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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, June 20, 2002

Will UH dream be kept alive or dashed?

By Dave Baumgartner
Teacher living in Honolulu

The new man at the University of Hawai'i with a vision, Evan Dobelle, wants to see where the shadow of his wand-waving dreams might go. And so he is pointing away most everywhere — mauka, makai — to get a reading.

What's to happen to this Evan Dobelle? Will this pointman for change do what others before him have done: talk the talk (as he is doing now), but then walk, in the long run (head hung low), back to the airport? Will the people who have burrowed their way into the fiefdoms at UH and elsewhere, into NIMBYs, into narrow self-interests called "us guys," do their thing one more time and shoot down visionary change?

The jury's out.

From my seat on the sidelines, however, I figure Evan Dobelle will maybe last for a while.

And, oh, the heart of his plans ...

What a stretch it would be to take a glide down the "mall" of University Avenue and get to drift all the way past Dole and King, past even Date Street, past even Kapi'olani Boulevard and stop flush at the banks of the Ala Wai canal.

What a stretch it would be if the "drone of the cars" along University Avenue were defined by the sounds and the sights of education, by the sharing of Information Age skills (in communications, sciences, arts, sports, human relations), with eager students from a score of different countries about our place in the world, piping in.

What the heck, why stop wand-waving just at the Ala Wai? Arch a Rainbow Bridge to link up Waikiki "Island" itself to this new UH town of the future. Waikiki could and should mean so much more than a tourism plantation mill. It's a "dorm." Waikiki should be a place where future students in their millions from Asia, Polynesia, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, the other side of the globe will book their room, cross their bride to University Mall, then make contacts-of-a-lifetime with the Information Age.

Oh, wait, I forgot. This is Hawai'i.

This isn't the place where exciting ideas come to live. I forget. This is the place where exciting ideas come to die ... where bold thinkers get pared and whittled down, in good time, on all sides ... and then minimalized and then marginalized. This is the place where big thinkers at last will limp back to the airport and go away.

It's much better to dream in a newspaper and pray in church.