inspiration

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Next Goal Wins

 

In 2001, American Samoa suffered a world record 31-0 defeat at the hands of Australia, garnering headlines across the world as the worst football (soccer) team on the planet. This film is an inspirational story about the power of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and an object lesson in what it really means to be a winner in life.

 

Arnold Knows Me:
The Tommy Kono Story

 

The late Tommy Kono inspired generations of body builders, including one of the world’s biggest movie stars. This film tells the inspirational story of the most decorated American in the history of weightlifting. A Sacramento, CA native, Tommy won two Olympic gold medals, an Olympic silver medal, and six World Championship titles between 1952 and 1960.

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
The Hawaiian Room

 

The Hawaiian Room, located in the famed Lexington Hotel, was an oasis of Hawaiian culture and entertainment in the heart of New York City. Between 1937 and 1966, hundreds of dancers, singers and musicians from Hawai‘i were recruited to perform at the entertainment venue. In this documentary, filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk shares interviews with over 20 former performers who speak candidly and fondly of their experience at the historic nightclub, and the culture shock of going from Hawai‘i to New York City.

 

TED TALKS
Education Revolution

 

Explore innovative approaches to education with hosts writer Baratunde Thurston and actress Sara Ramirez. Speakers, including playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith and educator and entrepreneur Sal Khan, discuss the school-to-prison pipeline, micromanaging kids and turning struggling students into scholars.

 

This program will rebroadcast Fri., Sept. 16, 11:00 pm

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Crystal Rose

 

Attorney Crystal Rose is a Hilo-born litigator with a reputation for being tough, fearless and strategic. She has taken on complex and contentious civil cases – and the results have helped to reshape the business landscape in Hawaii. “I’ve had the privilege…of being able to work on cases and issues that have been multi-faceted, complex. It really does make me tick,” Rose says.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, March 9 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, March 13 at 4:00 pm.

 

Crystal Rose Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I remember coming to Kamehameha and, you know, it opened my eyes to a bigger city, and all kinds of opportunities that I never knew existed. The classic is, I was so afraid to get on the escalator at Sears because I was sure it was gonna eat my toes.

And you know, that kind of is the local girl coming to the big city. Honolulu was the big city. It really took me a while to get on the escalator.

 

This Hilo native and Kamehameha Schools graduate is now a standout in the big city of Honolulu as a lawyer known for her tenacity and success in some of Hawaii’s most watched civil cases. Crystal Rose, 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. Her name is Crystal Rose, but flowery is not a word many would use to describe this respected business and commercial litigator. For more than two decades, Rose has taken on complex civil cases, reshaping Hawaii’s banking industry and the island’s largest private landowner. Her peers call Rose fearless, tough, an astute problem-solver. These are traits that Rose didn’t necessarily see in herself when she was growing up in Hilo on Hawaii Island. Rose says her life changed when she switched schools in the seventh grade.

 

Tell me about your parents, and growing up in Hilo.

 

My family, both sides born and raised in Hilo, multiple generations. I was, you know, obviously born in Hilo, went to elementary school at Hilo Union, and then at seventh grade, applied and luckily got accepted and attended Kamehameha Schools at that point in time.

 

And you were a boarder.

 

A boarder.

 

 

In Oahu. From what age?

 

I was eleven when I got there.

 

Eleven, moving away from your family.

 

Oh; for everyone, it’s difficult at that time and that age. And you know, my first year, I think most of us are homesick, and you know, hated it, and I thought my parents sent me to prison.

 

It must have been hard for them, because they’re very family-oriented people.

 

Yes, yes; very hard. But they valued education, and this was an opportunity that they felt would enhance me as their daughter. And so I knew that, and made sure we used it to the best of everyone’s advantages. After your first year, I really enjoyed Kamehameha and the friends I that I had there, and the people I’ve met. They were like my sisters in the dorm after six years. And so, it’s all good.

 

What was life like in Hilo? What part of Hilo?

 

My parents um, lived on a street called Wailuku Drive, which is above Hilo Hospital. And so, my best stories of Hilo was, I went to Hilo Union, and for some reason back then, if you lived more than two miles away from the school, they’d take you home on the sampan bus.   So, there was a group of us that were able to go home every day on the sampan bus.

 

What was that like, riding on—

 

It was very fun.

 

A ferry, essentially, took you home.

 

Exactly; exactly. So, it was quite fun, and I see them now and it warms my heart to see those little buses.

 

Were you quiet, boisterous, athletic, studious? What?

 

Not athletic. Probably in the middle of it. I don’t think I was super-smart, but back then, believe it or not, they had three classes. There was the A Class, the B Class, and the C Class. I was always in the A Class, but I never thought of myself as being the smartest um, kid in the school, if that makes sense. But I think I did well.

 

Did you sit in the back of the class? Did you sit in the front row and raise your hand? What was your personality like?

 

Probably in the middle. You know. You know, just more in the middle, I think. I wasn’t one to sit in the front, and I don’t think I carried the back of the room. Those were for the cool kids.

 

You were not a cool kid?

 

I wasn’t a cool kid.

 

What were you like?

 

What can I say? Uh, I danced hula. Kind of just the normal everyday kid. I enjoyed hanging around after school with the neighborhood kids. We all played. My mom had a bell, and she’d ring us for dinner. And that’s what you did.

 

What did you play? What kind of games?

 

Hide-and-Seek; all kinds of little, you know, kid games.

