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“Now More Than Ever” State of the EWCA Address By Larry Foster, President of EWCA
December 8, 2006

Hanoi, Vietnam  

Aloha and welcome. 

500 years ago, Christopher Columbus was attacked for saying the world was round, not flat

Today, Thomas Friedman is being attacked for saying the world is flat, not round

One lesson to be learned from this is that the world around us is always changing and that sometimes that change is more like a pendulum swinging back and forth from one extreme to the other yet never resting in the middle, the middle ground,

However, in the midst of change there are also constants.  The EWC and the EWCA represent one of those constants, and a positive one.

The experience of living in Hale Manoa or Hale Kuahine, attending conferences in the Imin Center or working in Burns Hall has changed the lives of many if not all of you in this room.

While the world changes around us, the mission, the core values of the East-West Center has remained constant since its founding nearly fifty years ago in Hawaii:  community building, mutual understanding, tolerance, and civility.

Through our experiences at the East-West Center, we have learned how to respect each other, how to learn from each other, and how to work together, regardless of how disparate our cultures may be.

But let me be clear, the East-West Center is not a melting pot.  The Center’s goal is not to make us all the same.  Hot fusion is not about forming one global, homogeneous culture.  Rather it is about recognizing and valuing the uniqueness and greatness of all of our individual cultures.As proud alumni of the EWC, we carry out the values of the EWC in our daily lives: at work, at home and in our daily interactions with our friends and acquaintances.

It should be obvious why I have titled my remarks: Now more than ever.  But just in case, let me briefly elaborate.  In part, this is simply because “Now More Than Ever” is the theme of our proposed EWCA strategic plan.  But, more importantly, we live in troubled times.

Look at the world around us: Afghanistan, East Timor, Darfur, Iraq, Mumbai, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, the growing signs of racial and ethnic intolerance in Europe, the potential of a new era of isolationism in the U.S.

What more evidence is necessary to prove the need of  community building, mutual understanding, tolerance, and civility?

Not everyone will have the opportunity to go through the East-West Center experience.  That is why it is incumbent upon us, as proud alumni of the Center, to spread the values of the Center wherever we go, in whatever we do.

But enough of preaching to the choir   Let me now address the substance of my remarks today:  what has the EWCA done since our Meeting in Tokyo in August 2008?

I will address five broad areas: conferences, assistance to participants, our strategic plan, chapter development, and community service.

1.      Conferences

We organized a very successful South Asia Conference in New Delhi and those in attendance are now planning a follow up regional conference to be held in Pakistan in early 2008.

We organized this conference in Hanoi

We are at the early stages of planning six more conferences:

The ASPAC Conference in Honolulu, June 15-17, 2007

The 70s reunion in Honolulu, August 24-27, 2007

A second South Asia regional conference in Pakistan in March 2008

Our next Alumni conference in 2008 (Bali, Beijing, Shanghai?)

A Pacific Islands regional conference in Fiji in 2009

The 5 oth Golden Jubilee Conference in Honolulu in 2010

2.      Assistance to Participants

Just a few years ago, some alumni were expressing concern that participants were fast becoming an extinct species at the Center.  I am pleased to announce that through the hard work of the Center, particularly Terry Bigalke and his fine staff, participants have been taken off the list of endangered species and are, in fact, back to near the record levels of the 1960s and 1970s.  And, just importantly as the numbers, is the wide diversification of funding for these participants.

An ever-growing part of that funding is from donations made by you, the proud alumni of the East-West Center.  Each year we are now able to award several scholarships to participants who would otherwise not be able to come to the Center.  Because of our increasing financial support of participants, this year, for the first time, a member of our Executive Board now sits on the EWC committee that selects participants for the degree program.

The 60s Reunion raised over $250,000 and those of us from the 70s are determined to surpass that amount by the time of our reunion this coming August.

I would also like to give special recognition to four endowments recently established by individual alumni:  Pat Loui, Haigo Shen, Ashok Malhotra as well as Toufiq & Ulrike Siddiqi.  The generosity of these alumni and many of you here today will go a long way to ensure the continued flourishing of the participant program at the center.

In addition to money, alumni have also given of their time by assisting in recruiting and orienting new participants from their region.

3.      Chapter Development

New Chapters

New Chapters have been developed in Pakistan, Australia, China, India, and the U.S.

Chapter Leaders’ Workshop

We spent the past two days in lively discussions about the new EWCA Strategic Plan, creating new chapters, energizing existing chapters, building a reliable alumni database, and making better use of the internet.

4.      Strategic Planning

We began our strategic planning process a year ago.  A Strategic Planning Committee was formed consisting of:  Shoji Nishimoto, Khaleda Rashid, David Jones, Eric Hanson, Gordon Ring, myself, Katerina Teaiwa, and Carol Fox.  Using results of the 2005 alumni survey, and with ongoing input from you and other alumni, the committee worked hard to put together the current draft that is in your conference materials.

The Executive Board has approved the most recent draft in concept and we encourage you to pass on you comments to any member of the Drafting Committee or the EWCA Executive Board during the course of this meeting.  The Executive Board is scheduled to approve the final draft at its next quarterly meeting after this conference.

These are some of our accomplishments, but none of them could have have been achieved without the hard work and dedication of a number of key people:  Gordon Ring and Noreen Tanouye from the Alumni Office; volunteers such as Dan Berman and Itsuko Suzuki; and finally board members such as Seshan from India, KK Poh from Malaysia, and Khaleda Rashid from Bangladesh..

5.      Community Service

One of the initiatives that came out of the last Chapter Leaders’ Workshop that was held at our Tokyo conference was community service

Over the past two years our chapters have developed a wide range of projects including: a microeconomic development project for Afghan women; adopting an orphanage in Islamabad for the orphans from the earthquake; providing educational programs in the U.S. on Islam, and tsunami relief.

6.      Finally

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to publicly acknowledge the strong, on-going support for the alumni provided by President Charles Morrison.

Dr. Morrison’s tenure as President marks a new era of close cooperation between the EWC and the EWCA.  One significant example of this new era of cooperation is the decision by the Board of Governors to schedule one of their regular meetings to coincide with our alumni conference, starting with our conference in Malaysia four years ago and again in Tokyo two years ago.  We welcome you and trust you will find our Vietnam conference even more engaging than our last conference in Tokyo.

That concludes my remarks.

Mahalo, aloha, and a hui hou