Professional Problem Solver

By Liberty Peralta, PBS Hawaiʻi


Patrick Sullivan, Professional Problem Solver

Inset image, left: Sullivan as a University of Hawai‘i doctoral candidate in Engineering. Genie, right, is an Oceanit robotics and artificial intelligence project with two brains, eyes, ears and a mouth that is capable of tracking faces and specific expressions.


Patrick Sullivan Lifelong Problem Solver Tuesday, August 20 at 7:30 pm Professional Problem Solver Tuesday, August 27 at 7:30 pm Both program will be available online at pbshawaii.orgIt seems there’s no problem too big or too small for Patrick Sullivan of Kailua, Windward O‘ahu.


He wanted a car, so at age 13, he started working in food service jobs, saved up and bought a car at age 16.


He wanted to go to college, so at age 17, he applied for student loans, grants, and work study … and started a landscaping business to earn the money.


He visited the Islands during a college break, so to pay for his lodging, he cobbled together home improvement jobs for some people he met on the plane ride to O‘ahu.


So it seems natural that Sullivan is now in the business of problem solving. He’s the founder and chairman of Oceanit, a Honolulu-based company that uses science and innovation to create solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. One of the many projects that Oceanit is working on is a rapid-response solution to help an elderly person after a fall. Sullivan explains that an “inexpensive but effective robotic assistant” can help save a life.


This wall at Oceanit headquarters attracts visitor attention. Inset image: Deep-dive helmets, above, are being redesigned to reduce noise that causes hearing loss while maintaining the ability to communicate.

This wall at Oceanit headquarters attracts visitor attention. Inset image: Deep-dive helmets, above, are being redesigned to reduce noise that causes hearing loss while maintaining the ability to communicate.


The name “Oceanit” comes from a Greek and Latin term for “ocean dweller.” It’s an apt description for Sullivan, who gets in the water four to five times a week. It’s a tradition that started when his son Matthew and daughter Tarah were children. “Surfing is a way to reconnect to the world,” he says.


As Sullivan explains it, “Oceanit” is also an apt company name. “The ocean is a teacher in so many ways,” he says. “It covers everything from physics, chemistry, biology, hydromechanics, so [the ocean] is probably the biggest mashup of all science.”


Oceanit employs about 160 scientists and engineers and has raised more than $475 million in research and development funds. Its national and international client list includes governments, universities, organizations and businesses.


It’s no accident that Oceanit is based in Hawai‘i, and Sullivan credits it as a strength. “Innovation comes from differences, not sameness,” he says. “I think in the culture of Hawai‘i is innovation. The Native Hawaiians that came to Hawai‘i, they innovated to get here, and they innovated when they got here. They were not afraid of technology, afraid of change; they embraced it.”


Sullivan is familiar with constant change. Born in California, Sullivan spent his early years in Los Angeles. His family moved to Seattle after his father Thomas was hired as an aircraft mechanic for Boeing, a job that would end during a mass layoff. Sullivan’s family then moved multiple times to Texas, Wyoming and Arizona, before settling down in Colorado.


“I went to four different high schools, which brings its own challenges,” Sullivan says. “[My parents] tried to keep everything together, but it was just really hard.”


His parents, whose families moved West after the Great Depression, lacked the means to pursue an education, and had five children to care for. “That’s why an education was so important [to me],” he says.


With the rapid pace of technology replacing lowerwage service jobs, Sullivan underscores the importance of education.


“Adults need to consider lifelong learning,” he says. “That needs to be part of the culture, where we get comfortable with that, and it needs to be more available and affordable.”


Sullivan stresses that getting an education for the sake of education isn’t the point, but to build one’s “durability” as industries continue to evolve. It’s the kind of durability that’s helped Sullivan navigate change and tackle life’s challenges.


And with the business of problem solving, it seems there’s no end in sight.




Senate District 6, Senate District 24, Republican Primary for Governor


INSIGHTS will host candidates from three races on a special two-hour edition:


–From 8 to 8:30 pm it’s the forum for the Democratic Primary for Senate District 6, where State Senator Roz Baker is being challenged by Terez Amato for the seat that represents West and South Maui.


–From 8:30 pm to 9:00 pm, the forum features State Representatives Ken Ito and Jarrett Keohokalole, who are facing off in a winner-take-all Democratic Primary for Senate District 24, representing parts of Kane‘ohe and Kailua.


–From 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm, INSIGHTS will feature the three candidates running in the Republican Primary for Governor: John Carroll, Ray L’Heureux and Andria Tupola.


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


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




Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.


Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights


To see an archive of past INSIGHTS ELECTION 2018 shows, click here.



Episode #823


This episode features stories from the 2017 HIKI NŌ Spring Challenge, in which production teams from HIKI NŌ schools took the challenge of creating stories on the theme Mālama Honua (Taking Care of Our Island Planet) over three days. The theme – which is based on the mission of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s world-wide voyage – was revealed to the students at the beginning of the three-day production time limit.


Students from Nānākuli High and Intermediate School on O‘ahu present their interpretation of Mālama Honua in a story about Veronika Sumyatina, a foreign exchange student from war-torn Ukraine who finds a new home, and the meaning of aloha, at Nānākuli High and Intermediate School. Veronika explains that home is much more than a roof over one’s head – home is “where your heart is.” By accepting an outsider as one of their own, the Nānākuli students do their part in taking care of our island planet.




–Students from Moanalua High School on O‘ahu feature a female angler whose love of fishing is matched only by her respect for the eco-system from which she partakes.


–Students from Wai‘anae High School in West O‘ahu follow a woman who volunteers to mend and replace the pedestrian walking flags that keep people safe when crossing the very dangerous Farrington Highway.


–Students from Ewa Makai Middle School on O‘ahu feature the OSPCA, a non-profit organization that cares for abandoned and neglected cats and dogs.


–Students from Punahou School on O‘ahu follow a group of motivated community members who are cleaning up Kawainui Marsh in Kailua.


–Students from Kalama Intermediate School in Upcountry Maui show how recycling is a way of life on their campus.


–Students from Kapolei High School on O‘ahu follow the eco-friendly phenomenon of Hydro Flasks.


This episode is hosted by Hali‘amaile Kealoha and Hulukoa Nunokawa, both seniors at Kamehameha School Kapālama.


This program encores Sunday, Nov. 12, at 12:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.


Jim Burns: A Local Boy


In honor of the late Jim Burns, PBS Hawai‘i presents an in-memoriam encore of this episode recorded in June 2014.


Jim Burns’ father, John A. Burns, always thought of himself as a local boy. Jim, who grew up in Kailua and could easily break into Pidgin English, saw himself the same way. As Jim was growing up, he saw the respect that his father had for Hawai‘i’s immigrants, and learned that being a local boy was about more than just speaking Pidgin.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, April 5, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, April 9, at 4:00 pm.




