Kumu Hina



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






Mumbai Massacre

SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Mumbai Massacre


For many, what began as a typical day in a bustling cosmopolitan city turned into a nightmarish 60 hours of orchestrated terrorism broadcast live to the world via cell phones and internet, text and Twitter. The same social media tools used in consumer technology to relate vital real-time news of the escalating atrocities and information about victims’ situation were also used by terrorists to coordinate and plan their attacks. In a fascinating yet fatal twist, news media relying on recycled information for their headlines played a central role in a deadly game of cat and mouse between the terrorists and the victims. Told completely from the perspective of victims in their own words, voicemail messages, texts and improvised user-group postings made during the ordeal, “Mumbai Massacre” places viewers inside the harrowing experience as it was lived by survivors caught up in a sudden and indescribable horror. This remarkable program captures the desperation and courage of ordinary people in the face of death and shows how social media became a silent witness and simultaneously transformed news as it happened.






The Fight for Women’s Rights

WE’LL MEET AGAIN: The Fight for Women’s Rights


Join Ann Curry as two women search for friends and colleagues who forged a path for equal rights. One of the first female commercial pilots wants to thank her mentor, and an advocate hopes to find the woman who inspired her to join a movement.






Rescued from Mount St. Helens

WEʻLL MEET AGAIN: Rescued from Mount St. Helenʻs


Join Ann Curry for the reunions of people whose lives crossed during the deadly eruption. Mindy searches for a scientist’s family to tell them how he saved her life, and Sue wants to find the helicopter pilot who rescued her from near-certain death.



Michael Titterton


Born into a struggling family in the east end of London, books and radio offered young Michael Titterton a glimpse into a different life. His insatiable curiosity led him to travel around the world, eventually landing him in Hawai‘i, where he took on the challenge of turning around a faltering Hawai‘i Public Radio. Under his leadership as President and General Manager, HPR has grown into the vital and trusted radio network it is today, serving the entire state. This month, Hawai‘i Arts Alliance will be recognizing Titterton as their 2016 Alfred Preis Honoree for his lifetime support of the arts.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Sept. 10, at 4:00 pm.


Michael Titterton Audio


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There are very few human behaviors that go back further than storytelling. It’s the quintessential social act. Any time we pass knowledge from generation to generation, you know, if we don’t have a written language or anything, which we haven’t for most of the history … and it’s how we bond. It’s a wonderful vehicle for healing, for illumination, for understanding, for being civilized. That’s what life is; it’s the stories we get to tell.


Michael Titterton has been in the business of storytelling most of his life. Yet, it’s only one of the many skills that he needed to transform Hawaii Public Radio from a small faltering station into a robust statewide network. Michael Titterton, distinguished 2016 Alfred Preiss Honoree, 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. Michael Andrew Titterton moved to Hawai‘i in 1999 to take over as president and general manager of Hawaii Public Radio. Under his leadership, HPR expanded its reach as a vital community resource, broadcasting on every island, and serving the entire state. He stepped down in June of 2016. This conversation took place six months later, after he did some traveling with his wife, artist Madeleine McKay. Travel and moving on have always been Michael Titterton’s passion. In fact, his time in Hawaii was to be just another stop in his roaming life journey. But after ending seventeen years at Hawaii Public Radio, he’s still living happily in Honolulu. Michael Titterton started out life in postwar London. He’s restrained in that very English way, in the way he describes tough times.


At the time I was growing up, the part of the east end that I grew up in was the most populated, most densely populated urban area in the world, with the exception of Calcutta. I was born immediately after World War II. And the east end of London being industrial, was an area that was a focus of attention for the German air force during World War II and so, a great deal of bomb damage. Every block, you know, for as far as I can remember had houses that were missing or that were just walls. You know, earliest memories is walking around the block and looking at houses, and into rooms that had two walls left, and the other two walls were gone, so you could look in and see pictures still hanging on the wall, and wallpaper, and looking into people’s intimate lives. And it was a routine, very routine occurrence. Never thought it was odd.


Did you feel unsafe?


No, not at all. Not at all.


So, it was kind of a homogenous diverse neighborhood?


Not that diverse; it was mostly Irish.


And your family is, by background, Irish as well?


No; not at all. My father is English, my mother is Welsh. So, you know, yeah, we were outliers, I suppose. But it never really seemed that way. Life was sufficiently challenging that you didn’t give any thought to social standing, or any of that. It was later in life, I became acutely aware of it, and acutely aware that I was motivated to leave. I didn’t want to stay there. Once I became aware that everybody didn’t live this way, then I began to form the idea of a wall that I had to sort of scale and get over, and I tried all sorts of ways to do that.


Did you feel deprived of anything as you were growing up?


Only books. My my father was not an unintelligent man, but he was very uneducated and was quite defensive about that. And he wouldn’t have books in the house.


Oh … and you loved books?


Yes, perversely, as one does, you know, forbidden fruit.




And … yeah. I developed a relationship with the local library, and smuggled books into the house. And I’ve had a romance with books ever since. And that was how I found out, ultimately. That, and radio. That, and radio.


That’s how you found out that you were living a life that many people did not live.


Yes, yes, yes. It was my first glimpse over the wall. And it was an intoxicating one, and it’s one from which I’ve never sobered up, at all.


So, how did you scale that wall to get out of the east end?


Oh, well, I left school at fifteen, as everyone did. Moved out on my own. I did an apprenticeship as a tool and die maker. Factories, you know, was the thing. You went on the line, or you learned a trade.


Was it expected that that’s pretty much what you would do?


M-hm; that, or become a criminal, which was quite popular option. But that was the skill that I had early on, and I parlayed that into a little business which I ran for a while, making specialty parts for racing engines. Very long story; we don’t have time for that.


Because you love autos, too; right?


Well, it was an automobile environment. Dagenham was the principal factory area where I grew up. And that’s the Ford Motor Company. And it was all about automobiles, and you know, this was the 50s. And yeah, I have gasoline in my veins, I think.


So, you did build a business.


I built a little business. Just a very modest thing, but it was quite successful in a surprisingly short amount of time. But I had no judgement; I was very young.   And I took in a partner who brought in a little capital which I desperately needed. And he developed a romantic association with another one of the employees, and they disappeared to Australia with all the fluid assets of the company. And that got me quite vexed. [CHUCKLE] And actually exhausted the last of my patience, and I liquidated everything. Sold off machinery and whatnot to make payroll, couple other people working for me. And I was reduced to a minivan and a couple of sleeping bags, and I took off to Europe. I just wanted to be anywhere other than England at that point. I was just really quite over it.


Without much more than the clothes on his back, Michael Titterton left home. He had no plan, other than to see the world. Now, he didn’t have to mention to us his stint in a foreign jail over an incident involving the concentrated form of marijuana, known as hashish, but he did. Because that’s part of his story, and he is a storyteller.


I just took the ferry across to France, to Callet. And spent little over two years, I think, going from place to place. North Africa, Middle East, and Europe, Western Europe, doing odd jobs.


What were some of your odd jobs?


Oh, working in garages. I could always pick that up. A a job in Marseilles for a while, cleaning boats, you know. I had a job on a trawler in the North Sea, and some disgusting adventures.




