Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

At this point in time, it is with undeniable truth that many attribute Martin Luther King, Jr. to have been one of the most influential activists of the twentieth century. His contributions were not only pivotal in furthering the Civil Rights Movement of the time, but were also crucial in developing and identifying race relations. King's continual push for equality for African Americans began as small protests that would later captivate the eyes of many across the globe. Martin Luther King Jr.’s unique promotion of civil rights coupled with his unwavering passion, authenticity, and rhetoric truly makes him a leader worth celebrating.

King experienced first hand the complications and deep segregation that resulted from the Jim Crow ordinances. At the time, African Americans were subject to “separate but equal” treatment in nearly all aspects of life. This affected housing, public utilities, transportation, and even education. King attended largely segregated schools and was separated from his Caucasian friends and counterparts. After graduating high school at the young age of fifteen, he later pursued his sociology degree at Morehouse College, the same African American school his father and grandfather attended. He would then attend Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania for three years and earn his doctoral degree from Boston University. Concurrent to completing his doctorate studies, King became a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama. The entirety of his education was completed by the mere age of 25.

While in Alabama, King quickly became recognized as a distinguished civil rights activist and nuanced speaker. Following Rosa Parks’ arrest on a Montgomery bus, the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter appointed him as the protest leader for the city bus boycott. The boycott, which lasted 381 days, led to the Supreme Court’s decision that declared segregation on buses unconstitutional. However, their momentous win did not come without its losses. Throughout the boycott, many protestors were arrested and harassed, including King himself, who even had his home vandalized. As a result of the eventual success, he would serve as President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization he founded with over 60 other ministers to further promote civil rights reform. It is through his participation in this organization that allowed him to speak over 2,500 times, write several books, meet with world leaders, and deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was the keynote address at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As approximately a quarter of a million individuals gathered on the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial, he not only emphasized a call for equality, but also expressed his optimism and desire that all humans could be treated as brothers. His masterful use of repetition bolsters the many simplistic themes of freedom and justice in hopes they actually reach fruition. Interestingly, the “I Have a Dream” refrain and other elements of the second half of King’s speech were largely improvised. Although King did not end up delivering portions of his speech that he prepared in advance, he instead relied on his extensive background as a pastor and knowledge from previous sermons to complete the speech extemporaneously. These rather impromptu elements all illustrate what a nuanced speaker he was. Following the March on Washington, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to reflect a nationwide desegregation of all public accommodations – facilities, schools, and workplaces – and outlawed discrimination of any kind.

Just four years later, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on his motel balcony. His killer, James Earl Ray, was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison. Although King was only 39 at the time, he was able to accomplish so many things that other leaders and activists could only dream about. King was successful in receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, playing a pivotal role in desegregation legislation, and being a skilled orator everyone yearned to hear from. It is for all these reasons that we recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the best leaders of all time.

Article by Kenneth Go

A Deconstruction of JFK's Inaugural Address

John F. Kennedy’s election as President of the United States in 1961 represented a significant shift in the political and national landscape. As the youngest elected President to be sworn into office, expectations were high on the eve of his inauguration. Although many now associate John F. Kennedy as a champion for civil liberties and ideals, it was not until he gave his infamous inaugural address did those values truly come to fruition. Several quotes throughout his speech directly communicate his optimism and values of peace, duty, and responsibility for America in the face of the nuclear age.

Kennedy, who was succeeding one of the oldest presidents in office, signified a substantial change in the political scene not only because of his youth, but also because he was the first Catholic president. More importantly, his administration was expected to challenge the arising complications with the Soviet Union's nuclear strength and the spurring of the Cold War. As the pressing issues heated even further, Kennedy’s inaugural address was an opportune, kairotic moment to stir American fervor in the face of adversity.

"For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago."

