youth

INDEPENDENT LENS
Ovarian Psycos

 

Based in the heart of Los Angeles’ Eastside, and building upon the legacy of the Chicano/Chicana civil rights movement, the irreverently named Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade are a ferocious and unapologetic group of young women of color, cycling through the barrios and boulevards of the Eastside, committed to collectively confronting racism and violence, and demanding and creating safe spaces for women.

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Mele Murals

 

This film is about the transformative power of art through the unlikely union of graffiti and ancient Hawaiian culture. At the center of the story are two renowned street artists – Estria Miyashiro (aka Estria) and John Hina (aka Prime) – a group of Native Hawaiian youth, and the rural community of Waimea on Hawai‘i Island. The story is a look at how public art and Native Hawaiian traditions transform the artists, students and community.

 

Ed Sullivan’s Rock and Roll Classics: The 60s

 

From the late 1940s ’til the early 1970s, millions of viewers of all ages saw great musical acts each Sunday night on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” This special presents classic song performances from 1963-1968. From the Beatles’ American television debut to the Doors’ infamous one-time-only appearance to the Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, the Mamas and the Papas and more, it focuses exclusively on full-length musical performances that evoke the spirit of that decade’s youth.

 

Il Volo:
Live from Pompeii

IL VOLO: Live from Pompeii

 

Soar with the perfect harmony of the charming trio as they pay homage to their home country. The young tenors perform classic Italian favorites and original songs in this new concert special filmed in the spectacular ancient ruins of Pompeii. Songs include “Grande Amore” and “Volare.”

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

 

This is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, and dozens of others, the film is a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that gave rise to a new revolutionary culture in America.

 

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

 

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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.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Victor Marx


 

As a young boy growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, Victor Marx was beaten, electrocuted, and tortured by his stepfather. By the time he graduated from high school, he was “using drugs, fighting and stealing.” It took the discipline of the United States Marine Corps and faith in God to help him recover from his traumatic childhood. Today, Victor Marx dedicates himself to helping troubled and abused youth and traumatized war veterans.

 

Victor Marx Audio

 

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Transcript

 

You know, most people who are victimized as a young kid will feel an X on them, ‘cause it doesn’t stop. It’s typically not an incident. And for me, the instability of fourteen schools, seventeen different homes, all the different stepfathers coming in. You know, one’s a murdered, one was in prison. I mean, just the craziness of it, you believe, that becomes normal as a kid. Again, you can’t process as right. But for me, I will say this. I never wanted to give up, because I just kept thinking, When I’m older, when I’m older, I’m gonna have a good life.

 

Victor Marx survived the upheaval and abuse he suffered during his youth, growing up to become an excellent shooter in the U.S. Marine Corps, a martial arts master, and a weapons instructor. Now, he uses his lethal skills to heal troubled youth. Victor Marx, 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. Victor Marx is known for many things, including his seventh-degree black belt in Keichu-do karate and Jiu-jitsu, fourth-degree black belt in weapons, and a record time in fastest gun disarm. A resident of California, and the founder and president of All Things Possible Ministries, the Louisiana-born Marx once operated a martial arts business in Honolulu at the Ward Warehouse. At the time of our conversation in 2015, Marx travels around the world, offering hope to young people who are suffering from abuse. Before he was able to become an inspiration to others, though, he had to first recover from the severe trauma of his own childhood. In a way, it started even before he was born, in Lafayette, Louisiana.

 

I was born in the 60s, and I had three siblings already. My mother, who was young, she had her first child at sixteen. Their marriage didn’t make it, and they were divorced when I was born. My father actually became a drug dealer and a pimp. And the night that I was conceived, he actually put a gun to her head. Didn’t claim me when she was pregnant. He actually told her, That ain’t mine. Didn’t call me a kid; he said, That ain’t mine. Because she had gotten into other relationships already. And the next man she married we call Mr. K in the book. You know, this wasn’t like some drug dealer on a street corner. This was an educated man who had served in the military, who had been in counterintelligence.

 

So, he seemed like a respectable man.

 

Correct. And at the time, he actually even owned a bookstore, a college bookstore. Hemmingway was one of his favorite reads. And you know, my mother—I think she was twenty-two at the time, four children. You know, she’s thinking, Ah, okay. But something intuitively knew he was kinda messed up.

 

He was horrifying. He would torture you.

 

