KAHULUI - Never, ever expect gratitude is what Gov. Neil Abercrombie told University of Hawaii Maui College graduates on Sunday.
His second rule was: "Never, ever forget the first rule."
He added that especially in politics, people will forgive you if you're wrong but will seldom forgive you for being right.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie offers an air “fist bump” while congratulating graduates of the University of Hawaii Maui College on their achievements Sunday afternoon at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Later, he gave his first graduation address on Maui as governor.
The Maui News AMANDA COWAN photo
Abercrombie gave tips on life, advice and joked with graduates and the crowd during his first commencement address on Maui as governor. There were 345 candidates scheduled to receive their bachelor's and associate degrees and certificates of achievement at the invitation-only event Sunday afternoon at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater.
"You are prepared. You are prepared to go forward," Abercrombie told the graduates.
Amanda Purcell, who received her degree of associate in science in nursing, is one of those prepared for her future.
The 26-year-old Wailuku resident is hoping to get a full-time job at Maui Memorial Medical Center, where she already works part time as a licensed practical nurse in the hospital's intensive-care unit.
She said she hopes to pass her exam to become a registered nurse.
"I feel like I'm a little bit of a shoe-in," she said of her job.
But she added that she wasn't 100 percent confident "because the economy is not the best."
The perky student who moved from Oahu to Maui to enroll at the college was pleased overall that graduation day had arrived.
"It's kind of unbelievable. It went by so fast," she said while waiting backstage before the exercises began.
Her classmate Catherine Keany, too, was pleased that they were graduating because they had worked so hard.
Keany, who already has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious studies from Occidental College in California, said she went back to school to become a nurse because she was tired of being a waitress and of being in a job without opportunities for advancement.
"I feel a really big sense of accomplishment," Keany said.
She said she plans to travel to Nicaragua to practice her nursing skills there as well as catch up on her surfing.
Keany interned at Maui Memorial Medical Center in the telemetry unit, where nurses monitor cardiac patients.
The two women graduated with honors, including being members of Phi Theta Kappa, a national academic honor society for two-year- degree-granting colleges.
Kihei resident Owateka Ward spent 10 years chasing the dream of graduating from college.
The 29-year-old mother of two sons, ages 6 and 4, was "excited and happy" while waiting for the graduation program to begin.
Ward has been working and attending school off and on for the past decade and received her certificate of completion for training as a dental assistant.
She has submitted resumes to potential employers, and since they know she's graduating, she already has some job interviews.
"It all seems pretty positive," she said.
Kazunori Fujita, originally from Hiroshima, Japan, said he felt "great" about graduating Sunday.
The 26-year-old said that when he first came to the college, his English was limited to words such as "hi," and he couldn't speak in full sentences.
But now he was graduating with honors and is also in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
He received an associate in liberal arts and an associate in science in electronic engineering technology.
He will further his education at the University of Oregon.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.