 

Your dad was a policeman.

 

Yes.

 

Does that mean you had to be a good girl out there, not embarrass your dad?

 

I probably felt that more in high school than I did in elementary school. I didn’t quite focus on it at that point in time. I think in high school, I was a little bit more sensitive to his role. At that point, he had been promoted and he was the district commander of the South Kohala-Waimea area. My family had moved to Waimea, so he had a little bit more prominence in the community, and I think we as a family knew that we had to be a little bit more straight and narrow then. And I think it was good, I was at Kamehameha.

 

Because teenaged.

 

Teenagers didn’t always have to work out.

 

Do you remember what the conversation was about the idea that you would be living on another island, if you just got the chance?

 

Back then, Kamehameha had started in one of its programs called Explorations, so you got to go at the end of your fifth year summer and spend a week there. So, you would then apply in sixth grade. But having come off of Explorations, which was a fabulous experience, and a wonderful program, and I’m glad that Kamehameha still does it ‘til today, I came back like knowing what the school looked like, and met some people that actually became my classmates when I got accepted. So, the conversation, I think, was easier, having had that.

 

What happened at Kamehameha?

 

I was on the honor roll, and I did well certainly, but I was not the top of the class, I was not the valedictorian. But I did do enough to get into college, and all of that. I’m the first in my family to go to college on the mainland, and that was a big deal. My dad is a college graduate, but primarily through UH night school, so he did it, you know, as he was working. And we’re proud of that. But for someone from my family to go to the mainland to college was pretty big of a deal. And back then, we didn’t have the resources where you go to see schools and visit, and all of the decision making pretty much occurred by looking at a brochure and a publication from various schools.

 

So, yet another culture you had to navigate.

 

Yes, yes, yes, yes. But Kamehameha does a good job of doing that. I went to Willamette University in Oregon. There were nine of us from my Kamehameha class that went there. So, you know, there was at least some friends or familiar faces when you were there, but definitely some navigation involved in the transition.

 

At Oregon’s Willamette University, Crystal Rose studied hard, with a double major in psychology and sociology. After graduation, Rose found herself heading to law school at the Hastings College of Law in California.

 

So, I didn’t start with thinking I wanted to go to law school; I ended up there. And I think it was a good decision for me. I spent one study abroad in England, in school in London, and you know, that was another cultural shock experience.   And so, the next was an easy transition, and I went to law school in San Francisco.

 

You know, I notice you got hired by Carlsmith Ball, a leading Honolulu law firm when you were in your second year of law school?

 

Yes. Actually, it’s very typical. Between your second and third year of law school, most large firms—Carlsmith was one, Goodsill is another, Cades does it—they hire second year students between your second year of law school and your third year for the summer. And it’s a good opportunity for the students to get an experience in a law firm, and it’s a good opportunity for the law firms to then kinda handpick the ones they would like to see as permanent attorneys in their offices. So, many of us worked in different firms, and I happened to accept a job with Carlsmith, and then at the end of that summer, they offered me a permanent job. So, when I got out of school, I already had a job, and I knew I was coming home, and that part was easy.

 

That must have been nice.

 

It was very nice; very nice.

 

And then, so you were a young woman working at this illustrious law firm.

 

Yeah.

 

And you … bagged. You left. Tell me about that. After several years.

 

Yeah. I’d been there little over three years, and there was a lot of change at Carlsmith during that period of time. But more importantly, the group I worked with had some conversations about going off on their own, and included me in those conversations. So, there was eight of us that left in ’86. I joined Carlsmith in ’82. I was, you know, twenty-eight years old, and it was a big deal.   It was a big deal.

 

And are you still with the same—well, different partners, but um, same law firm.

 

Same firm. And of the original eight, there’s three of us left. And on January 3rd, we’ll celebrate our thirtieth anniversary. So, I’m very proud of that. ‘Cause, you know, longevity, and we have some staff that came with us, and they’re still with us from the beginning.

 

That’s wonderful, especially since I know that there have been a lot of reductions over the years in legal offices.

 

Correct. So, like I said, it’s been a good ride. You know, I’ve enjoyed it. We have about twenty-something lawyers, and young group, and it’s very dynamic, and that’s good. You know, it’s good for us.

 

Throughout her legal career, Crystal Rose has calmly tackled complicated and contentious cases that made headlines. She represented former Bishop Estate trustee Oswald Stender in a case that helped bring reform to the mismanaged institution now known as Kamehameha Schools. Rose also led the legal strategy for Central Pacific Bank in its hostile takeover of City Bank back in 2005.

 

I’ve had the privilege, and actually the opportunity and I look at it as an incredible privilege, of being able to work on cases and issues that have been multi-faceted, complex. It really does make me tick. I love being in the middle of that, and being able to help strategize a solution that will be the best one, ever. Most of the time, you need to be flexible, ‘cause what you think may work may not, and you have to be able to adjust accordingly. A lot of it has to do with people and responses, and reactions, and where you can take opportunities that are given to you that you didn’t realize were going to happen. And so, yes, I really enjoy that type of work.

 

There’s a lot to what you do. For example, when you were helping Central Pacific Bank take over City Bank, it was an incredibly complex. I mean, there were a lot of numbers.

 

Right.

 

I mean, everything had to make sense for fiduciaries. But I sense it wasn’t just a job for you. I mean, this was a passion, and it was something you believed in.