Yes. Yeah. Yeah; you know, there was perversion, but there was also intentional, what the experts would say, torture. You know, being electrocuted, being dunked in a tub until I would pass out. I remember waking up on the cold bathroom floor to him breathing into my mouth. And I’m sputtering. And he just said, Boy, don’t ever forget I’m the one that gives you life. And those are what I call lies based on reality. And until you really come to exchange those out for what the truth is, a person will remain really hamstrung by what’s happened in his childhood, ‘cause that’s implanted into you, becomes part of your fabric. ‘Cause as kid, all you can process is … I wasn’t breathing, I am now, he was the one dunking me in the tub, holding me in. I guess he does give me life. Actually, I thought he was my biological dad. I wasn’t told, you know. But I want to share this publicly. He wanted to seal to what he had done to me. And the way of protecting themselves, abusers will always use fear. Fear of death, or whatnot. And he actually had brought me to a house one night out in the country, early morning. It was a little wooden house, and there was single light in it. There was another guy, and there was a hole in the floor. It was wooden floor. And then a hole had been dug. And I thought at that point, This is when I’m gonna die. And you know, fear is a different thing. When you’ve experienced terror for a while, your mind associates. There’s no fight left in you. You just yield. And for him, he was having a conversation with man. And I remember hearing the guy say, I don’t want to do this anymore. And my stepfather was a very good communicator. He made him relax. He said, Oh, I understand. When the guy relaxed, he hit him. He cracked him and knocked him unconscious. And he was a fighter. But when he drops, he handcuffs him and he drags him up to this hole, pulls him up on his knees, handcuffed. And he pulls out a pistol, his pistol. He said, Come here, boy. And then, he put the gun in my hand said, You’re gonna shoot this man. And he raised my hand. And the guy is semi-conscious, and he sees what’s going on. Because I think he thought this was what was gonna happen to me, and now it’s happening to him. And you know, I have the pistol to the back of his head, and I remember trying to pull the trigger, and I couldn’t. And I don’t know if it was the pounds per square inch. You know, I was seven. But I’m squeezing, and I can’t pull it. And I feel his hand come over and grab my wrist, and then his right hand comes around and he slips his finger over mine, and he presses until the revolver goes off. When it fired, it hit the guy in the back of his head, and it killed him. And then, you know, he pushed his body into the hole. And then he told me, Boy, you know, this is your first kill.

 

Wow.

 

And he buried him, and he took that pistol and wrapped it in a handkerchief. And he said, If you ever tell anyone what I’ve done to you, it doesn’t matter how old you get, he said, I’ll tell the police that you killed this man, and I have the pistol with your fingerprint on it. And he said, They’ll electrocute you. And I knew what electrocution was, ‘cause he’d done it a few times. And so, it sealed and instilled in me a fear where I never talked about that ‘til I was an adult.

 

What a horrible thing. And your mother didn’t know this, any of this stuff was happening?

 

She did not know.

 

Victor Marx acknowledges he can’t substantiate this account. He said he as a kid did not know the location, the body was never found, and the crime was not reported. Marx’s mother finally escaped from her marriage to Mr. K, but she continued to marry men who were abusive to her children. By the time he finished high school, Victor Marx had already been in trouble with the law. Rather than go to jail, he made a decision that took his life in an entirely new direction.

 

You didn’t join the Marines ‘cause you wanted to.

 

Well, yeah; it was … again, at that point in my life, I’d just graduated high school. Hallelujah. But I was spiraling, using drugs, fighting, and stealing. And again, for me, stealing was my way to say, This world owes me, and they’re gonna start paying me back. And every opportunity that I could take advantage, I would. But I got caught, and I was looking at being sentenced because of my stealing and getting in trouble. So, my best option at that point was to join the United States Marine Corps. And I did, and that’s what really kept me from going to jail, ‘cause they would have prosecuted me. And the Corps was a very good thing for me, ‘cause, one, it was structured, disciplined, and it showed me that life isn’t about being fair. So just, you know, suck it up, buttercup, and time to do the deal. And it worked for me tremendously. And I really like the Marine Corps. Never loved it, but I liked it. So much, I put ink on my shoulder. And you know what? They were able to teach me skillsets I didn’t have before, which gave me a level of confidence, including starting to train in the martial arts, shooting. You know, I hunted as a little kid, but when they taught me how to put ten rounds into a target of a man from five hundred and forty-six yards without a scope—

 

Wow.

 

–that gave me a skillset that, you know, felt good. And again, there was there, ‘cause you know, I’m training, martial arts, karate, jujitsu, kempo, judo, anything I could, boxing. ‘Cause I said, If I can’t beat a man this way, I’ll beat him this way, ‘cause I never want to get hurt again. So, that was kinda my driver.

 

And you did well. But you didn’t want to stay in; you left after, what, three years?

 

Yeah; I did one term of enlistment. And I had actually got in trouble while I was in, which I was facing, you know, brig time. Again, there was a pattern. ‘Cause you can only do things for so long, but your character and your baby’s gonna tell on you. And I was in trouble, was facing some stuff. And actually, this was when my biological dad came back into my life, which is really the redemptive aspect of this whole deal. You know, really, an absentee father all my life. At that point, I’m twenty. But really engaged me, apologized for not being a father. Which blew me away. He wanted to call me son in a letter, which made me mad, ‘cause I thought, You don’t have a right to call me son. But he told me had a spiritual encounter that really changed his life, and it’s not about perfection, but the direction of his life had changed. So much so that he said, Why don’t you come visit me?   And the Marine Corps actually let me go visit him, ‘cause they knew the circumstances, you know, I’d never known him. And they just said, You come back to face your court martial. I said, Okay. I said, I’ll be back. And I went, and it was interesting getting to really spend time with him in depth.

 

This was the pimp. This was the guy who held a gun to your mother’s head.

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

The guy who wouldn’t claim you.

