that. And we’re well represented, by the way, politically. For example, in the City Council, three out of nine of the council members are of Filipino ancestry. And we have the first Filipino American governor in the United States with Ben Cayetano, and we are actually well represented in politics. So I see education, politics, media, the culture and the arts; we have to make a dent in each of these areas. We’re doing well, by the way, I think, with the unions. We have good leadership, Filipino leadership in the unions. We are majority in the Hotel Workers’ Union, Local 5. I did get arrested just a couple of months ago, by the way. I joined the protest for Local 5, in Waikiki. We actually prepared to get arrested so that we would know how to handle ourselves. And it was actually just civil disobedience, to make a point, that workers should be given a fair contract. One of my criticism of the previous mayor was in his first term, there were no Filipinos on the Cabinet. That’s just totally unacceptable. My criticism of Governor Lingle, which was in the newspaper recently, was she has one woman on the Board of Regents, out of fifteen. And then, her nominees previously from the Bar to the udgeship, there were no women. In this day and age, you sort of say, Duh. It’s sort of a non-brainer, and you don’t have to convince people, just because it’s fair, but it’s because you actually get better decisions that way, if you utilize more the talents out there.


Did I hear you say a while back that innovation and excellence—




Those come together?


Yeah; and diversity. The person who’s going to solve cancer for Hawaii might be this little child in Molokai. Well, we have to make sure that the children on Molokai get educated, have access to higher education, and become our scientists, and our leaders. So to me, it’s sort of self-serving, and to everyone’s self interest, to really reach out and try and include people. Because that’s the reality. Diversity is the reality. What we have to do is, include that diversity.


What kind of a shift in public opinion in Hawaii have you seen since the 70s?


A lot; and I’m an eternal optimist. And it’s gonna—the best is yet to come.


What is it about you that allows that optimism to flow, even when you ’ve been defeated multiple times.


Yeah. I’ve figured out that as I said, you don’t have to be very brainy oftentimes. You have to be there. So persistence is much more important, I think, than intelligence or being articulate. Like, you don’t want me, but I’ll be here tomorrow.


Amy Agbayani intends to be a voice for fairness and justice in Hawaii’s academic, legislative, and political arenas, not only tomorrow, but the day after that, and in the weeks and years to come. Even after she retires from her job at the UH, Dr. Agbayani has no plans to abandon her life’s working, plugging away for the people and causes she cares about. Mahalo to Amy Agbayani for sharing her Long Story Short, and mahalo to you for tuning in. I’m Leslie Wilcox.


A hui hou kakou; until next time, aloha.


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


I think it takes sort of a fire to continue to do what you do. What keeps it burning?


Actually, I make no boundaries, in a sense, between my work, and my community work, or my professional career, or whatever. So it’s just an interest to me, and I identify with those things. And I guess, I get rewarded for doing these things, so it’s not really hard for me to do this.


Claire Hughes


Original air date: Tues., May 3, 2011


Raising Public Awareness for Hawaiian Health


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


Claire Hughes Audio


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


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


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


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


What made Haole Camp different from the other camps?


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


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




—what else?


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


When you say party line, who could listen in?


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


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


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


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


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


With Panax hedge branch?


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


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


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


And then she’ll stop?




How many whacks did you get?


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


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


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

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


And what did you do?


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


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


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


Why is that?


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


I see.


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


No squid luau?


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


And no lots of sugar—




—put into the—



—squid luau.


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


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


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


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


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


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


And you worked for the State Health Department.


Yeah. Yeah, yeah.


So you represented all people in the State.




Health wise.




Why wasn’t there support?


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


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






Now. Yes.


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


Department of Health Director.


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


So you got to be legit on your—




—native Hawaiian diet.


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


Took a while for this …




—way of thinking—




—to come back.


Yeah. To this, to give support. Yeah.


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


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


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


So where did the fat come from?


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


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




He was a squirt.




They were very impressed with the stature of Hawaiians.


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


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


I’m formidable.


—I wouldn’t want go—




—against you.


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


What gets you angry?


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




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




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




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


Wow. Why would people be dismissive of you?


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


You’re saying you’re native Hawaiian?




Even in this day and age?




And you’re a professional woman.


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


But …


Discrimination ….


—people are …


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


Where does it come from?


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




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


I can see him—




—saying that.


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


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


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


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