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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Senator Daniel Akaka

 

Original air date: Tues., Jul. 29, 2008

 

You’ve heard the expression, “Nice guys finish last.” Not true. Not when it comes to U.S. Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka. Except at the very beginning of his political career, he’s been number one in the balloting for every elective office for which he’s run. Political supporters and opponents agree on one thing: he’s full of aloha – real aloha.

 

Daniel Kahikina Akaka is the only Native Hawaiian and the only member of Chinese ancestry serving in the U.S. Senate. Since 1976, he’s represented Hawai’i in Washington, D.C. – first in the House of Representatives and now in the Senate.

 

Daniel Kahikina Akaka Audio

 

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Transcript

 

Aloha no, I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawai‘i. You’ve heard the expression, “Nice guys finish last.” Not true. Not when it comes to U.S. Senator, Daniel Kahikina Akaka. Except at the very beginning of his political career, he’s been number one in the balloting for every elective office for which he’s run. Political supporters and opponents agree on one thing: he’s full of aloha – not a cheap, smarmy version, but real aloha. Join me in a conversation with Hawai‘i’s junior United States Senator, next …

 

Daniel Kahikina Akaka is the only Native Hawaiian and the only member of Chinese ancestry serving in the U.S. Senate as I speak. Since 1976, he’s represented Hawai‘i in Washington, D.C. – first in the House of Representatives and now in the Senate. Our conversation begins at his birth, through a story heard from his older brother, Abe, who would become the Reverend Abraham Akaka of Kawaiaha‘o Church.

 

Well, when I first entered the world, let me tell you about what Brother Abe said. He said that I came before dawn, and that my dad helped to bring me into this world.

 

Was it in your house?

 

At home.

 

Where was home?

 

And home was in Pauoa Valley. And they cleaned me up, according to Brother Abe, and my dad called the family to the parlor, and we had what we called at that time, ‘ohana. And ‘ohana was a devotion. And it was an ‘ohana to celebrate my birth. And when the ‘ohana was finished, according to Brother Abe, Pa named me Daniel. And he said that Daniel will someday be in the lion’s den. And in a sense, that was prophetic. Because when you think of what I’m doing now as a Senator, in a sense, we are in the lion’s den, and that Daniel will prevail, as it is in the Bible.

 

What part of what you do now puts you in the lion’s den?

 

It’s the kind of issues that are raised by members of the Senate, in our case today, and the way in which they try to have people join them in some of the issues, and the way they try to pass it on the floor. And I will tell you, it’s done in a procedural way, but the way it’s done, it’s tough.

 

Whats the most ferocious lion you faced?

 

Well, the most voracious lions are my friends [chuckle] who have issues that are dear to them. And the thing about me and coming from Hawai‘i, I will tell you, I would say would really benefit others who are also in Congress, is that you can still be friends.

 

So the toughest adversaries are your friends?

 

Yes. And that doesn’t sound right, but we are friends. And they’re friends today, and it occurs today with me where, after we’re done with the debate, and the bill is either passed or fails, they will come up to me and shake my hand, you know, which shows that the friendship was still there. And that’s a good way to serve.

 

So there you are, a few minutes old, and your family’s having a devotion, and you’re being named Daniel. And then what happened?

 

Then I then took my place in the family, and I was number eighth.

 

Were you the last?

 

And the baby of the family—and I was the last. But with eight kids—you know, it’s hard for me to imagine supporting eight children.

 

How was your life? What was it like?

 

It was good—I would use that word, although, it was difficult, because of the situation and circumstances. When I tell you that we lived in a two-bedroom home, and we had a lanai that we used too, as an extension.

 

So who slept where in this two-bedroom house?

 

Well, most of the children slept in one bedroom, and some in the parlor, and some in the other bedroom. And Pa and Ma slept in one, and they slept on the floor.

 

No beds?

 

There were beds, but we slept on the beds.

 

And your parents let—

 

Yes.

 

Theyd take the floor.

 

Yes. And we would have ‘ohana twice a day in the family. So early morning, before my dad went to work—

 

And where did he go to work?

 

He was an ironworker. He worked at Honolulu Ironworks.

 

Was that in Kaka‘ako?

 

It was.

 

That was a hardcore place. Lots of industry and—

 

Yes.

 

–tough folks.

 

Well, it’s located right across the present Federal Building, where the restaurants are. And he worked there every day. He was a molder.

 

What does a molder do?

 

He would use sand to make patterns in which they poured the steel to create whether it was a gear, or whatever.

 

Oh, I see.

 

And most of the work was for sugar plantations. So whatever parts that they needed, they made there.

 

And your mom, did she stay home with eight kids?

 

She was a housewife. She was pure Hawaiian, and very, very gracious, loving Hawaiian woman; rotund. And I remember her as such a beautiful lady.

 

Did she speak Hawaiian?

 

Oh, yes; she and my dad spoke Hawaiian.

 

When they didn’t want you to know what they were—

 

Yes, and—

 

–talking about?

 

–unfortunately, in those days when we were little, they would ask us not to speak Hawaiian; to speak English. Learn English as best you can, because that’s the language today.

 

Your dad was also Chinese, right?

 

Yes; he was Chinese, and his dad came from Fook Yuen, China, and married a Hawaiian girl. And they lived in Pauoa.

 

And in fact, his name, and your middle name, both refer to Chinese origins?

 

That’s right; and in Hawaiian, it’s The East.

 

Kahikina?

 

Kahikina.

 

What lessons did you learn from your mom and your dad, and how were they different?

 

My mom and dad, as I said, were very spiritual people. For us and the whole family, you know, the church was so important. And so Sundays for me, as I grew up, it was church day. In the morning, we would—there were times when we walked from Pauoa to Kawaiaha‘o Church. And we’d be there for Sunday school in the morning at nine. And after that, then we went to regular church service, which was done about noon. And then we went home, and we’d have lunch at home. Then we went to another church in Pauoa Valley at two p.m. Then we’d go back home and get ready for church again at Kawaiaha‘o, where we would have Christian endeavor classes, which started at six. And at seven-thirty, the evening service began, and we’d stay for that. And after the service we went home. That was our Sunday. But even with that, there was ‘ohana in the morning and ‘ohana in the evening for the family every day.

 

Devoted and devout. And headed for a life of service. Daniel Akaka would go on to graduate from Kamehameha Schools in 1942 (having witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor from Kapalama Heights).

 

He served in the Army Corps of Engineers during the War; and become a school teacher and a principal before entering politics. Dan Akaka followed his faith in God and in people who advised and supported him all the way to Capitol Hill.

 

Your brother, Abraham, would grow up to have a very prominent position as pastor of Kawaiaha‘o Church. You were the choir director for seventeen years.

 

That’s correct.

 

The family was so spiritual. Did you ever have a crisis of faith?

 

I can’t remember that. I don’t think so.

 

You never said to yourself, Where’s God when I need Him, and—

 

No.

 

–maybe this whole thing I’ve grown up with isn’t really —

 

Well, when we grew up, my mother and dad really—I mean, they talked to us a lot too, you know, and they were sure that we understood that we could trust God. And anytime you need Him, He’s there. And I must tell you that it has helped me all my life, including where I am now.

 

And when you don’t get what you pray for?

 

Well, there’s a reason. I mean—

 

And do you under—

 

–that’s how they—

 

Do you—

 

–taught us.

 

–understand the reason?

 

That’s right. And well, we may not at that time. But later on, when we look back, we say, Oh yeah, we didn’t understand it that time, but things work out.

 

I’ll bet you were under some influence to become a missionary yourself.

 

Yes; yes. And later on, I came to think that, you know, there are different ways of being a missionary. You don’t have to be a preacher, like Brother Abe. And Brother Abe, for me, was doing so well, I thought, Eh, one in the family is enough; and so I would maybe do my work in other ways. And this is why I went into education, as I did, and that was to help people.

 

I presume you jumped on the GI Bill and attended college on that basis.

 

Yes.

 

Would you have gone to college otherwise?

 

No. You know, it was a blessing for me. The GI Bill, you know, helped not only me, but it helped Senator Inouye and Senator Matsunaga as well, and many others.

 

You went on to get a Master’s in education as well.

 

Yes.

 

Was that also on the GI Bill?

 

Yes; yes. So we really benefited. But when you look at it, what we did during our time really changed the world. And in Hawai‘i, it changed Hawai‘i too, because many of them became leaders in the legislature as well, and leaders of the government. And so my feeling was, we gotta have a GI Bill for our latest veterans. And so I’m so glad we were able to pass it, as we did.

 

In 2006, Time Magazine ran a feature that called you one of The Hill’s five worst legislators.

 

Yeah.

 

It said that you’re living proof that having experience doesn’t necessarily mean you have expertise, and it called you a master of the minor bill—minor resolution on the bill that dies in committee.

 

You know, they were very wrong, really wrong. And my colleagues told me that. They said, What? You know, this is wrong. For instance, one of the big bills that I just passed was the Filipino veterans. Sixty-two years, they haven’t been able to pass it, and I passed it. That’s really big. And there are other bills that I can mention, but these are important bills that I was able to pass. But I passed it, you know, using the Hawaiian method of dealing with my colleagues. And they appreciate it.

 

And I sense that you’re not there because you’re terribly ambitious to succeed in a certain way; you’re there because you enjoy it.

 

Well, it’s not only that, but I’m there because I can help people.

 

Because you—

 

That’s the—

 

–you’ve been effective.

 

–real reason. And I’m not there for Dan Akaka; I’m there for the people of Hawai‘i. And so whatever I do, as a matter of fact, many times, my staff would tell me, Eh, get up front. But I don’t. I would rather stay back a step and …

 

As a matter of fact, if you wanted to retire, you’d be under intense pressure not to leave, because of your seniority.