 

Yeah; by all means, he was a loser. He was a loser as a father, and had justified his own absentee. And so here he is; his life, I can tell is different. And okay, not perfect, but different. He cared about me, and I knew he wanted to make a new start. So, I gave him an opportunity, and it was really through seeing his faith of a life change that, you know, really impacted me so much that I had a life change through faith. And you know, I told him; I said, Well, I’m going back to face court martial. What should I do? And I had developed an elaborate lie—it was a pretty good lie, to try to get me out of it. Which it wouldn’t have, but your mind thinks it will. I’ll never forget; he looked at me and he said, Son … learn from me. Just tell the truth. ‘Cause a lie, you gotta keep it going. And I was like, Okay. I went back, and I actually told them the truth. You know, I didn’t fight it; I said, I’m guilty. You know, I told them; I said, I was gonna lie. You know, I said, but here’s the truth. I did this, this, and I deserve my punishment. And they were actually so taken back, because my nickname, my handle on the Marine Corps was Thumper.

 

‘Cause you were a hothead?

 

I was a hothead. I tell people it was because I like the little Bambi bunny.

 

 

 

You know, in the movie, the little bunny, Thumper. But it’s because I liked to thump people back then. And so, they were all shocked, and I’ll never forget the commanding officer who presided over it, he said, Well, this is a shock. And he goes, You are gonna pay the price for the crime, you’re breaking the code of military justice. He said, But I’m gonna suspend the sentence; you won’t have to do brig time, but I’m keeping you to your barracks. Which was unbelievable. And it really was the first time in my life, first time, that I thought, Telling the truth is a better way to go.

 

And was your dad for real? Had he really had a conversion?

 

He did.

 

He changed?

 

He did. Which, it stuck all the years until his passing. You know, twenty-something years. And again, I’m grateful that coming to faith or you know, finding a higher power, it’s not about perfection. But the direction of your life changes. And you know what? It not only worked for him, it worked for me.

 

Victor Marx’s acceptance of his father didn’t turn his life around immediately. He would still have to come to terms with the trauma of his childhood before he could start to put it behind him. And his newfound faith would play an important role in his healing.

 

I can see you saying, Why did God allow all that to happen to me? Why couldn’t He have kept me from some of it and distribute it equally?

 

Right. You know what? That is such a great question, and one that anybody who’s suffered, it’s an honest question.

 

Right. It’s the old, Why me?, question.

 

Yeah.

 

A variation of.

 

Right. And for me, it came in a dramatic form where, you know … because you know, I’d been to church as kid, and those things. You know, Jesus loves all the little children of the world. And I’m like, Yeah. No, I believed that, ‘cause He’s good, so He loves all the kids, just not me. That’s how you start to process it as a kid, because bad things happen. And I’ll never forget when it changed for me. And it was actually a counseling appointment, as a result of it. This old country boy counselor, boot-wearing Texas guy. And he was just like, Hey. But he had all kinda degrees on his wall, so he knew what he was doing. He just said, Well, you know, where was God in all this? If He’s so loving, and He can stop evil, why did He allow it to happen to you? He said, Why don’t you ask Him? And I remember telling him, You need to shut up. That you need to just stand down; that’s not a question I need to ask God. And he’s like, Why not? Because … and this is real, and it’s deep, but people who’ve been … people who over a lifetime or a number of years have experienced disappointment and failure again, and again, and again, and you assign it to God, you know, Why don’t you give me a better break, why don’t you give me better parents, I mean, I’m stuck in hell, or whatever it is … to ask God that question, for me, I’d rather have a false hope than not have … the right answer, and have my hope dashed forever. And people in their heart know if they’re living off of false hope. Well, He’s—oh, and it’s okay. But the reality is in your heart; you’re just too scared.

 

Well, I can also see you having a really difficult time with this, because if God is your Heavenly Father … you know, the fatherhood record was really bad on this Earth.

 

Exactly. And it is hard not to assign that. I remember when someone first told me, Oh, God is your Heavenly Father. It was so offensive to me. I thought … uh, negative. You’re kidding me? But in my mind, I thought, Well, He must be some sadistic, crazy, unloving God. Maybe somebody else. You know, I’m the stepchild. You know, I’m getting the leftovers. But what changed my life and the lie that I believed is, I finally asked God that question.

 

What were the circumstances of asking Him?

