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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Michael Titterton

 

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

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Feb. 12 at 4:00 pm.

 

Michael Titterton Audio

 

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Transcript

 

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

 

Michael Titterton has been in the business of storytelling most of his life. Yet, it’s only one of the many skills that he needed to transform Hawaii Public Radio from a small faltering station into a robust statewide network. Michael Titterton, distinguished 2016 Alfred Preiss Honoree, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Michael Andrew Titterton moved to Hawai‘i in 1999 to take over as president and general manager of Hawaii Public Radio. Under his leadership, HPR expanded its reach as a vital community resource, broadcasting on every island, and serving the entire state. He stepped down in June of 2016. This conversation took place six months later, after he did some traveling with his wife, artist Madeleine McKay. Travel and moving on have always been Michael Titterton’s passion. In fact, his time in Hawaii was to be just another stop in his roaming life journey. But after ending seventeen years at Hawaii Public Radio, he’s still living happily in Honolulu. Michael Titterton started out life in postwar London. He’s restrained in that very English way, in the way he describes tough times.

 

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

 

Did you feel unsafe?

 

No, not at all. Not at all.

 

So, it was kind of a homogenous diverse neighborhood?

 

Not that diverse; it was mostly Irish.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Oh … and you loved books?

 

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

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Because you love autos, too; right?

 

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

 

So, you did build a business.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What were some of your odd jobs?

 

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

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

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

 

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

 

Oh, yeah; yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Were you all on your own?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That’s a great formative—

 

It was the best time of my life.

 

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

 

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

 

Because everything was new?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What is it?

 

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

 

Yes, yes.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You could have ended up locked up and wasted away.

 

I could have. Yeah.

 

Wow.

 

Instead of in management.

 

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

 

So, love brought you to America.

 

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

 

But you could fix it.

 

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

 

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

 

Rhetoric; yes.

 

Why did you choose that?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Oh, yes; most of the time, actually.

 

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

 

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

 

And radio has that intimate quality.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Oh, sure. Oh, yeah.

 

Okay.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Let’s go statewide.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

[END]

 


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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Victoria Kneubuhl

 

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

 

Victoria Kneubuhl Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

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

 

Bringing together the past and the present is a trademark of Victoria Kneubuhl’s work. Respected Honolulu playwright Victoria Kneubuhl, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Could they speak English?

 

Yes.

 

Raised bilingually.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Oh, yeah.

 

And going through different times.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And rural, in Manoa.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And you stayed with your grandmother?

 

Yes; in Manoa.

 

And did you graduate from Punahou?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I remember that. Long lines in Klum Gym.

 

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

 

This was college, it got produced?

 

Yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

Which war?

 

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

 

Was that you? Was that girl you?

 

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

 

You can write; you’re like a dream.

 

What was your second play about? Still in college?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Because it comes from deep inside you.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You put the Haleiwa Hotel in your in your novel.

 

Yeah.

 

Which really existed.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[END]

 

FRONTLINE
Children of Syria

 

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

 

POV
Don’t Tell Anyone

 

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

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Michael Broderick

 

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

 

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

 

Michael Broderick Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

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

 

Michael Broderick has altered his career path several times over the years, but he’s always been guided by his strong sense of family and community. YMCA of Honolulu President and CEO, Michael Broderick, next on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In 2010, Hawaii Family Court Judge Michael Broderick stepped down from the bench at a time when he appeared to be at the height of his career. His concerns about Hawaii’s youth and the community led him to a new calling as President and CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu. Broderick has spent a large portion of his career looking out for people and families. His own life started with a devastating loss.

 

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

 

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

 

Four months!

 

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

 

Oh, multigenerational family.

 

Multigenerational.

 

Extended family.

 

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

 

So, everything was big family table of meals.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Yes.

 

Can you talk a little bit about what you lost?

 

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

 

Is it a feeling of insecurity?

 

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

 

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

 

Mm.

 

And they tend more to suicide.

 

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

 

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

 

So, you’re growing up in Philadelphia.

 

Right.

 

And, what were your aspirations?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You didn’t have to run for office.

 

I didn’t run for office.

 

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

 

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

 

What did you do for him?

 

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

 

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

 

It doesn’t.

 

— you to put family first all the time.

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

 

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

 

Absolutely.

 

— things.

 

That, I love.

