Saturday, October 2, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Nobel Prize recipient Lech Walesa is greeted yesterday
at the Hilton Hawaiian Village by Laurice Otsuka, the
hotel's finance accounts director. Walesa came to
Hawaii to speak today at a fund-raiser for the Art
Rutledge Endowment fund.

Solidarity hero
Walesa arrives

The Nobel laureate is here
for a labor endowment fund-raiser

By Mary Adamski


A figure from the pages of recent European history stepped into the flowery welcome of a Hawaii postcard yesterday.

Nobel Prize laureate Lech Walesa, whose Solidarity shipyard workers movement led to the downfall of communism in Poland a decade ago, is in Hawaii to speak today at a fund-raiser for the Art Rutledge Endowment fund.

Unity House President Tony Rutledge was among more than 30 greeters at the Hilton Hawaiian Village yesterday. He invited Walesa to help launch the fund honoring his father, who was born in Poland and was a labor leader in Hawaii for 50 years before his death in 1997.

More than 1,000 people were expected to hear Walesa at the luncheon today at the hotel's Coral Ballroom. Proceeds will help set up scholarships and support a lecturer's chair at the Center for Labor Education and Research at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu.

Walesa came to Hawaii from Memphis, Tenn., where he was presented the Freedom Award by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The lineup of lei greeters from the hotel, Rutledge's unions and the university drew onlookers who snapped photos when they recognized Walesa from 1980s newsreels.

The onlookers included a party of six tourists from Poland, brought by Bozena Jarnot, honorary Polish consul and director of Hawaii Polonia Tours. "They never got to see him in Poland," said Jarnot.

One face in the crowd that Walesa recognized was Sharron Webster of the Big Island, who had set the wheels in motion for his Hawaii visit. Webster visited Poland in March while on a European vacation and, with the help of the U.S. Embassy, arranged a meeting with Walesa in Gdansk.

"I read all his books, and I wanted to meet him because I respect all he's done," said Webster. "When I mentioned he should come to Hawaii, he said, 'Get me a sponsor.'" Rutledge jumped at the opportunity, she said.

Walesa got into the lei-giving spirit, returning a young woman's kiss with the traditional Polish ceremonial practice of touching cheeks three times: left, right and left again.

The wave of Polish nationalism set off by Walesa's Solidarity movement prevailed against the communist regime. He became the first democratically elected Polish president in 1990.

In 1995, Polish voters dumped the former Gdansk shipyard electrician after one turbulent term of office.

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