I’m told that your law clerks, when you were looking for a new one, of course, you checked all aspects of their background, but it was really important to you to find out where they went to high school.


Yeah; I started with that. You know, that gives me a picture of, you know, where they lived and who they are. And then, from there, I’d ask them other questions. But, yes. I think that’s true of all the people who lived—local boys, back in the old days. You know, Where you went high school? And if they said Kamehameha; okay, you got a picture of them. They said St. Louis, they said Punahou, they said Iolani, they said Farrington, Kaimuki, you’d get sort of a picture or flavor.


So, what did it say about you, that you went to St. Louis?


Well … that during school, I had to wear a tie.




You know, that it was a little stricter operation than other places, little more controlled. That it was all boys, so you don’t know anything about girls.


Jim Burns has always called himself just a local boy. This, despite the lofty trappings of his career, rising to Chief Judge of the State Intermediate Court of Appeals. And he’s the son of one of the most consequential political leaders in Hawai‘i’s modern history, Governor John Burns. Jim Burns, 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 kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. James Stanton Seishiro Burns, better known as Jim Burns, retired Chief Judge of the Hawai‘i Intermediate Court of Appeals, was born in Honolulu in 1937 to a father who was a police officer and a mother who was partially paralyzed by polio two years before Jim was conceived. It wasn’t until much later that Jim’s father, the late Governor John A. Burns, became a politician and the driving force that brought Democratic Party to power, changing Hawai‘i’s political landscape forever. It was apparent in Jim’s young life that there was something exception about his parents.


When people talk about when they were born, it’s you know, just a fact. I was born on this date. But your story of birth is huge. I mean, I’ve never heard such a dramatic birth story as yours. I’d love to hear it from you.


Well, I don’t remember it.




I only know what they told me. Interesting story. My mother had two children, and then while she was pregnant with the third during the seventh month, she got polio. Then called infantile paralysis. And so, the baby was born, my brother, but he didn’t live long. And so, she was paralyzed at that time, from the neck, down, and real bad.


Now, this was 1935. But subsequently in 1936, she became pregnant with me., while she was paralyzed. And you know, I don’t know how much of the upper body then was paralyzed, but definitely from the lower body, she was paralyzed. And so, all the doctors told her to abort. And they said they wouldn’t treat her if she refused. And she said, No, I’m not going to abort. And so really, nobody wanted to treat her.


So, was she personally at risk? Is that why they wanted her to abort?


Yes; both of us were at risk. Yes. And she said, No, I won’t. Fortunately, my father knew a guy, a Japanese body expert, I think you’d call him. He was a jujitsu, judo master, and so, my father found him. And of course, the doctors didn’t want him to touch my mother, said he would kill her, you know, with what he was going to do. But no, my father went with him, and he took care of my mother during the pregnancy; all during the pregnancy. You know, she said, dunked her into bathwater. What was it … seaweed water and et cetera. Massaged her, stretched her. My mother said, It almost killed me, but every time I would scream, he’d say, Go ahead, scream some more.


Now, she was paralyzed. It’s indicating that she’s feeling pain, but would she feel pain?


Oh, yes.


Oh, she did feel pain?


Oh, gosh; yes. Yes. She just couldn’t move her body. But she could feel pain. Yes.


I see.


I never talked to my father about it, but I did talk to her about it. You know, why would you get pregnant while you were paralyzed? And she said, I wanted to show that I could continue to be a wife, you know, that I could be together with him. And being good Catholics, it happened.


And you were born perfect?


I was born healthy, almost eight pounds, full-term pregnancy. And delivered by a friend who didn’t deliver babies, because there was no doctor to deliver me. He was a doctor, but he was not a doctor who specialized in that particular business.


So, I notice that you have a Japanese middle name.


Yes, I do.


Is that because of the man who helped your mom deliver?


Yes. His name was Henry Seishiro Okazaki. Quite famous in the community. And after I was born, you know, my father talked to him, I guess, about, Hey, what can I do for you? I’ve gotta pay you whatever. And the man said, You call him Seishiro. And that’s all my father ever called me.


Jim Burns’ brother and sister were only a few years older than him, but by the time Jim came along, the family had gone through many changes. Jim’s father had become a police officer, and he had moved his family from Kalihi to the Windward side, Kailua, where Jim grew up.


So, you were the favored child, right, because you were the youngest, who’d come through so miraculously.


Well, that’s what my sister says. I’m not sure it’s true, but I guess I had a better life than she did, or my older brother did.


Was your father, who was known as very strict and sometimes punitive—




You had it easier than the older kids?


Well, I don’t know how they had it, but I know that I had some whacks; some pretty good ones. So, he was very strict with me, also. But I think because I’m younger, he mellowed over the course of time. So, I think they caught it more than me, before he mellowed.


You know, when your father was governor, people said—and this was sometimes quoted in the papers—his nickname could be The Great Stone Face; he was very impassive and stern.




What was he like as a father?


Same. Exactly. Yes; very. Not too many jokes.


They both sound like very strong people. I mean, did you feel like you had room to breathe around them?


Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Well, you know, depending on what part of my life you’re talking about, I didn’t see him that often. I saw my mother much more than him, and my mother was much easier to deal with than he was.


And even your mother went away for a while for treatment; right?


When I was two years old, she went to the mainland for treatment, and she was there until Christmas of ’42. Actually should not have come back; she came back sooner than she should have. But she was so homesick.


Wow. And your dad was often gone as well.


Yes. So, I didn’t see her. You know, I wasn’t conscious of her when I was two years old, and I didn’t see her until I was four and a half.




Or actually, let’s see. Christmas—I’m sorry; five and a half.


Five and a half.


Five and a half years old.


Do you remember seeing her at five and a half?


Well, I know that she came home. And we had been writing to her while she was gone. You know. I mean, I’m sure my penmanship was not so good in those days.




But I would write notes to her.


Who took care of you?


Well, that’s a good question. I recall a lady from down the street, a good family friend, who used to take care of all of us. My father’s mother lived next door. But, lots of kids she took care of, and I remember her. And then, when we got older, I know my father got some gals from the detention home, the girls’ home, and they came and babysat. So, it was just whoever. And then, it was wartime.


Tell me about Pearl Harbor.


Okay. Well, let’s go back a ways. My father’s a policeman, and prior to the war, he’s in charge of espionage. He’s the chief of espionage in the police department. And I think the United States knew that it was going to get into a war with Japan. It had to, to get into the war in Europe. And so, I think about ’39, the chief asked my father to put together him and four guys, to go check with the Japanese community and find any signs of disloyalty. So, my father gathered together four other guys from the police department, three of whom were Japanese, and one was Hawaiian.


Did your dad get to pick?


Yes; he got to pick. So, he picked the four. And … interesting story. I always tell this story, and it’s true. Five people … remember Hawaii Five-O?




