The EWC/EWCA 50th Anniversary International Conference concluded with the biennial alumni conference’s traditional Aloha Dinner and alumni talent show. The dinner capped a four-day conference and reunion that brought together more than 800 EWC alumni and friends from 35 countries.
On Friday, participants were welcomed by an opening ceremony of taiko drumming, hula dance and welcome addresses from Center and Hawai‘i officials, before boarding buses for a joyful homecoming afternoon at the EWC campus.
Maya Soetoro-Ng, daughter of two EWC grantees and currently an education specialist at the Center, conveyed a message of welcome from her brother, President Barack Obama. “My brother is grateful to all of you for your important contribution over the last 50 years in building bridges and working collaboratively throughout the countries of the Asia Pacific region,” she said. “He thanks you for all the grassroots diplomacy you do so well, and that makes his job much easier.”
EWC Board of Governors Chairman Puongpun Sananikone, himself a Center alumnus from the 1960s, called the conference “a great homecoming for the worldwide EWC ‘ohana (family).” He said that “as alumni, we have a responsibility to tell the East-West Center story and share its legacy with the world.”
Center President Charles E. Morrison said that a solid foundation has been laid by the “open book” of the EWC’s half-century of history. “Gazing toward the future of enhanced needs in U.S.-Asia-Pacific research, education, and exchange,” he said, “a challenging but rewarding agenda lies ahead. We have, we can, and we will make a difference.”
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said the city and its people are “eternally grateful for the East-West Center and all that you do.” Hawai‘i governor Linda Lingle called the Center “an essential institution of our world going forward” and a integral part of bringing the APEC summit meeting to Honolulu in November 2011.
Over the next the next three days, the conference featured more than 50 expert discussion panels on a range of key regional issues, including climate change, U.S. foreign policy, education issues, governance challenges and more.
Participants, many of whom had not seen each other or returned to Hawai‘i since they were students at the Center, also enjoyed a variety of social festivities, including the EWC homecoming open house; a dinner honoring Hawai‘i Senator Daniel K. Inouye with the East-West Center Association’s Makana Award; a luncheon recognizing distinguished alumni and exceptional volunteers and alumni chapters; an Independence Day reception with the Royal Hawaiian Band and the Aloha Dinner.
At the final dinner, the alumni association presented a special tribute to EWC Alumni Officer Gordon Ring, who has served the Center in a variety of capacities since he first arrived as a student in 1963.