 

In the restructuring of Central Pacific Bank after we got into trouble, it was very serious. And we got to the point, you know, that some people felt we were, you know, on the verge of being taken over. And it got very close. And I felt very, very strongly that I needed to do everything I could, primarily because you know, nine hundred jobs were at risk. And although shareholder value is important, that was lost at a certain point. But what you cannot lose is the business and the opportunity, and the franchise of the bank, and the people.

 

Why was important for Central Pacific to take over City Bank?

 

I believe the two banks were of similar size, of similar backgrounds, and being in the kind of Asian, Japanese cultural support, and felt that together they would be better and stronger than if they were separate.

 

You didn’t major in business.

 

No; I did not major in business.

 

Didn’t have experience in business.

 

None.

 

So, you emerge as somebody who’s helped to really transform, for example, the banking industry, in the sense of there’s a new bank entity.

 

M-hm.

 

How did that happen? How did you get your business acumen?

 

Obviously, reading, experience, following other businesses. Knowing what you know, and knowing what you don’t know is important, I think. I don’t try to become the financial advisor; I will let somebody explain it to me, and make sure it makes sense, and then I can dive in to the questions I may have. But I think a little bit is just grassroots experience. Been there, done that kinda thing.

 

And then, you waded into the old Bishop Estate. Where you were once a student at the school.

 

Exactly.

 

And then, you’re representing one of the trustees essentially, against the current leadership of the schools.

 

Correct.

 

And the estate.

 

And how that really uh, transpired is, my office at the time was in Alii Place, and I had the privilege of looking out on the capitol and Iolani Palace, and that beautiful view. And one day, I’m looking out of my window, and there is a march occurring by my alumni from Mauna Ala to Kawaiahao. It was the first march of the controversy. And it saddened me, because I thought it was the first time Hawaiians were marching on Hawaiians. And it didn’t seem right, and there’s got to have been a different way to go about doing this. And so, I called Oz; I knew him. His daughter and I went to Willamette together. And so, I asked him if he needed help, and how I could help. And I didn’t expect to be his lawyer, and then he said, Can I retain you?, and I said, Okay, and off we went. And I then realized that that was a situation where the establishment was, you know, pretty entrenched, and you had to do things, unfortunately, a little bit more controversial than I would have liked. But it all worked out in the end.

 

You did arrange a settlement in which your client, Mr. Stender, resigned.

 

Correct.

 

Temporarily.

 

Yes; yes.

 

And permanently, as it turned out.

 

Correct.

 

And how did that help in moving things forward in this very troubled situation?

 

From the very beginning—and Oz was—one of the reasons he’s such a wonderful man and so good about everything was, from the very beginning, when asked by the press, he very strongly felt he would step down, as long as the other four stepped down. We knew that in order to take on the reformation that needed to be done, it had to be done from the inside. He couldn’t quit and then sue them; that would have been not the best strategy. And I think it made a big difference, ‘cause then it wasn’t about him trying to keep his job, versus standing behind the reforms we were trying to put in place.

 

You think that was one of the main pivots in that whole controversy?

 

Yes; yes.

 

Leading to new trustees.

 

Trustees; correct, correct. And if he was in there saying, I’m the good guy and the rest of them are bad, and you need to, you know, keep me and not them, I think he would have had some credibility arguments. People would say, You’ve been there that long, why are you okay, and they’re not? You know, they would just ask. So, he eliminated a lot of questions that would ever have to be asked.

 

Crystal Rose later represented the new slate of Kamehameha Schools trustees in their admission policy giving preference to Native Hawaiian children. She won that case in the Federal courts. More recently, Crystal Rose handled a bitter family dispute over the estate of singer Don Ho, who passed away in 2007.

 

I was hired by the trustees of the Don Ho estate, and it was challenged by some of the beneficiaries. And for unfortunate reasons, we ended up in arbitration. We tried very hard to resolve it outside of that. My goal has always been to be a problem-solver, because you know, fundamentally, people don’t need lawyers unless they come to you because they have a problem they can’t solve. And our job is to solve it; it’s not always to go to court. In fact, sometimes that means you didn’t do your job, or you know, you couldn’t accomplish something in a different way. So, you try all kinds of other avenues before you end up in the court proceedings. Long story short, we ended up in an arbitration, and they upheld the last amendment of the trust. But it was very contentious, and lots of different issues.

 

I suppose when you have access to people in these very personal matters, you learn a lot about how people tick.

 

What I learned from Don Ho’s experience was, he loved everyone, and he told everybody the same thing. So, you know, everyone felt special in his world.

 

And then, when it comes down to the money …

 

They all thought it should be them.   If that makes sense. And he wasn’t dishonest; he just was caring about each person in a different way. So, it’s an example of seeing how everyone’s perspective is accurate, but they never saw it all.

 

When you get to know people in these very emotional circumstances, and I’m talking well beyond the Ho case. But just in general, where you’ve had direct access at a very vulnerable time of their lives, does it help inform you in terms of reading people in the future?

 

Yeah; I think so. I think so. You know, I always want to expect the best in people, and want to give everyone benefits of the doubt. I think that at the end of the day, how you handle yourself can actually—how people can respond. So, you want to make sure that you do so in a respectful way.

 

And they’d better have their documents. ‘Cause that really helps you; right?

 

Yes; yes. Having the documents helps. There’s no question about that.

