EWC Board of Governors Chair, Puongpun Sananikone's Address

Address delivered by
EWC Board of Governors Chair Puongpun Sananikone
at the 2010 EWC/EWCA International Conference
"Leadership and Community Building in the Asia Pacific Region"
Honolulu, Hawai'i
July 2, 2010

Mayor Mufi Hannemann, members of East West Center  Board of Governors, Members of EWC Foundation Board, Dr. Charles Morrison, Members of the Consular Corps of Hawaii, EWCA Chair Khaleda Rashid,  Outgoing EWCA President Lyn Flanigan, Incoming EWCA President Rick Trimillos, Alumni Chapter leaders, Fellow Alumni, Friends of the EWC, Ladies and Gentlemen:




To all of you who have traveled from all over the world to get here -- and especially those who have not been to Hawaii since you left the East-West Center -- I say WELCOME HOME!  This is indeed a grand homecoming for all of us in the world-wide East West Center 'Ohana. 


Hawaii is a place where people from all parts of the world feel at home. We treasure this place, not just for its natural beauty, but because Hawaii has opened our minds, softened our hearts, and in many ways, shaped who we are today.


This 50 th Anniversary conference in Honolulu is a highlight of a coordinated year-long celebration that began with a highly successful kick-off dinner in January this year; followed by high-profile events  -- including visits by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was one of the key founders of the East-West Center;  international dignitaries including the King George V of Tonga, and The Honorable C.H. Tung, former Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong, and other distinguished speakers, including David Sanger of the New York Times, who gave the 50 th anniversary Chaplin lecture.


This is really an auspicious year for the East-West Center -- a year of extra good feng shui -- for the entire EWC community worldwide.   Amid all this good feng shui, the East-West Center has been in the news a lot -- both here in Hawaii, on the U.S. Mainland, and in the Asia-Pacific region, in part because of our many excellent new programs, but also because the Center played such a pivotal role in Hawaii’s successful bid to host the APEC Summit in November 2011.  This helped vividly demonstrate the value of the Center to Hawaii, and also to the U.S. Government and the Asia-Pacific Region as a whole.


As members of a unique and truly international community -- we have been meeting every two years for the past 3 decades.  We come together in a spirit of joy and optimism, to strengthen our inter-personal bonds, sharpen our inter-cultural skills, and further the work of fostering friendship and mutual understanding among the peoples of the United States and the Asia-Pacific region.


Over the course of the next few days, we will be making and listening to presentations and panels, and sharing ideas about a large and diverse number of issues.  These issues reflect our shared concerns and interests, and touch on the past, the present, and the future.  But importantly, we are also here to recognize and pay homage to the East-West Center, for the enormous impact it has made to our personal and professional lives during these past decades. We will do this by renewing our friendships, meeting new friends, and re-invigorating our shared sense of commitment to the Center’s noble mission.


As alumni, we have a responsibility to tell the East-West Center’s story and share its lessons and its legacy with the world.  I believe that a very significant part of our good feng shui is that our EWC ohana are together and united as never before.  I come before you this morning with two principal hats – my position as Chair of the Board of Governors and, as alumnus, my long-time engagement with the alumni.  And my wife, Thanh-Lo, is a member of the Board of the East-West Center Foundation and of the EWCA Board. 


I believe that never before in our history have the East-West Center Board of Governors, the East-West Center Foundation Board, the East-West Center Association, and the East-West Center management team under the leadership of President Charles Morrison been working so effectively together toward a common purpose.  We have been blessed with the strong and constant support of our beloved Senator, Daniel K. Inouye, who has worked so hard to secure continued public support for our mission.  This spirit and unity of purpose to achieve a great mission --and to support the great institution charged with that mission-- is very important to me, and has been critically important in achieving the stability, growth, and recognition the Center now enjoys.


With its accomplishments and progress, EWCA is now an indispensable partner in the Center’s mission to build a peaceful, prosperous and just Asia-Pacific Community.  Alumni are the most important asset of the East-West Center.  They are the foot soldiers of the East-West Center mission.  It is through the alumni network that the East West Center mission continues to get carried out.


I want to pay tribute to all of you who have made the effort to come here, but especially to those who have played critical roles in the founding and development of our alumni association:


  • Benji Bennington , who set up the Office of Records which began tracking alumni;
  • Gordon Ring , who has led the Center’s alumni office in such a cheerful and dedicated manner;
  • the late Frank Gniffke , who drafted the enabling document of our Association;
  • Governor George Ariyoshi , who as Board chair brought the alumni in as guests to the Board meetings, a practice which has been continued to this day by the current Board of Governors;
  • and all of you who have served as past chairs, presidents, chapter leaders, chapter members, and often as hosts for our students and international meetings.  I salute you all!


I know of no other organization that can boast such a dedicated and loyal group of alumni.


In a few minutes, President Morrison will update us on the State of the East- West Center, and on some new and effective programs the Center has created in collaboration with some of our 750 partner countries and organizations.  He will also inform you about the urgent needs, challenges and opportunities for the future of this remarkable, one-of-a-kind institution that we hold so dear to our hearts.  We will also hear from our out-going EWCA president, Lyn Flannigan, who will update us on Alumni activities over this past two years.  


When we met in Bali two years ago, we spoke extensively of the “trans-formative power” of the East-West Center, that altered and enlarged our outlook, made us advocates for multi-culturalism, practitioners of internationalism, and believers in the possibility that even adversaries can work together amicably toward shared goals.  We see this “trans-formational power” as a lifelong gift that keeps on giving to all of us, enabling us to touch people of other cultures, as we have been touched by our experience at the EWC.


As a powerful public-private partnership, the East-West Center’s future depends on its ability to diversify and secure additional sources of funding, building its resource base to ensure that we keep the mission of the past fifty years thriving for the next fifty years.


Individually and collectively, we alumni are essential building blocks for the EWC’s future stability. It is up to all of us to carry the torch forward, fanning the flame, and spreading the East-West Center fire of hope among our fellow alumni, colleagues, and contacts in our personal and professional lives.


Thank you for traveling thousands of miles to help us celebrate what we have accomplished, and to push ahead with all we have yet to accomplish.  I look forward to continuing to team up with you so that the EWC reaches even greater heights over the coming decades. 


And I look forward to meeting and reconnecting with each one of you in the coming days at the Conference.