That’s where the five comes from. You know, that investigative unit. But anyway, so the five went out and checked all over the place, and came back and said, No, no signs of disloyalty whatsoever within the community.


We were at church Sunday morning, December 7th, 7:00 a.m. Church was finished, and we were just gonna start going to home. And we saw this … blast, explosions at what was then the Kaneohe Naval Air Station, which is now the Kaneohe Marine Station. And we could see planes and bombs, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And you know, I’m young, I’m only four and a half years old, and all I know is that there’s a ruckus going on. But he knew what was going on. So, he rushed home, ran into the house, picked up the phone, called, and all I heard him was say, Oh, four-letter word. And out the door he went, and I didn’t see him for a long time. We didn’t see him for a long time.


Long time, meaning how long?


You know, I recall two, three weeks. But he was gone. And now, we were at home, we didn’t have my mother. You know, just had whoever was looking after us, and thinking that we’re going to be invaded. And then martial law came, and et cetera. We lived under that. And right next door, there was a military camp that they set up in the ironwood pine trees, which was interesting. So, part of my growing up was working with the soldiers, being with the soldiers. They were nice to us.


So, very unconventional entry to the world, and very unconventional upbringing.


M-hm; yeah. I would say so.


How do you think it affected you?


Well, it made me very independent; that’s for sure. You know, I didn’t have a lot of social contact, other than my brother, sister, and whoever else was around. So, I learned how to do my own thing.


I know you went to St. Louis. I think it was called college at the time.


St. Louis College.


And you lived in Kailua.




So, Pali Road was there.


But it was the Old Pali Road.


So, it wasn’t that hairpin …


It was the Old Pali Road.


With the hairpin turn?




How did you get to school?


That way. In the mornings, somebody took us. Either my father, or somebody. Lots of kids went to St. Louis, Sacred Hearts in those days from Kailua. So, somebody, whoever it was, took us to St. Louis.


How’d you get home?


Well, when I was younger, you know, somebody would pick us up; my father or somebody he got to pick us up. But as I got older, the bus went to Nuuanu, dropped us off. Those days, the buses had electrical lines, wires.


That’s right. They were trolleys.


Yes; trolleys.


More like trolleys.


So, Nuuanu was as far as they got.


And then, how did you get home from there?




Did you always find somebody to take you?


Yes. Yes.


Who was it usually? What kind of person?


You know, all kinds of people; neighbors, friends, or just people. You know, Kailua was a small town, country town, and everybody kind of knew each other, friendly with each other. Different kinds of people. But there was one man; an interesting story. A guy named Charley Asada, and he drove the kerosene truck. And people say, Kerosene truck?




Well, in those days, the farmers between the Pali and Kailua, talking along the Koolaus, lots of Japanese farmers. And they didn’t have electricity, so their source of power was kerosene.


Oh …


And so, he would drive his kerosene truck, and he’d go fill up the tanks for all of these people. You know, different places, different days. And so, I went with him. And people say, Why did you do that? And I say, Well, number one, he was fun to be with; he was very educational, entertaining, et cetera. But number two, while he was filling up the tanks, guess what we were doing? We were eating. I mean, those people had good food.




And so, by the time I got home, I was full.


There was a time when your father left the police force to become a fulltime politician. And your mom started running a liquor store.


Well, yeah. Initially, he ran it. So, he bought a liquor store, and he was running it in Kailua. But then, he got so involved in politics. Now, we’re talking about ’46, ’47. And then, he ran in’48. And so then, my mother started running it. And we lived five blocks away, so we’re talking a lady in a wheelchair going to the liquor store. And sometimes somebody took her, sometimes she wheeled herself, and sometimes I pushed her.


And she basically took charge of the purchases and the ordering, and …


She was there all day. You know, I don’t know how she did it, but she did. And when I could, I went and helped. As I got older, I did more and more help. But, you know, we had shelves, and she couldn’t reach. So, the customer would just reach and take whatever they wanted, and … you know, then they would make their purchase.


I thought that was an interesting choice of a type of business, because hadn’t your father previously had a problem with alcohol, and he’d stopped? But then, he bought a liquor store.


Well, his father was an alcoholic, and then deserted the family. And so, he was a very angry man. I think my father grew up very, very angry and bothered. So, he was incorrigible when he was young. And in fact, so much so their mother couldn’t handle him, sent him off to Fort Leavenworth to live with an uncle. And when he came back, he bounced around and finally became a policeman. But while he was a policeman initially, in the 30s, he got into an accident and had liquor on his breath. Now, nobody said he was drunk, but he had liquor on his breath, and apparently, policemen weren’t supposed to do that. So, he was sanctioned for it. And I guess his mother sat him down, and eventually, he promised, Okay, I’m not gonna drink anymore.


And he did; he quit cold turkey at some point.


I never saw the man drink.






And could handle the liquor store, no problem.


Yes. But he drank coffee [CHUCKLE] constantly. But, yes. And then, as I say, my mother ran the store, and they ran ‘til the early 50s. And then, Piggly Wiggly came to Kailua, and ran us out of business.


The old Piggly Wiggly. It was during Jim Burns’ high school years that his father, John Burns, started becoming politically active. It would be many years before John Burns would win an election, but through his organizing activities, the elder Burns was laying the groundwork for what would become major social change in Hawaii.


When you were a kid, here you are with a Japanese middle name. You’re going to St. Louis. And I bet you there weren’t many Caucasian boys at St. Louis.


Well, Caucasian; if you include Portuguese, there were plenty.




[CHUCKLE] Yes. So, I don’t think they knew whether I was Portagee or Haole. I was just one of the local boys. I spoke Pidgin, and I associated with everybody.


Yeah; that’s true. If I hear you, and you’re talking with your St. Louis buddies, I would never know what race you are.


Yes; yes. So, yeah. No; we just mixed, and nobody ever said, Eh, you one Haole. The only difficulty I had was, my father was a loser as a politician.


In the beginning.


He lost from ’46 to ’56; ten years. I went to college before he won an election. So, it was all during my grade school and high school, he was a loser. And I used to catch heck for that.


Why did people mind that your dad was losing political battles?


Well, because he’d run for office, and he’d lose. And they would say, What the hell is your father doing, running for office? You know, losing. And in fact, even worse, they used to call him names. And I went home one time and I said, Daddy, what‘s a Communist? And he said, Why are you asking me that kind of question? I said, Well, that’s what my classmates say you are. And he never really answered the question. I had to go find out by myself.


So, all those years, his political aspirations and the ability he had in bringing people together, that was not a plus for you?


I wasn’t involved. No. All I knew is, he was involved with running for office or organizing the Democratic Party. And I think he was on the other side of most of the kids that I was hanging around with, and you know, they were all on the other side of the track. And so, he was sort of an outsider and everybody’s wondering, What’s he doing? Why is he over there? You know.