That you don’t want to hear about. Just things like that. And then, every now and again, I’d go back to Dagenham and I’d get a job on the line at the Ford Motor Company.


And essentially, you were always making a living with your hands.


Oh, yeah; yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.


And what did you aspire to? Were you happy with that? Were you …


I was thoroughly occupied with that. It was wonderful. I was getting to see the world, or at least a part of it. And I remember a moment when I was still an apprentice toolmaker, and we’d clock in, you know. And the clock was at this counter outside where you could see up. And I was coming in for a night shift, and I looked up and I saw the moon. You know, regular old moon. But I had this moment when it occurred to me that this moon could be seen just like this by people who weren’t in Dagenham, but were all over the world. And they must have thoughts just like that. And I knew I wanted to meet some of them. I couldn’t meet all of them, but I’d like to meet some of them. And that we had this experience in common. And that moment has just always haunted me. I think that might have been a propellant. But I’ve always had this real need. It is a need to travel, and see different things. And I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to gratify it in all sorts of ways, some more comfortable than others.


Well, when you approach a new city, or a new region, how do you decide you’re going to see it? There are so many vantage points.


Well, in those days, it was simply a matter of how am in gonna manage breakfast, and how am I gonna make the money to, you know, buy the next tank of gas. Or after a while, actually, I sold the van, and so, it was, you know, little more survival oriented even than that. So, it was how do I get by, especially when you don’t speak the language anywhere.


Were you all on your own?


M-hm; for most of the time. I mean, I had the occasional traveling companion. But no, pretty much on my own.


So, you were just living day-to-day.


Absolutely; yeah, moment-to-moment, really.


That’s a great formative—


It was the best time of my life.


Was it? Even though you must have been anxious, too.


I was anxious, I was uncomfortable, I was wet. A lot of the time it was too hot, a lot of the time I had rocks in my shoes. I mean, it was horrible by any rational measure, but it was a joyful, wonderful time.


Because everything was new?


Yes; yes. And there was no safety net, but at the same time, there were no barriers.


Did you ever fall into a hole that you thought you couldn’t get out of?


Oh, yes. It happened in Morocco, and it went on for about three months. And I really didn’t think I was gonna get out of that one, but ultimately did. It had to do with a camel saddle that I had, I thought, quite skillfully repackaged. Took the stuffing—you know what a camel saddle is; yeah?


What is it?


What is it? Well, [CHUCKLE] I’m not sure I’ll ever go near a camel. But it’s shaped like a saddle on the camel, and it has a cushion on the top, and it’s used as a piece of furniture. And tourists like to take them home and call them camel saddles. So, I replaced the stuffing in the top of this camel saddle with a quantity of very pure white hashish. You’ve heard of hashish?


Yes, yes.


Yeah. And attempted to mail it back to myself in London, and enlisted the help of a young man to do this. And he agreed, ‘cause you know, you can get anybody to do anything in Morocco. And he took it into a post office with this. And I thought that would be the sensible thing for me to do. And he did, and he disappeared. Oh, he didn’t disappear, he just didn’t come back for a long time. And I got curious and a little antsy after a while, and I poked my head in the door and this was another moment that I shan’t forget, the tableaux, this young is standing up against a counter. And as I poked my head in, I see him and the camel saddle, which has been ripped apart. And there’s two or three officials behind the counter there, and the child is in the process of turning around, you know. [INDISTINCT]. And you know, That’s the man. And that was that, really. I was the center of attention for a little while. And three months later, I find myself hitchhiking away from Tangier.


It sounds like you were lucky to get off with three months.


Oh, yes. I had one visitor, the young man that I’d been rooming with. And he sold my van and he got for me a lawyer, or at least some sort of representation. And I’m sure a portion of the money went to the legal representation, and another portion went to whatever happens to money that flies around in Tangier at that time. And to my immense surprise, I was in a room with uh, with a number of other people. Suddenly, I had a visit from the attorney type, and I had no confidence in this at all, but a week or two later, I was summoned into a court, with no preparation, no fanfare at all. The proceedings went on that I didn’t understand a word of, and within half an hour so, I found myself back on the street. And that was that.


You could have been left there a long time, and …


It was the one point at which I’ve ever considered suicide as a rational alternative. And in that sense, it’s been extremely useful. Because, you know, life has had its bumps, as life does, but it’s a wonderful thing to know, or at least believe that you know what your limits are, how bad things really have to get.


You could have ended up locked up and wasted away.


I could have. Yeah.




Instead of in management.


Michael Titterton next went to Greece, where he met a young American woman who traveled with him to Israel, where they both worked in a kibbutz. She returned to the United States to attend college, and he later followed.


So, love brought you to America.


Yeah; yeah, pretty much. Well, I knew I wanted to come to America anyway, ‘cause I just hadn’t been there yet. But yeah, it was very romantic. And this young lady hitchhiked out from Oregon and met me in New York, and we spent a little while there, and I bought a car from a junkyard in New Jersey for, I think, ninety dollars; 1962 Tempest.


But you could fix it.


Yes, I could. Yes; I’m a very capable fellow. And fixed this thing up, and we drove it back to Ann Arbor, which was where her family was. I worked at odd jobs in Ann Arbor for a little while, and then got convinced that I really needed to investigate higher education. So, that’s what I did. And it was a little dodgy, because I hadn’t finished high school in any technical sense, but found that I could go to school in Canada, which wasn’t far away.


I notice you got your master’s degree in public speaking and rhetoric.


Rhetoric; yes.


Why did you choose that?


Bear in mind, this is the very, very early 70s. It’s 1971, actually, and coming into ’72. And I knew the US was … I mean, this was … social mobility was here, and that’s what I was really after. I didn’t know it at that time, ‘cause I didn’t know the words. But social mobility, and meritocracy. You know, if you work hard, you can get places. And it’s really what everybody dreams about, when they dream about America when they’re not from here. If I was going to understand this place, the quickest way to do it might be to study the media, because that seemed to be the bottleneck through which everything passed. And it was a very busy bottleneck at that point. Watergate, for example, Vietnam War, all the unrest on college campuses. Glorious time. And all of it was being fed through a media, which was under suspicion, as much of it is now. And so, I specialized in that. Wayne State had a particularly strong rhetoric department, and that was where I found myself, with a lot of wonderfully eccentric people.


And you’d already had experienced storytelling, because you had stories to tell along the way.


Well, everybody does. Yeah. But I did. Just because of the basic courses that I had to then take as part of being in the rhetoric program, I began to learn something about the mechanics of storytelling, if you like, the idea of a narrative. And I was very quickly drafted into teaching public speaking. So yeah, I hadn’t really thought about it, actually, as being part of the whole storytelling business, but I seem to keep coming back to that. But that’s what it is. That’s what life is, it’s the stories we get to tell.


And sometimes, you do things without having a name for it; right? And then, you find out—


Oh, yes; most of the time, actually.


Your real self keeps popping up in the form of what you do.


[CHUCKLE] Yes; that is true. That is true. But storytelling, I guess that’s a lot of the attraction that I have, or that radio has for me, because it’s a storytelling medium, and storytelling is … there are few human behaviors that go back further than storytelling. It’s the quintessential social act. It’s a wonderful vehicle for healing, for illumination, for understanding, for being civilized.


And radio has that intimate quality.


