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 above an unpatroled beach. The water was shallow, and Terry hit his head on sand, becoming in one split second a quadriplegic. Paralyzed from the neck down with only limited use of his hands and arms, Terry nonetheless finished high school and college, competed as a wheelchair athlete, got arrested for the cause of Hawaiian sovereignty, graduated as a PhD in history, and pioneered as a professor in the new field of Hawaiian Studies.
Terry, who took the Hawaiian name, Kanalu, (“the wave”) learned from being disabled to value the life he lived rather than mourn the life he lost. He used that 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 a rugged American individualist.
In classrooms, on cable television and even from his hospital room, Kanalu inspired thousands. But when his body eventually gave out, he asked help from his doctors to end his life. In a hospital room overflowing with friends and family, ukuleles 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.