 

That’s correct. And we’re able to do so much for Hawai‘i, and for our country. And we’re doing it.

 

So you’re—how old are you now?

 

I will be eighty-four.

 

So what do you see in the way of your future? How do you expect the future to play out for you?

 

Well, I look at continuing to have good health, and to continue to do all I can to help the people of Hawai‘i, with my experience, with the way I work with people, and to help this country. And now with a new administration coming forth, you know, we need to transition into a Congress that can really produce and help our country and Hawai‘i. Speaking of producing; there is the Akaka Bill, which has been waiting and waiting and stalled and

stalled.

 

Do you think it’ll pass?

 

It can pass, if we can get it to the floor. Now, I’m saying it that way, because this has been the problem.

 

M-hm.

 

That I’ve not been able to get it to the floor. It passed the House twice; it passed—this Congress. And the reason is that in the Senate, one Senator can hold up a bill. And that’s what happens. And to get it to the floor, we have to use what we call cloture; we have to invoke cloture. And to do that, we need sixty votes, not majority. And so to get the sixty votes, it’s really tough. The last time I did that, I ended up with fifty-six votes, and therefore, couldn’t get it to the floor. But if we can get it to the floor, we’ll pass it.

 

Whats been dubbed the Akaka Bill is legislation to provide federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian governing entity. In the U.S. Senate, Dan Akaka chairs the Congressional Taskforce on Native Hawaiian Issues and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. On the Hill and at home, his life is about building and keeping relationships. He and his wife of sixty years, Millie, have five children, fourteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

 

Where does Millie enter the picture? When did she come into your life?

 

She came into my life before I went to the Pacific, into the Army.

 

Where did you meet her?

 

She met me. [chuckle]

 

She wanted to meet you? Is that what you’re saying?

 

That’s right. See, I was with what we called the Junior Hawaiian Civic Club. And to take members, we would have to interview them.

 

M-hm.

 

So I was interviewing members, and she was one I interviewed.

 

Now, was she doing that ‘cause she wanted to meet you?

 

Well, I learned later, was she wanted me to interview her, and she was sure that she came to me. And that was the beginning.

 

You know, after six decades of marriage, your wife still comes to the office every day, and essentially puts in the same day you do and is so supportive of you. And you two seem like you’ve still got this very good thing going, very close.

 

Yes. She takes good care of me. As a matter of fact, she has that responsibility of keeping me healthy. And she comes to work every day. She’s my only unpaid staff. I tell her that.

 

What does she do in the office?

 

Well, she comes in, and she usually meets with guests who come. And many of them from Hawai‘i, or most of them from Hawai‘i. And she’s the type that, as soon as she gets in the office, she takes off her shoes and she walks around bare feet. And so some of the guests, they look down and they say, Ooh [chuckle], she’s bare feet. And I always tell them, Look, you folks are welcome to take off your shoes in my office—

 

[chuckle]

 

–and be comfortable.

 

But you know, she could easily stay home at your condo in DC—

 

Yeah.

 

–or go meet with friends; but she’s always there. Why is that?

Yeah. Well, she loves to do that, because she sees people, and she’s able to talk to people. And I guess it’s better than staying home. But she likes that style. And the other reason, although I’ve never said it, that she helps—we need three passengers in the car.

 

[chuckle] To get into the zipper lane—

 

To use the HOV.

 

–or something? [chuckle]

 

And without her, we don’t have three. [chuckle]

 

Whos the other one? Who’s the third?

 

The other is Jim Sakai, who is my administrative assistant, who picks us up, you know—

 

[chuckle]

 

–in the morning, takes us home at night. And so the three of us use the HOV.

 

You spend most of the year in DC, right?

 

About ten months. Yeah.

 

What do you like about living in DC? And why is it so important to you to continue working, long after a time when many folks would have retired, take it easy?

 

Well, there’s so much to do there, and that’s what I like too. The hours are long. I keep telling the young people; I said, Look, you never stop learning in your life. I said, I thought I was learning a lot when I was in Kamehameha; I thought I was learning a lot when I was at the UH. I said, But here, I’m still learning. I said, Every time there’s a new bill, there’s something new to learn. And my health has been good. And Millie has been very supportive. So that helps me do my job.

 

She’s completely herself.

 

Yeah, oh very.

 

Despite who she’s around, right?

 

Oh, yes. And even my colleagues know that. You know, she’s herself, and she says what she wants to say. And there isn’t a lot of pressure to kind of conform and be a certain way, and be accepted in a certain way?

 

You haven’t—

 

Yes.

 

–felt that?

 

Well, I’ve felt that. But she’s one that does what she wants to do.

 

And — And you support her to—

 

Yes.

 

–being that way.

 

But— Herself.

 

–you know, my colleagues like that. So whenever they see me, even today, they don’t say, Danny, how are you? They say, Danny, how’s Millie? [chuckle]

 

Millie will say what she’s thinking, won’t she?

 

Yeah; oh, very much.

 

Has she ever told anybody off on Capitol Hill?

 

Yes. [chuckle] Yes; but she says it in a way where—that they accept it.

 

M-hm.

 

And you know, if you get hurt—

 

And you do the same thing too, don’t you?

 

What’s that?

 

I mean, don’t—

 

Yeah.

 

Aren’t you able to tell people things in a way that they don’t get offended, even though it’s counter to what they’re thinking or what they want?

 

Yes; that’s what I call the Hawaiian style of communicating. And it works, and I just hope that more people would use that. And people like you for it, and feel that you’re a good friend, and they can trust you. That’s the other word that’s so important up there.

 

Tell me, what’s—give me a course in how to disagree, Hawaiian style.

 

Yes. Well, one is to be sure that your friend, your opponent knows what you’re all about, and where you are. And if you know that what you’re trying to do is what he doesn’t want, and you need to find out what it’s all about. And try to present it in a way that is non-threatening. And that’s a big thing. And to say it in a way where, you know, you’re not yelling or screaming, and you’re telling him in a nice way, or even say, You know, my friend, I disagree with you.

 

But first—

 

You know.

 

–you say you have to understand who they are, and what they want.

 

That’s right; that’s right.

 

Let me ask you this. And you’ve seen this in campaigns, you’ve been through it all. When one is nice and kind, that’s often mistaken for softness, weakness, being less than smart. Tell me your experiences—

 

Yes.

 

–in running up against that.

 

When I first went there, many people told me that. They said, Eh, you can’t be like that. And now that I’ve been there all these years, I’ve gotta tell them they’re wrong. That you can be nice, but you’ve gotta be up front. You’ve gotta be sure they know where you are and what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. And they appreciate it. And so that’s something I think that more people in elected office need to do, and use that method of dealing with people.

 

You mentioned that, when you came into the world, you were called Daniel because your role would be in the lion’s den.

 

Yeah.

 

Do you feel that has come to pass?

 

Yes; I feel, definitely, that the story about Daniel, of course, he was cast into the lion’s den, and the reason for that

 

 

was for the lions to devour him. Which they didn’t. And he lived through that, and became a leader after that. And I think, you know, the spiritual background and all of that, you know, helps you to survive.

 

But the difference is, you don’t want to leave the lion’s den.

 

Well, I hope someday we can calm the lion’s den and make it more productive. But that remains to be seen. This fascinates me, because it seems as though the thing to do when one has been very successful on Capitol Hill, is not to aspire to a wonderful retirement and take it easy; it’s essentially to work as long as you’re capable of working, and even die in office.

 

I mean, is that what you foresee?

 

Well, I foresee working as long as I can. [chuckle] You know, and, being in that position I’m in now, you know, it’s a great way of helping our country and the rest of the world.

 

Have you and Millie talked about that?   Does she want to take it easy at all? Or is she completely happy with, this is how it is, well—

 

I wouldn’t say she’s completely happy, but she lives with it, and she—

 

But you’ve told her, This is me, I—

 

Yes.

 

–would like to

 

Yes.

 

–continue on

 

But she’s supported—

 

–Capitol Hill.

 

–me; supported me very well. And that helps me in what I do. Yeah. So I’m so fortunate and feel been blessed too, with Millie and my family.

 

And what a high achieving person, what a high achieving life you’ve had.

 

Yes; and when I look back at my life, there was a reason for all of this, since I was born. And as Daniel, I’m still serving.

 

So you think that it was preordained, it was foreseen that you had this role in your life, and it was up to you to make it happen?

 

I feel that way; yes. Yeah; so when I think back, you know, on when I came to this Earth, I was destined, I guess.

But I didn’t know it. And I’m still on my way.

 

Still on your way.

 

Yeah.

 

An unknown author once wrote, “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.” The “Hawaiian style of communicating,” as Senator Akaka puts it, will be conducted on Capitol Hill for as long as he’s able to serve. Mahalo to Dan Akaka, and to you, for joining me this week. I’m Leslie Wilcox with PBS Hawai‘i. A hui hou kakou.

 

The people of Hawai‘i tend to work together so much better than other places. And as a result, they’re able to be more productive. They’re able to do more things and are able to do it in such a way where people enjoy it and not take it as somebody losing something. And I feel that that style is really needed in the Capitol and in the country. And I think the diversity of Hawai‘i, the diversity of people has helped to bring that about. Hawai‘i is Hawai‘i because of its culture, its people, its diversity; and we need to keep that.

 

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Explore the many meanings of hunger and how hunger influences Chef Gabrielle as a person and chef. She demonstrates the way cooks can make the best of what they have.

