Newcomers will succeed
in Hawaii by showing
open hearts, open minds

Paul Costello, in the midst of relocating to the mainland, apparently felt obligated to take a few parting shots at our island culture and Gov. Linda Lingle ("Warning to malihini: Don't try to climb out of the crab bucket," Star-Bulletin, June 20).

Costello, who served as University of Hawaii vice president for external affairs and university relations under President Evan Dobelle, claimed that "as an outsider, one is never truly accepted" in Hawaii. He also referred to "a level of toxicity" at UH that he didn't understand.

Although every society and every state has its written and unwritten rules about how to fit in with the local culture, I strongly disagree with Costello's assertion that newcomers are not really accepted. Instead, I would argue that the people of Hawaii are more friendly and welcoming than residents of the other 49 states.

"E komo mai" is not just a phrase; it is a way of life. And, sorry to say, it is a way of life Costello never understood.

Embrace Hawaii, do your part to help the community and the state will embrace you back, as newcomers from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life have discovered. My wife and I learned that firsthand when we moved to Hawaii in the early 1980s to run our sports business.

Evan Dobelle talks to Sumner Howard, left, and Ralph Hook, right, former Dean of the College of Business, after speaking at the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii's annual luncheon. It was 11 days after he started his job as University of Hawaii president.

Sure, there were those who said "you'll never make it here" or "your way of doing things will not work here." But the reality is, skeptics turn into friends when they find out that you are genuine and your motives are worthy. At the end of the day, it is more about the community than yourself.

On the topic of newcomers, I might add that in 1990, Valley Isle residents entrusted the office of Mayor of Maui County to former malihini Linda Lingle, a St. Louis native who moved to Hawaii after completing college in California. Then, in 2002, voters statewide chose her to fill the highest office in Hawaii. So much for not accepting those who relocate here.

The thrust of Costello's commentary was that Dobelle, whom he labeled a "visionary" leader, arrived in Hawaii with (in Costello's words) "big dreams and high expectations" but blundered into "local sacred ground" or didn't pay appropriate homage to the powers that be.

Then, in a scene reminiscent of "Survivor," Dobelle was put on trial, "convicted in absentia" and effectively banished from the island. Behind it all, according to Costello, was the governor, who secretly put out the order to (again I quote) "squash the visionary."

This provincial drama drew to a close when the UH Board of Regents obediently delivered the fatal blow to the maligned president -- or so Costello would have us believe.

I think the real story is closer to this: Dobelle was welcomed with open arms by Hawaii, granted an exorbitant salary nearly three times higher than the previous president, boasted about how he was going to transform our university system and convinced a great many people that he was ready to deliver on his grandiose promises.

Then, as the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and other media extensively reported, this president failed in his fund-raising duties and made a series of promises that went unfulfilled. His questionable performance drew bipartisan criticism from the legislators, including Democratic legislators Rep. Mark Takai and Sen. Donna Kim.

So were the governor and the island culture behind Dobelle's professional demise? Or did the narcissism of advisers such as Costello bring down the university president?

We should not feel sorry for a well-paid, inner-circle confidant of the former UH president such as Paul Costello. Rather, we should speak out against the damaging and demeaning statements he made in last Sunday's commentary about the people of Hawaii.

Paul Costello was given every chance to succeed at UH, and he responded by abusing us on his way back to the mainland. Whether he was a malihini or a lifelong Hawaii resident made no difference. Costello let our state down. End of story.

Lenny Klompus, a former sports promoter who ran the Hula, Aloha and Oahu Bowls, is senior communications adviser to Gov. Linda Lingle. This commentary represents Klompus' personal thoughts and was not written in his capacity as adviser to the governor.


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