 

When she is not litigating cases, Crystal Rose is advising some of Hawaii’s major companies. She serves or has served on the corporate boards of Central Pacific Bank, Hawaiian Airlines, Gentry Companies, and Hawaiian Electric Company. In addition, Crystal Rose gives her time to several nonprofit organizations.

 

There’s not one road; each one of them had their own kind of story. I served on the Hawaiian Electric Light Company board, which is the subsidiary of HEI. I just got called one day and asked if I was interested in doing it, and that’s how that one happened. The CPB situation came through doing my legal work at CPB. The merger had occurred, but hadn’t been consummated, and they wanted somebody, I believe, that knew what was going on, and had some inside background. And they asked me if I’d step into being on the board. So, that was likewise a very wonderful privilege, and I’m honored to do that ‘til today. I also serve on the board of Hawaiian Airlines, and when it came out of bankruptcy, I believe they were looking for a few local directors. And they were also in the midst of looking for a lawyer to bring on the case against Mesa, and I met with some board members and the CEO about that, and then they asked me to serve on the board. So, that one has had kind of a different role. And then lastly, I serve on the board of Gentry Homes, and Tom was my first client.

 

Do you sometimes step back and say, I was born in Hilo?

 

Yes.

 

And here I am, hobnobbing and bringing value to major corporations, major institutions, and going up against some very moneyed influential interests.

 

M-hm. I don’t think about it; I don’t think about it in that way. I obviously love my Hilo upbringing and I love my family, that many of them are still there. My husband I have a place in Waimea with some other people that we go to quite often, so my heart can be on that island quite easily. But I don’t kind of look at it as us and them; I kind of feel like everybody does their part to do what they can to make it better place for Hawaii.

 

As she was building her legal career, Crystal Rose married contractor Rick Towill, with strong ties to Lanai, where his great-grandfather was the Lanai ranch manager, George Munro. Together, Rick and Crystal raised two sons who are now grown. When her boys were little, Rose says she was able to handle motherhood and her demanding work schedule with a great deal of help from her family.

Through your major cases and your large caseload, and the many meetings and calls, and unexpected things, you had a family; you had children. How did you make it work? Or did it work?

 

It did work. And you know, many women, or different people will ask me, you know, How did you do it?, quote, unquote. And I will always say there’s not one way to find balance. I don’t think balance is ever found. You strive for it, and you do the best you can. First and foremost, I have a fabulous husband, and he’s always been there for me.

 

What’s his name?

 

His name is Rick Towill. And he’s the string to the balloon. And without him, a lot of what has happened couldn’t have happened. So, I want to first say, I think it starts with your relationship. And then, my kids were actually pretty resilient, and that’s good. I think they’re better adults now from that experience. But I also had a lot of help. My parents from the Big Island to Honolulu, and they were there to help me in all the times I needed. My dad’s name is Charley, and he called himself Charley’s Taxi, ‘cause he picked up the kids all the time, and my mother would have fed them and bathed them, and by the time I came home, you know, the heavy lifting was done, so I had the fun part.

 

Did you all live together?

 

No, no, no. They had a condo in Honolulu, and I lived on the Windward side. But they’d pick ‘em up, take them to their house, and then I’d show up and take ‘em home. Or sometimes they would take them home, ‘cause it was easier. But it’s not easy, and there were very, very trying times. I can’t say I was always in balance, ‘cause I probably wasn’t. And um, you know, during the Kamehameha controversy, my youngest son was six, and he wrote in his school journal that he only got to see his mom in the morning, because I made sure I took them to school, and then he got to watch her on TV, and then he dreamt about her every night. It was very sweet.

 

Oh, it must have broken your heart.

 

Broke my heart; broke my heart. That weekend, I said, Okay, guys, I need to take some time off.   So, it’s hard. But you know, they wouldn’t have it any other way today.

 

And they found their passion in sailing and boats.

 

Yes. And actually, it was during the Kamehameha controversy where I needed childcare during spring break, so I signed them up for sailing lessons at Hawaii or Waikiki Yacht Club. I think it’s Hawaii Yacht Club. And you know, they were nine and six, and their passion for sailing took from there, and so, we are very lucky and fortunate that they found it at an early age.

 

You didn’t have a clue that this would be something special for them?

 

No. My husband and I get seasick in the bathtub.

 

That’s amazing. So, they continued with sailing. So, one of your sons is a …

 

He’s a professional sailor now. And my younger son is a mechanical engineer, working at Navatech, working with their boat designs. So, they’ve both turned out, or luckily have followed their passions, and are doing quite well. So, we’re very, very happy.

 

In her spare time, Rose says she likes to travel, sew, and cook. In her words, you can’t be Portuguese and not like to cook. Crystal Rose’s success has given her the luxury of being picky; she says she focuses on clients who share her values or touch her heart. Mahalo to Crystal Rose of Kahaluu in Windward Oahu 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.

 

And when your parents, the Roses, named you Crystal, did they think they were getting a dainty flower?

 

No, actually, my dad will tell you that the story was, back then there was one TV station, and something that will be dear to your heart, it was KGMB. And they had a show called The Millionaire that they gave a million dollars to someone to then, watch their life thereafter. And that my mother wanted to go to the hospital, and the woman who was given the money that year was called Crystal Sands. And he said, That’s what we should name our daughter. My mother wasn’t quite thrilled, but I think my father prevailed.