 

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Ever since 1999, when Chef Gabrielle Hamilton put canned sardines and Triscuits on the first menu of her tiny, 30-seat East Village restaurant, Prune, she has nonchalantly broken countless rules of the food world. Prune has always been an idiosyncratic restaurant, with no culinary mission other than to serve what Hamilton likes to eat in an environment in which she wants to eat. Hamilton won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef NYC in 2011 and is author of a best-selling memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter, which garnered a James Beard Award for Writing and Literature in 2012.

 

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Venture into this ancient city to see what makes it a culinary hub and one of Chef Gabrielle’s first loves. During her trip, she cooks old favorites and learns some new skills.

 

THE MIND OF A CHEF
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Ever since 1999, when Chef Gabrielle Hamilton put canned sardines and Triscuits on the first menu of her tiny, 30-seat East Village restaurant, Prune, she has nonchalantly broken countless rules of the food world. Prune has always been an idiosyncratic restaurant, with no culinary mission other than to serve what Hamilton likes to eat in an environment in which she wants to eat. Hamilton won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef NYC in 2011. She has written for numerous periodicals and her New York Times best-selling memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter garnered a James Beard Award for Writing and Literature in 2012.

 

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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Marie Milks

 

When retired State Circuit Judge Marie Nakanishi Milks was just three years old, she boarded a bus on the heels of an adult stranger and went on her own to her auntie’s house across town. Meanwhile, her frightened parents had called police, thinking she’d been kidnapped – and an island-wide hunt was underway. That was just the beginning of a life of discovery and travel. Milks recalls humble beginnings as the daughter of a waiter and a house cleaner in a modest rental home in Honolulu. She would take a job in Washington D.C. with Congresswoman Patsy Mink, go to law school, and become a respected judge who presided over major criminal cases in Hawaii. Today, in retirement, she travels the world.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 4:00 pm.

 

Marie Milks Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I would say that of all the cases I had, probably my highlight as a public defender was Henry Huihui IV, who was charged with robbery. The jury went home late at night. The next day, he saw me on the doorsteps. He said, You know, Marie, when the trial started, I thought I was guilty, but after your closing argument, I had reasonable doubt. And you know, if you’ve tried a case, that’s gotta be classic. And I said to myself, I think he just admitted to me he might have done it. You know.

 

Retired judge Marie Milks had a passion for criminal law. After serving as a public defender for seven years, she was appointed by Chief Justice William Richardson to a judgeship on the State District Court. Four years later, Governor George Ariyoshi appointed her to the Circuit Court, where she spent much of the next twenty years judging criminal cases. Marie Milks, 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. Retired Judge Marie Nakanishi Milks was not only the first woman to be appointed to the State District Court in Honolulu, she was also the first Asian. She went on to become the first woman appointed after statehood to the Circuit Court, where she was a judge until she retired in 2004. Marie Milks grew up in Honolulu in the late 1940s and 50s in a family that didn’t have a lot of money. Despite that, her parents made sure she got a good education, both inside as well as outside the classroom.

 

I had a very different kind of upbringing, partly because my father was really old when I was born. First of five children; forty-five years old. And so, he was very proud, you know, that he had a child. And I call him my first male friend. My father worked at night as a waiter; he was at the Waikiki Tavern, and then the Oahu Country Club. So, he would take me to the beach. I spent time with J. Aku Head Pupule’s children. He took me to Chinatown, where he played chess with his buddies. And then, on almost a daily basis, we would go to the Art Academy, then the Honolulu Art Academy, and then to the zoo. Mostly to get me away from home, where my mother was taking care of the other children that came two years at a time. You know.

 

So, you had a private audience with your dad.

 

I did; yeah.

 

All those months or years.

 

Yeah.

 

Years.

 

Yeah. And it was, I guess, an introduction that men were okay. You know, older men were okay. And I think it helped me in later life to accept a lot of the mentoring that I got from some of the male judges. And you have to understand, when I started at the Public Defender’s Office, some of my fellow public defenders would grouse about Judge this and Judge that, and I was them in a different light. A lot of them were like my uncles, my dad. And when they criticized me, I just took it as they were correcting my behavior.

 

Your mom didn’t speak in English, and she wasn’t schooling you in things.

 

One of my earliest memories of growing up with my mother was going to my friend’s house one day. Judith Angel, in the third grade. And I just thought she was the cat’s meow; she had blond hair. I wanted to be a Haole; I wanted blond hair. And we were in the living room, and I heard her radio, and I heard English voices. I said, Wow, your radio has English. My radio only has Japanese. She turned dial, and I went …

 

So, your dial never left the Japanese channel.

 

No.

 

Ah …

 

I thought that was volume control. Third grade, now. I mean, slow in the head. I was ten years old almost before I realized that radios actually had channels on them, you know.

 

What about your dad? ‘Cause you had a lot of time with him.

 

My father was very, very strict about English. He was working as a waiter; he was with members at the country club. And we could not speak Pidgin in the home. I mean, really.

 

What happened if you did?

 

Oh, he would call us bakatare, and tell us, low class, and made us speak English.

 

Even with your buddies?

 

Yes. I mean, I was teased in elementary school. Haole lover, that kind of thing. Because I wouldn’t speak Pidgin. I couldn’t. I mean, that was a no-no in the family. So, one day, we had neighbors come to the house. They went up the steps, jumped, and broke the punee. And Rodney says, I never do ‘em, I never do ‘em. I said, It’s not I never do ‘em, it’s I didn’t do ‘em.

 

You know. So, I was the one correcting people.

 

And Kaahumanu School; that was a lot of town kids, lots of Pidgin. A lot of them didn’t do Standard English as well as Pidgin; it was Pidgin only.

 

Yeah, but we had teachers. You know, I had wonderful, wonderful teachers in elementary school. And I had one teacher in particular who was into poetry, in the third grade, Mrs. Macario. We had to recite poetry. But my recollection of Kaahumanu was very competitive for grades, and test scores. You know, we had to do well. And we were required, I mean, not only by the teachers, but by my parents; I had to produce. If I had a report card with all pluses and one check, I had to explain the check. What’s … what’s this?

 

What was your explanation?

 

I didn’t blame it on the teacher. I said, I guess I have to study harder. You know, that was always—

 

And that was an acceptable answer, probably the only acceptable answer.

 

M-hm.

 

So, your father is this Renaissance man who loves art, music, chess.

 

Polo; he played polo, he surfed. We have pictures of him with a surfboard. You know, with his horse. So, I was exposed at a young age to a whole different kind of world, even though I wasn’t financially or in a class that was, you know, high, middle, and felt very poor. I used to have to walk to the Natatorium from Nuuanu, from Country Club Road, because we couldn’t afford the bus fare. I had to sew my own clothes, you know. I think, though, looking back, that probably is the best thing that happened to me, because it really allows you to have gratitude, you know, for everything you have. I had one good friend, who’s now deceased, who believed in me. And you know, when we were seniors in high school, going on to be senior, she asked me, Why aren’t you in the Honor Society?

 

M-hm.

 

I said, Nobody told me. And she went to the registrar and found the information. On my GPA, my card—back in the days, they had index cards—was paper-clipped behind somebody else’s information.

 

So, you’d been making good grades, but you weren’t recognized as someone who made good grades.

 

Yeah, I had about a 3.9, whatever it was, which is pretty good. So, I got into the Honor Society, and my friend Mamo who got me into the National Honor Society was going off to college. And she said, Why aren’t you going to college? And at that time, you know, the tuition at the University of Hawaii was a hundred dollars a semester, and my parents were not going to pay; they couldn’t afford it. And the only way I could have gone to college would have been a scholarship. She filled out an application for me, and got me a State of Hawaii scholarship for four years through then Councilmember Frank Loo.

 

Amazing. And what’s Mamo’s last name? I know you said she passed away.

 

Yeah; Mamo Kuwanoe Powers. And her daughter, you know, recently got married and has a son. So, I’m kinda like a grandmother.

 

That’s a life-changing friend.

 

It is. I mean, I didn’t even apply to college. You know, so this is somebody to whom I owe not only her, but her daughter and grandson, you know, gratitude.

 

Retired State Judge Marie Milks finished college in three and a half years, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She was considering options for what to do next when, once again, a helpful classmate made a suggestion, which led Milks to law school.

 

There was a big scandal in Hawaii with Hiram Fong; there was a nepotism issue that he was hiring relatives. So, Patsy Mink decided she would hire somebody through the Department of Labor. There was a posting for a job with her, and a classmate of mine said, Hey, you should go to Washington. So, I applied, went to an interview. I was a great typist; I could type a hundred and twenty words a minute; really fast. But the day she was going to call me, I had changed my mind. I had decided I didn’t want to go to Washington. So, I practiced. Mrs. Mink, I’m sorry, but I’ve decided—no. I’m sorry, but I decided to take another semester. So, I practiced and practiced. Phone rang. Marie, Patsy Mink’s on the phone. And I say, Hello. And she says, Can you start on January 19th? And I said, Okay. What did I just do? This is the end of my life as I know it. But you know, another opportunity. And working for her, think the biggest revelation to me was how you could be a woman and be a professional. You know. And she was remarkable. I wished more people knew her the way I got to see her.

 

I know she was considered an absolute workhorse.

 

Oh!

 

And she expected so much from her staff.

 

Oh; we had to work Monday through Friday, and four hours on Saturday mornings. Which is what was almost a nonstarter for me to go to law school, because I had Saturday classes as a night student. And I had to talk to the dean, and he said, I think it’s going to be too hard for you to do this. And I said, I wouldn’t have applied.

 

You went to Georgetown.

 

Georgetown.

 

Working five and a half days a week?

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

And that was a tough school to get into.

 

Yeah.

 

Were you a first there, too? Were you a first?

 

I think that’s what helped a lot. If I were to apply to Georgetown Law today, I … tell you, my chance of getting in would be zero, next to zero.

 

Why was it good then?

 

Because I was first Asian woman to ever apply.