Mm. It’s a one-to-one medium, and it’s frighteningly intimate. And the best of radio is indistinguishable from pillow talk. It’s that intimate. And that’s what I love about it. I mean, what’s not to love?


Michael Titterton started his career in radio by volunteering at his campus radio station, which he helped to become one of the first national public radio stations. From this valuable experience, he went on to spend the next twenty years building, managing, and consulting for public radio stations across the United States. He was thinking of moving on to a new career, when an unexpected opportunity arose.


Hawaii advertised this job at Public Radio for someone to take a very troubled station and make something of it, and you said, That’s for me. [CHUCKLE]


Oh; yes. And actually, it was funny the way it came about. Because I’d been consulting for a couple years, going around fixing broken stations. And that was great fun. But I’d reached a point where I thought, this Public Radio thing has been wonderful. And it really has. I mean, I’ve never regretted a moment I’ve spent with it. But I’ve done everything I really want to do. You know, I’ve been an operations manager, I’ve been a reporter, I’ve been a producer, I’ve been, you know, pretty much every position, and I’ve been building stations and running them. Time for me to go back to Europe now and reinvent myself again, and see what happens next. And I was in the process of doing that. I had my house on the market. I was winding up all my little business things. I hadn’t known about the situation in Hawaii, and I had three phone calls in the space of a few days from different people that I knew. And essentially, the message was, If you like broken stations, have I got a broken station for you. Anyway, I wrote to the folks here. In all honesty, I thought, you know, this will be one more fix-it job, and then—you know. But I came out and met with the board, and they were all very interesting people. They were clearly all agents of change. That’s why they were doing what they were doing and were so committed to it. There was a real will, there was a real spirit about the organization, [INDISTINCT]. It just felt right. And we reached an agreement, and I came out and went with them.


There was a real will, there was a real spirit about the organization, [INDISTINCT]. It just felt right. And we reached an agreement, and I came out and went with them. Uh, as I say, Honolulu was a big surprise. I—uh, you know, you have this idea of a tropical paradise, and Honolulu is anything but. You know, it’s a—it’s an intense, very densely populated city with a lot of uh, um … issues of its own. Uh, it’s uh, multiethnic beyond imagination. It’s uh, like all those planets that shows up in Star Wars Trilogy, you know. Um, everybody’s from somewhere else. And HPR was that way. I—when I met uh, the crew, everyone was from somewhere else. It was like taking over the Enterprise. You know, there were people from different planets. Um … and, yeah, grateful, jump in, and uh …


How did you get it to rise, when it was definitely in the hole in the ground?


[CHUCKLE] I think probably the … the lever that had the most benefit to it was the one of taking on the challenge of convincing a community that had begun to really give up on this. You know, this is a good idea, but it’s just not gonna happen. And convince them that it was a success. That it was a success. Not that it could be a success, but that it was a success. And in that first year, we did three fundraisers, and we’ve been doing two a year ever since.


And were you on the desk for HPR? You were handling the pledge interviews and appeals?


Oh, sure. Oh, yeah.




Yeah, yeah; yeah. I’ve always enjoyed pledge drives. I get a lot of credit for being a fundraiser. I’m really not, but I love this business, and the pledge drives are a means to an end. You’ve got to have the money. The money is a means to an end. It’s not about the money itself. And I believe in the thing sufficiently, that getting on air and begging and pleading doesn’t bother me that much, because I believe in what we’re raising it for. And it was successful, and it seemed to turn around the consciousness somehow. And if people believe you are a success, then they’re gonna get behind you.


And there was always another problem after the one you solved; right? Because you were facing a situation that was layered, upon layered, upon layered with, you know, obstacles, which is exactly what brought you here.


Well, [CHUCKLE] yeah. I mean, I just thought it was gonna be, you know, another quick gig in this exotic circumstance. But then, you know, the idea got hatched of, Well, we seemed to have stabilized this, now there are a number of things technically wrong with the thing. You know, the old KIPO transmitter, and the fact that we weren’t heard in a great part of Oahu, much less the rest of the State. And we built the station in Hilo just because we happened to have a license that was about to expire. We were very motivated to build that station, which we did. And that got us to the point where, Well, you know—


Let’s go statewide.


Let’s go statewide; we’re Hawaii Public Radio, after all, and let’s try and make it so. And that was the narrative for the next two years.


Do you reach farther than for-profit radio stations with your broadcast signal?


Oh, absolutely; yeah. Yeah, we’re the only radio station with statewide reach. Yeah; absolutely. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here in Hawaii with the industry that I love so much. I like to think that Hawaii is an even better place now, than it was before we developed our Public Radio the way it is. It’s grown up now, it can stand on its own however many feet it has.


Hawaii Public Radio has received national recognition as a nonprofit organization for its achievements in news programming, fundraising, and fiscal responsibility. Michael Titterton, now HPR’s former president and general manager, was awarded the 2016 Alfred Preiss Honor by the Hawaii Arts Alliance for his lifetime support of the arts and community building. Mahalo to Michael Titterton of Makiki, Honolulu, for putting his skills and service to work for our community, and for delightfully sharing some of his many stories with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.


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


Looking back at how much physical ground you’ve traveled, and then of course, how much emotional and social ground you’ve traveled, you’ve had a chance to reflect a little bit on your life, and how you were gonna be a tool die guy.




And then, with a business, and all of a sudden, you’re getting a master’s degree and getting into public media, and being a turnaround expert.


Well, yeah. I never expected any of it. In terms of reflection, I’m still coming to terms with all of that. I feel enormously grateful. I mean, I don’t want to be too sloppy about it, but not everybody has the breaks that I’ve had. And I’ve been fortunate. I used to think it was a rotten break, but I was fortunate enough not to be born wealthy. Life is good; life is good. It’s been a fascinating journey, and it doesn’t seem to be quite done yet.




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.


Victoria Kneubuhl


Playwright and novelist Victoria Kneubuhl has used her writing as a way to share the history of Hawaii and to give a voice to powerful women of the past. And while writing is her passion, she also sees it as a way to give something back. “One of the things that I really want people to know…who are from the islands or the Pacific, is that our stories are so worth telling. If you write something that is heartfelt and genuine, you are leaving a gift for your community,” says Kneubuhl.


Victoria Kneubuhl Audio


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I think that when we understand what happened in the past to our country and our people, that we will be able to make better decisions about what we create in the future. Because I feel like if you don’t understand your personal past, your collective past, you can get into a lot of trouble.


Bringing together the past and the present is a trademark of Victoria Kneubuhl’s work. Respected Honolulu playwright Victoria Kneubuhl, 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. Writing is Victoria Kneubuhl’s passion. She’s driven by a desire to share her Hawaiian and Samoan heritage, and give a voice to powerful women of the past. Kneubuhl has written more than two dozen plays. Her writing credits also include novels and television documentaries. She’s the recipient of the State’s highest literary honor, the Hawaii Award for Literature. However, as a child growing up in Manoa, Kneubuhl never dreamed of becoming a successful playwright.


Well, I was born in Kapiolani Hospital in 1949, in the Territory of Hawaii. And I grew up in Manoa Valley, right up the street here. So, that’s where my formative years were. My mother was pretty much a housewife, and my dad worked for American Factors; he was an auditor.