 

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

 

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

 

Because you and Maile had met at Stanford University.

 

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

 

What would they have said in Los Angeles?

 

Nothing.

 

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

 

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

 

Which you knew she wanted to do; right?

 

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

 

Because you love those values.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But you didn’t stay long?

 

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

 

What kind of law were you doing with them?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[GASP]

 

He said, I counted; twenty – three times.

 

You just reached down —

 

I reached down —

 

— and you were tugging.

 

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

 

Wow.

 

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

 

So, you get the job.

 

I got the job.

 

Was that a good fit?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Whoa.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

POV
Cutie and the Boxer

 

An Oscar-nominated reflection on love, sacrifice and the creative spirit, this candid New York tale explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara and artist Noriko Shinohara.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Victoria Cuba

 

Victoria Cuba, a recent graduate of Waipahu High School, is quick to smile, loves music and wants to become a storyteller. And her bedroom is the back of a truck ― she and her family are homeless.  Despite being at an age when revealing that you and your family are living out of your car could be embarrassing, Victoria is willing to share her story, to, in her words, “make a difference.”

 

 

Transcript

 

So, my family and I are currently in the situation where we are considered homeless. We do not have a home.

 

Cuba and her family have been considered homeless since May of 2013. For a while, they were staying at a beach in Ewa in their car.

 

It was a little cramped, of course, and couldn’t stand it because of my brother’s snoring. But we made do with what we had.

 

I thought, you know, this is my last year in high school; I want to make some kind of difference, some kind of impact. And also, I shouldn’t be ashamed of my story, ‘cause I shared it with my friends, and their reaction was so opposite from what I thought. They were more positive. They told me, Why didn’t you tell us? We wanted to help you. And, you know, the people I’m surrounded with and the people I care about, they encouraged me to share my story. So, that’s really what pushed me.

 

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Cuba had no idea how her decision to speak openly about being homeless on PBS Hawaii’s Hiki No student news, later picked up on Hawaii News Now, would turn out. With her family’s blessing, and the support of her friends, the high school senior took a chance. Victoria Cuba, next on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Victoria Cuba and her family first became homeless on Oahu when Victoria was in elementary school. They got through it with help from friends, and above all, their positive attitude. But the problems did not end. Instead, new difficulties arose as time went on.

 

What happened so that you ended up homeless in elementary school?

 

I lived with my mom and my brother, and we lived in regular houses, you know, always renting. Finally, we stayed in an apartment called the Weed and Seed. It’s a government-funded building.

 

M-hm.

 

So, we stayed there, and it was about ten years, so, it was really nice. But being that she was the only one working and taking care of me and my brother, it was hard for her to keep up with the rent. So, because we didn’t pay it on time, we got evicted. And when we became homeless, she always told us, You know, don’t worry, we’ll get out of this. You know, at least we have each other. And that was the one thing I always remembered. And she worked us out of that situation.

 

First, when you’re approaching eviction and you know you’re gonna be turned into the street, how do you decide where to go?

 

The first time, and this time that we’re homeless, we actually had family friends that helped us. You know, You can stay here. The first time we were homeless, we stayed in a Matson container. They’re really long shipping containers, and that was our home. I remember, like, my mom would tell me that, Oh, we should put a second one on top, and make a two-story house.

 

[CHUCKLE] Was that on somebody’s private property?

 

Yeah. It was at the junkyard in Pearl City. So, we stayed there for … let’s see … over half a year. And then, we had to move, because the river near the junkyard flooded, and we lost everything. And it wasn’t a good place to stay, because mildew and, you know, health-wise, it wasn’t well. So, we ended up staying with an auntie at our old building.

 

In her house?

 

M-hm. And we stayed with her. And eventually, my mom got enough money to find our own place. So, we stayed in Aniani, which is like right across the street from where we were living. And we stayed there for four years.

 

It was nice to have a house, a roof over your head.

 

Yes; yes. When we moved into Aniani, it made me appreciate that we had a house, ‘cause of what we’d been through. And in school, I used to get really touchy about people talking about, Oh, look at that hobo on the streets. Like, you don’t know their story; you can’t say stuff like that. You can’t say something until you’ve been in their shoes. So, you know, just to be more grateful, more appreciative of what you have.

 

That ended, though. What happened, then?