 

Ever to apply?

 

Yes.

 

Ah …

 

First. And there were so few women. This is during the Vietnam era. The number of male students had been reduced somewhat, so they took on a few more women. And I just happened to be lucky, you know.

 

And you met all of their criteria, which were high.

 

Which helped; yeah. Well, you know, I had good grades in college, and I had the Phi Beta Kappa admission, so that helped me. But … it was happenstance. And that was when I first wrote to Sam King. He corresponded with me and advised me about law school. And I thought, Hey, I think I want to be a family court judge. I applied to law school, by the way, to be a judge. That was going to be my career move. But it was family court that I was aspiring to at that time.

 

In law school, one of Marie Milks’ professors was Sam Dash, who was also her boss at the Criminal Law Institute, where she worked on a criminal offender program. Dash became one of the Watergate scandal prosecutors, and John Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial, was one of her trial practice instructors. Milks’ exposure to criminal law shifted her interest away from family court.

 

After I started law school, criminal law became the thing for me. I just wanted to be a criminal …

 

Judge.

 

At that time, I had kinda just wanted to start as a criminal attorney. Prosecutor, defense attorney; didn’t matter.

 

It didn’t bother you which way you’d be arguing?

 

My own personal family background, and feeling like an underdog in many ways, I thought I was a pretty good champion for the oppressed. And I related; I could relate to a lot of the clients who came from, you know, family with very little. Although, I have to tell you, I used to get into fights with my clients who were very anti-Japanese. Back in the 70s, they felt that Japanese people had things easy. You know, DOE; oh, look at all the DOE people, and da-da, and you Japanese. You know, I used to get that from some of my Waianae clients. And then, the the Kawananakoa public school came out of me; I said, Eh …

 

Eh, you know what? If you want to see who had a tougher life, I’m gonna win. So … back off. You know? And not that I had a tougher life, but I didn’t go to Punahou, you know. And that was the expectation of many of the clients, that I had the silver spoon, that I must have come from a rich family.

 

How did you develop their trust?

 

I worked hard. See, that’s the other thing. I don’t think that any one of them could ever feel that I sloughed off on things. Although, you know, I didn’t have the world’s best clients. I had some who were just horrible. I had three of my aunties go to court to watch me do a trial. It happened to be a sex assault case. And after the first day, they didn’t want to go back. Oh, it’s terrible, the kinds of people you represent. So, they didn’t come back to watch me anymore.

 

How did you put it together in your mind? You know, in some cases, sure looks like your client’s guilty.   And you’re associated with that person.

 

Yeah; yeah. You know, and it wasn’t that they looked guilty; a lot of them were really, really guilty. But there’s a little bit in some of us when you have a challenge or something difficult, it makes it almost easier. Because I always felt that even if my client was in fact convicted, it wouldn’t be that they were innocent and were convicted. That, you know, the case was proved. The harder question for me as a public defender was a question people asked all the time. How can you do it, when you know they’re guilty? How can you represent them, you know, when you know they did it? And my answer was, Well, the prosecutor went to law school; it’s their job to convict. It wasn’t my job to get them off. But it was rational; you know, it’s something that you have to kind of understand yourself, what your role is. Your role is to defend; it wasn’t to prove innocence, and it wasn’t to prove that my client didn’t do it. So, it was, I think an easier approach.

 

So, your job was to provide a spirited and and aggressive defense.

 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You understand your job, and that’s when you can have pride in what you’re doing.

 

After serving as a public defender for seven years, Marie Milks was appointed to a Hawaii State District Court judgeship in 1980.

 

You know, I remember when you went from the Public Defender’s Office to Circuit Judge, hearing criminal cases. I was a journalist at the time. There was a lot of concern that you would be a softy. Oh, poor defendant.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

You would go on that side. But actually, that didn’t happen. That was rarely the criticism leveled against you, if there was criticism.

 

M-hm. But see, I had career criminal defendants, so a lot of the sentences were mandatory. So, even if I wanted to be a softy, I couldn’t. But, you know, in all honesty about my own self-assessment, I thought I was pretty fair about what the appropriate sentence was. And from the general public’s standpoint, you don’t get to read everything, you know, in the pre-sentence report. And as a judge, you can’t repeat a lot of what you see. But if people saw the full extent of the reports we have, I think more people would be appreciative of what judges evaluate.

 

The other thing was, and I actually was called on a jury at one point; I realized, and I saw it for myself that the very people who say throw the book at him, send him away, didn’t want to convict.

 

Exactly.

 

It’s hard to decide that somebody might have to go to jail.

 

Yeah. That, plus you know, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not what you feel. Because there were a lot of cases where there was that sense that the evidence wasn’t sufficient, and you have to learn to distinguish levels of decision making. But I really honestly believe that ninety-nine percent of people, if they were given the same kind of information that any particular judge had, would likely agree with most of what judges do. You know, I had one client, for an example, who was a serial rapist. He raped a lot of women. And back in those days when I was a public defender, they called it rape; they didn’t call it sex assault. He was the nicest client you would ever meet, admitted his wrongdoing every time. But he still … sexually assaulted people. But only people who handicapped or in wheelchairs. I mean, right? I mean, the reaction is, Well, what kind of horrible person would do this? Well, then I, as his attorney, got the pre-sentence report. Horrors of horrors; when he was three years old, his mother put firecrackers in his ear and lit them. You know? So, a lot of the defendants themselves have been very badly treated. Not an excuse, mind you. I’m not saying that gave him an excuse. But it can explain, you know, how people can go bad.

 

Yeah; I’ve heard the expression, Victims often victimize others.

 

Exactly. You know, one of the bigger points for me in my entire legal and judicial career was handling the Xerox, the Uyesugi case.

 

And the Byran Uyesugi seven-murder case was probably the biggest—well, one of the biggest legal cases in Hawaii over the decades. I remember that morning; I listening on the police radio as a reporter.

 

Oh, me too.

 

And you know, shots were ringing out at the Xerox building and there were seven deaths. And you were the judge presiding over the trial of the Xerox employee accused.

 

Right. Very interestingly; during the trial, he kept staring at me. You know. But he never scared me. I felt sorry for him. I did. And lot of my associates think there’s something wrong with me when I said I felt sorry for the defendants, but I did. I felt sorry for the father.

 

He lived with his father, as I recall.

 

Yeah; and the father went out and apologized for him. And we see that so many times in crimes that happen; parents apologizing for their children. And you know, I feel for them, because it’s tough to be aligned with somebody who does something, you know, heinous. Really; it was heinous. I feel sorry, actually, for a lot of the defendants and the families, what they go through. But I’m saying that this feeling sorry is more about the humaneness of what I’ve done, but the punishment was well-deserved. But that’s not to say I didn’t feel sorry for the victims, either. You know, it’s just that it’s sad when people do things like that, you know.

 

You sent him away for a life term without parole.

 

Consecutive.

 

Consecutive.

 

Right. There were several gratifying things about that case, one of which is—and I always subscribed to this as a judge on the bench, and that was to have regard for the victims. You know, you don’t take their side, but you always have to appreciate what victims go through. People don’t ask to be robbed. People don’t ask for their homes to be burglarized. But a couple years ago, one of the widows wrote to me and asked me for a job recommendation. You know, and I’ve had a good relationship with victims in other cases as well. But with respect to that case, one of the most gratifying things for me is, very few people know who the presiding judge was on that case. And to me, that’s the ultimate compliment to a judge who presides on a case; and that is, they don’t identify you with the case. It was about the facts, it was about the defendant, it was about the victims, and very little about the judge.

 

While Marie Milks was spending long hours as a public defender and then as a judge, she and her husband, Bill Milks, now a retired attorney, were also busy raising a family.

 

My daughter, her friends would say, Oh, you’re so lucky, you know, your mom’s a judge, you’re gonna da-da-da-da. And … not so true. Our son, on the other hand, really liked the idea that I was a judge, because the male-female thing; right? Having a mom as a judge, from a male perspective, was easier for him to handle than our daughter. I regret that I didn’t spend more time with them. But if I didn’t have decent kids who I didn’t have to go to parent-teacher meetings all the time, where would my career have gone? So, it was a family adventure, so to speak.

 

Did it work the other way with your husband?

 

Bill has never been intimidated by me at all. And one of his lines to me is, Marie, you know, you can’t be a judge twenty-four hours a day. But he’s been really, really supportive, everything I’ve striven for.

 

State Circuit Court Judge Marie Milks retired from the bench in 2004. Since then, she’s been serving as a part-time mediator, helping people resolve cases through compromise rather than through the courts. At the time of our conversation in summer of 2015, she and her husband were traveling the world, a passion that, as you will see, Marie Milks has pursued since she was a little girl. Mahalo to retired Judge Marie Milks 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 PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

When I was three, I said to my mother basically, I was gonna go to school. So, my mom says, Okay. Fixed me a little brown bag with some books and some Lifesavers, and … ‘Bye. Off I go, and I cross the street … to take the bus. And I got on the bus.

 

The bus driver didn’t say anything to this three-year-old girl?

 

He saw me get on the bus with somebody else. I knew where to get off, and this was at Keeaumoku and King Street, the old Sears building, which then became HPD. And my cousin and auntie, and everybody else lived on Young Street. So, I pull the signal, and I went to my auntie’s house. Now, here’s my auntie thinking that my parents just dumped me off at their house without telling her. So, I’m playing with my cousins. Meantime, she goes to the corner of Young Street and Keeaumoku, and they had this wagon. They had the sakanaya-san and the yasai-san, where they pull their sides up and sell fish or sell vegetables. So, my aunt is there when somebody comes up and says, Did you hear on the radio your niece was kidnapped, and the police are looking for her? And she says, She’s in my house.