Now, at the time you were born, was Samoan-Hawaiian as an interracial marriage, was that considered unusual, or was that common?


You know, I don’t really know. I don’t think it was that unusual. But I do think it’s unusual that my father, you know, came here at such an early age from Samoa to go to school. He was seven years old, and he came with his brother, who was nine. They came on a ship, and they both went to Punahou School when they were little.


Could they speak English?




Raised bilingually.


Yes; they were both bilingual. And my father tells these wonderful stories about being at the boarding school, the Punahou boarding school, which was a farm school, he said. And it was out in Kaimuki, you know, near the graveyard, near Diamond Head Cemetery. That was where the boys boarded.


Now, that sounds like your family was well-to-do, to be able to go from Samoa and afford Punahou.


Well, I think my grandfather was. To afford, to be able to do that, they must have been. And I think it was important to them that their children had a really good education. My grandfather was from Iowa; Burlington, Iowa. His parents were immigrants from Switzerland, I think. And he ran away from home when he was … seventeen, or something. And he lied about his age, and he joined the Navy. And he ended up in Samoa, and he met my grandmother who was, from what we call an afakasi family, just half-caste, afakasi. It’s not a bad word. And I think she was about three-quarter Samoan. Because her father was half-Samoan, and half palagi. He was a descendant of a missionary [CHUCKLE] from the London Missionary Society.


So, from an early time, your family was mixed generationally.


Oh, yeah.


And going through different times.


And our family, you know, has these roots in the Pacific that include Hawaii, but you know, also include Tahiti and Samoa, and now we have relatives in New Zealand and Australia. So … yeah. This is our home.


So, you’re growing up in Manoa. What was life like at the Kneubuhl house?


Well, you know, my earliest memory is playing outside. And when I was a little girl, there were still farms. There were farms in the back of Manoa Valley, you know. There were a lot of Japanese farmers back there. I guess they were leasing land from the Bishop Estate. That’s what I understand. Manoa lettuce was really grown in Manoa. [CHUCKLE] And behind the school was mostly farms. And there were gardenia farms back there too. So, I kind of think of my childhood as pretty idyllic.


And rural, in Manoa.


Yeah. I thought I grew up in the country. But I guess I didn’t.  And we had a lot of freedom as children to roam around. It was safe then, and we could swim in the stream, and hike around in the mountains. It was great. I feel lucky.


Victoria Kneubuhl explored her Samoan roots on a trip with her father when she was a teenager. The trip had barely begun, when her dad did something that really surprised her.


I didn’t really know anything about being Samoan. Sometimes, my dad’s brother John, who was a screenwriter in Hollywood, would come over and charm us all with stories about what was going on in Hollywood. But I didn’t have much contact with that part of my family until my father decided that he might want to move back to Samoa and work for my grandfather. So, when I was, I think like thirteen, my father decided he was gonna go back and have a look at what it would be like to live there, to kind of test the waters. And he took me with him. Just me. So, it was in the early 60s, and Pan American was the plane that flew in there, and we got off the airplane, and the airport was kind of like this wooden shack with rat wire on it.  And there was a big line of our family there, you know, waiting to meet us. And I was holding my dad’s hand, and all of a sudden, he started speaking Samoan. And I didn’t know he spoke Samoan. You know, I used to ask him when I was kid, Oh, Dad, how do you say milk in Samoan? He’d go, I don’t know, I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me.  So, I got off the plane, and he started speaking Samoan to all of these people, and I … I felt extremely unsure of the world for a moment. But that was a really interesting summer for me, because he and I kind of drove all around. And you know, Samoa was really different, what was that, fifty years ago, fifty-plus years ago, than it is today. So, … only part of the island had paved roads, and not every place had electricity, and most of the outlying villages, people still lived in … fales, you know, in grass houses and had that kind of cultural village life, and the material culture that went along with it. And so, it was really enlightening for me to see a Polynesian culture at that time in my life, and to see how people lived.


You were hearing your father determining whether to possibly uproot you, your life would change radically. Were you concerned, or was it travel log time?


No, it was pretty much a travel log time for me, and I was really excited to be there. And I had all of these great cousins that I met that I ran around with. And my father came back after two weeks, but I stayed for the whole summer with my aunt. And I loved it there at that time. It’s a different place now, but then, it was really fun.


And yet, your father did move, and you did not.


Yeah. Well, you know, my parents, it was important for my father that … my brother and I go to Punahou. So, we stayed here, and my parents and my younger brother moved down there.


And you stayed with your grandmother?


Yes; in Manoa.


And did you graduate from Punahou?


No. Actually, I dropped out of high school and I had a child when I was seventeen years old. So, it wasn’t a great situation for me. And I think I felt kind of lost and alone, and so I was looking for some, you know, place that I felt safe. And … you know, life is funny, though, you know. I had a child when I was seventeen; but by the time I was twenty-four, I couldn’t have children anymore. And of course, now my daughter is like my best friend in the world.


Something you thought was gonna hurt your life, needed to happen then. Is that how you look at it?


Well, part of it, yeah. Not all of it, but part of it. And yeah, it was hard to have a child when I was, you know, so young. But … that’s what happened.


Did you remain in Hawaii, or did you go to Samoa?


You know, when I left my first husband, I went back to Samoa and I stayed there for about seven years and worked there. And … I came back to Hawaii, I think, in the late 70s. Eventually, as wonderful as the island was then, it just seemed too small to me. My horizon started to shrink. You know, and so when I came back to Honolulu, I started going to school. I went to the Academy of Arts for a while. They used to have a studio program there, where I went every day to a drawing class or a painting class.


By now, Victoria Kneubuhl was in her late twenties, with a new husband and a second child. After earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, Kneubuhl was considering a career in psychology, when she stumbled on a class that would change her life.


I was thinking about getting a degree in psychology. I was kind of in love with Carl Jung, with Jungian psychology, and I was fascinated by it. And we were having a break. You know, I was having a break from school, and I thought, before I apply to this program, that I would do something different. So, you know, they used to register in Klum Gym.


I remember that. Long lines in Klum Gym.


Yeah. That’s right. So, I went to sign up for a creative writing class in the English department, but they were full. So, I’m looking through the program, and I see this class that says, playwriting. And I thought, Oh, yeah, you know, you know, my uncle does that; yeah, I think I’ll try that.  So, I wandered into this playwriting class. It was really fascinating; the class was fascinating. It was really hard, and the teacher was extremely tough and scary, and I almost dropped out of the class, because I was feeling humiliated. And so, I went home, and I had this little talk with myself, and I said, You know, that man, he’s really smart, and he really knows a lot, and I paid for this class, and I’m gonna ignore all of this stuff that I don’t think has anything really to do with playwriting. And I’m just gonna take what he knows, because I paid for it. So, I changed my attitude, and I walked back in the class the next time, and … it was fine. You know, I think it was just that attitude change on my part that kind of changed the whole class. And I was so happy with where I ended up, compared to where I started from, that I enrolled in the same class again with a different teacher, Dennis Carroll. When I got into Dennis’ class … he was a wonderful teacher. He has all of this love and passion for the theater. You know, he started Kumu Kahua Theater. And he really took me under his wing and nurtured me as a writer. And he had confidence in me and my work. You know, when you’re a young writer, you just don’t know if you’re any good. And then, when someone who you admire and you think is really smart tells you, Yeah, you know, this is good, it really helps you to continue and to grow in your craft. And that’s what Dennis did for me. And not just me. You know, he did it for a lot of other writers, too. So, I think if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be a writer. And because Kumu Kahua Theater was there, you know, they were interested in my work, right away. So, my very first play was produced, which you know, for a playwright is …


This was college, it got produced?




