The East-West Center Legacy


East-West Center


Honolulu: East-West Center

Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-86638-219-9 (print); 978-0-86638-220-5 (electronic)
Binding: paper
Pages: 76
Free Download: PDF


The East-West Center has published The East-West Center Legacy in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of its establishment by the U.S. Congress with the mandate to promote understanding and relations between the people of the United States and those of the nations of Asia and the Pacific through "cooperative study, training, and research."

The book highlights "legacies"--ways in which the Center and its network of staff, students, professional participants, and alumni have helped to shape the region. Nine legacies were selected from hundreds of collaborative projects involving almost 60,000 participants and staff over five decades. Described in a series of short vignettes, the selected legacies illustrate the wide diversity of Center activities and its distinctive collaborative approach to work. Historical photographs of the Center's dramatic buildings, designed by renowned China-born architect I.M. Pei, and color photographs from around the Asia Pacific region and U.S. illustrate the vignettes.

Among the legacies:

  • Forging friendships, developing networks: Many would argue that the Center's greatest legacy is its nearly 60,000 alumni, whose experience living and working together at the Center or in the region is often cited as "life changing." Today the alumni are a vibrant, internationally minded network of leaders in fields as diverse as education, journalism, scholarship, local and national politics, and business. The student population is now the largest it has ever been at the Center.
  • Crossing ideological divides: Emphasizing connections between people, sometimes despite official government frictions, the Center has brought together North and South Koreans and supported American and Vietnamese researchers working together long before their countries reestablished friendly relations. Today the Center and its collaborators are training legal professionals and human rights activists around the region in international humanitarian law.
  • Collaborating on research: Work with population specialists in China and India has improved expertise in the field of demographics, allowing policymakers to better plan for the future in two of the world's most populous countries. On the environmental front, collaborative work in many countries has demonstrated that conventional wisdom about the environment, and the policies this "wisdom" produces, has often been counterproductive. Today, the pressing problems of climate change and the spread of infectious diseases, such as avian influenza, are new areas of work.
  • Building a Pacific community: Whether serving as the secretariat for the only pan-Pacific organization for heads of island governments (independent or not), facilitating conflict reduction talks, or addressing the opportunities and challenges of globalization, the Center has supported the aims of Pacific Island people to chart their destiny toward a sustainable future. Its invitation in 1975 to Micronesian master navigator Mau Piailug to study and teach navigation with members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society contributed to the resurgence of Pacific voyaging and identity. In recent years the web-based Pacific Islands Report has helped build regional awareness, with the cooperation of more than 30 regional media partners across the Pacific.
  • Educating the Educators: The Center has a long record of educating teachers--imparting not just effective classroom practices, but a deeper understanding of the region's diverse cultures. One recent exchange program brought together teachers from an Indonesian Islamic boarding school with fellow teachers from the Scarsdale, New York, public school system.
  • Sharing cultural perspectives: Continuing a tradition of using the arts to communicate across cultures, the Center in 1981 launched the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF), whose mix of films, filmmakers, critics and scholars spread the impact of the festival beyond Hawaii, introducing American audiences to Asian cinema and Asian and American filmmakers to each other. The Center hosted the festival until 1993, and today HIFF is a successful independent organization. The arts continue at the Center, with exhibitions, performances, and an artist-in-residence program, as well as an outstanding permanent collection of works from throughout the Asia Pacific region, including the United States.
  • Managing risk in the region: East-West Center and Thai collaborators developed the computer model used worldwide to help governments develop effective policy interventions in the battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today, new work focuses on both climate change and the spread of infectious disease.
  • Communicating across borders: Pioneering journalism exchange programs have broken down stereotypes and improved reporting by American journalists and their Asia Pacific counterparts through exposure to each other as individuals and visits to each other's countries. New exchange programs focus on women's leadership, environmental conservation, and the challenges of managing increasing urbanization.

Common themes across all the legacies are the power of collaboration in creatively finding solutions and the importance of work that is relevant to real-life problems. In 2001 the Center opened a program office in Washington, D.C., to enhance U.S. engagement and dialogue with the Asia Pacific region and it regularly hosts workshops and conferences throughout a region that stretches from the United States across the Pacific to the western border of Iran.

Reflecting on the Center's fiftieth anniversary, President Charles E. Morrison says, "The East-West Center looks with pride on its accomplishments as an institution and on those of its alumni," adding that "building upon these legacies to strengthen cooperative work on regional and often global concerns is the primary task for the Center community as it celebrates its anniversary and rededicates itself to building a peaceful, prosperous, and just Asia Pacific region."

A second commemorative book is East-West Center: Fifty Years, Fifty Stories, which profiles East-West Center alumni.