What do you mean, other side of the track?


Well, the Republicans were totally in charge. So, anybody who wasn’t Republican was on the other side of the track.


And it’s true; at that time, the leaders in Hawaii tended to be Republican and Caucasian. But your dad was Caucasian, but from Kalihi, and the son of a single mom who eked out an existence, and like you said, he was an angry young man who, I guess, knew something about street gangs growing up.


Well, yes. Number one, he grew up in Hawaii. Grew up in Kalihi; he was very much a local boy. Again, he went to St. Louis. So, I don’t think you would call him a Haole. Same as me.


Would he consider that fighting words?


Probably. Yes.


So, your dad really had a way different profile than any of the others. He was on the Democratic side.




And he was from an impoverished background. 


From the streets. Yes; yes.


I know he wasn’t a man to sit you down for father-son talks. But did you get the sense of his passion for equal opportunity for everybody in a place that marginalized many ethnicities?


Oh, yes. I mean, I’d sit and listen when he had conversations with other people, and you know, I could get the sense of what he was talking about. And so, I didn’t have any difficulty understanding what was happening. I didn’t know that the Haole was in charge of everything, you know, but I did know that we couldn’t be members of Oahu Country Club. You know, there were certain things that I knew that they had, but we didn’t have. And I knew the difference between Punahou and St. Louis.


What is the difference?


Well, in those days, it was more the Haoles than St. Louis, which was more of the local people. I knew that difference.


So, you grew up with that sense of the local people are getting a bad shake, bad rap.


I don’t think I really realized it, other than through my father. You know. Why is this man so committed to doing what he’s doing? Why isn’t he out there working for the family, kind of thing. Other than that, I don’t think I thought about it.


And you knew it wasn’t getting him any traction while you were growing up, because he wasn’t winning elections.


Right; right. So, you know, I didn’t think about too much, but still, you’re wondering, Hm, why is he doing what he’s doing?


When your friends at school or anybody would criticize your dad or say things about him, did you feel proprietary and defensive, or how did that make you feel?


Just made me wonder. That’s all. I didn’t think they were fighting words. At St. Louis, every word was a fighting word, if you took it that way, you know, if you were insulted. Everybody talks stink about everybody, so I sort of got used to it, and I got to be pretty good at it myself. I think during the course of his growing up, and especially as a policeman, he got to realize what kind of society Hawaii was. And he got to realize that this bunch of White folks were totally in charge of this place, and nobody else had an opportunity or chance to do anything. He was at the police department one time, and this businessman, one of the Big Five people in control, picked up the phone and said, Governor, come to my office. And my father said, That’s kind of backwards. You know; Governor, come to my office? Isn’t the governor supposed to say, You come to—you know. But that’s the way it was; who was in charge, who was in control. And you know, and I guess he could see the prejudice against the local people; Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans. And he just eventually said, No, no, I’m gonna do something to change this. And he totally committed himself. So, he quit the police department. Which was sad, because he loved the police department. I say this to people; all his life, he was truly a cop. In his heart, he was a policeman. He loved it. And that’s part of the problem with his family. You know, policemen—it’s very tough on the family, because they go to work and they get to see what’s going on, then they come home and say, I don’t want you to be like that. You know, so they’re very strict on you.


And did you ever talk to your mom about your father’s political aspirations, and what was he doing?


Well, no, but I knew she was getting frustrated.


Because she was working at the liquor store, while he was organizing?


She knew that he was doing what he wanted to do, and she knew he was doing the right thing. So, I think she supported him in that way. But on the other hand, I’m sure she said, Hm, I wish I had a little more family life.


And so did you, no doubt?


Yeah; sort of. But, you know, I saw my father more, I think, than others. I used to caddy for him, and you know, I spent time with him in the car, listening to him, or time when he was running the liquor store. So, you know, I associated with him.


And your mom looked at his time away from the family as something that he just had to do, and she accepted it?


Yes. That was the kind of person she was. You know, same way she handled her paralysis; it was, That’s the deck of cards that they dealt me, and that’s what I’m gonna deal with. You know, and I’m not gonna agonize over it or worry about it.


And your dad was busy trying to change the world.


Yes. That, he was doing, and my mother put up with it.


Jim Burns was in college on the mainland by the time his father was finally elected to office as Hawaii’s Delegate to Congress in 1956. During his term, Hawaii became a State, and John Burns came home to run for Governor. He lost his first two tries, but finally won in 1962, well after Jim had finished college and law school. Mahalo to Jim Burns for sharing his childhood memories with us and what it was like to grow up with a father who sacrificed so much, including time with his family, for his social and political ideals for Hawaii. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.


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


You noted that that’s you here.




Cut off from view.




And then, there’s another picture where you’re also cut off, and you’re wheeling your mom, and in a very important occasion.


That’s my day off from basic training to go attend the inauguration. And I’m in my uniform, and I’m behind her, and pushing her. And nobody had a clue who I was. They just thought I was a soldier pushing Mrs. Burns. The local paper said: Unidentified Soldier. They didn’t know that I was related to them.



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Liberty Peralta


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Students from Waiakea High School in Hilo are among those from the 90 public, private and charter schools across the Islands in HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i’s flagship digital learning initiative, which will benefit from Whole Foods Market’s Community Giving Day.HONOLULU – Whole Foods Market Hawai‘i has selected PBS Hawai‘i as its statewide nonprofit partner for its upcoming Community Giving Day on Wednesday, March 8.


Pictured: Students from Waiakea High School in Hilo are among those from the 90 public, private and charter schools across the Islands in HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i’s flagship digital learning initiative, which will benefit from Whole Foods Market’s Community Giving Day.


That day, five percent of net sales from all three Whole Foods Market locations in Hawai‘i – Kahala and Kailua on O‘ahu, and Kahului on Maui – will go toward supporting PBS Hawai‘i’s mission of advancing learning and discovery through its video programming.


Whole Foods Market hosts Community Giving Days twice a year to benefit local nonprofits. These initiatives are part of the company’s core values and commitment to serving and supporting local and global communities.


“We are thrilled to partner with PBS Hawai‘i, as we have a shared interest in providing the highest quality products,” says Annalee England, Whole Foods Market Kahului Store Team Leader. “Whole Foods Market does so through our selection of the best natural, organic and locally sourced foods, and PBS Hawai‘i through their incomparable programming for the whole family.”


PBS Hawai‘i’s statewide digital learning initiative, HIKI NŌ, will benefit from the Community Giving Day. Through this program, PBS Hawai‘i offers free digital storytelling training for the program’s 90 participating public, private and charter schools across the Islands. The student video stories that result from this training are showcased online at pbshawaii.org, and on Thursday nights at 7:30 on PBS Hawai‘i.


