Kū Kanaka: Stand Tall

About This Episode


In August of 1969, 15-year-old Terry Young took a dive from the rock wall perch where he and his friends were messing around. Terry hit his head on sand in the shallow waters and in one split second, became a quadriplegic. Paralyzed from the neck down with only limited use of his hands and arms, he nonetheless graduated high school, college and as a PhD; competed as a wheelchair athlete; got arrested for the cause of Hawaiian sovereignty; and pioneered as a professor in the field of Hawaiian Studies.

Terry - who took the Hawaiian name, Kanalu (“the wave”) - learned to value the life he lived rather than mourn the life he lost, using that same insight to offer hope to dispossessed Native Hawaiians. At the same time, he lived by the indigenous Hawaiian practice of kuleana - his responsibility to ask for help rather than go it alone as an American individualist.

In classrooms, on television and from the hospital, Kanalu inspired thousands. But when his body eventually gave out, he asked his doctors to help end his life. In a hospital room overflowing with friends and family, ʻukuleles and song, Kanalu Young said aloha, challenging his people to help each other as a way to revive Hawaiian culture and repair the loss of their illustrious past.