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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, August 11, 2001

Army general says change essential, hard

By Adrienne Ancheta
Advertiser Staff Writer

Shinseki: Went to school on Kaua'i

If the more than 900 public school administrators at the Hilton Hawaiian Village had black berets, they would have donned them in a show of support for U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's vision for change.

Shinseki spoke at the Department of Education's annual Education Leadership Conference yesterday about his own experiences with being the leader in change within the Army and how his work relates to that of educators.

"I have been teaching your graduates for 30 years as a continuation of your work," Shinseki said. The Army recruits 180,000 high school graduates each year, he said. "The quality of your product is important to me."

Shinseki spoke about excellence, vision, leadership, change and taking change to a higher level of transformation.

His experience with change includes helping initiate Gen. Frederick Franks' left hook, a flanking maneuver using long lines of soldiers that trapped thousands of Iraq Revolutionary soldiers during Desert Storm, and making the black beret standard for all Army personnel. His message to teachers was clear: change is essential but comes with difficulty. He quoted Woodrow Wilson: "If you want to make enemies, change something."

Shinseki was the first speaker that the DOE sought for the conference because of his work in changing a large institution like the Army, LeMahieu said. The department initiated change in the school system, calling for standards-based education.

"If we aren't changing to stay in front then we are falling back," state schools superintendent Paul LeMahieu said.

The crowd of vice principals, principals, school administrators and officials gave Shinseki a standing ovation. Gary Zukeran, vice principal at Maui High School and a member of the National Guard, was at the conference and agreed with Shinseki's vision.

"His vision starts where ours leaves off," Zukeran said. Zukeran said he would take to his students and staff what he learned about change and excellence. "What the Army stresses is what we try to develop in the youth."

The relationship between teacher and student came full circle with Shinseki taking time to speak to the administrators. He wanted to repay the contribution teachers made to his education by speaking at the conference, said Shinseki, whose wife and sister are both educators.

"I've been a beneficiary of a great education and the youngsters in Hawai'i deserve the same opportunities," he said.

Conference organizers were able to find out through contacts in Kaua'i, where Shinseki went to school, that he would be there visiting family during the conference. He returned to Kaua'i after the conference.