Since its launch in 2011, HIKI NŌ has served more than 4,800 students. More than half of HIKI NŌ schools are Title I, the federal designation of schools with at least 40 percent of students coming from low-income families.


“With HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i is bridging serious educational and socioeconomic gaps,” says Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO. “This partnership with Whole Foods Market will help us with this important work in our island communities – some as near as those in PBS Hawai‘i’s own neighborhood of Kalihi, and as far and remote as South Point on Hawai‘i Island.”


Other programs produced locally by PBS Hawai‘i include the live, weekly community affairs program Insights on PBS Hawai‘i, the half-hour interview program Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox and the Hawaiian music series Na Mele.


As the Islands’ only member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service, PBS Hawai‘i carries flagship PBS programs, including Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Independent Lens, NOVA, Frontline and educational children’s programming on PBS KIDS.


PBS Hawai‘i is also one of a handful of PBS stations in the country to carry a live feed of English-language international news coverage from Japanese public broadcaster NHK World.


PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. pbshawaii.org | facebook.com/pbshawaii | @pbshawaii


Focus on Local Business


This episode, hosted by HIKI NŌ graduate Shisa Kahaunaele, looks back at past stories about Hawaii-based, locally-run businesses:


–A story from Maui High School about a grocer in Happy Valley, Maui who has figured out how to use the influx of big-box retailers to his advantage.


–A profile from Waimea High School on Kauai about a successful t-shirt artist who grew up in Waimea so poor that all he could afford to wear were t-shirts.


— A history by Seabury Hall Middle School about the iconic, family-run Komoda Bakery in Makawao.


— A story from Roosevelt High School on Oahu about a café that sells slow-drip coffee but whose real draw is the unrushed, face-to-face interaction between its customers.


— A study from Kamehameha Schools Maui Middle of Maui Soda & Ice Works and the strong set of family values that has made that business a success.


— A story from Kalaheo High School on Oahu about a chocolate manufacturer in Kailua whose product bears the name of a valley in Honolulu (Manoa Chocolates) and that uses cacao beans from all over the world.


— A profile from Konawaena High School on Hawaii Island about a family-founded -and-run hotel that is nearing a hundred years of age and whose success can be attributed to the allure of nostalgia and a great pork chop.


This program encores Saturday, July 16 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, July 17 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.


Hosted by Farrington High School


This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Farrington High School on Oahu.

Top Story:
Students from Iolani School on Oahu tell the story of a young Iolani graduate who, despite becoming a quadruple amputee due to a devastating disease, continues to live life with grace and appreciation. She visits her alma mater, sharing her inspiring message of perseverance.

Also Featured:
Students at Maui Waena Intermediate School on Maui explore the controversy surrounding  the construction of a new Central Maui Sports Complex; students at Kainalu Elementary School on Oahu profile a Kailua woman who shares the art of ribbon-lei-making with people from around the world; students at Mid-Pacific Institute on Oahu show how science and spiritualism are coming to the aid of a historic Waikiki icon – the Moana Hotel’s majestic banyan tree; students at Lahainaluna High School on Maui share the story of a Lahaina woman who proudly maintains her Hawaiian heritage through pa’u riding; students at Waiakea High School on Hawaii Island spotlight a locally owned surf company in Kapaa, Kauai that gives back by supporting the community’s sports teams.



Hosted by Farrington High School


This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Farrington High School on Oahu.


Top Story:
Students from Iolani School on Oahu tell the story of a young Iolani graduate who, despite becoming a quadruple amputee due to a devastating disease, continues to live life with grace and appreciation. She visits her alma mater, sharing her inspiring message of perseverance.


Also Featured:
Students at Maui Waena Intermediate School on Maui explore the controversy surrounding  the construction of a new Central Maui Sports Complex; students at Kainalu Elementary School on Oahu profile a Kailua woman who shares the art of ribbon-lei-making with people from around the world; students at Mid-Pacific Institute on Oahu show how science and spiritualism are coming to the aid of a historic Waikiki icon — the Moana Hotel’s majestic banyan tree; students at Lahainaluna High School on Maui share the story of a Lahaina woman who proudly maintains her Hawaiian heritage through pau riding; students at Waiakea High School on Hawaii Island spotlight a locally owned surf company in Kapaa, Kauai that gives back by supporting the community’s sports teams.



Election 2014: State House District 51 and State House District 4


On the Windward side of Oahu, last year’s special legislative session on same-sex marriage has been a major driver in the general election contest to represent House District 51 (Kailua and Waimanalo). Incumbent Representative Chris Lee, who championed the marriage equality legislation, is being challenged by insurance executive Wayne Hikida, whose opposition to the new law drew him into the political ring.


The program’s second half features candidates for House District 4 – Puna on Hawai‘i Island, which was first battered by Hurricane Iselle and is now under threat from lava. Democrat Joy San Buenaventura and Republican Gary Thomas are trying to fill controversial Representative Faye Hanohano’s seat after the incumbent was unseated in the Democratic primary. Daryl Huff moderates both discussions.



Corbett Kalama


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


A Community Leader from Humble Beginnings


Leslie Wilcox talks story with Corbett Kalama, Executive Vice President and Region Manager at the Oahu Office of First Hawaiian Bank and Bishop Estate Trustee. Corbett comes from humble beginnings – he grew up in a 900-square-foot house in Kailua with a family of 13 – but his road to success was not the typical dog-eat-dog climb up the corporate ladder. It was, instead, formed by his family’s Hawaiian values of family, education, and community.


Corbett Kalama Audio


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Every child on the beach, every child that’s born—they all have dreams. I want people to be put in a situation where they can at least experience working toward those dreams.


He grew up in a family of 13…living in a 900-square-foot house…hand me downs got pretty worn out. He went on to become a top official of a leading Hawaii bank and a trustee of the Kamehameha schools. Meet Corbett Kalama — next, on Long Story Short.


Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. In this edition of Long Story Short, you’ll get to know Corbett Kalama, First Hawaiian Bank Executive Vice President, Kamehameha Schools trustee, husband, father, and much more. Corbett Kalama grew up in Kailua in Windward Oahu…the 7th of 11 children! He describes his dad as a renaissance man and his mom as a Hawaiian cultural practitioner. From them he inherited a sense of responsibility to the community—something that has shaped his approach to business.


From a bank perspective, our responsibility goes far beyond profit. Our responsibility goes through our community, and we’re here—banking, when it was originally set up, was to benefit communities. I think there’s a lot of discussion about the more challenging side of banking. But I fortunately, I’ve been raised in a bank that never got involved in a lot of these issues, and we never got involved in sub prime lending, for example, those types of things. And I think that just goes to back to the core of who we are and as organizations. But people realize that even from a bank’s standpoint, general banking, that’s the responsibility that you have to your broader community. And the flip side of it is to look at two choices. We either do it, we get involved and we do it willingly because we want to, and because it’s the right thing to do or you address it some other way, and that’s gonna have to be through social programs and different things. I don’t think one will go away completely, the social programs, but that should be there to be in a supportive role, not the means by which we have our community realize their aspirations. So our bank’s always been that part of it, and I can say that for the other institutions in town, because we work together as teams, that they’ve been actively involved in that.