 

 

It got to be the family story; Marie is gonna travel the world when she grows up.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
George Ariyoshi: Journey to Washington Place

 

Original air date: Tues., Sept. 18, 2012

 

Journey to Washington Place

 

Leslie Wilcox talks with former Governor George Ariyoshi, the state’s third and longest-serving governor. According to Ariyoshi, his parents’ Japanese cultural values shaped his character. Ariyoshi also recalls his long journey to becoming Hawaii’s governor – from his childhood at Japanese school, all the way through meeting his future wife and his involvement in Hawaii’s Democratic Revolution of 1954.

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

But I was very mindful of something that my father used to talk about. The word is a Japanese word; it’s haji, shame. Don’t bring shame on your friends, your family, to anybody. Be honorable in everything that you do. And I was very mindful of the fact that if I didn’t do a good job, it would not only be a reflection on the work that had to be done, but be a great reflection on the minority people that I felt were part of the government.

 

Coming up on Long Story Short. George Ariyoshi decided early on he wanted to be a lawyer, but he didn’t start out with political ambition, let alone dream he’d become Hawaii’s longest serving Chief Executive. On the way to the Governor’s Office, he’d make history, breaking down racial barriers and paving the way for future generations of Hawaii political business and government leaders. George Ariyoshi’s unlikely Journey to Washington Place is next.

 

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 the early years of my reporting career, I was involved in news coverage of the administration of Hawaii Governor, George Ariyoshi, who held office from 1974 until 1986. In this edition of Long Story Short, I sit down with the still active elder statesman to explore his life. Billed in a campaign film as The Kid From Kalihi, this son of Japanse immigrant parents came of age in Hawaii during World War II, and went on to build a political career that spanned more than three decades during a pivotal time in island history. Along the way, he became a man of records: the first non – Caucasian governor in the United States, first Hawaii-born governor to be elected, and longest serving governor in our State’s history. Despite his political power and stature, and the fierce nature of politics, observers tend to agree that Governor Ariyoshi managed to stay true to himself and the cultural values he learned at home.

 

Lots of my cultural values came from my parents. And when I say close, we were really close. When I wanted to do anything, I would have to tell my mother, Oh, I’m going to do this, and I’m going to a certain place. And if I went from there to some other place, I had to come back and tell my parents that I was gonna go someplace else. So, we were that kind of family. They didn’t speak English ever. Almost not at all. And so, when they went to PTA meetings, for example, they would say only, My boy good boy, bad boy? [CHUCKLE]

 

They understood English, but didn’t speak it?

 

They didn’t speak English, they didn’t understand English.

 

But they trusted the school to do a good job, and just—

 

That’s right.

 

—wanted to know that you were behaving.

 

Uh-huh. And all they wanted to know was, was I good or bad. [CHUCKLE]

 

Wow. But they showed up.

 

Yeah; and that’s right. And that showing up, to me, is very important. Sometimes, people don’t appreciate how important it is for parents to get involved in the things that their children do.

 

What brought your parents here from Japan?

 

My father was working on a ship that stopped by in Hawaii for provisions. And they all got off the ship to look around, and said, Oh, Hawaii nice place. So about ten of them didn’t go back on the ship. It was an illegal entry that was made at that time. And I did not know about this. This happened in 1919, and I did not know about this until my last summer back here before I graduated from law school in 1951. And my father told me this story. I was flabbergasted. I said, Papa, won’t you concerned during the war that they were gonna pick you up? And he said, oh, he had made up his mind that he was going to be picked up. But nothing happened. And I guess he tried to keep us from getting involved, or worrying about things that had might happen. So he was very grateful that nothing happened. At the time that he was saying this to me, the Walter McCarren Act was passed in Congress, which provided that any person who was in the United States in 1924, and could show continuous presence since then, could get long term permanent residency. So when I became a lawyer in 1952, my first project was to get that long-term residence for my father. But when you start thinking about today, we have Social Security, we pay taxes, and it’s very easy to get those records. But you go back to 1924, if you paid taxes, somebody wrote the receipt, and you got it, but nobody keeps those things. No Social Security.

 

How did you prove he was there?

 

I had to go find people who knew my father during that period and get affidavits. Oh, I had so many affidavits from people who worked to get it. My father was a stevedore, and even though he worked all those years, there were no records.

 

And what did he say when he finally became a citizen?

 

Oh, he was very happy, and he said, Oh, now, I can travel. He never went anywhere. Even when I graduated from Michigan State, he never came because he was concerned that if he got on the airplane he may be identified and picked up.

 

Your mom was born in Hawaii?

 

No, my mother was born in Japan, but she came to Hawaii the same year that my father got off the ship here. And her parents had come ahead of time. They worked on the plantation, and they called my mother after she became a little older.

 

And so, how did they meet, your parents?

 

I don’t know. [CHUCKLE]

 

They didn’t talk about that romance—

 

No. [CHUCKLE]

 

—of that first courtship. No.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

The Ariyoshis eventually had six children, and the family moved around Oahu, living in Waialae, Laie, Palama, and of course, Kalihi. George Ariyoshi attended public schools, and as a boy, he also went to Japanese language school in Palama. Unlike many Nisei, George enjoyed Japanese classes, despite being singled out by a school bully.

 

Class was over, I came out, and all of a sudden, somebody came up and grabbed me by the shirt like this. I didn’t know what was going on. And so, my initial response was to push back, and I got into a fight with that person, who turned out to be, I found out later on, the second grade bully. And that was not a good way to get started at least in Japanese school, especially. So I ended up having many, many confrontations and fights. My principal one day, because of a fight, he called me in and he told me I can’t come back to school unless I get my parents. So, I went home and I told my mother that, and my mother said, Okay, you won’t go back to school, we’ll put in another school. So, I changed from that Palama school to a school on Fort Street. And the principal came back later on and wanted me to come back to school. He felt that I was a good student, and wanted me as a student there. But my mother told him, You never asked him why he got into these fights, and he’s had enough, so he changed school and the all fighting stopped after that.

 

And what happened to the bully?

 

I got to know him when we became adults. They were two individuals who became very active and came in with my campaign in 1954.

 

Is that right? So, what was that conversation like when you saw them in your campaign?

 

Nothing happened; nobody said anything. I was very happy to have them come in. We never talked about the fights that we had.

 

I understand that well, a lot of kids didn’t like going to Japanese school after regular school. But even though you had a bully waiting for you, you didn ’t mind.

 

Yeah, I didn’t mind.

 

You liked your school.

 

Because I knew what I had to do. My parents, my father especially, wanted me to go to Japanese school. And I tell people, Oh, I kinda went to Japanese school because my father told me, and I was there to have fun also. But in the process, I learned a little bit Japanese.

 

And both of your parents speak Japanese, you’re going to school learning English and then also Japanese school later. But your parents couldn ’t help you with, say, your English homework, with your writing assignments, with your spelling work; right?

 

No, they couldn’t. But I was very lucky. When I went to intermediate school, Central Intermediate, I had a teacher, Mrs. Hamada, who was my core studies teacher two periods every day, for three years, so during my entire period there. We talked about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I worked on the school paper as a reporter, so I told her, I want to be a journalist, or I want to become a lawyer. And she told me, Oh, good. She sent me to see a lawyer, set up an appointment. I went, and I came back, and I told her, I really want to become a lawyer, because I found out that a lawyer can help people. And my father was so happy. He told me, Oh, good. He said, I’ll give you the shirt off my back to help make that possible. He said, Go do it, and stick by it, that’s really good.

 

Let’s go back to high school; McKinley High School.

 

The war got started during my sophomore year, and we had curfews, we had blackouts, we had to be off the street by six o’clock every evening.

 

You were not dating?

 

No. Well, dating during the day.

 

Oh, okay. So, what did you do during the day?

 

Well, we had dancing, we went to friend’s house, we moved around. And we had phonograph records playing, and we had dancing, like that.

 

At houses?

 

M-hm.

 

People’s houses?

 

People’s houses. So we had a group of maybe, oh fifteen, twenty people that got together like that. But at night, we had to be off the street. My senior prom was at the Mormon Tabernacle. We rented a hallway there, auditorium. We pulled all the drapes, made it really dark, put on very nice lights, soft lights, and made it look like it was at night. But our graduation prom, senior prom was from one-thirty until four o’clock. [CHUCKLE] And so, our close family got even closer, because we spent nights—all during my high school years, I never went out at night. And we were all at home with my brothers and sister.

 

What did you do in the dark?

 

In the dark, we played Chinese Checkers [CHUCKLE], Chess, and all kinds of things. So, I became a pretty good Checkers player.

 

[CHUCKLE] Did you feel like you missed out, because you didn’t have the nightlife and the rowdy teenaged years?

 

Not really, because I didn’t know what it was all about, not having experienced that kind of, open, more free life. But I was content with doing the things we did. But I think what it did also was, bring my family close together. We were able to learn a lot from each other and from my parents. We learned about our own school experience, we shared those things. Now, when I went to law school, when I went to Michigan State, I enjoyed my years there. I was learning a great deal when I was there. I even worked on a construction job.

 

How did you afford that?

 

I used to get seventy-five dollars a month from the GI Bill. They took care of my tuition. And at that time, the tuition, even for out of state, was I think, around two hundred fifty or three hundred dollars.

 

Wow. But it was a lot then.

 

Yeah, it was a lot. And, I remember living in the dormitory at Michigan State. We had a quarterly system, three months. So every three months, I paid about a hundred and eighty dollars for room and for board. So now, when I think about what students have to do, how much they have to get, I feel bad for them. And that’s why I feel strongly about the tuition, that we have to make it possible for people in Hawaii to be able to go to school without having to pay a huge tuition. And I’m told that, oh, they have all kind of loan programs. But, I ask myself, how would I have gotten started with my own life if I had to start off with forty, fifty thousand, hundred thousand dollars debt that had to be repaid.

