EWC 50 Spotlight: A Vision Is Born

EWC groundbreaking ceremony, May 1961. Left to right: University of Hawai‘i President Laurence Snyder, UH Board of Regents Chairman Herbert Cornuelle, first Center chief executive Murray Turnbull, future Hawaii Gov. John A. Burns, then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.

On May 14, 1960, the East-West Center officially came into being when President Eisenhower signed into law legislation that had been spearheaded by then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and Hawaii congressional delegate John Burns, who both felt that Hawaii offered special advantages for a national institution with an Asia Pacific focus that could not be duplicated anywhere else in the country.

Appealing to a Senate subcommittee in favor of the legislation, Burns stated: “At the Center itself, people will engage actively in what is perhaps the most precious freedom of all— the freedom to pursue ideas. . . People will meet there on humanly equal terms and will engage in genuine dialogue from which each will learn and to which each will contribute.”

At the May 1961 groundbreaking for the first of the Center’s buildings designed by renowned architect I.M Pei, Johnson said, “The East-West Center is here to serve the world. To this Center we shall bring the wise men of the west and we shall invite the wise men of the east. From them we shall hope that many generations of young scholars will learn the wisdom of the two worlds, united here, and to use that wisdom for the purposes and the ends of mankind’s highest aspirations for peace and justice and freedom.”

In the half-century since the Center’s founding, some 60,000 people have participated in its educational, research, and exchange programs. As we commemorate the East-West Center’s golden anniversary over the coming year, this portion of our website will be devoted to items highlighting some of the great many individuals, ideas and events that have contributed to the life and legacies of the Center. We hope you will enjoy them.