HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - To better understand U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's leap up the political ladder, we started where she started -- with her parents.
"We know her intelligence. We know her strength. We know her courage. We know her humility," state Sen. Mike Gabbard said of his daughter.
The Gabbards know their daughter better than anyone. They use the phrase "sincere about serving others" to help explain what makes her tick.
"It's there. It's real. And I think that's what makes the difference," Carol Gabbard said.
Tulsi is the fourth of five children, three boys and two girls.
"That's the ironic thing," Carol Gabbard said. "Our boys are businessmen, tennis players and golfers. Our daughters are the warriors, the U.S. Marshall and the military police. It's been sort of, 'How did this happen? It was supposed to be reversed,'" Carol said.
The Gabbards said Tulsi was a good student, easygoing and focused. They home schooled their kids, so even camping trips became teaching moments.
"Get the tent set up, and then it was, 'Okay, let's clean up.' Then we went out and started picking up stuff on the beach," Mike said.
"While we're looking for fire wood, you pick up the trash, too," Carol added.
Carol believes in the Hindu faith. Their children have Hindu names: Bhakti, Jai, Aryan, Tulsi and Vrindavan. Tulsi settled on Hindusim as a teenager. She took her congressional oath of office over a Hindu text. Mike is Catholic. But the Gabbards insist their house isn't divided over religion
"I go to mass now and then," Carol said. "And he (Mike) participates in different religious holidays that we observe like Janmashtami."
"Janmashtami is lord Krishna's birthday. Christmas we celebrate Lord Jesus. So we celebrate both," Mike said.
Tulsi's involvement in politics began 13 years ago, not with her father but with her mother, when Carol ran for and won a seat on the Board of Education.
"I was the first of the Gabbard family to run a race. It was quite an experience. It was like our first dipping our toe into elected politics," she said.
Mike served on the Honolulu City Council, lost a race for Congress, then won election to the state Senate. In 2007 he switched parties from republican to democrat. He has always been an outspoken supporter of traditional marriage.
"Marriage and family is the cornerstone of civilization. Marriage isn't just a word," he said.
But Tulsi said serving overseas in the Hawaii Army National Guard changed her thoughts on some social issues, including gay marriage.
"She's her own person. She's had her own experiences in life that have helped form where she is today," Carol said.
At one time, all three Gabbards were in elective office simultaneously. Now in Congress, Tulsi holds the seat her father once sought. The Democratic National Committee elected her as the party's vice-chair.
"When I really think about it, to where she's gone, it really is amazing," Carol said.
"She's a servant leader. That's not just a campaign theme," Mike said. Asked who she takes after, Mike quickly points at his wife. "Her," he said.