And what did you choose to write about? What was your first play about?


My first play was called Emmalehua. And it was about a young woman. It was set right after the war.


Which war?


World War II.  It was set right after World War II. And it concerned a young woman who had been made a hula kapu when she was a girl, and who had drifted away from that calling or that honor. And you know, at that time, everybody in Hawaii was interested in being American. And so, it was about how she came back to … her craft and art. And I really wanted to write about, you know, who I was and where I came from, and … so, that was my first play, and that got produced.


Was that you? Was that girl you?


No; it wasn’t me. I’m kind of a clumsy dancer. I know; it’s terrible. I’m Polynesian, and I don’t sing very well, and I can’t dance either.


You can write; you’re like a dream.


What was your second play about? Still in college?


Well, actually, the second produced play I worked on was in collaboration with Dennis Carroll, Robert Nelson who was a musician, who just recently passed away, and Ryan Page. Dennis wanted to do a play about Kaiulani. so, that was the second play that I worked on. Although that play is not really mine, because there were so many people contributing to it. And the next play I wrote was The Conversion of Kaahumanu, which has been produced in a lot of different places.


That’s a great theme that you chose. Conversion meaning to Christianity of this alii of the Hawaiian government.


Well, at that time, I had three part-time jobs when I was going to school. And you know, I had to work so hard to get an education. I had these two kids, and you know, I was going to graduate school fulltime, and you know, I just don’t know how I did it. And my husband doesn’t know how we did it either, but we managed to do it. And one of my part-time jobs was working at the Mission Houses Museum; I started there as a guide. And they had a living history program that interpreted the interaction between Hawaiians and missionaries. And I loved working there; I loved the people I was working with. I was working with Deborah Pope, who is now the director of Shangri La, and Glen Grant. He was working there, too. And so, we were actually the principal role players in this program, and so, we had to do a lot of research about that time period. And that play, you know, it just kind of came to the surface.


She was often blamed by many Hawaiians for going away from Hawaiian spiritual values to Christianity.


I think that one of the reasons she chose to ally herself with the missionaries is that, you know, there was a lot of gunboat diplomacy then, and a lot of Westerners considered Polynesians, not just Hawaiians, but all people with dark skin, less than human. And becoming Christian was one way of showing the outside world that, No, we’re human.


One perspective that comes out in your play is that, you know, for those who think that the Hawaiians at the time in leadership were just being squashed and put down by White people, that’s not true, you believe.


I don’t believe that. I mean, I believe that our alii were doing the best that they could for the people, and that it was a really, really hard time. And I hate these histories that make it seem like, you know, Hawaiians were being kind of led around by the nose by all of these people and weren’t savvy and smart enough to see what was happening, and try to make the best decision that they could.


Political and racial conflict in Hawaii are common themes in Victoria Kneubuhl’s plays. Her topics include modern controversies over iwi, or bones, and the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. The latter was a five-act, fifteen-hour play staged on the steps of Iolani Palace. Kneubuhl says she often hears the voices of her protagonists in her head.


I’d love to hear you talk about structuring a play. Because I wouldn’t know how to go about condensing all those years, and continents, and time.


Yeah. You know, structure in playwriting is probably the hardest element. You know, when you first start learning about playwriting, dialog, character, those things come pretty easily, because we know them all. You know, we just have to listen, and we can hear what people talk like. And we know characters. You know, we know what other people are like. So, those things come pretty fast. But structuring a play is, I think, a constant challenge to a playwright.


You’ve got one stage. You can determine the number of acts, I presume.


Yeah; you can determine the number of acts. You can figure out how many characters you want. Although these days, for the commercial stage, you know, they don’t want a lot of characters in a play anymore, because they don’t want to pay. So, writing for the community theater has its advantages. You can have as many characters as you want, and nobody’s gonna care. But you basically have the stage, and you have dialog. That’s it. I mean, you have some lighting, and you have some props, and you know, you can have some sound effects. But pretty much, you’re telling your story through dialog.


What is that like, when you sit back on opening night? I’m sure you’re not sitting back; you’re probably sitting forward. What is it like seeing it unfold?


You know, opening night isn’t really the night when I’m the most shocked. There’s a point in rehearsals where the actors are off book, where they’re not holding their scripts anymore, and you first see your play being acted out by people. Something that was just inside your head is now out there. And I always feel like, oh, my god, my underwear is hanging on the line, and everybody’s looking at it.


Because it comes from deep inside you.


Yeah. And it’s kind of the first time it’s exposed out there. And that’s when I feel the most strange.


What are you like when you’re writing a play? Are you locked in a room with beverages? I mean, do you shut the windows and hunker down? How do you do it?


Well, you know, when I first started writing, I was going to school, I had three part-time jobs, I had two children and a husband, and a house to keep clean. So, I just learned to block everything out, you know. And while dinner was like, on the stove, I was at the dining table writing away. And I just learned to, like, close things out and you know, kind of focus on what I was doing. Because I didn’t have the luxury of anything else.


Do you think in retrospect, that helped you? That you could work it into your life.


Yeah; I think it did a lot. And when I hear people say, Oh, if only I had some time, I could go away; I just laugh, you know. Because if you really want to write, you just sit down and write.


And Victoria Kneubuhl has added novels to her writing portfolio. At the time of our conversation in the summer of 2015, she was working on her third book in a murder mystery fiction series set in 1930s Honolulu.


Did you leave playwriting behind, or did you decided to take a break and write novels, mystery novels?


Well, I could never leave playwriting behind, because that’s where I started writing. But at some point, I realized, gosh, my plays are pretty serious, you know, and I really need to have some fun with my writing, so I think I’ll write a mystery. Because you know, when I want to relax, my escape literature is, you know, old-fashioned cozy mysteries. And so, I decided to try and write a mystery. And actually, I’d started another novel too, and I couldn’t finish either of them, and I had to pick one to finish. So, I decided to finish the mystery. I was finishing the mystery, and you know, I had no idea how to find a publisher. And UH Press had published my book of plays, so one day, I was in Safeway and was looking for mayonnaise, and I saw my editor, the editor of my playwriting books there. And I was talking to her, and I said, Oh, you know, I’m writing a mystery; do you have any suggestions about where I could send it for a publisher? She looked at me kinda suspiciously and she said, Did you know we’ve been kind of thinking about doing a mystery series? I said, No. And I don’t know if she believed me or not. But she said, Well, we are, so send it to me. And so, then I really, you know, finished it. Because I had that incentive.


And you put many places, places that you know well into their settings. You actually have the curator of Bishop Museum killed in the museum.


Well, you know, because I worked in the museum field for so long, I knew that that field pretty well. So, I made use of it. You know. And I really feel that novel writing, you know, even when it’s fiction that’s kind of a genre fiction, mysteries … those kinds of stories preserve history in their own way. You know, they tell us a little bit about the past in a really different way.