This statement alone serves as reassurance of how sacred he takes his duties and as an attempt to appeal to and garner more supporters. Because Kennedy was such a unique candidate in comparison to previous ones, the mentioning of “the same solemn oath” is an implication that he will rightfully fulfill expectations and succeed the legacy paved by his predecessors. Although he may not look like previous presidents, he is the same individual that is meant to address the concerns of the American people and meet the challenges of the time – just like every president before him. Additionally, Kennedy’s utilization of the term “our” in the statement is a clear indication of his ideal of unity and familial relationships. It reinforces the idea that everyone, including himself and the audience, shares in the rich history of America and takes part in it.

"To those old allies…we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends/ To those new states…we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny/ To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves/ To our sister republics…we offer a special pledge--to convert our good words into good deeds--in a new alliance for progress--to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty/ To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support…"

Kennedy heavily reiterates the sentiment that peace is not only the best option between conflicting nations, but also the only thing they can all manage to afford. He essentially commits the United States to seeking peace among these factions and ultimately warns that these positive changes cannot be implemented if nations are “overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, …alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom” (Kennedy para 13). Kennedy is charmingly entertaining the notion that peace can easily be reached with these people while simultaneously condemning the counterproductive act of war. The mere costs of developing and producing weaponry is so exorbitant and pales in comparison to the cost free act of spreading peace. Logically, avoiding war equates to families enjoying time with their loved ones and the ability to focus on domestic issues. Additionally, his mesodiplosis centered on the idea of “one” further accentuates the idea that peace is a vital component in solving the issue. He notes that, although peace “will not be finished in the first one hundred days, nor in in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this [one] Administration,” the most auspicious time would be to begin acting immediately (Kennedy para 20). He is realistically conceding that peace will not happen overnight, but is a goal that should be sought after and strived for. Rather than perpetuate the conflict and create further complications, a global coalition towards armistice and maintaining international relations would tackle hardships plaguing nations and their citizens.

“Will you join in the historic effort?

The majority of Kennedy’s claims profoundly rely on the pathetic appeals of sympathy and flattery to echo the average citizen’s responsibility in the overarching ideal of peace. He evokes the intention that anyone can contribute to the cause by suggesting that citizens more so than himself are the direct agents of change. Kennedy accomplishes this feat by first employing this rhetorical question. This question proposes that everyone has a role in modeling and facilitating peace. Tyranny and war itself can be stopped so long as people choose to seek peace in their daily lives and participate to end this tumultuous period in any way possible.

"The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world."

The metaphor clearly compares the efforts of the American people to a light illuminating – transforming – the rest of the world. Despite how small an individual may feel in comparison to the world population, it is a conglomeration of these dedicated citizens that is the revolutionary facilitator of peace. By emphasizing the individual’s role, Kennedy is advocating that even the smallest, slightest change towards peace is a victory for America and for all.

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

Kennedy begins to conclude his speech by posing this timeless antimetabole uttered worldwide. This memorable statement defines the pinnacle of selfless service and functions as a direct call to action. Many citizens complain about the state of their own nation and fester on what their respective governments are failing to accomplish. Thus, Kennedy is advocating for individuals to be proactive in their lives. Rather than relying on entitlement for the government and for others to solve issues, an individual should take charge within his or her own life and be free to make a change. By serving others, people are fulfilling their duty of making their nation a better place. Instead of idly waiting for the country to take care of its citizens, the citizens would be taking care of their country. The patriotism and concern for the nation displayed by citizens is a key factor that determines the ability of a society to progress even further.

Kennedy’s inaugural address is highly celebrated for conveying the rather patriotic ideas of duty and responsibility to the typical, everyday American. Peace was one of the most logical responses to the conflict plaguing the time and truly was an expansive idea that relied on individual participation. Not only was Kennedy successful in convincing everyone that he or she had an obligation to institute change, but also managed to emphasize that everyone is just as capable and essential in doing so.


