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Sunday, May 18, 2014

TRANSITIONS: Part 5--Moving from Kakaako to Kalihi

Around this time, though, the Kakaako area was being re-developed, so my family moved to Kalihi, really not that far away from Farrington High School, another tough public school. To maintain continuity, I caught the bus to McKinley and was on my way to becoming a model citizen, for I was never again kept after school. The bus was always on time.

The turning point in my life was during this transition period. My focus and grades began to improve, to the point where I was placed with the best students in my junior year. Does the environment and who you hang out with make a difference? It certainly did in my case. Most of my gang never went to college. I still see them every so often, for some have in most ways remained my closest friends. In their own ways, most of them did quite well. No one went on drugs and I know of no arrest. They ran companies, became supervisors...just solid citizens.

There were two crucial factors in my junior year of high school. First, I had Mildred Kosaki as my English/Social Studies teacher. She quit teaching soon after my class—nothing to do with me, I hope, for she did go on to become an important planner and served on the board of Hawaiian Electric Company. Something she did as a teacher woke me up on what I wanted to be. The low aptitude I had in verbal ability was confirmed early in this junior year of 1956 when I took the practice college board exam, did well in Math, but, again, scored in the bottom percentiles of the Verbal portion.

Second, in the spring of 1957 I broke my wrist playing basketball. In those days, many, during the summer months, labored in the pineapple cannery. This I could not do, so I decided to extend what Mrs. Kosaki kept preaching, and memorized the vocabulary words in a red and blue colored (I vividly can remember what it looked like) college board preparation book. They say that you cannot improve your test scores much, but I am living proof that you can. My high 200’s verbal score more than doubled into the 600’s when I took the real college entrance exam early in my senior year.

During the spring of my junior year, though, I recall, for a reason that still mystifies me—for I never before had the guts or interest to run for any office of any kind, and never have again—I campaigned for Senior Class Vice-President, and faced three female opponents. I guess it was more the gender ratio advantage, but the cast I wore possibly served as an identifiable macho symbol, and I triumphed. My VPship put me in charge of graduation exercises, and I somehow prevailed in having Mrs. Kosaki’s husband, Richard, who was a fresh political science professor at the University of Hawaii, as our Commencement Speaker. Normally you provide a really old important person this privilege. Much later, when I joined the faculty of the UH, Professor Kosaki had become an influential administrator. Just as I am writing this, I received in the mail the Commencement Program from Richard, showing him as the keynote speaker and me as the chairman. He even sent me his speech.

You see where this is headed? One thing leads to another. I would never have been accepted into any top national university had I not improved my Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, and further, not into Stanford University if I did not show any leadership skills.  I might not have been as successful as a professor without Richard’s assistance, for he became a vice chancellor during my early years at the University of Hawaii. Thus, both moving to another environment and breaking my wrist catalyzed a whole range of opportunities.  I’ve particularly noticed in my life too, that the best many times comes from the worst.  Next, on to Stanford:

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