You put the Haleiwa Hotel in your in your novel.




Which really existed.


Yeah. Yes, and just the way people related to each other. You know, I mean, I feel so fortunate to have known the kind of kupuna that aren’t with us anymore. So, I think fiction is a wonderful place for preservation, too.


We’re coming to the end of a really wonderful conversation. I don’t know if there’s anything you wish you could have a chance to say to people, or that hasn’t been brought out, or just any thought that you’d like to share.


One of the things that I really want people to know, who would like to be writers, and who would like to write, and who are from the islands or the Pacific, is that our stories are so worth telling. And that, you know, it doesn’t matter if you don’t make the best-seller list in New York. If you write something that is heartfelt and genuine, you are leaving a gift for your community.


It’s tough to make a living as a playwright in Hawaii, and Kneubuhl has always had a day job. She’s been the Curator of Education at the Mission Houses Museum, and she taught playwriting at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Since 1993, Kneubuhl also has written and produced episodes of the television series Biography Hawaii. Mahalo to Victoria Kneubuhl of Maunalani Heights, Honolulu for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.


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


Let’s move to something that occupies a lot of your time today, and it’s a passion and a hobby involving dogs.


Yes, I’m a crazy dog person. You know, my husband and I really got interested in dog training a few years ago. There’s a new sport, it’s really popular on the continent; it’s called nose work. And it’s the same training that those, you know, real working dogs at the airport do. But you train the dogs to sniff out legal substances, and they’re oil essences. And there are different levels of competency that your dog can aspire to.




Children of Syria


Follow four children surviving in war-torn Aleppo and their escape to a new life in Germany. The program films the family over three years, from the siege of their city to the kidnapping of their father to the struggle of becoming refugees.


Don’t Tell Anyone


Meet immigrant activist Angy Rivera, the country’s only advice columnist for undocumented youth. In a community where silence is often seen as necessary for survival, she steps out of the shadows to share her own parallel experiences of being undocumented and sexually abused.


Michael Broderick


At the age of four, Michael Broderick lost his father in an auto accident. A family man who grew up without a father figure in his life, he has made a difference in the lives of families in Hawaii, first as a Family Court judge, and as President of the YMCA of Honolulu.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Sept. 20 at 4:00 pm.


Michael Broderick Audio


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And then, when I left being a judge, here’s what people say to me: Michael, you look pretty good. And I say, Well, gee, what did I look like before? They say, You looked like you were carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. I wasn’t even aware of that.


Michael Broderick has altered his career path several times over the years, but he’s always been guided by his strong sense of family and community. YMCA of Honolulu President and CEO, Michael Broderick, 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 2010, Hawaii Family Court Judge Michael Broderick stepped down from the bench at a time when he appeared to be at the height of his career. His concerns about Hawaii’s youth and the community led him to a new calling as President and CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu. Broderick has spent a large portion of his career looking out for people and families. His own life started with a devastating loss.


Where did life begin for you? What was it like?


Well, I was born in Dallas, Texas, and lived there for four months. And then, my father was killed in a car accident when I was four months old.


Four months!


Yeah. And so, we moved back to Philadelphia, where my aunt lived, my mother’s sister, and my aunt’s husband, my uncle, and their four boys. So, my brother, who at the time was two years old, and myself and my mom, moved into that house. And there was also our grandmother, who was there as well.


Oh, multigenerational family.




Extended family.


Extended; and Italian. Okay; that’s key.


So, everything was big family table of meals.


Absolutely. We all sat down together for dinner every night, the ten of us, and we had a beautiful Italian meal that my grandmother had cooked. So, I was raised by my grandmother, a hundred percent Italian; my uncle, hundred percent Italian; my aunt, one hundred percent Italian; and my mother, one hundred percent Italian.


And so, what does that mean to you when you explain that you’re fully Italian, through and through?


I think there’s a certain passion that comes with being Italian. I have great pride in the culture. Obviously, I love Italian food. But I think most of the Italians are about family; family is really important to them. And so, I was raised to really cherish and value my family.


And yet, here you were at such a young age, missing a key part of a family.




Can you talk a little bit about what you lost?


Yeah. That’s a great question, and probably five or ten years ago, I would have cried in response to it. I won’t cry tonight, ‘cause I’m kinda past that phase. But the thing that losing a father has done for me is, there’s kind of a hole inside you. And what I’ve found over the years is that hole gets less and less, and less, as you meet people that care about you, as you get married, have your own children. But I don’t think you can ever replace losing a father.


Is it a feeling of insecurity?


Well, I think that it’s a feeling of not having had a completely healthy, normal childhood. I think all the studies show that the best childhood is one where there’s a husband and there’s a wife. And I didn’t have that. I didn’t have a father and a mother. I had a mother and wonderful uncle, and a wonderful aunt, and a wonderful grandmother, but none of them were my father. And so, I felt that loss throughout my life.


I know you’ve read the studies more than I have, probably, that boys who grow up without a father, for whatever reason, whether it’s divorce or just absenteeism, or death, are more likely to have emotional or behavioral difficulties. They may get more into crime, they tend to be more on the poverty level.




And they tend more to suicide.


Yeah. The good news is, I haven’t had any poverty or crime, or those things. I have felt that there’s a good side to it, as well. I think losing your father makes you more sensitive. I think it makes you more empathetic. And I think as a Family Court judge — and we can talk about that later, but as a Family Court judge, I think I was able to bring a certain sensitivity and compassion, and empathy to that job, because I had lost my father. Many of the young men or women who appeared before me had lost a parent, or had something traumatic happen to them in childhood. And I felt a connection, and also, I felt I had a certain credibility because I had been where they had been. So, you ask, are there good things that come of it? I think there are. Would I have preferred to have had my dad? Absolutely. Is it something that I still long for? Absolutely. But is it all bad? No; I don’t think so. I think there are some very positive things. And the other positive thing is, my four cousins, I view as my brothers. So, instead of having one brother, I have five brothers. And that can only be a good thing.


From his teenage years, Michael Broderick began to eye a career in political office. He attended Stanford University, UCLA Law School, and then was hired for his dream job with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. It seemed that the path to politics lay before him.


So, you’re growing up in Philadelphia.




And, what were your aspirations?


I would say at about fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, I wanted to go into elected office. I wanted to be a politician.


Were you the guy at school who ran for student council, and …


I’ll tell you a fun story, and I hope it doesn’t sound arrogant. I went to a new school when I was in ninth grade, and at the end of ninth grade, the headmaster called the ninth grade together and asked them to elect a president. And they elected me; which I felt very good about. Tenth grade, the same thing happened. Eleventh grade, the same thing happened. You didn’t run for president of our school. A day was announced in the spring when they voted for the president, and I was blessed to be voted president.


You didn’t have to run for office.


I didn’t run for office.


That doesn’t happen in the real world, of course. [CHUCKLE]


No, it doesn’t. And I didn’t have to raise any money. But what happened down the road in my career is, I worked for a politician. I worked for Tom Bradley, who was the Mayor of Los Angeles.


What did you do for him?