The Undeniable Truth in "Short Term 12"

            Growing up, every child has had the dream of an endless sleepover or even simply a home away from home. Staying with peers and friends your age, meals being prepared and catered to you, and of course your own leisure time to do whatever you please. However, for the children and young adults in Short Term 12 an extended stay is anything but desired. The poignant film flawlessly depicts the struggles and rare albeit moving triumphs of those placed in the foster care system, leaving viewers tugged at the heartstrings.

           The foster care group home eponymously named Short Term 12 houses a breadth of at-risk children from a plethora of socioeconomic and domestic backgrounds. Some of those residing in the home include Luis (Kevin Hernandez), a troublemaker with good intentions, and Sammy (Alex Calloway), a boy convinced that his stuffed animals are the embodiment of his family members. Equally diverse is the group of support staff and supervisors that monitor and tend to the children. Among them is adult supervisor Grace (played by Brie Larson) who is the undisputed veteran and head counselor among the staff. Having worked in the trenches with the kids, she not only knows how to connect and cope with each individual, but also has familiarized herself with every resident’s individual quirks, odds, and extremities. Despite Grace’s rather pouty, seemingly distant exterior and dedication to her routine like responsibilities at the facility, she never fails to exude a sense of warmth and respect for those she works with. She is the textbook individual that will not tolerate any excuses and desires everyone to participate in community discussions and interact amongst each other during free time.

            Writer-director and Maui island native Destin Daniel Cretton loosely based this award winning Sundance film on his experiences working in a similar institution himself. By harnessing these personal experiences, Cretton brilliantly captures the essence and candidness of the foster care ecosystem. Perfectly intertwined with the characters’ lives is the set of rules and regulations that delineate their stay. Certain amenities and privileges, including the ability to merely watch television in the community room, require a specific “level.” Those who break the rules, namely the “no belts, no razors, no scissors, and (most importantly) no cussing” golden rule, are systematically reprimanded with a “level drop.” Additionally, Cretton’s experiences are embodied in the character Nate (Rami Malek), a new recruit to the staff. His journey to acquaint himself with those in the facility is just as immersive and instructional for the film viewers watching alongside. It’s these eccentricities that make this not only a great film, but also an intriguing experience from start to finish.

            In stark contrast to Grace’s original sternness, we begin to see the truth behind her distant facade as her personal life becomes entangled with her day job. New resident Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), who doesn’t like “wasting time on short-term relationships,” refuses to acknowledge the fact that there is something wrong with her – much less that anyone can actually help her.  She finds solace in isolating herself and remains unfriendly towards her fellow peers. After initial struggles to connect with Jayden on the same level as other residents, Grace finally finds common ground in both of their drawing capabilities. Unlike Grace’s portraits and other odd doodles, Jayden utilizes drawing as an outlet to communicate the emotions and troubles plaguing her for so long. Grace can’t help but empathize with the young teen and, as Jayden continuously reveals bits and pieces of herself, we learn that Grace was once a troubled teen herself that is yet to come to grips with the exact same issues.

            A true crowning jewel of the film is Cretton’s unique direction and innovation with the camerawork. His implementation of a rather freehanded and non-stationary camerawork allows viewers to look through the lenses of the characters themselves. It is as if we are trailing right behind their shoulders as they walk. Plus, we are even lost in their same train of thought. As we see them dash across the field or sob into their palms, we truly can’t help but do the same. Cretton’s ability to capture that raw emotion and presence is nothing short of an outstanding feat. The film seems to evolve from a mere cinematic spectacle to an entirely lifelike biographical piece. To the untrained eye, the cinematography might appear to be shaky and unrefined, but it is this selective refinement that is truly outstanding. By incorporating a mix of obscurity and wading focus, the objects and people within the foreground attract the viewer’s attention and are not only a visual cue, but also a point of clarity.

