In a series of related events in Okinawa, the East-West Center recently marked the 10th anniversary of its Obuchi program as well as the golden anniversary of the Center. During the past decade, the Obuchi program has brought 49 Okinawan students and scholars to the Center to engage in multilateral educational and research activities. The program, which is supported jointly by the East-West Center and the Japan Foundation, also serves as an important educational link between Okinawa and the United States, a relationship that is heavily dominated by the security dimension.
“The program’s impact can be seen in the changes in the participants’ lives as a result of this experience and what they have brought back to Okinawa from that experience,” stated EWC President Charles E. Morrison during his keynote address at the 10th anniversary program. “The most important early result is to acquire an international outlook and a network of friends and professional colleagues from around the region and world. These enable and empower the Obuchi students and fellows, whose fuller impact is yet to be measured.”
The 10th anniversary program included welcome remarks by Governor Hirokazu Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture and Choko Takayama, President of the EWC Alumni-Okinawa Chapter. The Honorable Yuko Obuchi, member of the Lower House of the Diet in Japan and daughter of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, also presented a keynote address. The reception that followed included appearances by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos and Mayor Mufi Hannemann of Honolulu.
A highlight of the 10th anniversary events included a symposium organized by Obuchi program participants that brought together Obuchi fellows from different years to reflect on their experience and discuss Okinawa-related issues. Robert Nakasone, EWC Obuchi program coordinator, shared the history of Okinawan participation at the Center, which was initially very strong in the 1960s, and was later revitalized with the establishment of the Obuchi program.
Named in honor of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi of Japan, the Obuchi program was announced when President Bill Clinton visited Okinawa for a G-8 meeting in the year 2000. “It was at President Clinton’s initiative that it was named after his friend and fellow leader,” noted EWC President Morrison in his address. “This reflected the President’s awareness of Mr. Obuchi’s deep and special affection for Okinawa.”
In her remarks, former cabinet member Yuko Obuchi, recalled her father’s strong interest in Okinawa. She brought a copy of a letter he had written as a young man to the father of former Okinawan governor Keiichi Inamine, who was present at the 10th anniversary conference and reception. She also noted that Okinawa had erected a statue of Prime Minister Obuchi after his death.
“Mr. Obuchi typified the kind of individual the Obuchi program seeks,” added Morrison. “He was a person who expanded his mind and horizons through international travel and living…. In this globalized world, it is essential that we have globalized minds, particularly among our youth in order to understand the world and to contribute to making it a better one. I am glad the Obuchi program, now ten years old and still going strong, is making such a contribution to the youth of Okinawa.”
Posted on June 21, 2010