 

This time around, my mom’s health started declining. She kinda stopped going to work, ‘cause she would always go to the hospital or to the doctor’s, and she got terminated. She got laid off at her job. So, we found ourselves without income. We found ourselves getting eviction notices from the landlord constantly coming. If she came, we tried to keep as quiet as possible, ‘cause we didn’t want her coming. And we got kicked out.

 

So, what’s it like? You’re packing your stuff, and you’re heading to the sidewalk again.

 

Well, the first time, it wasn’t too bad, ‘cause I always thought, you know, my family’s here. The place we actually stayed at, I had a lot of fun. I could climb trees, and you know, we built a swing out of fire hose, so that was nice. But the second time around, I was mad at my mom. I said, How could you? In my mind, it was, How could you let your children go through this again? And I know it’s not her fault. But, you know, I was going through my rebellious stage of being a teenager, probably still am. But … I was just disappointed. Like, why do we have to go through this again a second time? We’ve already been through it.

 

There’s a lot of pressure on your mother. How does she keep this confidence and positive attitude going? Or does she?

 

The first time, I remember she did. She always reminded us constantly; you know, be grateful, be grateful. This time around, I guess it’s ‘cause of her health or stress, but I kind of felt like she gave up this time. You know, she’s currently unemployed. I asked, Are you gonna get a job? But then again, her health is, you know, wearing on her. And then, I don’t know; it’s just … I remember talking to her one night. It was when I was still mad at her. I said, You know, how come you’re not doing anything? It’s like you gave up on yourself. And then says, Yeah, I did. And I remember crying, and I said, you know, How can you give up on yourself? You still have me and Nicholas to take care of. If you give up on yourself, you’re giving up on us. So, I remember she was just quiet, and … you know, I just want to help her. She’s helped us already, and … like, I just want to pay her back.

 

How’s your brother doing? And how old is he?

 

He is fifteen. He’s still in high school. He’s in JROTC, and that really helped him. Like, he knows what he wants to go; he wants to go into the military, he wants to help my mom and our family. And by going into the military, he can do that. And he has some kinda purpose. I remember when he was in intermediate, he wasn’t doing too well grade-wise, but because he has JROTC, he has a more positive outlook, and it keeps him steady and focused.

 

How did the family plan the next step?

 

Again, a family friend helped us out. They said that we could stay in front of their house. The neighbors were really kind enough to let us stay in their stalls, so where we’re parked at.

 

Is it a van that you parked?

 

M-hm. There’s a van that we have. All of our stuff is in there, my mom’s car. And the neighbor who’s right next to where we live, he has a truck that’s like, parked right next to the van. And he said, You know, it looks a little cramped in where you guys staying, why don’t you use the truck as well. So, we threw a tarp over it, and then laid down carpet on the bed of the truck, and that became my room.

 

And what’s it like to have a bedroom in the back of a truck?

 

Um, pretty interesting. It’s messy because I made it messy. But … it’s neat to think that … you can have some kind of hideout.

 

Privacy.

 

Yeah. So, for me, I like to think about the positive. So, when I was living in the junkyard, it was like, we will have all these adventures I can go on. And this time it’s like, I have my own room, and … think about how many people who can have a outside room in a truck. So, that was my thinking.

 

The homelessness of teenager Victoria Cuba presented her with challenges that made her grow up faster than most of her friends. She worked hard to create and maintain normalcy. Still, while she was able to fit in at school, her life was very different from that of her classmates when she wasn’t at school.

 

Everyday simple things are so much harder when you don’t have a place to live with running water, and privacy. So, what is the routine? You know, when you wake up, where do you brush your teeth, and how do you get clean? What’s the routine? And you don’t have a refrigerator.

 

No.

 

Of any kind. Do you have an ice chest?

 

We do, and we buy ice when we can. So, daily-wise, the school was kind enough to let us shower at the gym. So, we could shower there. But the thing is, we have to wake up really early.

 

And the janitor lets you in early?

 

M-hm.

 

Is that what happens?

 

So, we wrote to the office and the principal or the vice principal would come and take us, and they’d let us in. There’s like two separate showers, so that’s nice. Actually, the neighbor also lent us a sink, like an outside sink, so we hooked it up to a hose, and we use that to wash up, you know, stay clean. We use a hose to shower, but it gets really cold, so we have to shower during the day. But it’s nice now, because it’s really hot. Food-wise, I’m so glad we have food stamps, ‘cause you know, we can buy food on a daily basis. We don’t have to worry about that. And the first time we were homeless, we always had to worry about food. We would only have food either for that day, or would last it for the week. So, it was kinda hard.