The realism and sincerity behind the film highlights the undeniable truth within the nation’s foster care system. CEO Jeremy Kohomban of Children's Village, a New York based group home, is worried by the current state of the system and its detrimental effects when abused. He found that, "The longer kids stay in institutions, the less capable they are of reintegrating into society." Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that, in certain New York communities alone, the number of foster care and group home cases has skyrocketed to upwards of 4,400 from a once 1,367 cases. Like the film name and facility suggests, the fictitious Short Term 12 complex is meant to be a temporary, interim solution for troubled kids until the City and County decides further action for the individual. However, the initial maximum twelve-month stay drones on to an extended residence until the individual reaches what is the pinnacle of adulthood – 18 years of age. As individuals begin to outgrow the system or merely escape, they are no longer within the jurisdiction of these foster care institutions. Sundance and SWSX Film critics praised Keith Stanfield for his portrayal of Marcus and his accuracy in illustrating this. As Marcus awaits his eighteenth birthday, he knows it is merely time to assimilate into the world he has been kept out of for over three years. He poetically describes that he has been “[living] a life not knowing what a normal life is like” by staying in the institution crafted to assist him.

            Within the film itself, several residents recognize Short Term 12 as a place of solitude and an escape from their troubles. Likewise, many individuals attempt to flee the compound due to their feelings of detainment and distance from society. Stir Journal recently cited a California based study that found that approximately 22% of kids flee their respective foster homes. Although this number is supposedly less for those residing in a group home, the reality is that young adults are willingly choosing to abandon these safe houses to live on the streets or with those they deem as friends.

            The childhood trauma riddling each of the characters in Short Term 12 makes it extremely easy for viewers to connect to the jagged troubles in their own lives. Although the film’s adamant use of crude language and rightfully deserved rated R rating may be off-putting to some, the language does contribute to the overarching visualization of who these individuals are and what these kids are experiencing. Cretton’s artistry in storytelling coupled with his unique craft in filmmaking is undeniably breathtaking. It is his unwavering reliance on empathy, sympathy, and triumph that enables viewers of any age to realize that we are all troubled, broken, and wanting to change – and that’s anything but short term.  

Meet Jen May Pastores, Our Student Leadership Facilitator for CTL's Schools Program

Jen May Pastores is our Student Leadership Facilitator for CTL's Schools Program. She is a graduate of Moanalua High School, and attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa before transferring and graduating from California State University of Northridge with a degree in Journalism. She spent the last few years teaching at a private elementary school and different public high schools in Los Angeles, as well as developing a high school after-school program as Director of Leadership Development in Visalia, CA. She is an awardee of Youth Engagement and Development for her innovative work with youth in Tulare County. She is also a documentary photographer and writer, and recently, moved back to Honolulu where she currently resides in the Chinatown Artists Lofts. 

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Agana, Guam into a family of travelers. My childhood was spent living in Panama, Italy, Kansas, Texas, and California. My father served in the Army, so when my family first arrived in Honolulu we lived in the Aliamanu Military Reservation. 

What interested you to work with CTL's Schools Program?

I'm passionate about inspiring youth to make a difference by creating opportunities for them to recognize their potential, and for them to see their community through a learning lens that makes for meaningful, student-led projects. CTL is an organization that is leading the way in student leadership and I'm grateful to be a part of a dedicated and innovative team. 

What words describe your teaching style? 
Creates room for thought, builds confidence, opens doors, invites enjoyment, and listens.

What is your favorite hobby?
I credit my love for music to my time with the music department at Moanalua High School. I keep percussion and string instruments around me at home, but often play my ukulele and keyboard. 

Images by Jen May Pastores on the Values of CTL:

College and Future Workforce Workshop

The workforce is getting more and more competitive each year. Because of this, a group of our fellows saw the need to equip our younger generation with better skills for the workforce so that we “have a more productive society.” Led by Amber Kim, Reagan Matsumoto, Josiah Choy, and Maya Hiraki, these fellows created the College and Future Workforce Workshop to give our students an opportunity to learn about how to exceed in the career marketplace.


What is your project's vision and how did your team go about determining how to begin your project?

After meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, we realized that workers in our generation lack necessary soft skills. Countless employers said that although many of young workers have hard skills and knowledge, they struggle in areas such as communication, interviewing, and dressing. We wanted to better equip our generation for the 21st century workforce so we decided to do a workshop at a public school.