 

I was in a counseling appointment, and I just said, God, where were you? You know, Jesus, if you’re so loving and you love the kids, what about me? Why did you allow it to happen to me? I’ll never forget, I remember my eyes were closed, and I saw the room, a room where a lot of abuse had happened. And I saw it so clearly, and I saw my stepfather, had a beer in his hand, he had a belt wrapped around his hand. He was getting ready to, you know, beat me with it. He had me lay down on the bed in my underwear; he would just—you know. And I saw everything so clearly. And then, I saw what I knew to be an image of Christ, a spiritual being appearing. And I thought, Okay, great; now turn and touch my stepfather’s heart and blow it out, kill him right now. That’s what I wanted, remembering this. But it would have been the truth. It would have been my own fantasy. The reality of what really happened to me was, right before he got ready to hit me, my stepfather is rearing back, I’m grabbing the sheets. ‘Cause the way he would hit you, he would hit you, bam [SLAP], and then he would wait. He’d wait ‘til all your little muscles relaxed from being tense in anticipation, you relax, and boom [SLAP], he’d hit you again. And he’d do it slow, until you gave up, ‘til there was no more fight in you. And right before he hit me, this image of Christ turned, kneeled, and placed his body on top of mine and sunk into mine so that He would take the greatest part of the beating for me, to allow me to survive. And I knew, if that’s a God who loves me and will share my suffering, that’s a God I can trust. I think God’s heart breaks for all the injustices that happen, all the evil. That’s not what He wants; it’s never what He’s assigning to children. You know, it’s the choice of evil people making horrible choices.

 

Victor Marx turned his skill in martial arts into a business, and he started teaching karate. He met Aileen, another believer, and a nationally recognized fitness instructor. She was at the leading edge of fitness kickboxing. And soon, they began working together, opening their own gym after they were married. An invitation from a youth pastor in Honolulu to teach a Christian karate school brought Marx and his growing family to the islands. Despite all the good things happening in his life, he still could not shake the horrors of his past.

 

I like that martial arts, good martial arts, does have a way to teach a person a code of honor, and understand the impact you can make on someone. So, I’ve used it for good. When we had our martial arts center here underneath, you know, the Spaghetti Factory at the Ward Warehouse as one of our locations, we had so many people come in to fight me because I’m this Haole from the mainland, and you know, what are you doing here? And, you know, some things got physical, which changed some people’s minds or hurt some people’s feelings, because they tried to get physical. But I made more friends. You know, I was able to use my words, not necessarily my fists or chokes, or cracking somebody. But it gives you a level of confidence that in a situation. You know, I’m looking at young guy who’s like, Oh, you’re so good. I’m thinking, Oh, my gosh.

 

You sound like you speak Pidgin. You’ve got that inflection.

 

Hey, we were here long enough. My children were raised here, my first three. When we went back to the mainland, I’ll never forget; my son’s out playing in the yard. He comes back, he’s playing with kids there. He goes, Dad; he said, there’s so many White kids here.

 

I said, Come here. I said, You are white. And he’s like, Oh, oh! So, you know, he got his Pidgin, still talks Pidgin. So, I love the islands. I have a little home here. We consider this home. We spent so many years here, through good and bad times.

 

How many years here?

 

We were here ’95 to ’01.

 

And you say some of them weren’t good years?

 

No. I mean, I had challenges emotionally that people didn’t know about.

 

Ah …

 

Right? It was part of my healing. You know, in martial arts, in many ways, I’ve reached the pinnacle. At least for myself. Here in Hawaii, huge student enrollment, you know, large staff. I mean, we were making an impact. ‘Cause after we got over the few things, people realized, Oh, you care about our keiki. And then, training adults. Yeah. And you know, we brought the fitness kickboxing here; it was just great. It was a great time. But I was having emotional problems hidden, and I would never tell anybody. Nobody knew that I was at Queen’s in an observation room, because I had horrible thoughts about hurting myself, or other people. You know. But I chose in that moment to go, I’m so unstable at this moment. You know. We lived at the top of Tantalus, you know, and man, I was having bad thoughts about, Oh, I have a good insurance policy, and I’m causing so much pain for my wife, you know, through my behavior, and all this. I’m like, you know, Maybe I should just end it, let her take the money and go. And I tell people, when someone wants to commit suicide, it’s not always just a rash deal. Sometimes it seems like a logical answer. I tell folks, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t give up; get help. And I did, particularly that night by driving down, checking myself into Queen’s, and I’m glad I did.

 

So, you’re saying that when you accepted God, accepted Jesus into your life, it wasn’t like it took away all your pain and problems.

 

No. It took away my past sin, because that’s what He promises, to lift the burden; that’s what the scriptures say. But it didn’t take away the challenges I would have because of my past. But the greatest thing is, He promised me He would redeem it. And I love redemption. You know, redemption is when somebody drinks a soda, throws the can side of the road, someone else comes by and says, Eh, this trash to you, but it’s money to me. And that’s what God did for me; He picked me up. He said, Other people consider you trash; I’ll redeem your life, watch what I do. And again, sometimes the greatest faith is just never giving up.

 

Do you have flashbacks?

 

Seldom anymore, because of the counseling and therapy I’ve gone through. But I still feel deeply. And what I’m glad about now is, my suffering has been turned. That purpose; I’ve learned the purpose. There is a purpose in the pain, is to help others who are still suffering, you give them hope. And that’s what I feel like I’m called to do.

 

Through their All Things Possible Ministries, Victor and Aileen Marx have dedicated themselves to advocating for youth who are troubled and abused. They help people, including war veterans who’ve suffered trauma, and they travel around the world to facilitate the rescue of children who’ve been abducted and trafficked. Mahalo to Victor Marx, now of Marietta, California, for sharing your stories 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.