 

Because you didn’t have food stamps then?

 

Yeah; we didn’t have. So, we were relying on my mom’s income. So then again, it made it hard for us to find a place. But this time, we have food stamps, and it’s just a lot easier now.

 

Yeah; and I know you’re limited in what you can buy.

 

M-hm.

 

But you can eat healthy foods, enough healthy food from the food stamps?

 

I guess, if we prepare it. [CHUCKLE] Like, as long as we cook it, and as long as it keeps out of the sun. But me and my brother …

 

How do you cook it? Where do you cook it?

 

We have a propane stove. So, another thing we have to buy is propane, which is … I guess you would say it’s inexpensive, but it’s kind of expensive if you have to buy it every week. But for me, I’m kinda easy to feed. Like, I can live off of saimin and Vienna sausage. Yeah. Vienna sausage is my favorite food, and I actually got leis for graduation made of Vienna sausage.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

So, that was nice. [CHUCKLE]

 

What about school lunch?

 

We have free school lunch. And actually, I worked in the cafeteria during my junior and senior year, so you know, I’d go for breakfast and for lunch. And then, I remember one of the workers gave us food sometimes if we couldn’t afford to cook. We got paid nine dollars an hour, but then again, we only worked a couple hours a week. I mean, but it paid; it did pay.

 

When you’ve told people, what’s the reaction?

 

The first people I told was my friends. And they didn’t know. They said, you know, You didn’t look like it. That’s because every day, when I came to school, my mentality changed. I’m not focusing at home; it’s I’m focusing on school and what’s going on. And it’s good to have friends that accept you, because even after I told them, nothing changed. ‘Cause I’m still the same person, just with different circumstances. So, you know, they said, You’re always smiling, you know, always laughing, always focused. And then, I said, Yeah, ‘cause that’s what you come to school for, not to bring your problems there. I’m not sure if a lot of schools do this, but Waipahu High School has so many resources, and they really did help me and my family. And I’m sure they’re helping so much more students, ‘cause there is other students that are in the same situation.

 

Is it hard to not know what’s gonna come next? You know, you don’t know where your family will be living, you don’t know if your mom will have a job.

 

It’s not hard. I just want to share this. I remember going to this program, and we had this debate: Is life hard? And we finally figured out it’s not hard, ‘cause life isn’t hard. Hard is, you know, physically hard. It’s not hard; it’s difficult. And life is only difficult if you make it. So, it’s not difficult for me and my family. I mean, I do wonder if we are gonna get a house or not, or if we’ll get some kind of shelter. But it’s better to think on a day-to-day basis instead of thinking about, I need to do this, I need to that. You just worry yourself, and you know, you probably make your life a lot shorter by worrying about stuff like that.

 

Yeah; take it day-by-day.

 

M-hm.

 

You just said that you changed when you got to school. You were confident and focused. So, what does that mean home is like? You dropped the go-for-it attitude?

 

It’s not necessarily that I changed attitudes. It’s more like I focused on what was in front of me. So, I mean, I still had that kinda attitude, you know, like one day we’ll get out of this. That was more my thinking and mentality when I’m at home. You know, we’ll get out of it. We got out of it once, we can get out of it again.

 

Waipahu High School has so many different kinds of students. And you can kind of see people from the vantage point of somebody who’s kind of an outlier. You know, you don’t have a lot of the things that some of the other students take for granted. Do you find yourself reflecting on that?

 

I do; every day. And I sometimes remind my classmates. Like, when I did the interview for Hiki No, my friends were there. And in the interview, I said, You know, some students worry about … Oh, my phone is dying, or my clothes don’t match, and stuff like that. But there are other worries you have to worry about. And whenever I see that, you know, I hope I kindly tell them; I tell them that, you know, there’s things in life that you have to worry about more than just these small things.

 

At seventeen, Victoria Cuba has had more challenging life experiences than most people her age, and probably even people twice her age. Being the positive person that she is, she’s taking it all in and wants to do something useful with the knowledge she’s gained.