During your time in the fellows program, what was your team able to do?

Since we partnered with the Chamber of Commerce, we were able to attend their meetings to give employers a student’s perspective of the workforce. After interviewing employers and students on what they thought about the workforce and its needs, we met with the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium State Director, Bernadette Howard, who educated us on soft skills and how we could implement them in schools.  We decided to conduct a workshop at Roosevelt High school to inform students about this necessary school. Throughout the program, we planned our curriculum, contacted the schools, and created PowerPoints and activities to teach the students.

Why do you think it is important to address workplace development and how do you think this can affect our community?

Our team thought that if we can change the way our generation views working than we could have a more productive society. It’s important that workers in our generation have both the hard skills and the soft skills they need to obtain jobs and do them well. If students are educated about soft skills, they can take that knowledge to create a better and more effective workplace and community.  

How do you think the skills you have gained in the CTL fellows program have helped your project to succeed?

Through CTL, I learned how to effectively delegate and split up tasks. Everyone in our group was responsible for a different aspect of our project, which allowed the project to be very manageable. By inspiring a shared vision, we were able to envision our goals and all work together to accomplish them. We were able to share our passion for a changed workforce with students at Roosevelt so that they can, in turn, teach others what they have learned through our workshops.    

Now that you are all officially alumni of the Center for Tomorrow's Leaders, what are your next steps?

Since I’ll be going to college next year at the University of Southern California, I’m hoping to be able to influence my campus and use the leadership skills I’ve learned through CTL in my clubs, internships, and future jobs.

Would you like to thank any specific people for their support/help?

First we would like to thank Ms. Katie Chang for leading our group and supporting us. We’d also like to thank the Chamber and their members for assisting us in gathering knowledge on the workforce from employers.  Finally, we would like to thank Roosevelt High School for allowing us to conduct a workshop on their campus.


Catholic Charities Landlord Summit: Homes for the Homeless

Students from our Fellows Class of 2015 saw a need to help the homeless community here in Hawaii, and thus, over the past year, they have worked to create an easier process for finding housing for this community. Homelessness is a reoccurring issue in Hawaii and there have been many proposals for creating change; however, one of the biggest problems is creating a healthy relationship between landlords and possible homeowners. This group created their project to address this issue.

This group consisted of Sierra Doi, DJ Carlos, Jeremy Liu, Kyla George who attend Kaiser, Damien, Punahou, Hanalani schools. With the help of their project mentor, Ms. April Nakamura, this group was able to host the Landlord Summit.


What is Landlord Summit?

This project aims to connect landlords and Catholic Charities Hawaii in order to provide homes for the homeless population. We planned a summit where we offered the landlords a place to network while informing them of the benefit of the Housing First Program, how it’s connected to the states plan and how it benefits the community.

What is the vision of this project?

By completing the last piece of the puzzle, we see Hawaii as a safe place where everyone has the opportunity to have a home. 

During your time in the Fellows program, what was your group able to do?

We were able to plan and host the Landlord Summit before graduation day. It was successful because many landlords contacted Catholic Charities and were interested in the Program before and after the Summit.

How do you think the skills you have gained in the CTL fellows program have helped your project to succeed?

I definitely learned how to reach out and talk to people. If it wasn't for that I wouldn't have been able to send out over a thousand letters to individuals, asking them to come to our Landlord Summit.

Now that you are all officially alumni of the Center for Tomorrow's Leaders, what are your next steps for your project? 

When Catholic Charities is ready, they will contact us for help in creating a larger Summit, which will include larger organizations involved in the Housing First Plan.

Would you like to thank any specific people for their support/help?

Yes, definitely Ms. Naks because without her I would have completely given up and we wouldn't have completed our project. Also Adrian Contreras, Rebecca Charlton, Peter Mattoon, Rona Fukumoto and especially Erin White, all from Catholic Charities who were with us step-by-step leading up to the summit.