1960s Reunion Conference
Theme: "Making a Difference: Pioneers in Interchange Between East and West"
November 14-19, 2003
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA


Summary of 1960s Reunion


Nearly 250 EWC alumni from 21 countries as distant as Nepal and Florida, USA gathered to celebrate and evaluate their East-West Center experience in the decade of the 1960s. They were joined in this five day conference by government officials from Washington and Hawaii, top EWC staff, and members of a newly appointed Board of Governors. More than a nostalgic celebration, the impact of the East-West Center's mission to build an Asia Pacific community past, present and future was the focus of the gathering.


East-West Center President Morrison demonstrated why he has been so successful in regaining the confidence of the alumni, Washington and Hawaii. He allayed the fears of an anxious alumni who worried that the far reaching changes in the institutional structure of the EWC had altered its soul. He reaffirmed that the core of the mission rested upon programs that continued to promote mutual cultural tolerance and understanding. These were the values which bonded alumni to each other, to the Center and motivated them to join this reunion.


Perhaps most importantly he placed the alumni experience in the context of community building when he noted "As 1960s alumni, you are the East-West Center first participants - 'pioneers in interchange.' .... you collectively have led new countries to independence, you have created businesses and NGOs... You have served as mayors, governors, legislators, and cabinet ministers. .... As diplomats you represented your nations and negotiated agreements. .... You have created great and enduring works of art - buildings, sculptures and paintings, and literature...." He assured all that the 21st Century EWC would be as productive, and one which welcomed alumni dialogue and support


For President Morrison’s complete remarks, click here




On a personal level, the reunion was an opportunity for alumni to test whether their memories of times past were as significant as they thought. Old friends exchanged vignettes about the last 40 years of their lives. They reunited with Hawaii host families, many still active in the Friends of the EWC. They roared as they recalled misadventures of their youth. Yes, tears flowed as they heard and identified with speakers who described their life-changing experiences as a result of being a part of the Center.


An emotionally charged atmosphere was created when adult children described the impact on their childhood and emerging adulthood due to having EWC parents. The coming together of their very thoughtful presentations formed an outstanding panel that was truly an embodiment and an affirmation of the trajectories of the 60s generation. We were struck by how each presentation pursued its own direction and found its own voice, while still referencing central themes of respect, awareness, discovery, and the challenges of difference.


These second generation adult children touched many of us at levels of cognition and feeling that are so seldom visited. A standing ovation is a remarkable statement from people for whom standing up for anything is a major effort! We thank them for taking the time to share with us. They made us all very proud! As one panelist summarized, " I never questioned whether the aunties and uncles were blood relatives or from the EWC. You all were my family". "Our international friends were the living symbols of the value of cultural interchange."




The EWC's real world connection was brought home by keynote speaker Patricia Harrison, Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs representing Colin Powell. Secretary Harrison's explanation of US policy, its reconstructive initiatives as well as it military policies, was in interesting juxtaposition to the views expressed by speakers on a panel entitled "Images of the United States". She stressed the cultural and educative links on a people-to-people level which she believed would in the long run surmount the present difficulties.


For Patricia Harrison’s complete remarks, click here


A former member of the Indonesian Parliament, a businessman from Karachi, a Filipina professor from Brazil and a college president from Malaysia felt torn in their response to this same American foreign policy in Iraq and the Middle East. The positive experiences they personally have shared with Americans, especially at the Center, fought with their opposition to the foreign policy of the US. They feared for the destruction of the positive people-to-people feelings most Asians and Latinos felt for individual Americans. They also feared that US policies fueled a radical element who were taking advantage of an already inflamed economic situation.


In short, all agreed that disagreements on policy should not undermine the long range goal of promoting mutual respect. And, that students at the Center are in the vanguard in such a mission.




Galen Fox, an EWC alum and Minority Leader of House, representing the Hawaii Legislature and Governor Lingle read her proclamation recognizing the importance of the EWC for Hawaii and for the region. Roland Lagareta, newly elected Chairman of the EWC Board of Governors, pledged a renewed effort on the part of the Board to promote the EWC -Hawaii-Asia-Pacific initiatives by helping to better communicate its program to the public and to deepen its financial base.




The emotional dynamics reverberating through the conference were gratitude for the EWC experience and "give back". How may we who have benefited give back to the Center? Some of the means are straightforward. The 60's alumni raised close to a quarter of a million dollars for an endowment fund to support student scholarships. Forty international EWC chapters pledged to renew their efforts to support the Center, to become more active in the recruitment of new students and in providing funding which would enable their countrymen and women to accept EWC awards. Further, they agreed to engage in undertaking new initiatives to take advantage of the skills of an increasingly large numbers of retirees. Under consideration were ideas to develop an EWC in-country Peace Corp where retirees would help their own countrymen rather than bringing in foreign consultants. Or, to create a structure in which an international panel of consultants would be able to use their expertise.




Even after forty years we reaffirmed that there is a thread than binds EWC alumni to the Center and to the hopes for a better world. There is a recognition that the EWC experience is unique, that it continues to have relevance, and that its location in Hawaii is special. As Assistant Secretary Harrison said. "If the EWC did not exist we would have to invent it."


Dan Berman
President, EWCA