 

My story is one of redemption. ‘Cause a lot of people experience abuse and injustice in their life, but I’m pretty happy to share. That’s why we do it so much. And actually, I didn’t do it ‘til later in life. I was in my late thirties before I started telling my story.

 

Is that because you didn’t want everyone to know the gory details?

 

Yes. You know, I stayed away from it because, really, in a lot of ways, I hadn’t healed from some of the trauma of the past. So, you use coping mechanisms, whether it’s excelling at a certain thing or staying away from other things so you don’t get triggered, or never wanting to revisit any of that. I kinda used all of ‘em in that way to protect myself. But when I took time and really trusted that the process of going through healing and counseling would make the greater difference in my life, it’s turned out really good, not only for me, but helping others.

 

[END]

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
The Homestretch

 

This film follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these smart, ambitious youths – Roque, Kasey, and Anthony – will surprise, inspire, and challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. While told through a personal perspective, their stories connect with larger issues of poverty, race, juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LGBTQ rights.

With unprecedented access into Chicago public schools, The Night Ministry “Crib” emergency youth shelter, and Teen Living Programs’ Belfort House, the documentary follows these kids as they move through the milestones of high school while navigating a landscape of couch hopping, emergency shelters, transitional homes, street families and a school system on the front lines of the homelessness crisis. It examines the struggles these youth face in obtaining a high school level education, and then follows them beyond graduation to focus on the crucial transition when the structure of school vanishes, and homeless youth often struggle to find the support and community they need to survive and be independent. The film is a powerful, original perspective on what it means to be young and homeless in America today, while building a future.

 

PBS HAWAII PRESENTS
Fixing Juvie Justice

PBS HAWAII PRESENTS Fixing Juvie Justice

 

Young people are entering the juvenile justice system in surprising numbers, and they seem to emerge worse than when they entered. In this film, a co-production of National Geographic and Pacific Islanders in Communications, we see how a group of innovators applies the restorative justice principles of the Maori people of New Zealand to the mean streets of Baltimore.

 

In Maori villages of the past, a crime would put the community out of balance. Traditional Maori justice turns on the idea of restoring that balance. This film crosses the globe to a culturally sacred marae (meeting ground) where Judge Heemi Taumanu has established an alternative youth court that draws on these principles. Viewers see how people come together to resolve conflict in their own communities and all of the drama that unfolds when everyone is given a chance and encouraged to let emotions out. Can a community-based approach to justice derived from a structure conceived centuries ago in New Zealand give hope to the mean streets of the United States?

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Mary Bitterman

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Mary Bitterman

 

Original air date: Tues., Nov. 24, 2009

 

Leading PBS in Hawaii and Beyond

 

Leslie Wilcox visits with Mary Bitterman, who was the Executive Director of PBS Hawaii (then referred to as KHET) from 1974 to 1979. The youngest Executive Director of a PBS station at the time, she headed KHET at the time of the groundbreaking production of Aldyth Morris’ “Damien”, which won the George Foster Peabody Award and was aired on PBS stations nationwide. She went on to become the President and CEO of KQED – the PBS television station in San Francisco – and was board chair of PBS. Mary is now Chair of the PBS Foundation and head of the Bernard Osher Foundation, which provides scholarship funding to selected colleges and universities.

 

Mary Bitterman Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

And I think the future of our state, the future of our republic, and the future of our world has got to be people understanding people, people respecting people, people respecting the diversity of people’s backgrounds and interests, and insights. And I think that Public Broadcasting is going to play, increasingly, an important niche in bringing the people of the world to a better understanding and appreciation of one another. The stories must be told.

 

For four decades, a leader in public broadcasting, Mary Bitterman, has had a meaningful impact on how Hawaii sees the world, and how the world sees Hawaii. Her story on Long Story Short.

 

Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. In this edition of Long Story Short, we’ll catch up with Mary Bitterman, the first woman to lead a PBS television station. Which happened to be this station—PBS Hawaii, called Hawaii Public Television during her tenure in the 1970s. Mary Bitterman would go on to run a larger PBS station, in San Francisco. She would become PBS national board chair, and receive public broadcasting’s most prestigious award for lifetime achievement. She still calls Hawaii home, returning to Honolulu every month from her offices on the west coast. And she takes Hawaii with her everywhere she goes. In Washington D.C. I’ve heard her explain to large national groups the meaning of “ohana” and the Japanese principle she learned here, “okage sama de,” which means, “I am what I am because of you.” Fate brought this fourth-generation Californian and Ivy League scholar to Hawaii. Her husband, psychology professor Jeff Bitterman, was offered a short-term job at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

 

And so he was asked to be a guest professor for a year. And so we came to Hawaii for a year. And that was 1971, and we—

 

You thought it would be one year, I bet.

 

Yes, we never left. I mean, even though I work off island, and have for several years, Hawaii has always been our home and permanent residence since 1971.

 

What made you feel at home here? Because, you know, there is a great deal of aloha and hospitality on one level, but on another level, it’s sometimes hard to get into the culture when people are busy, and they have things to do, and they think you’re gonna be leaving in a—

 

Exactly.

 

—year, anyway.