 

George Ariyoshi was eligible for the GI Bill because he served in the Military Intelligence Service at the end of the war between high school and college. Part of that time, he was stationed in Japan, where he witnessed the post-war destruction. After he finished law school in 1951, Ariyoshi returned to Honolulu and started the law practice he’d dreamed of since the eighth grade, and a short time later, he met the girl of his dreams, the former Jean Hayashi.

 

I was invited to a party. My friend’s home we had a party, and she was part of the Wakaba Kai Sorority. The sorority was invited also. So, when we got there, I had heard about Jeannie.

 

What did you hear about her? That she was hot-looking? Is that what I’m gathering?

 

Yeah, she was a very beautiful girl. And I had seen a picture of her, and somebody told me, Oh, that’s Hash’s cousin; Yoshimi Hayashi.

 

And were you actually at the party looking for her? Were you kinda hoping to spot her?

 

No. No, I didn’t, I didn’t know she was there. Because I had a date also at that point; I had gone there with a date. But I just happened to come into the kitchen. I don’t know why I went into the kitchen, but I walked into the kitchen and I saw Jeannie, and I recognized her. And so, my way of starting a conversation was, Oh, are you related to Hash?

 

Knowing the answer already. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] And Hash was Yoshimi Hayashi, who became Supreme Court Justice, was her cousin. And so, we talked, and then I said, Oh she was getting ready to leave, so I told her, Can I steal a dance? [CHUCKLE] So, we went out on the dance floor, and they started to play some very fast music. And Jeannie tells me later on, oh, she didn’t think that we could do that dance, but she was surprised when I started to Jitterbug. And I had learned that when I was in Minnesota at Fort Snelling. We called it then the Lindy Hop. I learned that, and I started to dance, and she told me, Wow. She was really surprised that she could dance with me. [CHUCKLE]

 

Oh! Now, what happened to your date?

 

Uh [CHUCKLE] …

 

[CHUCKLE] Oops.

 

[CHUCKLE] Well, she was there. But I went to many parties with the person that I was dating at that time. But after I met Jeannie, I stopped dating her, and I invited Jeannie to the Cherry Blossom Prom that they were gonna have, and I never dated anybody else after that.

 

Now, at that time, you already were known as somebody with political prospects and a possible political career ahead. When you were dating Jeannie, did you evaluate her from that standpoint?

 

No. I never knew, I never knew that I was gonna be in politics. And it was only in 1954—and her birthday was October 30th, and when I ran for office, she couldn’t vote for me in the primary. And she could only vote for me in the general; she became of age. [CHUCKLE]

 

Wow.

 

I never even thought about running for office or being a politician at the time that I started to date her.

 

And so, I mean, really, it is a very hard thing to be the wife of a politician. And so, she had that ability, even though that’s really not what you were looking for.

 

M-hm; m-hm. She was a very flexible person, very good-natured, and she was very friendly. She made friends, meeting new people, they began to feel, Oh, I’ve known her for years and years, even though that the first time. As a matter of fact, we asked one time on a political campaign for an endorsement from one of the governors to speak, make a tape. And he talked about me, but he said that I was a very well known person amongst the governor’s circle, very well liked, but I was only second to somebody else, second to Jean Ariyoshi. So Jean was very … she helped me a lot. I’m a shy person, and I don’t move around. I can’t go around shaking hands with everybody, and I kinda stand still. But Jeannie can make up for that by being the warm person. I used to go to Big Island, for example, and people would come up to me at a rally, and the first question they would ask me is, Where’s Jeannie?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

We’ll have been married for fifty-seven years this year. And Jean and I learned to get closer, and we have learned to love our children and our grandchildren even more so, because of our personal relationship. So my family side is very, very good. I get the biggest thrill out of my grandchildren when they were younger. And my great-grandchildren now, when they see me, they come running up to me, Grandpa!, and give me a big hug.

 

While George Ariyoshi was courting his future wife, a man who was the driving force in Hawaii’s rising Democratic Party began courting him to join what came to be known as the Democratic Revolution in Hawaii. Then party chair and future governor, John Burns, persuaded the twenty-eight-year-old Ariyoshi to run for the Territorial House in the historic 1954 election. Ariyoshi would become the youngest member of the first Democrat-controlled Legislature. Burns inspired Ariyoshi to consider politics as the path to social change.

 

I told him I was not a plantation child. I grew up away from that, so that I didn’t have that kind of discriminatory experience. And so, he told me, Well, what about now? Are you starting your own law practice? And I mentioned that, oh, I began to feel this control over the economy by the Big Five. That’s when he told me, Run for office. I thought he was talking to somebody else and turned around. He said, No, you, you run for office. And my response was, No, I’m too young and nobody knows me. And he said, No, it’s not that, it’s where the heart is. And that’s when he encouraged me to run. So I ran … not because I wanted, but because I felt that maybe something could happen. In 1970, when he asked me to run for Lieutenant Governor, he was not talking about 1970; he was looking at 1974. And when I expressed some concerns about being committed, because my law practice was my first love. And he told me, Please listen to me very carefully. He said, There’s never been a Governor of Hawaii who was born here in Hawaii, there’s never been a Governor here in Hawaii except a person who was White, and I want you to break that, I want you to open it up so that it’ll open up, and other people can also become a part of the government structure. That’s why I ran. When I became Governor, I was very conscious of the obligation that I had to the citizens of this community to do the best I can as Governor. But I was very mindful of something that my father used to talk about. The word is a Japanese word; it’s haji, shame. Don’t bring shame on your friends, your family, to anybody. Be honorable in everything that you do. And I was very mindful of the fact that if I didn’t do a good job, it would not only be a reflection on the work that had to be done, but be a great reflection on the minority people that I felt were part of the government. And my father, you know, he encouraged me, but in so many other ways, I learned from my parents. He talked to me about how important it is to get people to help you. No matter how good you are, you can’t do things by yourself.

 

Mm.

 

You gotta get help. He said, Don’t boast about doing things, always remember that many other people helped you. Your teachers helped so that you can become whatever you want to become. When you have something you want to do, other people are gonna help you. And so, acknowledge that so much help that you get. He used a Japanese word at that time, okage sama de. Kage is somebody’s shade. O is honorific. Because of your help, because of your shade, I have become or been able to do what I wanted to do.

 

And that became your mantra throughout your time in office.

 

Yes; yes. And then, my father was very frugal. He said, Spend money if you have to, but don’t spend it unnecessarily, and to not pinch and not deny yourself anything, but be sure that you spend it in the right kind of ways, in the right amounts. And that also helped me when I was looking at budget problems. I remembered my father telling me the Japanese word, mudatsukai; wasteful spending, don’t do that. My father was also very firm about doing things in the right way. In fact, during the 1954 election, when I first got elected, my first campaign, I recall some problems I had with the labor unions. They wanted to control me. One way to do that was tell us how we’re gonna go about campaigning. And when I didn’t agree on how the campaign should be run, they were very angry with me. But my father telling me that what you think is right, you gotta stand up and do what you think you ought to do.

 

So did you lose the union’s support? I don’t think so; right?

 

They I didn’t, that 1954 election, because we came to an agreement on how to go about campaigning. And that agreement was what we could pass out. They were telling me I had to pass out only one card with all six candidates, the Democratic Party candidates’ names, and nothing else. I was going to go along with that, but when they told me nothing else, that’s what I really got affected by. But we came to a compromise. They said, The last week, let’s pass this card with six names, but until then, you can pass your own things. And so, they supported me. But I lost their support in the next election.

 

Why did you lose it?

 

Because at that time, the unions were very tough. And it was not just you’re going along with the programs that they had, but if they told you they want you to jump, they wanted to have you ask them, Oh, how many feet? It was a time when it was almost raw strength that they had, and they wanted to be sure that they didn’t lose and they were in control.

 

Did you get the same kind of attempts to control you on the other side from big business?

 

When I got involved in the 1954 election, it was because of the big business, Big Five, and how they tried to control the economy. And that was very wrong for them to dictate not only what happened to the economy, but who gets involved. And at that time, if you were an outsider, you could work for any big company and get up to a certain point, but you could never hope to get above that. And to me, that was very, very wrong, because it was not being advancing to one’s ability. I learned that there were individuals within the Big Five who shared a lot of our hopes and our aspirations, and who were willing to help. Companies that I thought were really bad people turned out not to be all that bad, and they were used to a certain kind of practice before, but they were beginning to change also. And I can name people, like Henry Walker, and Harold Eichelberger, and Lowell Dillingham all came around.

 

Did you think they were more open than big unions?

 

I think the unions started to come along also.

 

Ariyoshi served in the Territorial House, the Territorial Senate, and the first State Senate before he was elected Lieutenant Governor with Governor John Burns in 1970. When Burns became too ill to serve before his third term was up, Ariyoshi became Acting Governor, and then he won the position in his own right, elected to three terms starting in 1974. He served as Governor for more than thirteen years, and because of term limits in place today, no one is ever likely to serve longer. We’ll have more on his legacy in an upcoming episode. At age eighty-six at the time of this conversation, Ariyoshi continues to go to work as a businessman, connecting people. He travels widely in Asia and the Pacific, and he enjoys his grandchildren and engaging other young people in thinking of the future.