I was a speechwriter for him, I was his policy person on certain subjects, and I was his liaison with the Los Angeles Police Department, with Daryl Gates. And I saw the mayor’s life. I saw his lack of privacy, I saw the interruptions, I saw the criticism, and I realized that I had thin skin. Okay; I do not have thick skin. So, if I wake up in the morning and there’s something in the newspaper criticizing Michael Broderick, that does not roll off of me. That cuts deep to me. And maybe that’s not having a father, in terms of the insecurity. I don’t know.


Also, if family is the most important thing, that doesn’t allow —


It doesn’t.


— you to put family first all the time.

It doesn’t. And I’ll tell you a fun story. It’s not fun, but it’s a compelling story. Tom Bradley told me that he went home on a Friday night to watch a DVD movie with his family. Couldn’t get through it. Why couldn’t he get through it? ‘Cause he got a call from the police chief, he got a call from the fire chief, he got a call from his chief of staff about an emergency. He tried to watch that DVD four Fridays in a row, and never got through it with his family. So, I saw the life of a politician, and I realized that I had to be honest with myself. And I said, You know what, Michael, it’s really not you.


But you like the idea of being a leader and being around people, and mobilizing —




— things.


That, I love.


Michael Broderick married his college sweetheart, Maile Meyer, an entrepreneurial Hawaiian – Chinese woman and force of nature from Kailua, in Windward Oahu. Maile is best known today as the founder of Native Books, a Hawaiian bookstore. But back when they lived on the West Coast and were visiting Hawaii, Michael experienced the Aloha Spirit, and made a life – changing decision.


I had my dream job with Tom Bradley. I loved the job; it was fascinating. And we decided to visit Maile’s family in Hawaii over Christmas.


Because you and Maile had met at Stanford University.


Maile and I had met at Stanford. We were nineteen when we met. We’re fifty – six now, so we’ve grown up together. Maile’s family was still living in Kailua. We came back — this was 1985, and I went to a football game at Aloha Stadium. It must have been the Aloha Bowl; it was in December. It started to rain. And on the screen they flashed: Now that the weather has become inclement — that’s the word they used. Now that the weather has become inclement, please use your poncho instead of your umbrella so the person behind you can see; mahalo. Now, remember, I’m living in Los Angeles. And I looked at that, and I said, That is very cool.


What would they have said in Los Angeles?




[CHUCKLE] Like, do whatever it takes to see that game.


They wouldn’t have done anything like that in Los Angeles. The game ends; an hour later, the game ends and they flash on the screen: Now that the game is over, look and see if your neighbor has left anything of value; and if they have, gently tap them on the shoulder. Mahalo. I drove home to Kailua from Aloha Stadium and I told Maile, We’re moving to Hawaii.


Which you knew she wanted to do; right?


Which I did know she wanted to do. But she had been very, very understanding about my desire to work for Tom Bradley. So, there was no pressure. That’s how I got here.


Because you love those values.


Exactly. What I saw in those two signs was community and value, integrity, warmth. Aloha, basically. And I didn’t feel that in Los Angeles. So, nine months later, we were in Hawaii.


And then, you had to start from scratch as far as a job?


Well, what I did was, when I was working with Tom Bradley, I sent resumes and cover letters to some prominent law firms in Hawaii and was fortunate enough to get some offers. So, when I moved back, I had a job with the Carlsmith firm. Yeah.


But you didn’t stay long?


The private practice of law is extremely important work. It is of great significance to the client, and it’s very intellectually stimulating. But it had no personal meaning to me.


What kind of law were you doing with them?


I was doing labor law, employment law, representing management. So, you don’t pick and choose the cases you work on. You’re told what cases —


You’d rather be the guy on the other side of some issues.


Yeah; that’s right. And the other thing I found out as I worked in labor law as an advocate was that I was much more comfortable as the neutral. I was much more comfortable as the person in the middle. So, what I found myself doing was trying to solve these cases, instead of advocating for my client. And that’s when I realized I really should be in mediation. I see an advertisement in the paper; it’s for the director of the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution. I apply for the job, and I’m interviewed by a three-person panel, one of the people being, at the time, Associate Justice Ronald Moon, who I had never met, knew nothing about. As the interview is unfolding, one of the three panelists asks me kind of an inappropriate question. [CHUCKLE] And the CJ at the time, Associate Justice Moon, looks at me and goes … he winks.




As if to say, Michael, I know that was an inappropriate question, just hang in there with us. I loved it. You know. So, at the end of the interview, I went home and Maile said, How’d the interview go?   And I said, You know, I don’t know how the interview went, but I met this incredibly cool guy. And that was Ron Moon. And they hired me for the job. But I’ll tell you a funny story. I get a call from his executive assistant, and she says, Come in, you’ve made the final list. So, it’s now down to three. But Associate Justice Moon has asked you to relax. Okay.


Because you were a Type A, L.A. guy?


I said to myself, What does that mean, relax? I think he’s trying to tell me that I was a little too … aggressive. So, I went into the final interview, much less aggressive, much more Hawaii style. Got the job. He hires me, and as he brings me in to tell me I got the job, he said, Michael, do you know how many times you pulled up your socks during the original interview? And I said, No.




He said, I counted; twenty – three times.


You just reached down —


I reached down —


— and you were tugging.


— and pulled up my sock. Obviously, unbeknownst to me, a nervous habit. He said, Do you know how many times you pulled up your socks in the final interview, the one that I had you relax? I said, No. He said, Once.




So, I said, CJ, thank you. And that was the beginning of a twenty, now twenty – three – year relationship with a guy that I would consider my mentor. That’s how it started.


So, you get the job.


I got the job.


Was that a good fit?


It was a perfect fit. Because I was interested in being a mediator, I was interested in being a third party neutral. And as the director of the Center for ADR, what’s what you do. You set up mediation programs, you help set up arbitration programs, and you also mediate and facilitate cases yourself. So, it was a perfect fit.


Years later, Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Moon, now retired, would hire Michael Broderick again; this time, to serve as the Administrative Director of the Courts, a position that required him to manage all of the Hawaii State judges and other eighteen hundred employees in Hawaii’s judicial system. Broderick admits it was a tough assignment, and it also led him to another career change.


As the director of the courts, I had had a chance to observe all the different courts; Circuit Court, the Appellate Courts, District Court, and Family Court. And I felt that there was a contribution I could make in Family Court. So, I applied to be a judge, was fortunate to get on the list of six, the Judicial Selection Commission put me on the list of six. And then, guess who’s the appointing authority? Chief Justice Ronald Moon, who appointed me. And I’ll always be grateful for that. And so, for seven and a half years, I was a Family Court judge. Had more than ten thousand cases in Family Court.


Did you think that was the job at which you would retire?


I wasn’t sure. What I did know was that as long as I was gonna be a judge, I was gonna be a Family Court judge. I had no interest in being a Circuit Court judge, I had no interest in being an Appellate Court judge, I had no interest in being a Supreme Court justice. I wanted to be a Family Court judge. Whether it was gonna be the job I would retire from, I didn’t know. I saw themes in Family Court. I saw drug addiction, particularly ice, mental illness, homelessness, domestic violence. Those are four things that kind of rose to the top. And kids who were totally disengaged from their families and from their communities, and from their schools. So, the Child Protective Services calendar are young girls and young boys who have been sexually abused or physically abused. And the judge is deciding whether to terminate the parental rights of the parents. I can’t think of more important work than that. Temporary restraining order cases; women coming in — primarily women, sometimes men, but primarily women coming in and alleging that they’ve been physically or sexually abused by their spouse, or by a boyfriend. I can’t think of a more important case than that. Juvenile criminal cases; young men and young women, sixteen and seventeen, coming before you who have been charged with a crime, and you decide whether to send them to drug treatment, or whether to send them to prison. To me, these cases matter. Okay. They’re not about money. I’m not about money. So, I wasn’t interested in being a judge and presiding over cases that were about money. I was interested in being a judge and presiding over cases that were about people.


