Lingle reshapes board
of East-West Center
Former Gov. Ariyoshi, a longtime
chairman, is not reappointed
Former Gov. George Ariyoshi once campaigned as the "Boy from Kalihi," but today he may be known as the "Man from the East-West Center."
Observers credit Ariyoshi, Hawaii's governor from 1974 to 1986, for pulling the federally funded center for international relations back after a series of morale-damaging leadership changes.
"I think Ariyoshi's contributions have been far and away the most significant of any board member," said Rep. Galen Fox, a Republican and a former center research fellow, in a rare bipartisan compliment.
Today, however, in another change, the center's board has been overhauled by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who appointed four new members: Eddie Flores, Miriam Hellreich, Roland Lagareta and Puongpun Sananikone.
And after five terms as chairman of the board, Ariyoshi was not reappointed and left the board on May 22.
Asked about how he thinks the new board will fare, Ariyoshi said in an interview this week: "I don't know what will happen in the future. My term was up in the end of May, and she has not seen fit to reappoint me, so it is hard to say what will happen in the future."
Five of the center's Board of Governors are appointed by the State Department, its source for federal funds, and five more by the governor of Hawaii. These 10 then pick five international members -- a procedure designed to make sure the East-West Center is not just a propaganda arm of the State Department.
Formed in 1960, the center is on the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus. It hosts research fellows, helps with training and fosters dialogue between the United States and Asia.
Ariyoshi recalled how when he came on board in 1998, the center was disorganized. "The board was split, and there was a loss of direction," Ariyoshi said. "What happened is, we put the board together, so it is now reunified. The board helped to refocus and redefine the center, reorganize it."
Ariyoshi also worked with the alumni organization, which boasts more than 43,000 members who have gone through the center.
"People relate to the center, and the alumni want to be known as being part of the center now," Ariyoshi said.
He was also instrumental in picking the center's president, the low-key but widely respected Charles Morrison.
"With Charles Morrison the center has been given more credibility," Ariyoshi said.
When Ariyoshi, who, according to center officials, could have served another three-year term, was not reappointed, alumni were shocked.
Dan Berman, alumni association president, said his group "just assumed" Ariyoshi would be reappointed.
"It isn't that the new board members won't contribute, but Gov. Ariyoshi was a very special symbol," Berman said.
Part of the key to his success, Berman said, was Ariyoshi's willingness to "recognize the intellectual capacity" of scholars and diplomats in Asia and "treat them as equals."
Ariyoshi, who was the first nonwhite state governor in the nation, "has a particular perspective and recognized that there are intellectual jewels in the Pacific and Asia," Berman said.
But board selections by the governor appear to have a political flavor to them. Outgoing board members appointed by a succession of Democratic governors included close supporters of Ariyoshi and top Democratic Party leaders.
Lingle's selections also have a partisan stamp. Flores, who supported former Gov. Ben Cayetano, was in charge of the Filipinos for Lingle campaign team. Hellreich is the local GOP national committeewoman and now heads Lingle's re-election office. Roland Lagareta is the spouse of Kitty Lagareta, a key Lingle political adviser, and Sananikone is a strong Republican supporter.
Also, Hellreich is a friend of Pat Harrison, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, the section of the State Department that oversees the East-West Center. Harrison will recommend the five State Department board nominations.
"I think the center is going in the right direction, and as Asia becomes more and more important, the mission will need to be expanded with increased funding from a variety of sources," Hellreich said in a telephone interview this week.
The East-West Center now has a federal budget of $18 million, with an additional $10 million coming from private funding.
First, Hellreich said, the center's profile could be raised, which is something she hopes to do with the help of Assistant Secretary Harrison.
"I think the center is a well-kept secret. Not enough people know about the center and what it has achieved," Hellreich said.
She recounted how she took a visiting deputy secretary of energy to visit the center last week and how they both came away impressed with a presentation on international energy policies by Fereidun Fesharaki, a Senior Fellow at the center and the former energy adviser to the prime minister of Iran.
"I was just slayed, and the deputy secretary was equally impressed," Hellreich said.
In her discussions with Harrison, Hellreich said she is stressing that the East-West Center play a larger role.
"It will be called upon and will be an important partner for not only bridging the gaps in communication, but in assisting people and bringing in more scholars and more students," Hellreich said.