 

Thank you, Governor Ariyoshi, for sharing your Long Story Short. And thank you for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

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

 

When I was Governor, my secretary knew that when one of my kids comes in during the day over there, they were to let me know so that as soon as I got through with what I was doing, I would see my children. And I think it was a way for them to test me, to see whether or not they had access to me. And they knew they had access. And every time, no matter what I was doing, when I took a break, I would see them. And my youngest, Donn, who was only twelve years old at the time, was the one who did this all the time. He would come up; How’s my father? [CHUCKLE]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
George Ariyoshi: Shaping the Future

 

Original air date: Tues., Sept. 25, 2012

 

Shaping the Future

 

Leslie Wilcox continues her conversation with Governor George Ariyoshi. Under the tutelage of Governor John Burns, Ariyoshi learned about building consensus and remaining true to his ideals. Ariyoshi addresses how this helped him navigate political and philosophical challenges throughout his 12 years as governor, and shares his vision for Hawaii’s future.

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

And it’s not only what you do, but it’s how you do things, and how you inspire and get other people involved. And I think that feeling became very strong in Hawaii during my time. And that became, I think, my political strength.

 

He campaigned as quiet, but effective; and though he hadn’t envisioned a career in politics, George Ariyoshi never lost an election. Hawaii’s longest-serving Governor reflects on the legacy of his thirteen years in high office, and what he’s been doing in the quarter century since he retired from government service. That’s 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, and welcome to Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. George Ariyoshi was the youngest Democrat elected to Hawaii’s Territorial Legislature in the Democratic Revolution of 1954, and twenty years later, he would become the first Governor in America who was not White. The son of Japanese immigrants, Ariyoshi attended McKinley High School during World War II, served in the Military Intelligence Service after the war, and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. He was building his law practice when he met Democratic Party leader and future Governor John Burns, who encouraged him to run for office in ’54. Five years later, as a member of the State Senate in the first year of statehood, Ariyoshi was navigating the tricky path of pursuing his legislative goals while playing the high stakes game of politics. When Republican Governor William Quinn nominated Republican Samuel P. King to become a judge, Ariyoshi faced a conflict between his personal convictions and party loyalty.

 

The Republicans controlled the Senate during the time I was there. Sam King’s name came down for confirmation, and we had, at that time, fourteen Republicans and eleven Democrats. But Sam King didn’t have two Republicans, so he only had twelve Republican votes. And our Democrats got together and said, If you can hold firm on this, we can defeat the nomination. And I listened to all of that, and I finally said, Wait now; why? What kind of judge would he make? They said, Oh, he would be a very fine judge, but that’s not the question. I said, But it is. We’re talking about confirmation of a judge. And they told me that, oh, they have a chance to embarrass the administration. Now, this is political, they say. And I listened to that and I said, Wait, I want to say something now. You remember in 1954 when you got started, that’s only four or five years ago. I got involved because I wanted fairness in this community. I wanted everybody to be treated fairly, advance on the basis of their ability. You’re telling me he’s gonna make a fine judge; why are we gonna hold back? And I told them that it was important that in order to be fair, you gotta be fair not just to your friends. You gotta be fair to those who may not be your friends, and that’s the measure of your fairness. And they told me that they couldn’t see it that way, and we had to go out and be together as a group. And I told them, Sorry, I’m going out there, and I’m gonna publicly say that I’m gonna support Sam King. I called him, and he was so overjoyed. He told me, Oh, now that’s the vote I need to get confirmed, and I can sleep well tonight.

 

And that’s what happened.

 

Yes.

 

And yet, when you were Governor, I don’t know how many times you heard this expression, The Machine. The Democratic Machine under Governor Ariyoshi, controlling people. I mean, it didn’t sound like George would stand up alone. How did you feel about that, and was there any truth to it?

 

No. There was no truth to it, because I was very open. You take, for example, the State plans. I didn’t want it to be my plan, and I wanted to involved people, and I worked together with so many people on every functional plan and let it become their plan. I think it’s an indication of my willingness to look at things that are happening in the community and involve people. The Super Ferry is one of those things that I became very concerned about, because they were trying to shortcut the process. And I think that the people who were in power at that time were willing to take those shortcuts. But I think if we had gone through the process, and everybody talk about oh, how important it is and why we need to get this, there would have been greater support and understanding of the need for a ferry, and as a result, make it happen. I think it’s true in our planning effort. Every functional plan, I had between two hundred to four hundred people involved. And they were happy to be involved, because now, they could talk about and participate in how they wanted to see things happen in our community. So they all went to the Legislature. I never had to lobby. They went to the Legislature and said, This is not Ariyoshi’s plan, this is our plan, it’s our ideas, it’s what we think is important and necessary to get where we want to be. And I tried to select people based upon their differences. Different communities they come from, different occupational backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds. And I used to take part in the swearing-in ceremonies and tell them that, You are serving on a board and you’ll find a great deal of diversity, and this is by design. Because we don’t believe that it should be controlled by one or two individuals and move different directions. Everybody should participate, and everybody should have a voice in what happens. And my feeling was, you put them all on the table, and then you have a chance to select the best of ideas, rather than one person indicating the direction that it has to go. That was my whole process. Everything that I did when I was Governor fell along that line. When I had my budget problems at the very beginning, finance, I called the unions, I called the public employees.

 

And this turned out to be the first economic recession since statehood.

 

That’s right. And I called them together, and I told them that I didn’t want to fire anybody, I didn’t want to make pay cuts, and I’ve thought about a way to do that, but I need help. And I explained to them that I was not gonna fill positions that became vacant, and that I wanted, however, those who remain to pick up what had been done before. So I told them with five people working now, and one position becomes vacant, I want the four to do not what four were doing, I want the four to do what five were doing. And I felt that I had a very heavy burden, beyond that which would be faced by an average Governor, just wanting to do the best for the community. You see, when I became Governor in 1974, it was fifteen years after Hawaii had become a state. And I wanted to know what happened during that fifteen-year period, so I looked at it very carefully. And one of the things that really struck me was the population growth, where we had grown about twenty percent a year, national rate about eight-tenths of one percent, so we were growing three times as fast as the population growth elsewhere. And I became very concerned about the need for us to think about Hawaii, what kind of place we’re going to be, how do we get there, what kind of things must we be concerned about in order for us to get off in the wrong kind of direction. I had about seven young people who were in my office when I was Governor who handled the key functions of my office. And some of them were still at the University. And I learned also about their commitment, about wanting to live in the community, and I felt very strongly about what they wanted to do. Not just in the political arena, but they can become anything they want, but they don’t forget that there is a commitment to the community. And that has been a very important part of my life now. I put together a booklet, Hawaii’s 50th Anniversary. And I talked about fifty years of Hawaii’s statehood, but I especially spent time talking about the next fifty years. And I did that to challenge the young people in our community, and I had one of those pamphlets was given to every high school senior. And I was invited many, many times to go to high schools to speak to them, and every time I went, I came away feeling so good about our young people. I found them very concerned about the future. They started talking about jobs, they talked about the economy, about housing. I learned a lot from young people, and they’ve played a very important role in shaping my life. And it’s not only what you do, but it’s how you do things and how you inspire and get other people involved. And I think that feeling became very strong in Hawaii during my time, and that became, I think, my political strength. My campaign manager was Bob Oshiro. And after my first election, I had to sit with him, I had to tell him why I’m going to run for office again, why I’m going up for reelection, what have I done and what are my plans, what’s my vision for the future.

 

He made you apply for the job all over again with him.

 

That’s right. Uh-huh. And he was a very good campaign manager, but he was also a real visionary.

 

Family, friends, and colleagues influenced George Ariyoshi’s political approach over the years, but none more than his mentor, John Burns. In 1970, Burns convinced Ariyoshi to be his running mate when he ran for his third term as Governor. They won that election, and when Burns became too ill to serve in late 1973, Lieutenant Governor Ariyoshi stepped into the Governor’s job. The following year, he won his first of three elections for Hawaii’s Chief Executive. By then, Burns had helped instill in Ariyoshi the confidence to stand firm for his beliefs, while bridging differences and building consensus to overcome opposition.

 

Well, I think Jack Burns played a very significant role in the development of my idea and my style. But Burns’ feeling that the situation was changing, that he represented the older people in the community, but he felt the young people in the community might have a different point of view. So when I got elected, he told me that, You and I are different people. I’m Caucasian, you’re Japanese. I was born in Montana, you were born in Hawaii. You went to school here, I went to school elsewhere. And I was an Army brat, and I traveled wherever my parents went, but you have roots here in Hawaii, and as a result, your thinking has got to be different from mine. And please feel free to do what you feel you have to do, say what you have to say, and if you disagree with me, and you have to disagree, that’s okay with me too. I really appreciated that part about Jack Burns, when he told me that. For example, in 1976, the State Health Department was having a great deal of problems with the plantations. The sugar plantations were taking bagasse—that’s the sugarcane waste, and they just bulldozed it into the ocean. And the EPA and the State Health Department wanted them to stop that. And the plantation people said—C. Brewer, We’re willing to stop, and we’re gonna take that and instead of bulldozing, we’re gonna burn that, and we’re gonna generate electricity. But it’s gonna take us seventeen months to create that. The Health Department said, No, we’ll give you six months, only. So they came to me, and I talked to Governor Burns about it. He told me, What do you think? I said, They’re gonna stop bulldozing in seventeen months, but they can’t stop now. They’re gonna create a system that’s gonna be taking care, and they’re gonna create one-third of the electricity used on the Island of Hawaii when they finish this, and I think it’s a good thing for them to do that. You’re willing to suffer the consequences? Yup. So, I did that. And then, one of the Attorney Generals assigned to the Health Department went to the EPA when they were having a meeting, and they complained about George Ariyoshi caved in to the sugar plantation groups and went along with keeping this pollution going. And I went to the meeting, and I told them what was happening, why we’re doing this. And they kinda went along with me. And when I saw Governor Burns after that, he told me, I just wanted you to witness and feel what was gonna happen. He said, I knew this was going to happen, and you were going to be criticized, but I just wanted you to go through the experience of doing this. And he told me, I knew you were gonna stand up for it and be able to work it out.