 

[END]

The Forever Wisdom of Dr. Wayne Dyer

 

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

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
Chuck Norris vs Communism

 

In 1980s Romania, thousands of Western films – mostly Hollywood action movies – smashed through the Iron Curtain, opening a window into the free world. A black market VHS racketeer and a courageous female translator brought the magic of film to the people – and helped fuel a revolution.

 

This program will encore Fri., Jan. 8, 11:00 pm

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Nick Vujicic

 

Born without arms and legs, inspirational speaker Nick Vujicic has never experienced the warmth of wrapping his arms around someone and hugging them. Yet he once held the record for the number of hugs in an hour. That’s Nick Vujicic — he always feels that “you can, you will.”

 

Nick Vujicic Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When people talk with you for the first time, they’re very nervous, and they don’t know how to approach you.

 

Right.

 

How do you make it easier for them?

 

Well, you know, like, I sometimes even take advantage of that and become a little bit humorous sometimes.

 

For example?

 

Kids come up and say, What happened? And I say, Cigarettes.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And you know, then people around them start, you know, laughing. But I hug people. I was the Guinness Book of World Records holder for hugs in an hour; one thousand seven hundred and forty-one hugs in an hour. My arms fell off.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And someone beat me.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

So now, we gotta go back and beat them back. But no; I love hugging. Hugging is my way of—obviously, they try to shake hands. I say, Don’t worry, I don’t shake hands, just give me a hug.

 

Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs. Despite the many challenges this created for him growing up, he was able to overcome them all, and credits is family’s love, his faith in God, and his positive attitude for his success. Nick Vujicic, 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. Nick Vujicic is a motivational speaker as well as a best-selling author, a Christian Evangelist, and the leader of a nonprofit organization, Life Without Limbs. He’s been an inspiration to audiences around the world, encouraging people to overcome obstacles and follow their dreams. But Nick was not always confident.

 

When you were born in Australia, did your parents know that you’d be born without limbs?

 

No; at the time, they even had ultrasounds, and no one bothered to check, to double check that I had my ten fingers and ten toes. And it was a shock; it was a tragedy. When I was laid by my mother’s side, she said, Take him away, I can’t look at him right now. Full of emotion and questions; Why, why did this happen, couldn’t we see this at least coming?

 

Later, you would face all those questions. Why did this happen? But, what was their thought process in dealing with it?

 

It was obviously difficult. And I knew that it would be someday that I would be able to hear it straight from them. And I felt like I had to be a teenager before I really went down that way.   For you to hear from your own mother, I couldn’t hold you, I couldn’t breast feed you, I couldn’t have peace about your existence and your purpose for at least four months, that was hard to hear. And so, they took one day at a time, but my dad and mom were people of faith, believing that God does not make mistakes even though it’s hard to see how He is perfect when imperfect things happen. But one day at a time, loving each other, and planting seeds of hope and encouragement; that’s the only way that I got through my childhood. Going to school, getting bullied, they always were affectionate. They were very busy parents, but at the same time, they always made time to make sure that their son knew that he was beautiful, and that he’s not a mistake, and to do this best.

 

When you were a little kid, you wore prosthetic arms.

 

Yes; at six years old, we had state of the art technology, 1989, actually made in Toronto, Canada. And they were very costly. Some people in Australia wanted to give me an opportunity, so they paid for it, and we were just so thankful for that. And they were quite big. I was only a little guy; I was about twenty-five pounds at the time.

 

And they came with shoulders and arms.

 

Shoulders and whole harness thing, and the hand rotating, and the arms going up and down. But each arm weighed about six pounds, so it was quite heavy. And it stopped me from being so mobile. And then, I had to sort of relearn how to write. So, trying to write with my robotic arms means I had to move my whole body. That didn’t work. I felt a bit like Robocop. And in me trying to accept myself, I had to accept myself the way that I was. So, there were some psychology as well in that. But overall, it wasn’t a benefit for me.

 

Would you tell us about your early years?

 

Yeah, basically, I first up front say that I believe it’s worse being in a broken home than having no arms and no legs. You can have arms and legs, but if your heart’s broken, it’s broken. If you’re paralyzed by fear, you’re disabled. And so, it was difficult for me to believe in a greater hope. A man without vision dies. I didn’t see a good vision for my life, and I started dying on the inside.

 

Even though you had loving parents and a stable home?

 

Even though I had a loving stable home. Imagine; I know what would have happened if I didn’t have that. ‘Cause I actually was on the brink of giving up and trying to actually commit suicide.

 

When was that?

 

Age ten.

 

Age ten. What were you contemplating doing?

 

Drowning myself in my bathtub. I actually tried. I first thought of giving up at age eight. And I was thinking, Well, maybe I can just jump off the countertop of the kitchen counter as I watched my mom cook. That was our sort of bonding session. And I thought to myself, I’m done. You know, all the bullying at school, all the teasing. My mom and dad don’t know if I’m ever gonna get married. I don’t know if I’m gonna be ever independent. If I don’t have a purpose, what’s the point? If my pain’s not gonna change, I want out. So, at age ten, as I tried to drown myself, I thought of one image. And the image was my mother and my father crying at my grave, wishing they could have done something more. So, I decided to stay, just because of that. They didn’t deserve that pain. So, I stayed.

 

I think you were one of the first crop of young people to be mainstreamed through schools, and there, you encountered bullying. What was the worst thing that happened to you in school?