 

You want to be a storyteller, and you’re already noticing stories all around you. And you’ve told your own. So, that gives you a sense of what it’s like when you go public with something that has previously been on the QT. As a result of telling your story on the Hiki No program, and then also Hawaii News Now with Jim Mendoza picked up the story, you did get a lot of public reaction. What was that like? And what was it? What did people say to you? Strangers, I mean.

 

First of all, I checked on Facebook, you know, multimedia, and there was a lot of positive feedback, so I was really surprised. I was like, wow, you know, people think that? I thought it would have been more negative, like, Oh, send her back to wherever she came from, or something like that. The night I watched it, the next day, I was worrying, like, What is everybody else gonna think? What is gonna happen tomorrow? So, I went to school, and you know, everybody was like, Hey, you know, congratulations on our story, and you know, you’re really inspiring. A lot of teachers, a lot of students did that. And then, there were some students who, like, you know, just stared. And I got that feeling, like, Ooh, please don’t stare at me. What was running through my mind all day was that, just because of this story doesn’t mean I changed. I’m still the same person. So, you know, don’t look at me differently. [CHUCKLE] There were some strangers; like I’d be going to media events, winding up the wires, and they’d be like, Are you the girl on TV? And I’m like, Yeah. And then, they would say, you know, Can I give you a hug? ‘Cause, you know, you’re very inspirational. Even though they say I’m inspirational, just hearing that they heard my story and, you know, they want to make a difference because of it, that’s inspirational for me.

 

Has anyone ever given you attitude?

 

The first time, no. ‘Cause then again, nobody knew. This time, there were some people who are like, You don’t belong here, you need to get out. But then again, we’re not on their property, and the neighbors always say, You can’t tell them get out, they’re on our property, so you can butt out of it. Virally, like on Facebook, there has been some negative comments.

 

As a result of your sharing your story?

 

Yes. So, the first time, it wasn’t about my situation. It was more like the things I had. You know, I was dressed in a dress for my interview with Jim Mendoza. And they said, If she’s homeless, how come she has nice clothes? And it’s, you know, that’s stereotype that gets to them. And I wanted to say something, but my mom said, you know, it’s better not to.

 

Not to respond?

 

M-hm.

 

I mean, do they want you to be in rags?

 

I know. Right? So, I mean, just because you’re homeless doesn’t give you no excuse to not dress nicely. And the people who don’t dress nicely, it’s maybe they can’t afford to, or people aren’t helping them. So, people came to my rescue. They said, You know, just because she’s in that situation doesn’t mean this. And the people who actually gave me the clothes, they said, You know, I’m glad my clothes fit you. So, it’s like, that’s where my clothes came from. Like, just clearing the air about it. And … I don’t know; there were just some negative people. Not a lot; barely. Which I was so surprised about. But they were … you know, that ignorance that they don’t know about what it is to be homeless, or that stereotype they have in their mind.

 

Did people offer you money or a home, or your mom a job? Anything like that?

 

There’s been a lot of requests like that. I have classmates’ parents telling me that, you know, if my mom wants a job, then to contact them. People have been sending money to the school to donate, you know, for me to go to college. And my reaction to that one was that … at first, I didn’t want the money, because I felt like I hadn’t earned it. Just because I told my story doesn’t mean I earned their money. So, I told my principal that, and he said, You know, you have to look at it differently. It’s not just about you, even though it may seem right now. It’ll actually help others, and it’ll grow from that. And he said that there were other people who were willing to donate to the school itself for future students who are in the same situation. So, because of that, I felt a lot better. You know, I don’t want them to just help me; I want them to help others as well.

 

Did you go to prom?

 

Yes, I did. Actually, an anonymous donor at my school paid for my prom. ‘Cause for me, I had money, and I saved up from my checks that I got from school. And for me, it was choosing between paying for my AP test, or going to prom. And my main concern was my AP test, ‘cause it’s graded, and it’s going to college. But our student coordinator called me and she said, You know, somebody’s willing to pay for your prom; are you okay with that? And I said, Uh … you know, I do want to go to prom, but … I have to pay for my AP test too. So, I said, You know, I feel bad. But she said, You know, don’t feel bad, they want to help you. So, I accepted it, and they paid for my prom. But dress-wise, I actually went to Ross to go buy my dress. I mean, it was a more inexpensive way of going to prom.

