Remarks Made by Evan S. Dobelle Following His Appointment

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Mar 16, 2001

It is a great honor for me to join the proud tradition that is the system of the University of Hawaiʻi. I do so in a spirit of respect and appreciation for the privilege accorded to me, with a profound sense of the important role that this university plays in the educational, economic and cultural life of these islands and with great confidence in the future that we can build together for the people of Hawaiʻi.

I also come to Hawaiʻi with a very deep and abiding sense of appreciation for the wonderful years that Kit, Harry and I have spent at Trinity College at Hartford. Trinity stands for so much that is right and good in liberal education -- for excellence in the classroom and the laboratory, for devotions of service and to making a difference beyond the campus, for the celebration of human dignity and for the promise of what a community of learning can be about. I want to thank the Board of Trustees of Trinity and the faculty, staff and my students for an unforgettable experience and for a time in which, together, we indeed did make a significant difference for the good.

My life's journey has always turned toward the path of greatest challenge -- for in times of challenge, we are called to see beyond what is easy and to cast our energy toward that which is right; we are called to reach beyond what we think we can do -- to achieve what we know we must do; to move beyond rhetoric, to move beyond bureaucracy, to move beyond any excuse to action, to courage and to accountability.

The University of Hawaiʻi faces a moment of great and important challenges. I wouldn't have it any other way. For together, and without fear or rancor, we shall shape a future worthy of this state and its citizens of all ages and backgrounds. We shall set the standard in the nation -- be it in undergraduate or graduate education; be it in the preparation of students to succeed in the new, highly technological global economy; be it in the level and quality of research that is bringing new knowledge to our state and nation; be it in the impact of, perhaps a new first-rate medical school on the quality of health care for our people; or be it in the profoundly important opportunities that our community colleges bring to this economy and our people. The University of Hawaiʻi system will have only one thing to strive for, and that is excellence. We shall have only one goal, and that is to be the best. We shall have only one direction, and that is forward.

Hawaiʻi is a magical place where natural beauty and extraordinarily rich cultural traditions are surpassed only by the remarkable generosity of spirit found among its people. The regents have granted me a tremendous responsibility. I hope to honor it with the same grace and character that has been shown through these past eight years by President and Mrs. Mortimer. I thank them, and I thank them on behalf of all of you. Our responsibility at the University of Hawaiʻi is to ensure our system supports and enhances the quality of life and does so in a way that will make our people proud -- with a confidence that never slides into arrogance, with a sure sense of mission and an unyielding devotion to excellence, with a passion about what we do and what we can achieve in partnership with the people of our state, with a commitment to opportunity for all our citizens to partake in the wonder of learning and to reap the tangible and intangible benefits that come with such an opportunity. Together we will build a truly inter-island, interactive, inter-generational, international institution of higher education, and I am honored to stand with you and to join the people of this most magnificent state as we set this university toward a strong and vibrant future. In the tomorrows yet to come we shall all be proud of what we will accomplish together.

We are in the new millenium. The stage is set for us to play our role in leadership.

In the history of America the acceleration of knowledge coupled with the transition to a global economy gives us our mandate.

One can measure many things in life, but the value of this university cannot be easily counted for our impact is infinite. I come to you with humility and respect and feel blessed to be able to make a difference.

I have often said educational leaders cannot call our students to leadership if we lack the courage and the vision to lead. How can we speak for the pursuit of truth if we turn our back on the truth that is our faculty? How can we encourage individual responsibility if we as an institution behave irresponsibly?

We are a state led by the governor and the legislature truly committed to the quest for civic culture -- to respect for diversity, responsibility and personal achievement.

Our 10 privileged communities, however, belong to the much larger community that extends beyond our campuses at Manoa, Honolulu, Leeward, Hawaiʻi, Windward, West Oʻahu, Kapiʻolani, Hilo, Maui and Kauaʻi, and the Employment Training Center.

Never has such a commitment been more important. Never has the challenge to reassert a moral authority been more compelling.

I have written of my concerns. At times we live in a world whose sense of balance is seriously askew, a world so captivated by the notion of celebrity that we often forget what we deem worthy of celebration, a world in which the ephemeral and the timeless are too often confused.

We must not let the moment define us. We must not measure success according to the latest stock quotations, the most recent box score, the wealthiest person or the latest poll. Coaches are not to be measured by today's game, politicians by today's tracking numbers, villains by today's atrocity and saints by today's miracle.

Because, in such a world, values become marginalized, substance gives way to style, and integrity gives way to the popular choice. We say what we need to say to get to tomorrow; and then we begin to do what we need to do to meet our personal needs and shape our values structure to ensure immediate satisfaction.

Colleges hold a special public trust because they are repositories of civic values, ideals and aspirations. We have a unique capacity to spur a renewed spirit of American idealism and Hawaiian culture. We are home to men and women living through a critically important time in their lives -- a time when all the promise of an idealistic worldview can reach fruition or harden into cynicism. For institutions of higher learning, the choice is clear: We must act in the best traditions of American education -- as conveners, as the wellspring of new ideas, as a relentless voice for truth.

Today's college students and faculty and staff want to build a world that reaches beyond skepticism and beyond limitations. They want their lives and their institutions to stand for something. They want more than pat answers and tired rhetoric. These men and women are the promise of Hawaiʻi's new century, and it is our responsibility to be worthy of their idealism and to be worthy of their potential.

It is for me to work and to honor the dedication of the extraordinarily and distinguished faculty of these institutions.

One of my first responsibilities will be to choose and send to the regents the name of a new chancellor for the Manoa campus. I would ask the UHM Faculty Senate to recommend to me the composition of the search committee. It would be my preference that it be composed singularly of faculty members chosen throughout the disciplines of both the undergraduate and graduate schools and, where of concern, to have conversations with the union. It would be my preference that three to five finalists be brought to this campus to speak to students, to speak to faculty, to speak to staff, to speak to alumni, to speak to the trustees and members of the community, all of whom I would encourage to comment to me, and then I would make the selection in consensus with the faculty-only search committee.

I have never been failed by a faculty that has been validated and empowered and I want the chancellor to be their advocate and to be their champion.

As your newest "warrior," I am reminded as it is written in Proverbs 24:3-5:

By wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches,
Wise warriors are mightier than strong ones,
And those who have knowledge,
Than those who have strength.

May God give me the strength to be a wise Hawaiʻi Rainbow Warrior.