 

Exactly. And I just can’t tell you how many instant opportunities were made available to me. I mean, I know exactly what you mean. And when people say to me, Oh, I’m going to move to Hawaii, I really want to make sure that they understand how important it is to exercise curiosity, and not just to come fully shaped and imprint themselves somehow on Hawaii. When I first came, I taught several courses at the University of Hawaii. One of the students in class was an older woman who was returning to finish her degree. And she said to me after class, My husband is doing a special project with the Ford Foundation, and I would like him to meet you. So I said, I’d be very happy to meet your husband, and how nice that he works for the Ford Foundation. All right; but here’s what he wanted. He said, What we want is someone to do a history of Hawaiian landownership and land use, so we have a baseline for the development work that we’re undertaking.

 

Now, that’s a—

 

And I said—

 

—fascinating issue.

 

I said, Here’s the problem. The problem is, I think the whole idea of doing historical research on Hawaiian landownership and land use is fascinating; but I’m not competent. I’m not competent, because I don’t know the Hawaiian language, and because I have not studied Hawaiian history in any really significant, deep fashion. And he said, Well, we really would like you to take on this enterprise, and so on and so forth. At any rate, I was hired to do some basic historical research dealing with a great number of texts. What I did was, I published a series of papers that began with the ancient Hawaiian land use forms, going on to the Mahele, going on to the various uses of the land, especially when we had the development of sugar and pine, then moving on to the period of military installations on the aina, and then really ending up with the visitor industry after the second war and the development of resort properties and the rest of it.

 

That’s a great way to get to know Hawaii, isn’t it?

 

Now, this, when you said, How did you, coming with this modern European background, and so and so forth, come into Hawaii and have a chance to sort of be involved right away? And it’s because I worked on land. It just gave me a chance, I would say, to leapfrog and to arrive, say, by year five, at a place that might have taken some other malihini … twenty, thirty years.

 

Well, you could have blown it big time while you were doing this. But you didn’t.

 

I had so many teachers. I had so many people who opened themselves to me. It was just extraordinary.

 

But you were a teacher who was willing to be taught. I think that’s one—

 

Insatiable curiosity; that’s the only way to learn and I think even when one reaches a point where people say, Oh, you know a great deal, one must never be led to believe that one doesn’t have still so much more to learn than one knows.

 

What did you do when the study was complete, or when your role was done?

 

Well I’m very committed to the Buddhist principle of impermanence, with all things changing all the time. It’s become my way to explain everything that happens in life. After I served as the historian for this regional environmental management project, which was called HESAL, and the simulation part of it was really that the Fujitsu Corporation provided us with all of these wonderful computers and computer specialists, so we could take the data that our development colleagues were aggregating, and run different scenarios of development. And the focus of our study was the Kaneohe Bay watershed. And we did a number of public hearings in which Oceanic Cable helped us to record some of the public hearings, and really get the public involved in, how do you want the Windward side of Oahu to develop, how precious are the taro fields, what will be the cost of capital facilities to support a much larger population, what will the erosion from development, soil erosion, what kind of damage might that cause to the Kaneohe Bay. And the final thing I did for Ford was to write a history of the Hawaii environmental simulation laboratory, which is on file at Windward Community College Library. So there.

 

Okay; so now you’re pau with that, and—

 

So now I’m—

 

—what are you gonna do?

 

—pau with that.

 

So far, by the way, I notice you’ve gotten two jobs, not because you went after them, but because people went after you.

 

Well, the opportunities, it just absolutely was incredible. The man from the Ford Foundation, Bill Felling, with whom I got on very well, he became very interested in Hawaiian history as I shared with him some of what I had read, and introduced different books to him that he began reading. Everything from John Papa Ii to Kuykendall, to “On Being Hawaiian” by John Dominis Holt. Just a whole wonderful range of things—David Malo—and serving as the Ford monitor brought me in touch with more people from the Ford Foundation, which curiously, was the major foundation underwriter for Public Television across the United States. The laboratory also had an advisory committed of extraordinary people, including Phil Gianella, who was the publisher of the Star Bulletin then, Kenneth Brown, wonderful Kenny Brown, people like Minoru Hirabara who headed Del Monte operations, Bud Smyser, also from the Star Bulletin. And this advisory group, several of them said, when the position here at PBS Hawaii became open, You should do this. I don’t know the difference between a transmitter and a translator; I think that jobs like that should really go to people well schooled in technology, engineering, production, and the rest of it.

 

Just like you’d said before, I think the job should go to somebody—

 

Exactly; to somebody who is competent.

 

—Hawaiian history.

 

Yes, to somebody who is competent. And so the argument of Minoru Hirabara, who became one of my dearest friends in the world, and Kenny Brown and others was … Here’s what you do have. You’ve told us what you don’t have; what you do have is a real love for Hawaii and the people. You do have an understanding and a growing knowledge of Hawaiian culture, and the cultures of the people of Hawaii. You have been connected to a very big foundation, which supports Public Television; and who knows, maybe you could get them to send some money to Hawaii for Hawaii Public Television. You have testified before the State Legislature, which in those days, PBS Hawaii was part of State government, and we received our appropriation from State government. So being able to go before the leaders of the Legislature and being able to testify was considered very important, to do it effectively and to do it respectfully, and all. And so that’s how I became the youngest general manager in PBS’ history, and the only woman to head such a station.

