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Investigator's efforts demonstrate genuine concern for youths

By David Shapiro

LAST UPDATED: 7:00 a.m. HST, Sep 29, 2010

All of the chest-thumping about morality and righteousness in this year's election only reminds me that politics is one of the last places I'd look for either.

I find little inherent moral virtue in lust for power, boastfulness, being nice to people according to what they can do for you and disrespect for beliefs other than your own.

When I think of true righteousness in this world, I think of people like my friend Matt Levi, a former TV investigative reporter-turned-hard-boiled private investigator, whose noble passion in life is helping young people achieve the potential in themselves.

Through the Kajukenbo organization he belongs to, he runs martial arts programs in public housing projects and the Juvenile Drug Court that give kids a positive focus on fitness and self-control that can open life's possibilities.

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges alike tell me that Levi's drug court program compares favorably in its results with far more expensive treatment programs.

Amid headlines about gang wars between young people at public-housing projects, he has kids from different projects training together and engaging in spirited but respectful competition.

Levi teaches his students how to fight when necessary but never to glorify violence for its own sake. Mostly, he helps them learn love of family, trust, discipline, humility and respect for themselves and others.

He organizes quarterly Scrabble tournaments at Kuhio Park Terrace that are judged by actual state judges, along with police officers, community leaders and media personalities.

At his last martial arts belt ceremony at KPT, I saw in attendance the new chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, several Circuit Court and Family Court judges, the last three U.S. attorneys, police brass and beat officers, the former superintendent of Hawaii public schools, the heads of several top private schools, assorted business executives, a legendary football coach and the host of a popular TV news show.

Levi says, "The kids need to see that important people care about them."

Kamehameha Schools Chairman Corbett Kalama says, "When Matt calls, you come."

Through the efforts of Levi and others he works with, many of his students have gained entry to some of Hawaii's best private schools, and he can proudly list all of their names and give you the latest news on their many accomplishments.

He shuns publicity for his efforts, but sometimes good works need to be noted to remind us that we serve ourselves best by serving others first.

Levi seldom invites elected officials to his functions, but there are always people there associated in one way or another with the top politicians of the day.

They'll all tell you that these events are as close to true righteousness as they get.

David Shapiro can be reached at or

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