Farewell Hawaii pono
This microcosm of the
Asia-Pacific world should focus on peace studies
as its major mission
May 17, 2005
It has been a great pleasure to live among the beautiful people
of Hawaii. It also has been a privilege to teach at the Manoa campus
of the University of Hawaii (UH). My reflections have focused on
what this university can do with its unique potential to better
to the people of Hawaii.
Hawaii is a remarkable microcosm of the
Asia-Pacific world. Its multicultural population resembles the
region. Its unique Aloha culture has created an atmosphere of unity
in diversity. That is exactly what the world needs today. We desperately
need dialogue instead of a clash among the world’s civilizations.
But there are also the hard facts of life. The Hawaiian economy
is currently based on tourism, the military, and to a lesser extent,
agriculture and high tech. Economic diversification has been the
state’s laudable objective, but it has not quite succeeded.
If Thomas Friedman is right and the world is flat, Hawaii can become
a major center for medical, educational, and recreational facilities.
Hawaiian tempers and temperatures can immensely contribute
to this future.
Militarization of UH does not serve the interests of the American
or Hawaiian people. Hawaii’s late Senator Spark Matsunaga
had high hopes for the UH to become a center for peace studies.
He helped to establish an Institute for Peace here. Former UH president
and Vice-president, Albert Simone and Tony Marsella, helped that
dream come true. Betty Jacob, Bob Bobilin, John Van Dyke, Lou Anne
Guanson, Ralph Summy, and myself served as the directors.
When I was serving as director, the Institute played a critical
role in diffusing an ethnic conflict on the campus in the early
1990s. It also tried but it could not diffuse wars in
the Persian Gulf. Since 1996, I have served a director of another
institute outside of UH. The Toda
Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research has dedicated itself to dialogue among civilizations
for world citizenship.
Declining state support has reduced
peace studies at UH. The Matsunaga Institute for Peace has been
one of the victims. In the
meantime, Hawaii has allowed a great opportunity to fade away by
default. Hawaii can be a bridge of knowledge and understanding
in the Asia-Pacific world. The thousands of Asia-Pacific graduates
of University of Hawaii have contributed to the intellectual
life at UH. But they also have served as dual ambassadors of good
between the United States and the Asia-Pacific.
A more active
recruitment of Asian students for UH can be a source of strength.
University has demonstrated that it can be done. To do so,
governance at UH must become more of a search for the greatest
less of a political football game.
Globalization is blurring boundaries. But it is also creating
new boundaries. The new boundaries are more educational than physical.
Hawaii cannot afford to fall behind in the race for global knowledge.
Aside from the School of Hawaiian, Asia, And Pacific Studies (SHAPS),
a regional studies center, the University of Hawaii has no academic
home for international or global studies.
It is not too much to
ask from a research university to respond to the needs of the time
to establish a center for global studies. It would fit Hawaii’s
role in the world. That center could also focus on peace studies
as its major mission. It would thus respond to the fervent of
hopes of millions. I hope the UH Board of Regents and the Interim-President
David McLain hear this call.
Majid Tehranian is Professor, School of Communications,
University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Director of the Toda
Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research in Honolulu, Hawaii. His
latest book is Bridging
a Gulf: Peace in West Asia (London, I. B. Tauris, 2003).