 

You know, there is no pinnacle of my negative experience of bullying. And bullying is experienced by everyone, not just people in wheelchairs. So, the problem for me was the taunts, the stares, the laughs were not just in school, but in every public setting. You couldn’t get away from it. You can’t ignore it. But there is no one worst thing. But people, you know, called me names, they made different jokes, and some I tried to ignore, some I confronted. There was one guy, I did head butt him.

 

It was an actual arranged fight outside the buildings of school?

 

So, it was about this kid coming up to me and saying, I bet you can’t fight. And you know me, now, you know, trying to be confident, I said, I bet you I can. He said, Well, how can you prove it? And I said, Well, I’ll meet you on the field at lunch. There were about twenty of us there, and I never resort to violence since then. Fighting back is not the answer. If you need to self-defend yourself, if someone is really choking you and, you know, maybe you had some self-defense classes, but we’re not here to attack. We’re here to prove how strong we are. And I was tempted, and I took that fall. But I really didn’t think he was gonna do it. I thought, How low can this guy be?

 

Exactly. Calling out a guy in a wheelchair. So, how did it work out? He did actually call you out of your wheelchair; right?

 

Right. You know, he said, You gotta get out of your wheelchair. And I’m like, Okay, so I can’t run him over. [CHUCKLE] So, I go to I go to the field, and I said, Go on your knees. But he still had his hands. And you know, I wrestled with my brother and my sister, and I got a mean chin. I can, boom, get into their wrist, right to their bone, and you know, felt like I got that move. But I didn’t think this guy was gonna—

 

But he had arms to …

 

He was pretty tall, so therefore, long arms. Pushed me down once. And I’m like, Man, is this guy for real? Went up to him a second time, like walking up, and pushed me down again. And all the girls are like, Oh, leave him alone. And the last thing I ever wanted was that. So, I got up and I charged, and I went straight into his nose. He flew back, blood came out.

 

So you hurled yourself at him.

 

Hurled myself at him. Used my wheelchair to get back up, and I jumped maybe three steps, four steps, but very fast. I used to be a lot faster when I was younger. And I said, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. And he just walked, and everybody was like, Wow, you know. So, imagine, first of all, my fear. I’m a PK, pacifist kid. I had to confess my sins to my parents. [CHUCKLE] I’m like, Mom and Dad, I’m so sorry, I have to tell you.

 

I beat up a guy at school today.

 

I head butted a guy at school, and blood came out of his nose. I’m so sorry. They didn’t believe me. And they didn’t smack me, they didn’t discipline me. They used to discipline me that way with a belt. And I was ready for it. My parents did not spare the rod [CHUCKLE], and it was a way that they wanted to discipline us. That’s how they grew up.

 

You got treated the same as your brother and sister?

 

Treated the same. I actually was probably the biggest bully out of all three of us. I’d dub my brother for things that I did actually, and so I was pretty bad. I was sort of getting bossy sometimes. So, that was the childhood Nick Vujicic, not realizing that my brother is just loving me and he’s helped me as much as he can just because he can, and not because he’s supposed to. And so, there were some dynamics there, but my parents, you know, they gave us good discipline. You know, if they felt that that was something to get us back on the straight and narrow, they did that. But I was very thankful that I did not get a smack. What do you mean you head butted a kid? And so, I didn’t realize at the time that that they just thought I was wanting attention by them. So, I’m thankful that didn’t happen. But I would never hit anyone, ever again. I promised myself. ‘Cause the guilt that I had. And I realized that, you know, people gossiping about me or laughing at me, I realized it’s either ignorance or hurting people or hurting others ignorantly. And even the people who were bullying me that one day where I had twelve bullies pick on me. And they didn’t know that I was being picked on that much, and I felt like I should give up. And one thing that helped me to get through it, and even forgive them, was believing that someone out there actually did love me, outside of my family. And there was one girl who had no idea I was teased twelve times that day. I counted them all on my fingers. And she saw me across the playground on my way out of school, and she said, Hey, Nick! And I’m like, Great, here it is. She came up, she looked me right in the eye; she said, Nick, I just want you to know that you’re looking good today. And I’m like, Oh? So, that’s why I became a speaker.

 

Even though he decided that he wanted to become a speaker, Nick Vujicic had no idea what he would talk about, or even where he would speak. He first had to survive the rest of his childhood.

 

Did you go through all of the angst of the questions that many people in difficult circumstances ask themselves? Why me? How could God do this to me? Why are people so cruel? How can I possibly survive? How can I provide for myself? How can I provide for a family? Can I have a family?

 

Right.

 

How did you go through all of that?

 

It was a journey. At thirteen years old, I actually hurt my foot playing soccer. So, I have a foot that’s about six inches long with two toes that allows me to type and walk, and drive my wheelchair around, and swim.

 

And balance?

 

And balance. I was in bed for three weeks, sprained my foot. Three weeks being in bed for a thirteen-year-old is like three years. I felt disabled for the first time. I need my foot for everything, and I realized I need to be thankful for what I had, instead of being angry about what I don’t have. So, I started counting my blessings. I said, God, more than arms and legs, I need purpose, I need peace, I want Heaven. Come into my heart, forgive me my sin; and Lord, if you don’t give me arms and legs, I have a pair of shoes in my closet just in case He does. Use me. If I don’t get that miracle, use me so that others would know that greater than a physical healing, you need a spiritual healing. You need your soul restored. He doesn’t need to change my physical aspect; He needs to change my heart, my mind, and really give me what I’m looking for, happiness through peace.

 

So, you learned to have a positive attitude, but it took more than that, didn’t it, to give you peace?

