East-West Center celebrates 50th anniversary - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

East-West Center celebrates 50th anniversary

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This year marks the East-West Center's 50th anniversary and the celebration kicks off this weekend with a gala dinner in Waikiki. It will serve as a tribute to how far the center has come over the past five decades.

The East-West Center was established by Congress in 1960. One picture shows Hawaii's congressional delegates, including a young Daniel Inouye, reviewing an early model. A year later, John Burns, a delegate back then, helped break ground on the 21-acre campus with then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Their vision: to promote cooperation and understanding among the people and nations of Asia, the Pacific and the United States.

"The idea is an enduring one that the U.S. works in partnership with the countries in the region," said Charles Morrison, president of the East-West Center.

Since its humble beginnings, the East-West Center has developed a research program to explore global issues like political security, education and economic development. It's provided scholarships to thousands of students from across the globe, briefed ambassadors traveling to other countries and hosted seminars for journalists, teachers and world leaders, like Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India. 

"What he was saying was in a more general sense. How ethnic issues and tensions have increased in the world. And that's why it's so important to have people from different countries and ethnic groups coming together around common issues."

Alumni have gone on to lead countries, run universities, even raise the president of the United States. President Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, and stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, both graduated from the University of Hawaii while on East-West scholarships.

The campus itself reflects the center's global impact. Its golden pavilion, or sala, was a gift from the king of Thailand. The garden next to it was a gift from the Japanese Federation of Business. It was blessed by Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko in 1964. The royal couple planted a coral shower tree along the pathway. 

"They want to leave something here that reminds people who come their country which is also a symbol of their commitment to the spirit of the East-West center."

In July, the center will bring together a thousand alumni for an international conference. Next year, Hawaii plays host to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - 21 countries from around the Pacific gathering in Hawaii, thanks in part to the East-West Center.

"The kind of stereotypes and difference of interests are still quite far apart and so we have to work on trying to narrow those gaps and getting good international cooperation."

Consider that the center's mission for the next 50 years.


In commemoration of its 50th year, the East-West Center will be holding a variety of special events in 2010, including:

  • A gala dinner in Honolulu in January
  • An international media conference in Hong Kong in April
  • An international alumni gathering and conference in Hawaii in July, and
  • A South Asia regional dialog for journalists (with a public affairs component for nonjournalists) scheduled for November 2010 in New Delhi.

East-West Center
50th Anniversary Gala Dinner
Saturday at 5:30pm
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Tickets: $250/person

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the East-West Center will honor the past and look to the future at a special gala dinner on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010. Taking place from 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the dinner will recognize the visionary founders of the Hawai'i-based institution, including then-U.S. Senate Majority leader (and later President) Lyndon B. Johnson, Senator Daniel K. Inouye and former Hawai`i Governors John Burns, William Quinn and George Ariyoshi and all those who have participated in its mission of contributing to a peaceful, prosperous and just Asia Pacific region. Among the special guests in attendance that evening will be President Johnson's daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson.

Among the dinner highlights will be a cocktail reception, live entertainment, formal program with 50th anniversary dinner and recognition of honored guests. Premium tables of ten are available from $2,500, with individual tickets priced at $250 per person. For more information or to purchase a table, call (808) 944-7105 or visit www.EastWestCenter.org/giving.

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