 

Two historic distinctions … Mary Bitterman says Hawaii’s multi-ethnic culture was quick to accept a young woman in this leadership role.

 

I think that everyone who has come to Hawaii, whether ancestors came from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Madeira Islands, Scandinavia, Ireland, Mexico, Puerto Rico, wherever, that the indigenous people, our host culture, has had a very special effect, a softening effect, and I would argue also having women be seen as potentially very competent. I mean, if we read Hawaiian history, we know the place of enormously powerful, gifted women who played such important roles.

 

Queen Kaahumanu.

 

Kaahumanu … Liliuokalani. I was on St. Andrews Priory school board, and we know all the incredible things that Queen Emma did. Princess Ruth Likelike. I mean, just an assortment of people—Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. So I think that, coupled with the fact that a governor like George Ariyoshi, gave opportunity to women. Boy, once we came to Governor Ariyoshi, more and more women were appointed to cabinet positions, and doors of opportunity opened in very, very important ways. So I had this really great opportunity which has made all the difference in my life. This is really where everything started.

 

For example?

 

Well it’s when I really came to Public Television, that in addition to continuing my study of Hawaiian history, that I really became increasingly, increasingly imprinted on Asian history, Asian culture, becoming a host family for East West Center. It was through working with people here at the station, and being really taken into so many ohanas. Our dearest friends were people that I met here; the Kono family, Melvin Kim Farinas, Akio Sakata, who was our chief engineer. So it’s just the world became very, very special for me here. I had never had friends, as I had here.

 

Why do you think that is? I mean you had a—

 

I think—

 

—family in California, you had—

 

But a small family.

 

—college experiences.

 

A small family. So many of my friends here had much larger families. I had two older brothers, and my oldest brother passed away. But it’s really when I came here that I was able to meet so many people with deep roots and many generations in Hawaii, that just opened up so many new doors of opportunity. I mean, just through my dear, dear friend Melvin Kim Farinas. Mel was the art director here at Hawaii Public Television for many, many years, and I think, gave the station its great reputation for artistry. He was half Korean, half Filipino. His father, Francisco Farinas, was the first Filipino radio broadcaster in Hawaii. Melvin’s wife, Ronnie Mae, was half Chinese, half Japanese. Her maiden name was Fujii, her mother’s maiden name, Goo. Just within Melvin, I became involved in all of these cultural outreaches. It just began that everything seemed to connect me to more and more pieces of a mosaic. So if this whole table were these incredible facets, each one of them just sparkling, I began to have connections to so many of them, and every day my life became more interesting, more challenging, because the more I would learn about things that needed to be done or people that we could bring together, and make things happen, it was just terrific; absolutely terrific.

 

Using all of her skills as a team builder, Mary Bitterman took over a troubled TV station and launched an era when Hawaii Public Television became nationally recognized for its programs.

 

So your personal life was developing, and your knowledge of Hawaii was growing. What were you doing professionally here? What did you see needed to be done, and what did you get done?

 

Well, it was a very exciting time. And I think sometimes when entities are in a distress situation, which we were—

 

You were invited to lead a distressed organization?

 

Yes. But I have to tell you, the only distressing thing was that we didn’t have … we had a modest amount of financing, and we were a little overdrawn on our State account, so we had to go bare for a while. What we did have was an extraordinary group of people. We had forty-eight student helpers from the University. Everybody, as we both know, trained in television in Hawaii was trained here in the good old days. And we just had a staff of people, thirty-six people, who were just absolutely incredible. But we had to find out how we were going to do things on almost nothing. That’s why we wanted to find a way, even without resources, that we could just kind of take what we had, and do it. So we started, actually, a program called Hawaii Now, which was a stripped program, five days a week, in which we could put different segments. And so International Kitchen was one day a week. So how did we start out? This is just an example. We took our fabulous administrative officer, Shareen Nakasone, and said, Shareen, you really make great Okinawan donuts—you know, andagi. Why don’t you come and cook them in the studio? Shareen said, I’ve never been on television, I don’t know if I’d want to do this. But she was just such a great girl; she said, Okay, for the cause, I’ll do it. So she came in, and she was our first cook. And then we began. We weren’t online, but we would send people copies of the recipes from International Kitchen. So people would write in, and then we developed a membership group so they could become members. And it was terrific. So we started off with Hawaii Now. But then we did—everybody wants sports, and you have your wonderful Leahey & Leahey program now, but we did something called Sports Page 11, with Marv Vedetto.

 

With Jim Hackleman.

 

Well, Jim Hackleman afterwards.

 

He came later.

 

But it started off with Marv Vedetto from the University, and then went on to Jim Hackleman. But it was really fun, because we did everything from

women’s sports, which weren’t being covered then, to kids’ T-Ball. I remember we did one program doing a T-Ball game over in Waimanalo, and we had more reaction from the community. People were just—

 

Right.