 

It did. It took time. It wasn’t overnight. I have a positive attitude not because that’s my coping mechanism, but I found real hope, real happiness. Not in temporary things of what people think of you or what job you’re gonna get, or what money you’re gonna have, and if or if you’re not in a relationship. You need to be, first of all, taking responsibility of your own happiness and your own peace within you. And as you see that reflection in the mirror, one day at a time, which is—it’s hard for someone to feel like they’re ugly and then look themself in the mirror and say, I’m beautiful. But what I did, when I looked myself in the mirror, I said, Okay, Nick, you have no arms, no legs, but your eyes are beautiful; hold onto something. Nick, you can’t do sports, but you’re good at mathematics. Give yourself a chance. I had a plan to become an accountant and financial planner, and curve balls are thrown at us every day.

 

What was your curve ball?

 

A greater opportunity. That at the time, my parents thought I was crazy. They never thought I would be a speaker. They said, What are you gonna speak about? I said, I don’t know. Are they gonna pay you? I don’t know. Do you have any invitations? No. How are you gonna get them? I don’t know. How are you gonna get there? I don’t know. But when you find the truth that every day is an opportunity, you take one day at a time. Not just about what we can get and what we can have, but even the curve balls that come negatively at you. Remember the last obstacle you went through, how hard it was, how big it looked, how fearful you were. You still got through it. Maybe you don’t even know how you got through it, but you’re still here. If you’re still here, there’s an opportunity to grow. And if you’re living tomorrow, you can do better than today. Whatever your goal is, find your real purpose, eternal purpose, and make sure that love is the thing that covers it all. One of my first big speeches, I was in front of three hundred teenagers, sophomore students for seven minutes, I had no idea what to do, my palms were sweaty. And within three minutes—did you get that? Palms sweaty. Yeah.

 

[CHUCKLE] Yes.

 

And within three minutes, half the girls were crying, and one girl in the middle of the room started weeping. She put up her hand, she said, I’m so sorry to interrupt; can I come up there and give you a hug? She came and she hugged me, she cried on my shoulder, and she said, Thank you, thank you, thank you; no one’s ever told me that they loved me, no one’s ever told me that I’m beautiful the way that I am. That’s when I knew that hope was real as a way to uplift others, that even though I never got some miracles that I could still be a miracle for one other soul.

 

Nick Vujicic was nineteen when he gave the speech. Since then, he has traveled the world, meeting everyone from world leaders to the impoverished, sharing his story of hope with millions of people.

 

Teenagers see me up on stage. So, you know, eighteen schools in Hawaii over the two weeks that we had, you know, every time I get up there, they’re like, Oh, is he gonna make me feel sorry for him, is it a depressing thing? And as I get up there and just break the ice, they’re like, Wow, you know, this guy’s pretty cool.

 

Yeah; lots of things on your mind as a public speaker as you approach a group.

 

Yes; definitely. Definitely. And I have still a lot to learn, but one thing you want everyone to be is at ease with whatever message, you know, you have. And the greatest message of all that you could ever, ever communicate is hope. So, that’s what we try and impart.

 

Do you adlib, or do you have a prepared text?

 

I don’t have a prepared text. After speaking two thousand six hundred times, meeting twelve presidents, and speaking at seven Congresses in total, you sort of have just this faith that, you know, I’m getting up there, and I know my story, I know the principles and values of my faith, and get up there and talk about Jesus in some settings. And in places where I cannot talk about my faith, we talk about never giving up, and dreaming big, and knowing that everyone’s beautiful.

 

What are those places where you can’t speak of your faith?

 

There’s times in different regions of the world, for instance China. China is an open country for me to go there. And the cool thing about it is, if someone asks me about my faith, then I can definitely share about my faith. And so, in every speech that we’ve had with forty thousand students in university campuses, there was a time about five, six years ago where a lot of kids were giving up, jumping off buildings. And they asked me to go and speak at the university. It was just a pressure to perform, and the global economic crisis started getting everyone worried. Well, is there a job for me at the end of this? And suicide rates dropped immediately, eighty percent. And so, they put me on TV to forty million households. To the Arab world, we had a press conference in Egypt, 2008, with the governor of Alexandria and two hundred million Arabs were watching. And someone mentioned about their faith, and they sort of asked me to talk about mine. And so, we come in love, no matter what. And that’s the greatest thing we want. You know, I work with Buddhists, I work with Muslims, I work with all people who want to make a difference in the world. So, I don’t just work with Christians.

 

You hear many other people’s really sad stories of affliction, of injury, of abuse, as you mentioned. And they’re looking to you for answers. But sometimes, people can’t hear your answer.

 

It’s true. So many of us are deafened by the fear screaming at us, the echoes of everyone’s taunts in our bed at night. I want them to know that they’re, first of all, beautiful and they’re here for a reason, and they’re not a mistake. Just because you failed something a hundred times, or a hundred thousand times, you’re not a failure. You gotta stand strong and finish strong. It’s not about what happens to you; it’s what you do with it.

 

You talk about do not fear, fight your fears. And one of the most common fears in the world is the fear of public speaking, which you have managed to do fearlessly.

