HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - From network interviews to national news stories, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard looks calm and cool. However, her parents said it wasn't always that easy.
"Tulsi is our shy little girl. Of all of our children, she is the shiest," Carol Gabbard said.
"When she and her sister would have to go out and talk to some adult, whether going to the store or delivering a message to a neighbor, she would always shove her younger sister, Davan, ahead of her and say, 'You go talk to them.'"
The Gabbards said growing up, Tulsi was focused and full of surprises. When she wanted to learn to type, they bought a tutorial and turned her loose.
"Her fingers were literally flying. I'm going, 'How many words can you type?' She said, '120 words a minute.' She's like 11-years old. I looked at her work and I said, 'Oh, my gosh!'" Mike Gabbard said.
The couple home-schooled their five children. The family fed the homeless to teach the kids lessons about serving others.
"They got to see that it's not just about yourself," Mike said.
Carol said Tulsi loves the outdoors and is very athletic.
"She likes to surf. She does CrossFit. She does snow boarding. She'll swim. She'll run," she said.
But the Gabbards and their daughter don't see eye-to-eye on the issue of same-sex marriage. Mike has fought for traditional marriage since the 1990s. Tulsi said she will fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
"On that particular issue, Tulsi and I disagree. But we still love each other and have a great amount of respect for each other," Mike said.
The Gabbards said during Tulsi's run for Congress, they deliberately stayed in the background. They didn't want their political history to sidetrack her campaign.
"It was important that she establish her own identity," Mike said.
"She's different from us. She's her on person," Carol said. "We wanted to get people to get to know her, not through us."
They said they still have those "pinch me" moments, when they see the attention Tulsi's gotten in Congress, from the media, and from the Democratic National Committee, which recently elected her as vice chair.
"I think about those young girls out there who have been told, 'No can.' And yet here is Tulsi, and the potential and the possibilities that are there. It's not, 'No can.' It's, 'Can!'" Mike said.
The little girl who was once so shy has grown up.