What’s the scope of your work at the bank? What do you do?


I head up—I have the Oahu I Region, which is all the majority of the branches here on Oahu, the metro side, Kahala, Hawaii Kai, Kaimuki. And then I also head up the personal and small business banking portfolios, which is about eighty thousand of our customers; Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan. So I’m pretty active on that. I sit on our senior management committee here at First Hawaiian.


So your main job is more than enough.


To be a servant; just to be a servant. And I think the one string for me all the way across is you put yourself in that position of taking care of people, of providing guidance to people. So I’m a servant to my workers that are out in the field. Don Horner, my boss now, terrific, very humble man, grew up in humble beginnings. He lives our values and he always talks about line and staff, line and staff, right? You got the folks out there that are on the frontline doing everything, and we work for them. And it’s more than just a saying; we work for them in that meaningful way. So you’re constantly serving people in different ways. In the community, we’re out there, even though we go in there and you’re in a leadership position, but I’m serving them.


What’s your number one objective serving on the board of trustees at Kamehameha Schools?


Educate children, educate as many children as possible.


That means a lot of outreach?


Lot of outreach. You’ve heard there’s been some discussions about some of the work that we’re doing out in Nanakuli and Waianae. That’s a major effort on the part of Kamehameha Schools. But just a continued outreach working through the charter schools, working through our Ho‘olana programs, the scholarship programs, the Pauahi Scholars. Trying to really strengthen our community from an educational standpoint. So where we may not necessarily have large campuses, there’s a way that we can continue to work through and use our resources to work with the existing schools that are there. And in light of some of the challenges that our state is facing currently, from a budgetary standpoint, there are a lot of opportunities for Kamehameha. But it’s just, education is just critical.


At the same time, Hawaiian entitlements are under attack.


M-hm. They are; they are, but we have to stay true to our mission, and stay focused on that. My feeling is, you can use the legal system as much as possible to protect the different entitlements that are there, but continue to do your work, continue to do your work. So I’m not really as concerned, not to make light of it. It’s a major challenge for us, but the attacks against different groups have taken place since the beginning of time. It’s history repeating itself. But we can do is, we can address the here and now, and get as many children educated as possible. But we’re not gonna be able to do that by ourselves. I think part of the challenge with Kamehameha is, people look at Kamehameha as having this very large entity, but it was designed to last into perpetuity. And even with Kamehameha going into various communities, I like to use the analogy of a stool. In many instances, Kamehameha needs to go in and be one of the legs on the stool. Because there have been people in these communities for generations that have kept the communities moving, kept it on a positive note, and our responsibility is to go in there and strengthen them, rather—


But not be the whole stool.


You don’t need to sit on the stool. You need to be one of the legs, because communities—we need to help communities take care of the communities themselves. And the opportunities exist within all of these communities; young leaders that are there, that are committed to making things happen. And it’ll happen.


Have you considered quitting your bank job to serve on the board of Kamehameha?


No, it’s a challenge, though. I serve…you can’t lead an organization, it’s not—I’m not talking about micromanaging or anything. In order to give direction and to provide policy, and to provide insight to the group, you need to spend time and you need to read. I mean, we’ve got an investment portfolio that’s just enormous. There are issues in the community that go far beyond accounting, far beyond looking at rent rolls. What impact does this have on the community long term. So no, I think working at the bank, one enhances the other, one compliments the other. My background at the bank has provided a lot of guidance. And I say that humbly to the staff, in the sense that I’ve seen things in the banking community from large land developments, for example, the operation of shopping centers, financing of different types of things, leasing operations that assist the organization in growing and when we start identifying different challenges that exist. So do I see myself quitting the bank? No, not in the immediate term. Do I have free time? No.


You’ve spent a lot of time considering leadership, haven’t you? Who are some of the other leaders you admire?


Well, my father. My father was—leaders have to connect what they say to what they do, and what they do to what they say. My father did that all the time. Leaders have to be caring. My father did that all the time.


You know, I notice when you talk about leadership, you tend to say humility, humble, ha‘aha‘a. Oftentimes, when you read descriptions of leadership, it says bold, assertive, decisive.


I think it’s possible to be bold, assertive, decisive, and still be humble. You don’t have to be someone that speaks in a loud tone, or a bold tone to be bold. You can be yourself, you can be strong. Like I say, people watch your actions. Right; you can show intensity by not necessarily saying a single word, but just through your actions and your commitment, and your resolve to getting things done in a way that’s very sensitive to the entity or individual that you’re trying to assist. When you sit back and you look at just a real broad perspective, and you look at someone like Martin Luther King, when he was giving his speech, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I have a dream; everybody has dreams. Right? But he laid it out, point by point, what he expected to see, and getting people to buy into that dream. For me, if you ask me whether or not I have vision and dreams, I’d like to see our community be much stronger. I’d like to be able to go into our housing communities as we do in a much larger fashion, and continue to build on those things that have occurred. We’ve been very fortunate to have our private school system here willing to go into some of these housing projects and provide scholarships. But my whole aim is to go ahead and work with the homeless on the beach, and really bring opportunity to them to get them to dream.


You did something really unusual when we asked you, who are the people who have influenced your life. You named your family, and friends, and then you named the poor—and you’re a banker, and then you named people who you’ve never even met. Could you talk about that?


I named the poor because the poor give you a foundation. And I spend time with the poor. And the poor help me appreciate all the different blessings that I’ve had in my life. The different opportunities, the different people that have crossed paths with me, that have said, hi. It’s the simple things. My dad would often say, Say hi to whoever you run into. The worst thing that could ever happen is that they won’t say hi back to you. But you’re not any worse off. But the reason why I say the poor is, when you go and you do work with the poor they teach—you learn so much from that group of people and you can get in there, and you hone your skills. Selfishly, you hone your own skills. We often, from a business standpoint, we push our people into the community. We push them out there, because it forces them to go ahead and really get uncomfortable, and to recognize that that’s part of their kuleana and responsibility. But the poor are just at the forefront for me. Because when we lose the sense of responsibility for that part of our community, it’s over. It’s over. It doesn’t matter what economic programs we put in place, it’s over when we lose that sensitivity working with the poor. And a lot of our leaders and future leaders, and the hope comes from that part of our community that we can’t lose sight of.


Corbett Kalama was raised with a strong belief in the values of inclusiveness, stewardship and education. His mother Elizabeth Correa Kalama was a kumu hula. Father Charles Alan Kalama was a plumber, draftsman, musician, and boat builder. He even made musical instruments and fishing equipment. The family didn’t have much money but Corbett Kalama says he had a rich childhood.


