For 55 years, the Polynesian Cultural Center has offered its guests an experience of cultures from across the Pacific Islands. Originally prophesied by President David O. McKay that thousands would come to Laie, it has also provided employment opportunities for students and since its beginning has become a fixture in the community of Laie.
PCC President Alfred Grace was interviewed and asked how the center had changed the community of Laie for the better.
He said, “I think that the PCC has provided a home, an opportunity for many people from the South Pacific to make Laie their home. In the old days, there was an emphasis for these families to come from the islands that far preceded both the PCC and BYU-Hawaii, and that of course, was to come to the temple.”
Grace continued, “Since those days, the PCC has provided an opportunity to make Laie their home. In the early days, they come to work and then second, they come to attend BYU-Hawaii and pay for their school. Many have gone on to make Hawaii their home, myself being one of them.”
What do the next 55 years hold in store?
“I see us bringing much more authentic and rich perspectives that move beyond performances and demonstrations, to life-sustaining programs based on agriculture and self-reliance,” Grace answered. “It allows a guest to see a more complete picture of Polynesian life than they might in the past. I’m really excited to see the launch of the student development program. It will help students improve their skill sets and improve their employability.”
Does the PCC have greater importance today than in the past?
Grace said, “I think the PCC has great significance, perhaps more so today than 55 years ago because it promotes values that are less common than they used to be: A sense of sharing, of brotherhood, of self-reliance, of working together. Our motto is one ohana sharing aloha, and in today’s society it tends to be less of a significance, people worrying all about themselves and how they will get ahead in life.”
He continued, “Looking out for your neighbor or respect for your elders is not a commonly held belief among young people outside of this community. Many guests have complemented how kind and gracious the BYUH students are.”
Delsa Moe, the director of cultural presentations at the PCC, reflected on some of her favorite memories of the center.
“There are just too many to count. I think so many miracles have happened. They show how the Lord watches over this place. When we had the opening of the Tongan village, the weather was suspect that week. The entire grand opening was being held outdoors, and we just couldn’t afford to have it rain. We had the King and Queen of Tonga coming.
“I asked Uncle David Hannemann to pray for us. I asked him, ‘Uncle David, I have an assignment for you.’ I said, ‘I need to be sure it does not rain for the grand opening. And he asked if that was all. It happened exactly the way I had asked for it.”
“There was a time when the PCC was not making enough money to pay all the employees,” Moe said, “and it looked like we might have to shut down. But all the chiefs from the island came to our aid.”
Moe continued, “My favorite memories are meeting the prophets of the church who come here. Starting with President Benson, I have met every single prophet who has traveled here. The joy they show is beautiful to see. Also, seeing all the alumni come back and visit the PCC warms my heart. The PCC has been able to touch so many lives in just 55 years.”
Moe also said she has met guests who ask where the center gets so many professional dancers. She said she tells them, “The dances are all done by students. One of the things I love to tell people when they come and are amazed by the night show is that this is the most professional group of amateurs anywhere. Our entire light crew, all students. All the training is done by the students.”
She finished, “I know in the next 55 years I’ll be long retired, but the prophets had a vision for this place, and we are only beginning to see the PCC reach its full potential.”
Grace added, “One of the greatest blessings is to recognize the love that Heavenly Father has for this part of his vineyard.
“Through comments and discussion and counsel that I have received from church leaders, it’s been a wonderful experience. I love to see the growth and development of the students: To see a student start off as a dishwasher and then graduate as a leader overseeing 45 other students in a restaurant. The PCC serves and will continue to serve this community for far more than another 55 years.”
Moe, when asked about what the PCC would do in the future, said, “ I know PCC will continue to influence the lives of the visitors who walk these grounds and feel something they cannot quite describe. They say it gives them a warm feeling.”
“I know that in the past there have been several presidents who said that PCC will play a major role in missionary work in China, and it has already started and is far from being finished.” Moe concluded by saying, “ There are still so many missionary opportunities to be found.”
During a cultural demonstration in the Samoa village, Kap Tafiti, originally from Samoa and the PCC’s senior ambassador, said, “The center is a great help for all of the students here at the university. I love to demonstrate aspects of my culture here in the PCC for all the world to see. It is important to remember the past 55 years, so that the future of this special place may be in good hands.”
Reni Brulton, a freshman employee from New Zealand majoring in marketing, said the PCC had changed her in just two months of working there.
“I have only been here for two months, and in that time I think I have really gotten a better grasp of who I am in regards to my culture. I am proud to be Polynesian. In New Zealand, many of my culture face a lot of issues like poverty and neglect. Working here made me remember who I am, and what it is I really believe in.”
Brulton continued, “Even though I am not in church or the temple when I’m here, I can really feel the spirit, which makes working here more than a job.”
When asked what the next 55 years would bring, she responded, “Ideally, PCC will continue to bless the lives of those who visit and work here. I can tell I am part of a very long legacy that will only grow greater. Since the gospel is why the PCC exists, I feel we all have a divine mission in serving here.