Q + A, Wesley Park

The man Walter Dods calls “the local boy’s local boy,” Wesley Park is the product of Roosevelt High and the University of Hawaii. He’s served as dean of UH’s College of Continuing Education, vice president of the East-West Center, consultant to First Hawaiian Bank and Queen Liliuokalani Trust, and CEO of Hawaii Dental Service. He’s just published a book, Lessons Learned on the Corner in Kalihi, from Watermark Publishing.*

*Watermark is a company of the aio Group, as is PacificBasin Communications, which publishes HONOLULU Magazine.

Photo: Timmy Forrest

Q: Your book is a collection of short sentences—advice, observations, rules to live by. What made you start writing them down in the first place?

A: I wrote them down for myself, to clarify the rules I wanted for my own life. And I wanted to pass them on to my two sons and my grandson, save them some time coming up with guidelines for their own lives, to use or not use depending on what they thought. That’s all.

Q: How did it end up in print?

A: Some friends were going to make a few copies for me. Instead, they made 200. That was OK. I gave them to friends. Some of them talked me into publishing it. I hesitated to do that, since I’d written for myself and my family.

Q: Are you too humble a guy to publish a book?

A: It wasn’t false humility, though I know lots of guys smarter, tougher, better than me. I didn’t want people to think I’d lived a life that followed all the rules in the book. I’ve lived a hell of a life. I didn’t want guys who knew me when I was major kolohe to say, That Wesley, what’s he talking about?

Q: Your book is being held up as an example of local values.

A: They’re the values that I was raised with, the ones I assume all local people were raised with. They’re made up of values from many different races and religions. Local culture has a higher degree of tolerance than most places, more inclusiveness.

Q: So local culture is unique?

A: No. All localities have local cultures. The Northeastern part of America has a certain local culture, different from everyplace else. The deep South has one, the Midwest, Southern and Northern California. Hawaii doesn’t have the only local culture. It’s one of many.

Q: Is it the best?

A: No. The things that people like and respect in a person, in any local culture, are universal in nature—being kind, being considerate, making sure your word is good. These things are universal. Local culture is a real good culture, but I am not trying say it’s the best. There are a million people on the island, but it’s still a small town, sometimes there’s pettiness. There’s good and bad in every culture. But first you have to understand your own, warts and all. Then you can understand the others.