What was it like growing up in Kailua? This would be in the middle 50s?


M-hm. It was fun. Kailua was just it—if I could describe it, it was a huge playground, and I had many mothers and fathers. And it was a time of real broad community, growing up. As a community, we learned to respect our elders, in more ways than one. If we were out of line in any way, shape, or form, we’d go home and get disciplined by our parents, then we’d have to go back up the street and apologize again to Mrs. Esposito or Mr. Grandberg, or Mr. Silva, or Mrs. Kim, and that type of thing. But that was just the way we were raised. And even when we’d go fishing and different things like that, we’d fish as a group. And all the elders, it wasn’t unusual for them to sit down and give us guidance on what to look at in the ocean. So they were constantly teaching us. But we learned at an early age to share. So we’d lay nets, for example, off Kailua Beach right near the boat ramp, catch fish—they’d teach us how to do that, and take the fish out of the net and make sure that everybody in the neighborhood shared in that part of it. So it was very giving, comfortable, environment. It was a challenge growing up in the types of houses that we were. There were different types of camps. We had a very small home, nine hundred square foot house.


Nine hundred square feet, and how many—children?


Eleven children.


Oh, that must have been rough.


Oh, it was rough, but you work it out. Yeah, you work it out, and it was an interesting perspective reflecting with my older brother, Charles, about how he viewed his life when he was growing up. Because when he grew up, he was the first one, so he lived at the time when we only had two, three children. So it was an interesting perspective. It wasn’t until, it got to me as number seven, already; and then there were four more after me. And it’s interesting when we reminisce as a group, as a family, the different perspectives we had at different stages in our life. But it a very very rich time. We shared everything that we had. My father shared all of the knowledge that he had, we spent a lot of time in the ocean. We lived a lot off the ocean. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to eat lobster or those types of things anymore, because it was right there in our front yard. But we learned the right way to pick lobster and not to damage the whole—we were very, very protective of sustainability as they talk about it today. But we learned that way, so we all had to pull our load.


What was the fishing out Kailua way like then, compared to now?


Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Kailua Reef used to be like an aquarium.


You had every type of fish that you could think of. There was white coral; you could go just a little further outside that, deep enough to where you’d see a lot of black coral that was there. There were lobster holes everywhere in Kailua. You could walk right from the sand into the water, and find a lobster hole, octopus holes. It wasn’t unusual for us to take that small island off Kailua Beach is called Popoia Island, they refer to it as Flat Island. But we’d go out there, and we’d go surfing. It wasn’t unusual where we’d just take a bottle of water, some matches, and we’d hide an old refrigerator grill, and then we’d jan ken po at about lunchtime to see who was gonna go in the water to pick slipper lobster. We’d go out there, and it was two apiece. One person would have to dive in the water and pick it, and that’s how we’d live. We’d go out there and do that. So we had a park that was there. We were windsurfing before there was windsurfing.


Did you see other people taking too much? Was there some kind of a neighborhood—


As a child, no, you never saw that. You always had—the neighborhood was very, very protective of each other. So even when you went fishing, you had to go and you went to visit with other families to make sure that they had enough food too. So it wasn’t unusual. But see, with that responsibility, they also had the responsibility of the discipline aspect of it. So no, it wasn’t unusual, it wasn’t unusual for the neighborhood kids to just sleep on the beach as a group. It wasn’t unusual to be sleeping at someone’s house, and know that everybody was okay.


When you have something, you always share.


You share it. You share it. And it worked out, and kids talk about that. Now they’re all adults or grandparents, they talk about coming to our house when we were youngsters. And my dad, at a very young age, even though we lived in that small house, it wasn’t unusual for him to go around and pick up the homeless in those days—that were in Kailua, and bring them home to our house.


I think that’s so true that so often, it’s the people who have less who give more. Do you find that?


I still see that. And I think it’s just finding the opportunity for those that do have to help connect them to the group. ’Cause a lot of the work that I do in the community now, it’s not for a lack of desire on the part of individuals that are a little better off than others, but it’s trying to make that connection.


Can we go back to your dad a bit? ’Cause you mentioned him as your first role model as a leader. Tell me about him. I’ve heard from your old-time neighbors in Kailua, he was a character.


My dad was a character. My father, he developed a three-prong spear out of aluminum when no one had it. And my father is just very, very creative. But the other side of it too is, he spoke a number of different languages; he could pick up really fast. He had great relationships. In our neighborhood, we had a Filipino community, for example, the Lambitoc family was there, and a lot of Filipino workers that would come in, and we got to really know them. We learned the culture, and that type of thing. My father would include everyone all the time. We’d go through, but he was just able to take things and look at issues, and look at challenges, and resolve them quickly.


What kinds of things did he build? You said he was—


Well, he built boats. He could build houses. He was a draftsman, so a lot of the big buildings in town, he was there. Lot of the plumbing that went on up on Waialae Iki Ridge and all of those places, my dad’s company did that. He just…motorboats. It wasn’t unusual for my dad to…well, musical instruments, he made banjos, guitars, ukulele, electric things. I mean, he was just amazing. But he could do that, and have it just be perfect. Harmonicas, bass harmonicas. And we had that around, it was just everywhere in our homes.


Did you have musicians come to your house too?


Yeah, we had a whole bunch of musicians. So you had Charles K.L. Davis, Tony B, Gabby Pahinui, that type of folks that would be in there. And we’d just sit there and listen and watch them play. ’Cause you know, in those days, you never asked too many questions. You just listened, and then you remember the sound. When they’d all pass out eventually, we’d grab the instruments and start playing. And that’s how we all learned how to play music. But we got exposed to a whole number of things. And then my mother was a kumu hula. Her teacher was Auntie Lokalia Montgomery. Her pahu drum was made by Daddy Bray. And the other students in her class were Auntie Maiki Aiu was my mom’s cousin, Sally Woods Naluai, and they were all trained, and they all uniki’d at the age of thirteen. Right, but the story there is, my dad—my mom in order to spite my dad, went ahead and sold her—pawned her pahu drum. And on her pahu drum, her name’s there, Kekauilanikaeakawaha is on it. So lo and behold, this lady named Auntie Pilahi Paki is walking past the pawn shop. And Auntie Pilahi is relating this story to me. And she says that the drum was calling out to her. So I’m in my little back yard in Kailua Beach, I’m raking up the panax hedges. And I see this lady, who I’ve never met before, was Auntie Pilahi Paki holding my mother’s pahu drum.


Was she considered a cultural expert at that time?


