To understand why the Board of Regents must not appoint a retired Army General as president of the University of Hawaii, one needs to understand the basic concept of a university, and then look at UH in the ’60s, and at what the UH system must grapple with in the near future.

The core value of a university is the free expression of ideas. A university offers a place where all creative ideas are put on the table and argued vigorously, and the best are supported and adopted.

In the ’60s, UH Manoa was alive with anti-war activity. There were frequent rallies and demonstrations all with the message that the Vietnam War was based on lies, that it was an immoral war, and we must bring the boys home. The ROTC building was set afire.

The Right Stuff? UH Presidential finalist Wiercinski NO TYPE

Frank Wiercinski, speaking soon after he became a finalist for the presidency of the University of Hawaii.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

A young Neil Abercrombie was often in the center of things. He carried his soapbox with him, and would stop wherever he could gather a crowd, to explain the war to all who would listen. Many look back on the ’60s as the university’s finest hour. So many ideas were alive and discussed — protection of the environment, social justice and the plight of blacks, to name a few.

But how would things have fared at UH if a former Army general had been president? Would there have been a tight grip from the beginning, with no anti-war rallies and demonstrations? Would troops have taken over campus following the burning of the ROTC building? What would have become of the free exchange of ideas, the core value of a university?

Today our university is quiet. There seems little reason not to appoint a retired Army general to the presidency. But there are wrenching problems looming on the horizon, especially for one whose life has been steeped in patriotism.

In accordance with Act 195, which was approved by the state Legislature in 2011, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has announced that it will fund a Native Hawaiian convention to form a modern government for the Hawaiian people.

After years of supporting the Akaka bill, which would make Hawaiians another Indian tribe, OHA recently announced that it would support any form of government chosen by the Hawaiian people. In the last couple of weeks there has been discussion about a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking for a determination of whether or not the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists.

There are young Ph.D.s teaching on almost every campus across the state who have written doctoral dissertations on various facets of this question. Several people in the law school have also made it a focus of their studies.

Collectively, they have shown — from the landing of American troops who caused the overthrow of the monarchy to annexation and the vote for statehood — every step of the American takeover of Hawaii has been illegal under American law and/or international law. These are men and women who can lead the debate.

The university is the forum where much of it should take place. But the result could be the restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom. As president of the University of Hawaii, how will a former general of the United States Army encourage free speech and the right of assembly, when the result may be the dissolution of the 50th state and the surrender of American control over the islands?

Hawaiian sovereignty involves all who live here.  If structured right, it could possibly be good for all of us.  It will require free and open discussion among all of our people.

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