The long road to becoming the next President of the University of Hawaii has been narrowed down to two candidates. Now the public gets to meet them and it started Tuesday at UH Manoa with retired Army Lieutenant General Francis Wiercinski.
Wiercinski took the time to "talk story" with anyone who showed up at the public forum but many people in the crowd weren't marching to his tune. Sometimes Wiercinski was interrupted while on stage. Other criticized his military background and questioned his values.
"There's just so many things that go against what should be representing Hawaii in him and we just don't think that he's a good candidate at all," said Lisa Grandinetti, a student at UH Manoa.
But others applaud Wiercinski's thick skin as he was able to brush off naysayers and continue to spread his message.
"What I like about him is that he can tolerate even in this kind of pressure. They were very rude to the speaker. I think they have the right to protest but they should wait," said Dr. Kate Zhou, a professor at UH Manoa.
Wiercinski is one of two candidates left in line to become UH's next president. The other is his polar opposite, UH's interim president David Lassner, a long-time employee of the school. Wiercinski knows the criticism comes with the territory but pointed out his experience in his last job as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Pacific.
"Everyone has the freedom to express their opinions. I swore an oath for that 34-years ago and for me to be a hypocrite just because it's being pointed in my direction. I would be a hypocrite and I won't do that," said Wiercinski.
As for his values, Wiercinski says that hasn't changed.
"The bottom line is, the two things that I find most important is to treat people with dignity and respect and do what's right," said Wiercinski.
The first of Wiercinski's five state wide public forums is in the books. UH's Board of Regents expects to pick the universities next president by mid June.
"This is not a campaign, the university is going to pick who should be leading the system for the next decade," Wiercinski.
Wiercisnki was nominated for this position. He said he had to think about it first but he does believe his prior military experience would benefit the school.
Public Forum Schedule: May 6-9
Interim President David Lassner
-May 7th: Leeward Community College - Noon to 1:30 p.m.
-May 8th: UH Maui College - 8 to 10 a.m.
-May 8th: Kaua'i Community College - 5 to 7 p.m.
-May 9th: University of Hawaii at Hilo - 8 to 10 a.m.
-May 9th: University of Hawaii at Manoa - 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski
-May 6th: University of Hawaii at Manoa - 5 to 6:30 p.m.
-May 8th: Kaua'i Community College - 8 to 10 a.m.
-May 8th: UH Maui College - 5 to 7 p.m.
-May 9th: Leeward Community College - 9 to 11 p.m.
-May 9th: University of Hawaii at Hilo - 5 to 7 p.m