Didn’t even know who the lady was. This was my first experience with Auntie Pilahi. I looked at her, and I said, Auntie, how come you have my mom’s pahu drum? I didn’t know my mom had pawned it. And then Auntie Pilahi started chanting to my mother. So I ran in the house and I said, Mom, there’s this lady out there, she has your pahu drum. So that’s how I got to meet Auntie Pilahi. And I was about six, six or seven years old. And that’s why our relationship started. But that was just part of the music part of it. Then from that, I got to meet Uncle Eddie Kamae.


Okay; well, let me ask you about Auntie Iolani Luahine.


Very special, very unique, very spiritual. It’s my experience with her was going up to Mauna ‘Ala with my mother, who was a kumu hula, and I went up there grudgingly ’cause my mom would have us in the days when I was growing up in Kailua, not too many men were dancing anywhere. So my brothers and I would often have to go ahead and perform for my mother in the Waikiki Shell and then pa‘i umauma. All that stuff. And then every so often, my mom would want to go up and visit Auntie Lo in the 60s, and she was up at Mauna ‘Ala. And we’d go there, and it was always an interesting time for me. Auntie Io had a way about her that demanded respect immediately. And you were a bit scared, in a real respectful way, because she had these eyes that could basically burn holes through you. And then her hair was this way, and what she used to do was let her hair out, and her and my mom would dance on the lawn there. I would [DRUMS TABLE] for them, and they would uh, Kaulilua was—she would—and so I remember vividly—she would teach me how to take the ti leaf and fold it, so that I could pa‘i my [KNOCKS TABLE] puniu my drum for them.


Is it true that when she danced, something seemed to come from within her? She almost became another person.


She was larger than life. Auntie Io—I get chicken skin, my whole body is alive now, ‘cause I can just see her, and she was just a very, very unique, very powerful.


Why do you think that was?


She just had—she had mana. She had the spirit in her.


And she was—connected to the spirits, as the—curator of Mauna ‘Ala.


She was connected. People went to her for guidance.   She was a beautiful dancer. And as a child growing up, it was people doing kahiko was very special. You never used to see that. It was interesting to watch the transition when the whole Merrie Monarch and everything, and then everybody started doing it. Because even as my mother was going through and training her haumana, very few were taught—


Your mother’s generation, was the generation that generally was looking more Western than going back to roots.


Yeah. See, my mother was raised around that, so my mother was a chanter. My mother was a chanter that would actually—Auntie Maiki, her haumana would come to my mom, and my mom would provide them guidance.


But were they going against the mainstream grain at that point? Everybody else was looking elsewhere.


They were somewhat, to a certain extent. But if you get back to who we are as a people, as Hawaiians, it’s to be inclusive. The Hawaiians, when they talk about aloha, and reaching out to everyone, that’s what it was. You know, so they went far beyond, and you find a lot of our folklore and a lot of our stories about Hawaii in all parts of the world. You can go to Japan, it’s a big part. There are olis out there that talk about the volcanoes in Japan, and why they’re so tied. There are a lot of things that have gone on in Hawaiian history that have gone on and ’til today, you have that challenge between the kumu that want to leave it, and the others that want to continue to grow. And it’s been growing.


Kamehameha Schools trustee Corbett Kalama graduated from Kailua High School with honors. Also from Western Oregon University and the pacific coast banking school at the University of Washington. He’s taught high school and college courses. His love of learning started at a young age. It was something that came naturally to him.


I just blazed through school. There wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do in my mind’s eye. I was an honor student, and it just goes back to high school. I remember walking into an assembly one day as a sophomore at Kailua High School, and I saw a guy walking and had one of these yellow braids, right. And I said, What is that? And he said, That’s the Honor Society. I said, I’m gonna get one of those. Right? Well, there are no—so I went and I figured out what I had to do. And one way to get in, I went and took a trigonometry class. But I was the only Hawaiian in the class. And I decided, okay, I’m gonna get the top score in the class. So that’s what I did. I got straight A’s and I aced all my tests, and all that stuff. And it became a challenge. The things were pretty easy for me. And then when I went to college, the same thing. I challenged a bunch of courses, so I had enough credits to graduate within three years. So life was easy.


Tell me about meeting your wife. You met her—legs first?


Yeah. My wife it’s really interesting. I came back. I was a freshman in college, I came back to Kailua Canoe Club, and I’ve always been very successful in canoe paddling since I was a youngster. Did a lot of big races, and those types of things. So I got out there, and in Waikiki we have a 4th of July regatta, the Walter J. MacFarland Regatta put on by the Outrigger Canoe Club. I’m an experienced steersman, so I get to go out there and steer the canoes. Not everybody does. Well, my wife was paddling in the seventeen and under women’s crew, and I as the steersman. Well, as we were coming in, the boat sunk. We filled up with water and swamped. So part of the steer’s responsibility is to make sure that you’ve got your passengers okay. So I went underwater and I was counting legs. You know, five sets of legs, and I saw these long legs. I go, Ho, who is that? Came up, and it was Sandy. So she didn’t know this; I decided right then, that’s who I’m gonna marry, was that. She was seventeen years old, and I was eighteen. And then we struck up a relationship over time, and then I’d go back to school in Oregon, and she was here. And she’s a very, very hard, hard worker, very patient, very patient. She’s a kindergarten schoolteacher in Kailua, loves kids, kids love her. She’s done a tremendous job.


So could you really make a lifelong commitment based on underwater legs?


Yeah, uh—no. But it was a start. Starts from the toes.


Is there anything else you want to talk about that I havent asked you about?


The idea of aloha. Being kind to people all the time, recognizing the importance of working together as a group, seeing the good in all people, recognizing that we have to be good servants, and recognizing that through patience and perseverance, you’re gonna emerge successful, but you cannot do that by yourself. One thing that I learned as a child growing up is you need to understand your history and where you come from. And so it’s not uncommon for me to go ahead and share my genealogy when I meet with Hawaiian groups, especially, because that’s who I’m representing, that’s who I come from, that’s who I am.


Corbett Kalama connects to the past, lives in the present and helps shape the future with his commitment to children and the community. He draws from the Hawaiian values he learned, growing up in that tiny home with a large family and an open door to those less fortunate. Mahalo to Corbett Kalama…and to you…for joining me on Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox with PBS Hawaii. A hui hou kakou.


So I decided, without telling my mom, that I’m gonna go to Kailua High School. So what happened was, I turned out for the football team, and the Kailua coaches didn’t know. And I turned out for the junior varsity football team, and I made it all the way through the cut, and it came time to register me, they realized that I wasn’t going to Kailua yet. So I went to my mom, and I asked her, I went to her house and I said, Do you mind dropping me off at school? So we were driving up through Kailua town. And I said, No, you have to take a left here. [chuckle] She said, Where you going? I said, Kailua High School. And she said, When are you going to Kailua High School? I said, This year. When? You didn’t tell me about this. I said, Don’t worry, Mom, don’t worry; I’ll be okay. That’s how I got to go to Kailua High School.