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Newly selected University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner participated in a traditional Hawaiian welcome ceremony on Friday, June 20 at UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

“This ceremony today is an opportunity for the kanaka maoli of this place to commit ourselves to the success of David Lassner as the president of the system,” said Maenette Benham, the dean of UH Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner and Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge Professor Lilikalā K. Kameʻeleihiwa

Lassner also displayed his knowledge of Hawaiian culture by offering his own oli, or Hawaiian chant, at the start of the ceremony.

“That brought tears to many peoples’ eyes just because we knew that when he oli’d there, he was honoring everything that we are. Our spirit and this place,” said Benham.

Lassner was draped in lei and surrounded by Hawaiian community and campus leaders as the procession wound its way through the Hawaiʻinuiākea grounds.

Along the way, representatives of UH Mānoa’s colleges and schools welcomed Lassner, offering him chants and gifts.

“An opportunity for them to say to David Lassner that they support him and that they share in this journey forward,” explained Benham.

The procession then headed to Ka Papa Loʻi ʻO Kānewai for a traditional ʻawa ceremony, during which representatives from Governor Neil Abercrombie’s office, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Queen’s Health Systems, Kamehameha Schools, Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust, Lunalilo Trust and the UH Board of Regents offered Lassner their best wishes, advice and spoke of the importance of working together as they look toward the future.

“I think that’s what he offers,” said Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chief Executive Officer Kamanaʻo Crabbe. “That progression, a new vision, but also he’s a great, great collaborator and with the number of projects the university has, as well as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in Kakaʻako, I think it is a great time to reach out and really work together, not just for the benefit of each association, but for the benefit of Hawaiʻi as a whole.”

Lassner drank the ʻawa and expressed his gratitude.

“It was incredibly heartening and humbling to see the commitment and support of so many people inside and outside of the university who care about the university and our success and are willing to support our path forward,” said Lassner.

For many, the highlight of the day was after the ceremony, when Lassner performed an impromptu hula as members of his halau joined in.

Video of Lassner dancing hula

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