 

Did you have fun?

 

Yes; I had a lot of fun. [CHUCKLE] Like, I didn’t want the night to end.

 

And you are going to be able to use money from a scholarship fund established by the school to go to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

 

Yes. But really, if I don’t have to use it, then I won’t use it. ‘Cause I still signed up for more scholarships outside of school, and if get word from them, then I won’t use the money. ‘Cause I really don’t feel like I’ve earned that money. I feel like I shouldn’t use it. It doesn’t feel right.

 

I think people meant it for you in the best possible way.

 

I know, but—[CHUCKLE].

 

Is it hard for you to accept a gift?

 

Kinda. I mean, I’ve been brought up by my mom, and she’s really old school fashioned. So, you know, if someone gives something to you, you have to give back. Or, you know, you shouldn’t accept too easily, because you know, there’s people who worked hard for it, and I really don’t feel like I deserve the … I guess, the gifts that people have been giving.

 

And so, you’re on your way to college.

 

M-hm; m-hm. But, you know, when I was applying for colleges, my counselor asked, Are you gonna worry about your family? And I said, Of course, ‘cause they’re my family. But she said, you know, If you want to help them, you need to focus on you and school first. And I’m a little worried about that. Like, if I’m gonna be able to focus on school if I’m worrying about my family as well. But, you know, I just have to keep thinking, the only way I’m gonna help them is if I focus on school. And, you know, I do wish I could bring my family, but it’s not possible. And my mom understands.

 

What got you so interested in storytelling?

 

When I was in this community program, one of our mentors, we called her Auntie, she got me into journal writing. I was going through a hard time with my family, and I remember I kept everything in. ‘Cause you know, when I was growing up, I always learned that your business is nobody else’s business, so you shouldn’t let it known. But one time, I just came to the program and I broke down crying, because you know, it was just everything building up. And she said, You know, you shouldn’t do that, so why don’t you put it words and write it down. So, I did that, you know, kept journals, wrote down random stuff. And I noticed that when I look back in it, like days, months later, it’s like, Wow, I’ve really been through that? It’s amazing just to see the change in yourself. I still have journals that show that. But you know, if I could see that change in myself, why can’t I do it for other people? So, that was really what got me into storytelling and hearing other people’s stories.

 

A lot of it is finding out how other people tick.

 

M-hm; m-hm. And, you know, when somebody tells you their story, they give themselves to you; a piece of themselves. So, every time a friend tells me something they’ve never told anything else, I am so grateful, and I tell them that. I tell them, you know, Thank you for sharing this with me. I know it’s hard, but you know, being that you shared it with me means you trust me.

 

You were one of the lead media team members on a Hiki No story about someone in your school, I believe, a blind person who had perfect pitch.

 

M-hm. So, his name is Rocky. Actually, his real name is Ricklong Jack; and he was in my grade. And this kid is talented, really amazing.

 

Did you like the process of figuring out what you were gonna ask people, how you were gonna shoot them?

 

What I love about Hiki No is that students are allowed the freedom to choose what they want to tell, and they have the freedom to decide how they’re gonna tell it. So, that’s what I liked about it. And, you know, it’s actually going into the production and doing things that real newscasters do. So, you know, being able to experience that kind of job ethic.

 

What makes the most compelling story for you to cover?

 

A story that nobody has told before, or something that somebody’s never said before. So, you know, those untold stories are what people want to hear.

 

At the time of our conversation in the summer of 2014, Victoria Cuba was starting classes at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, preparing to move into a dormitory and study journalism. Best wishes to teenager Victoria Cuba from Waipahu, for being such an inspiration. 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 the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

[MUSIC]

 

My name is Ricklong Jack, and I’m eighteen years old. I’m in twelfth grade at Waipahu High School.

 

Rick Longjack, aka Rocky, is like many students, with aspirations of becoming a singer and music producer.

 

[MUSIC]

 

Rocky has a bright future ahead of him. The challenges he faces, however, may dim his path. Rocky is visually impaired. These difficulties, however, do not discourage Rocky from seeing beyond his disabilities. Through his experiences, Rocky wants to share one message.

 

Don’t let your limitations stop you.

 

This is Victoria Cuba reporting from Waipahu High School, for Hiki No.

 

 

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.

 

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