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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 9, 2002

Doing right not always easy, for some

 •  Ferd Lewis:
2+2 doesn't always equal fair play when it comes to sporting world

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

Kaiser High School senior Shinyoung Oh is in good company when it comes to having to struggle with his conscience.

Shinyoung Oh is a math whiz from Kaiser High School.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mike Wilton, the victorious Hawai'i college volleyball coach, has done it. The Rev. Allen DeLong, president of Saint Louis School, has done it. Daniel Mollway, executive director of the state ethics commission, said he does it every day.

Even for those people whose livelihoods and ethics are intertwined, it's not always easy to do the right thing.

Oh, the math whiz from Kaiser High, learned that lesson last weekend when he and teammates Vallent Lee and Claire Tsutsumi gave up their victory at a statewide math contest. One answer by Kaiser that was marked correct was actually wrong, and Oh brought it to his adviser's attention even though the win would have been theirs if Oh had kept his lips zipped.

Oh's father, Gabriel, who is Korean vice consul general, consoled his son that night, when Oh wondered if he did the right thing.

"You should not feel sorry at all," he told his son at dinner. "The record on paper may go temporarily, but the record on your conscience (will be there) forever."

The incident has been occasion for many people in the community to reflect on times when they felt the pull between doing what was advantageous and doing what was right.

University of Hawai'i volleyball coach Wilton recalls how twice over the years he has decided not to let players suit up because they weren't performing well academically — even while the team lobbied him to bend the rules to win a game.

"Those things have come up in a coaching career," he said. "It's hard on everybody."

In one of his first seasons, he benched a starting player even though a game against the University of Southern California looked hopeless.

"We won in five both nights," Wilton recalled. "(It was) good fortune. But that's not the issue. We have principles and standards, and have to stick by them. We gotta walk the walk."

Ethics commission executive director Mollway recalls when he was in the first or second grade, he found a dollar in a book at school.

"At that time, that's like a $50 bill," Mollway said. "And because of the way I was raised, I didn't think about keeping it."

Four weeks later, the teacher gave him the money, and "because of that, I learned that doing the right thing has a reward."

But in his work, he has seen people become whistleblowers who "got creamed, (with) four or five years of misery," suffering from retaliation from others. And once, in college, he was graded down for embarrassing the teacher by pointing out that a student poem the teacher had just read aloud plagiarized a Beatles song.

"I maintain integrity will far outstrip and be more of a victory that will keep (the Kaiser team) very successful," than the loss of first place, he said. "Doing the right thing pays off."

Mollway's daily work involves enforcing ethical practices on state politicians, knowing all the while that they determine his salary. "I don't back off doing my job to make them be more kindly towards me," he said.

DeLong, of Saint Louis, recalls the temptation in college to plagiarize. Once, with a looming paper deadline, he knew the professors wouldn't check everything.

"Even though I would start down that path, I had a bout of conscience and had to go back," he recalled.

Such struggles are what he said formed who he is today.

"(You) may get an advantage, but you are aware all the time of who you really are," he said.

Wilton couldn't agree more.

"There's great wisdom in doing what you think is right, and always telling the truth so you don't have to remember what you said," he said.

Episcopal Bishop Richard S.O. Chang of St. Andrew's Cathedral said honest youngsters like those on the Kaiser math team are more common than people might think. "Young people today really have an integrity, built upon foundations provided by family, schools, friends, all the various components of wider community," he said.

During the formative years in life, he said, we're faced with difficult decisions. "What values we're exposed to (affects our) ability to make decisions, building a value system we're going to live for the rest of our lives."

Back when Chang was a boy, he never would have told his father he finished his homework if indeed he hadn't, Chang said.

"I didn't dare!" he said with a laugh. "I knew the consequence."

Chang said parents set the example for their children. "... Parents have to live the values they're teaching their children. There can't be a double standard."

Gabriel Oh has read the Bible to his two sons frequently, and the family attends an evangelical Baptist church in Makiki nearly every week.

Oh said of his son, "I can't remember him ever lying. So far."