Vai's View: Vai's View: BYU-Hawaii, prep football powerhouses and a living legend
For a little over a year, we've planned a trip to Hawaii to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, because of my mother's debilitating health, she wasn't able to travel, so sadly she and my dad didn't make it.
But we still came as a family because we hadn't been together with our ALL of our children for four years, because our last two sons' missions overlapped for three weeks. Also, our daughter-in-law Kaylie and our new grandson have never been to Hawaii. And my wife, Keala, grew up on the North Shore of Oahu in the village of Kahuku — more on that later. No one needs a reason to come to Hawaii, but still, the big one was my parents' 50th.
I had informed our friends at the Polynesian Culture Center of the purpose of our trip and because Mom and Dad were among the first group of dancers at the PCC in the '60s, they rolled out the red carpet. I only felt slightly guilty that we still got the red-carpet treatment even though Mom and Dad didn't make it.
Keala and I were invited to speak to the performers prior to the night show in their nightly devotional, which was such a wonderful privilege. When we finished our short remarks of encouragement, they asked us and our children to stand before them and the entire cast stood and serenaded us in a three-part harmony chorus of "Army of Helaman." We didn't even try to hide our emotions — it was useless. It was incredibly powerful.
The entire north shore reeks of power — spiritual and physical.
The Laie Temple was the first LDS temple built outside of the continental U.S. when it was dedicated in 1919 by Pres. Heber J. Grant. Two years later, Elder David O. McKay visited Laie and had a vision during an elementary school flag ceremony that a school would emerge in Laie that would have global influence. That flag ceremony is depicted in a mosaic tile mural over the entryway to the university.
Today, 74 countries are represented in the 2,700-plus student body, with China having the most students. Over the last 50 years, many of BYU-Hawaii's alumni have returned to their homelands throughout the Pacific Rim and they wield great influence in government, business, education, medicine and law, just as David O. McKay envisioned.
BYU-Hawaii and the PCC has been to Polynesia what the New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty has been to millions of European immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Only, Laie is a small town. And the village where the local high school is located, Kahuku, is even smaller. Several years ago, NFL statistics indicated that Kahuku was tied with Long Beach Poly Tech as the two high schools with the most players in the league with six — more than a lot of top Division I programs.
In the fall, the one-hour drive on single-lane Likelike Hwy from Honolulu to Kahuku is often bumper-to-bumper with coaches from the SEC, Pac-12, MWC, Big 12, Big 10, Notre Dame and every other major college football program looking to land a Red Raider. It's not unusual for six or seven Red Raiders in one year to get Division I offers — they've had as many as 11. Division two and three programs as well junior colleges will sometimes take Kahuku backups in hopes they'll find late bloomers or just solid players who simply couldn't get on the field.
When we arrived in Hawaii last week, we learned Kahuku was playing Kamehameha — a big and well-funded private boarding school in Honolulu — at Aloha Stadium on Saturday night. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why Kahuku's football team has such a huge following because they haven't been around for as long as say, Kamehameha or Punahou, which is Pres. Barack Obama's alma mater.
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