 

—charmed.

 

Totally support that.

 

Absolutely, absolutely wonderful. And then we began an arts program, Spectrum, we had Dialog which was our Friday night public affairs discussion. And we did a lot of interesting people.

 

This was when Hawaii had only a handful of viewing choices, before the proliferation of cable channels. Mary Bitterman found the funding and gave the green light to a production that would, arguably, become the most nationally acclaimed of Hawaii’s locally-produced TV programs.

 

Obviously, the jewel in the crown was Damien, which I am so delighted … I can’t begin to tell you. It just is so personally meaningful to me that this extraordinary story, this exquisite play, written by a most wonderful woman—I just wish everyone could have known Aldyth Morris. Brilliant, sensitive, compassionate. Everything about her was very special. You would just know that if you read the script; you know that somebody very special wrote it. And then to have that combined with a brilliant actor, who just became Damien in Terence Knapp, and a gifted producer/director, Nino Martin, and a gifted art director, Melvin Kim Farinas. It was a combination of things—the videographer, Wade Cuvian—that was magical. It’s just extraordinary. But we did some other programs. We did a three-part series with Joe Nathan, an independent producer, called The Japanese. And those were films that he filmed in Japan, and then we did local follow up. So for example, his film called Farm Song on a Japanese family living in an agricultural area, we went off to Maui and did the Orodomo family in Kula. And when he went off and did Full Moon Lunch, a bento operation, we went down to Liliha Street and did Nishi Catering. So it was a combination of trying to take the wonderful things of our own community and setting them into the context of a larger world. And then, of course, China Visit, which we had a group of Hawaii residents going in 1977, the year after Mao’s death, to do that film, was a terrific thing.

 

You were one of the first groups of Westerners in China.

 

Exactly. But I think it really stands the test of time that you’re able to look at that film, that is PBS Hawaii’s film, and you’re able to go back and see what China, now the tenth largest economy, was like thirty-two years ago. It’s very exciting.

 

You hosted that documentary in pigtails.

 

Well, I have to tell you. It’s very interesting. When we were in China in 1977 people will not believe it; they just won’t believe it, because China has just moved so quickly forward. In 1977, there was not one woman to be seen wearing anything different from a navy blue or a gray Mao suit with Mao trousers, and whose hair was not cut like this, or who had pigtails. And because I have long hair, it was decided that the best thing for me to do was to put them in pigtails, right?

 

Later, Mary Bitterman was asked to take the directorship of “The Voice of America” which she saw, in part, as an opportunity to bring Hawaii’s spirit to the rest of the world.

 

And so a door of opportunity opened to become the youngest and the only woman ever to serve as director of The Voice of America, and all because the people of Hawaii gave me the opportunity. And I worked very hard at The Voice, and really tried to introduce the aloha spirit to a larger audience. We really opened up our relationship with China, we arranged for the first exchange of broadcasters between The Voice of America and China. We had some wonderful, wonderful days and, as you can imagine, it was my work at Hawaii Public Television, Koji Ariyoshi, the trip to China, that I already had contacts with Chinese broadcasters, and with the Minister of Propaganda in China. So that when I went to The Voice of America, I was able to build on some of that, and arrange for these exchanges.

 

And by the way, was that the actual title, the Minister of Propaganda?

 

Yeah; yeah. Dung Lee Chun.

 

If we could skip ahead just a little bit. I think you were recruited for another job at a Public Television station.

 

Yes.

It was another distressed station, but much more distressed, much larger jurisdiction.

 

Yeah. And that was an opportunity which arose in 1993, and it was in distress, it was in a near bankrupt situation.

 

And the viewers were extremely upset that local programming had been yanked from them.

 

Local programming was gone.

 

Which is something you had brought back to Public Television in Hawaii.

 

It also had a recent labor strike, and there were very antagonistic feelings between union members and the management of the station. There were a huge number of problems.

Your good relations with unions must have helped you in—

 

It helped me a lot.

 

—San Fancisco.

 

Because before I went there, people on the KQED staff had called people in Hawaii at HGEA, Charlotte Simmons, other people, saying, What is this person like, and so on and so forth. So that was enormously helpful. But at KQED, what I tried to do was two things. One, to put the stations back on sound financial footing, and we would be responsible stewards with the community’s investment in us, and we would deliver the greatest possible content.

 

Years after reviving the San Francisco PBS station, KQED, Mary Bitterman became the president of a funding organization that helped her rescue that station. the Bernard Osher Foundation is one of the nation’s largest supporters of higher education and the arts. It’s given millions of dollars to the University of Hawaii. At this time in 2009, the Osher Foundation is Mary Bitterman’s paying job. But she has never stopped contributing to PBS, serving in many unpaid leadership positions, including National Board Chair and head of the PBS Foundation. I’d like to thank Mary Bitterman for joining us on Long Story Short, and for upholding traditions of teambuilding and excellence here at PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

History was biographies of admirals, generals, and kings and queens. But the real richness of history are all of these other people, and the way in which they shaped our lives. And I think Public Broadcasting’s niche is in bringing more people on the stage, and letting them all be heard.

 

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