 

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever been through professionally, and also the biggest personal challenge you’ve had in your life?

 

I think that when I was faced with the Maryland land law, and that’s the law that would have given options to purchase leaseholders, future leaseholders, but would not have existing leaseholders. And I was for land reform, I wanted the options, the right to purchase, but I didn’t want it to hurt people in the process. I had the unions come sit before me and tell me that if I didn’t go along, they were gonna be taking it up with me. I was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee at the time, and I was told that if I didn’t go along, I would lose my chairmanship. And I took that as an opportunity to tell people, you have a point of view, I respect you for that. I’m not telling you I’m right and you’re wrong, but you’ve got to respect my right or the right of any person who feels very strongly that something is there and they have to vote in a certain kind of way. And I think that was a very difficult period for me, but it was a very enlightening period because people began to understand that that’s what we had to do. We had to stand up for what we believed to be right, and be unafraid to take that position. I had more people tell me, We were against you because we didn’t understand the bill, but in fact, the leaseholderstelling me, You protected us. And then, there were those who came to me and told me that, We disagree with you, but we admire your willingness to come to us and talk about it. And the other very important principle, which is very applicable today, the party platform; and there were some who were saying to me, Well, this is a party platform, land reform, and you gotta go along with it. And my feeling was, the party platform is very vague. We have all kinds of feelings of people, different point of views in the party, and that we cannot expect every person to do everything that the party platform says. We gotta make leeway, allowances for people to have differences.

 

So, may I ask you; what was your most daunting personal challenge?

 

See, I made a decision before I left the office that I was not gonna do anything that affected the work that I did as Governor. In other words, any State policy, I was not going to get involved in for compensation. And I have stuck to that policy. When they first asked me, talked to me when I was Governor, one of the really big things that was available was to become trustee of Bishop Estate. And very early, I took the position, I appointed those people who are gonna make the judgment, and I will not go to them and ask them to have them do something for me. So I stayed away from that. And I was asked the day before I left the office what my policy were, whether it’s changed or not, because I was leaving the office. I said, No, same thing, same reasons apply. I went one step further. I told them, if the position were offered to me, I would decline to accept it. And I think drawing those very clear demarcations between the kind of things that I wanted to get involved in and the kinds that I did not want to get involved in, to me, became very important.

 

What is that like? I mean, everyone’s been criticized by somebody, but very few people get criticized at the level a Governor gets criticized by with a statewide audience watching, and thinking, and expressing opinions. What’s it like living with that?

 

I felt every person has their own point of view. No matter what you try to do, it’s not gonna be the same way it’s gonna apply to every person. A person in Waialae Kahala may be impacted in a different kinda way than a person in Waianae. I understood that, so I felt people had a right to say what they wanted to do about the policies. I embraced the differences, and I brought them in, and I told them, Eh, tell us more about why what we’re doing is not the right thing.

 

But you hear a lot of personal stuff too. How’s that?

 

Yeah. It’s just part of the game. I accepted that, and I was not too concerned.

 

He left office more than a quarter century ago, and George Ariyoshi does not live in the past. In fact, he’s consumed with thinking about Hawaii’s future, preserving our natural resources and cultural heritage, and developing our economy for coming generations.

 

I think we need to look at diversifying our economy, and people are trying to do that now. But I think maybe there has to be someone who can kind of point out what kind of things are necessary to be considered in order to get there. And to me, in the health field, Hawaii can become a real leader in so many things in the health field and the technology that comes along with making that possible. And then, I think we need to have the University become very much involved in developing some of the technology. For example, the person who wants to start something here, they don’t know what to start. But shouldn’t the University be able to point out what areas are very vital areas in which they can become very successful? And all that brain power at the University, I think we need to let them know that we appreciate those kind of things that they can do to help make the economy’s future, Hawaii’s future, but they also have the right to participate in the successes that come from that. And in the past, I think we’ve had kind of a feeling that, Oh, people at the University get paid by us, all R & D belongs to us and that they should not benefit from that. I think the benefit becomes a two-way street. I was very strongly for aerospace because in Hawaii, we’re looking for technology, and this aerospace is going to be something that’s gonna be very big and important. But Hawaii must not lose the opportunity to get involved and be at Barking Sands on Kauai, we have a telescope that nobody else has, we have astronauts that trained on Hawaii where no other state can say that. The private sector coming to me and talking to me about, oh, how they can be involved in this process. So, I have gone to the Legislature, I’ve gone to the government, and to try to get them informed about what the process is. When we first started that, very few people understood, but today, the greatest supporters of aerospace are those in the Legislature. But I didn’t do that because of compensation. I did it because of my very strong feelings about Hawaii. I’m very much against, for example, they’re selling the property out in Haleiwa that are part of park lands, three acres or so.

 

Right.

 

That they can’t develop. And this should remain a part of it, they should not sell that kind of property. That property does not belong to us now, once they sell and use the monies. It’s there for the people and the future of Hawaii.

 

One of George Ariyoshi’s priorities since his years as Governor has been the East West Center, and in 2012, the Center honored him with its prestigious Asia Pacific Community Building Award. The Center was proposed in 1959 by John Burns, who was then Hawaii’s Territorial Delegate to Congress, and by then U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson. In 1975, Governor Ariyoshi advanced and ultimately signed a law that gave the East West Center autonomy from the University of Hawaii. First, though, he had to persuade the U.S. State Department.

 

And at first, it was very difficult for them to understand that, and they thought I was accusing them of being very biased in how the Center was operating. I told them, No, I’m not expressing that bias; what I’m saying is that I want the perception of control becoming eliminated also. And when we talked about it, they finally agreed. I told them, I want it incorporated with the Hawaii laws. And that’s what they agreed to. And then, I wanted the board of directors to be appointed, five by the State Department, five by the Governor, but I wanted five independent people appointed by the ten. And they all agreed to that. And that’s what it’s become. So when I hear today people talking about, oh, the Center is controlled, that’s not the situation. The Center has a mission; the mission is to get people, East and West, together so that they can get to understand each other. And the Center has never dictated how policies get—we don’t tell people [INDISTINCT] and this is a policy of the United States, this is how the policy ought to be. We leave it up to them to talk about it amongst themselves, and they can say, Oh, this is how we see things, somebody else sees some other things. And they come together, they begin to understand each other. We have a journalist program also. When you think about a person who writes, that person reaches a lot of people. So what we tried to do was to bring the journalists together, and then have them go off to Asia and begin to talk and listen to people who have different points of views, and they begin to understand what is happening in different parts of Asia. And now, they don’t write like they used to where they’re biased. They write with an understanding of how things are out there in Asia. And to me, that’s a very important role of the Center also.

 

When you were Governor, you had to learn a lot of protocol, because you made state trips. What’s the most interesting protocol you learned in dealing with somebody from a foreign country? I don’t know what country, but any.

 

Respect for them. And after I left the Governor’s Office—when I was there, I had started PBDC, Pacific Basin Development Council, a council made up four governors, one American governor and three territorial governors. We got together and tried to talk about the things that were important. And very often, it was very critical of the United States and the Interior Department, and we were able to talk about, oh, how do we get around this problem. And by doing that, I was able to communicate with the State Department people, Interior Department people, I was able to talk to our Senators and our Representatives about what had to be done to help them. And that became very important. Leaders of Samoa, Tonga, and Federated States of Micronesia; I used to get them together, and we formed at the East West Center a Pacific Island Development Group. And when I became chairman of the board, in the organization chart, I wanted to be sure that that block was not below the president, but it was aligned at the level with the president so that they could feel that they were important, being acknowledged. Pacific Island leaders, they’re small countries, and they feel that they are ignored and are not given the special attention that they require. And I think that’s what we need to remember, that no matter how powerful a country we are, when we talk to somebody else, some other country, we need to acknowledge that they are the heads of the country, and that we have to be very courteous in treating them, dealing with them. And for example, when I went to Thailand, my first trip to Thailand we had Prem Tinsulanonda, who was the longest serving prime minister. He walked off the seat as I entered the room, came up to me, and he embraced me. Which was kind of a rare thing to happen, a man embracing another man. And then, he told me words that I still remember so clearly: Friendship is not about how long you know a person, friendship is about how you feel towards a person. And he said, I consider you my friend, and I feel very strongly about mutual feelings about each other.

 

And so, the Boy from Kalihi’s political career lasted more than three decades, from the Democratic Revolution of the mid-1950s, through an unprecedented thirteen-plus years as Governor. At the time of this conversation in 2012, Ariyoshi is eighty-six years old, and continues to work in Downtown Honolulu as a business consultant. He travels internationally to build diplomatic and cultural connections between Hawaii and our Asia-Pacific neighbors, but Ariyoshi’s favorite times are spent with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Despite his years of experience, Governor Ariyoshi says he learned from people who are far too young to recall his years in power. He values the time he spends talking with high school students, and says they give him great hope for Hawaii’s future.

 

Thank you, George Ariyoshi, for sharing your long story short. And thank you, for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

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

 

If you feel that a person is against something that you want to do, and you push him off on the side, that person is gonna continue to be strongly against what you want to do. But if you bring him in, and you ask the question, Tell me why you’re against this, what’s your feeling, you begin to understand why people are opposed to certain things you want to do. You find out that maybe what you’re trying to do is not good enough, that you gotta make some modifications to accommodate some differences that may exist out there. That’s one thing that could happen. The other thing that could happen is that maybe you feel that, oh, after going through all this, that what I feel now, what I want to do is so important, and we’re right, and we going to stick by our guns and we going to do this. And then, ask people to come and join in that effort.