 

[CHUCKLE] Well, you know, first of all, the greatest fear is public speaking; the second one is fear of death. So, some people would rather die before they speak; right? So, that’s pretty funny. But I love speaking, and I’m not afraid of death, but I don’t overcome all my fears. You can’t ignore fear. F-E-A-R; false evidence appearing real. That’s the irrational fear, the stupid thoughts that come into you, that never come true. Don’t let that take over. Hold onto the rational fear, the things that you have to think through, the things you have to get through, but don’t let fear disable you.

 

But when you go up there, if you sense the crowd may not be with you from the start, how do you get them on your side?

 

Well, first, don’t use your fingers to fix your hair, ‘cause that never works.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Now, look; for me, after speaking so many times, it was sort of after the five-hundredth speaking engagement that I had that you started to really learn to really even critique yourself while you’re up there and read the crowd. I’ve now done two thousand six hundred speaking engagements in crowds as large as a hundred and ten thousand. And so, talk about, you know, knees shaking. So, I go up there sometimes still a little nervous sometimes, but I see that more as adrenalin. And I have people pray for me. But basically, be real. Your crowd knows exactly when you’re not real. And if you’re authentic and you have something good to say, and you have something that’s applicable, simple, relevant, and it changes something, great, go for it, in a good way. So, hold onto those simple ways in how to live life. Because the most simple things that we can communicate are the most effective.

 

My guess is that you’re good at reading people, because you’ve had a chance to observe them from your wheelchair, when you were a kid. And now, you’ve been exposed to lots of different types of people. Is that so? Can you read people well?

 

I think I can. Is that you kicking me under the table?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

No, look; I’m thankful that I can look people in the eyes, and I’m just a channel. I’m not any greater human being than anyone on the planet. I’m not; we’re all equal. And so, you know, I just want to try communicate love, and in that compassion that I have for everyone, ‘cause I needed that love once myself. And knowing that I could be the hands and feet of love and hope, I always try to see if there’s anything that I could say that might bring a smile to their face, or a comforting hug, or an encouraging word. And that’s life. That’s the cool part of life. You can be a light in a darkened place.

 

There was a time in your life when throngs of people were just loving your talks, and wanting to be with you and talk with you, but you still felt alone ‘cause you didn’t have a special relationship. How did that feel? What was that like?

 

If you’re not happy single, you’re not gonna be happy married. I did not need a wife. Did I still wanted to be married? Absolutely. And God knew the desire of my heart, but I had to come to a point in my relationship with Jesus to say, God, if You want me single for the rest of my life, I will still serve You, and I will still worship You. But if You do have that person out there for me, help me to know who that is.

 

Tell us about your romance.

 

We met at a small speaking engagement. Basically, as soon as my wife and I, we laid eyes on each other, it was like fireworks everywhere. And I felt and I saw that she saw them too.

 

Your wife looks like a local girl.

 

She does.

 

Because she’s what we call a hapa Haole, I guess. Well, she’s Mexican, Japanese.

 

Yes; Japxican.

 

[CHUCKLE] And you have a son. You don’t discipline your own child in the way your parents disciplined you?

 

My kid’s not disciplined yet; he’s only one. [CHUCKLE] No, I don’t think we would use a belt. But every now and then, I mean, it’s gonna have to be my wife, ‘cause I can’t do anything. But we’re gonna have to take it as it comes. No formula; that’s what we’re trying to do. We want the most with love and words.

 

I like what you did in one of your books. You talked about how to develop a positive attitude.

 

Yeah.

 

So, I’m gonna give you the negative, and then you tell me what you say is the positive way to look at it.

 

We got an exam here.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Now listen—

 

See if you remember what you wrote.

 

I wrote this three years ago on that one.

 

[CHUCKLE] Okay.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I’ll never get over this.

 

One day I will, somehow, with someone.

 

I can’t take this anymore.

 

You got through yesterday; just do better than yesterday, and you’ll get through today.

 

This is the worst I’ve ever had it.

 

There’s worse coming; but you’re stronger from yesterday’s trials. Take one day at a time; this too, shall pass.

 

I’ll never find another job.

 

Yes, you will. And even if you don’t, your value is not determined on how much money you bring to the table, and your love communicated to your sons and daughters are not how much you can prepare them for the greatest university. My son doesn’t love me for what university he can go to; my son knows that I love him because I tell him every day. And he’s too young to know that yet, but every day, I tell my wife she’s beautiful, every day I’ll tell my children they’re beautiful and I love them too. That’s how they know how much they love me, and how much I love them.

 

Nick Vujicic, who now lives in Los Angeles, travels around the world, inspiring others to believe that they too can overcome serious challenges. Mahalo to Nick Vujicic for sharing his stories of hope and faith with us. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii, and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

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

 

How do you approach life daily? I believe you have a caregiver who travels with you.

 

Yeah; we have some caregivers who travel with me. As a teenager, I learned how to become independent. I could brush my teeth, comb my hair, shower myself.

 

Okay; how do you do that?

 

So, I have an electric toothbrush, and on a suction cup there is a cup that holds my electric toothbrush. I can turn it on with my shoulder. There’s a standalone tube of toothpaste, and I push it down with my tooth, and then toothpaste comes out, and I go, r-r-r, move it around, and use my cheeks and lips to put some pressure on the brush while I move it all around. There was no training, no templates. It was really hard.

 

Oh, that’s terrific.

 

But anything, whether we shampooed my hair or turn on the taps, or you know, even personal hygiene, it was all about trial and error. And so, that’s the greatest principle of life. Sometimes, you have to learn through your own experiences. I wish I could learn from other people more. But that’s how life is.

 

[END]