Michael Broderick recalls presiding over more than ten thousand cases in Family Court. As time went on, he began to wonder if he was in the right place to make a positive difference with the youth and families in Hawaii. He admits being frustrated that he could not truly help many of the young people who appeared before him in court.


I’ll tell you a story that was one of the saddest cases I ever had. I had sent one kid to prison. They call it Hawaii Correctional Facility, but let’s be honest; it’s like a prison. I had sent one kid there, and then another judge had sent another kid there, and they both ran away at the same time. They were able to escape. Well, one of them had a serious medical condition that if he was not found within, I believe at the time it was forty-eight hours, he was gonna die. So, we found the other kid, and we brought him into my courtroom. I can’t remember his name. Let’s say his name is John. I said, John, do you know where Billy is? Do you know where he is? He said, Yeah, I know where he is. I said, Okay; if we don’t find Billy in now twenty-four hours, he’s gonna die. Do you understand that? I understand that. Where is Billy? I’m not telling you where Billy is. Billy died. Okay? Now, for that kid who was in front of me, that wasn’t prepared to tell me where Billy was, knowing that he would die if we didn’t find him, for me that was too late. I’m not gonna be able to help that young man. He was seventeen at the time. On my domestic violence calendar, it was not unusual for me to have guys come before me who had thirty to thirty-five criminal convictions over the course of twenty, twenty-five years, also to have a crystal meth addiction, to be schizophrenic. I felt, with those folks, there was really very little that I could do. I often found myself wanting to go visit the young kids that I sent to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. As a judge, I can’t do that, for so many reasons. So, there were some restrictions around being a judge. All those restrictions make sense, they’re there for food reasons; but they were starting to become impediments to me. Now, I need to be fair. I saw miracles happen in Family Court. Okay? I saw a woman who was a drug addict; she said, Judge, take my child. I said, What do you mean, take your child? Take him. I love him, but I love ice more. I returned that child to her two years later, because she went through treatment and got it together. That’s a miracle. So, I don’t want to paint a picture of Family Court that good things don’t happen, because miracles happen in Family Court. Unfortunately, the numbers are not as high as you would want. When I talk about being a Family Court judge, I talk about it as a privilege. It was an honor. But after seven and a half years, and ten thousand cases, the suffering and the misery kinda got to me. And for many of the cases, I felt I couldn’t help them. I felt it was too late. So, most of the folks that appeared before me had been traumatized as children, many of them had been sexually abused and physically abused. They had been ice addicts for many, many years, or alcoholics for many, many years, had long, long, long lists of criminal convictions. So, for a lot of the people that appeared before me, I felt it was too late; I couldn’t help them. The YMCA, I had been on the board of the YMCA and I saw the prevention work they do, the frontend work around drug treatment, around gang prevention. And I said, You know what? I think maybe I’d rather spend the last ten years of my career, the final ten years of my career on the frontend of the continuum, on the prevention end.


Michael Broderick says that decision to step down as a judge to work in the private nonprofit sector may have puzzled some people. But like every other career decision he had made before, his family supported his decision.


People who don’t know me would say, How could you leave that prestigious, prominent position that was so hard to get? People that knew me, people that know me completely got it. When I was sworn in as a judge, which is a pretty big deal, there are a lot of people there. And I said, Maile, I have taken three jobs in a row, and each job I’ve earned less money. And every time, my wife was thrilled for me. After I said that, the induction was over, and we had food for people to share. This is a true story. I had three different women come up to me, independent of each other, and say, Is that true about your wife, she actually supported you taking jobs that paid less? And I said, It is absolutely true. And each of them said, I would never support that for my husband.




That was really … I don’t want to say an eye-opener, because I already knew how cool Maile was. But it was a reaffirmation that I’m living with a special lady.


Michael Broderick made the transition from Family Court judge to CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu, one of Hawaii’s largest private nonprofit organizations. He directed his passion for children and the community to the Y. Many YMCA programs focus on the early intervention of social issues at the core of Family Court, such as substance abuse and child welfare. He loved his new career; however, just a couple of years into the job, he received some troubling personal news.


I was diagnosed with cancer prostate cancer, and I had surgery. And then I had some complications from the surgery around some chronic pain. And what’s changed as a result of that is, for the first two year on the job, I worked every weekend, every single weekend, usually both days. So, if not six and a half days a week, seven days a week. The cancer diagnosis, speaking to you honestly, was a shock. I was fifty – six at the time, I was in great shape, weight – wise, I wasn’t heavy, and all of a sudden I have prostate cancer. And I had a tumor on my prostate, which meant that perhaps it had gone fairly far. So, I then had surgery, and then I had the complications and the pain, some of which I’m still dealing with now. And as a result of that experience, I don’t work nearly as many weekends now. Because I’m about to turn fifty – seven, and I’ve got a little bit of perspective on life, and I think that the work will still be there on Monday. Monday through Friday, I’m working really hard. And some Saturdays, I’m working at the Y if it’s a Y function. I’ve worked the last two Saturdays, and I’ll work the next two Saturdays because of the Y functions, but I’m not going into the office nearly as much. And that is as a result of having cancer, and kind of reevaluating some things.


At the time of this conversation in 2014, Michael Broderick is still experiencing the pain left by those complications. But he remains fully committed to working for the community.


Now, having moved from Family Court and you’re in this frontend line of work with kids, has that brought you the kind of results or feeling that results are — you’re on the verge of?


Yes. It’s been very gratifying for me.   The other thing is, and this sounds a little trite; it’s been more fun. Maile reminds me, I need more fun in my life. I mentioned that I went to an event on Saturday at Aloha Stadium, where we had some former NFL players. We had about three hundred young kids who come from difficult backgrounds. They met the NFL players. It’s called NFL Play60. Then they went through drills over the course of an hour. I got to see the smiles on those kids’ faces. And next week, I go the Youth In Government opening ceremonies. I’m gonna get to see the high school governor sworn in, for example, and the sergeant at arms sworn in. Those things are really joyful for me. And I find that I need that.


YMCA of Honolulu President and CEO Michael Broderick says he’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime to help children and families by helping to prevent the kind of traumas and tragedies he witnessed as a Family Court judge. He say’s he’s excited about running the Y until it’s time for him to retire. Mahalo to Michael Broderick for sharing his story with us. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.


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


The greatest surprise for me is, I have not met a jerk yet. The people that work at the Y are really kind people. Now, people say to me, Well, yeah, that’s because you were around lawyers for, twenty – five years.


[CHUCKLE] Well, that’s ‘cause you’re the boss. Yes, Mr. Broderick. [CHUCKLE]


You know, I watch people, how they relate to each other, when they don’t know I’m watching. So, the greatest surprise for me and the greatest positive surprise has been how neat the people are who work at the Y.


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