FORMER Gov. George Ariyoshi now chairs the international board of governors of the East-West Center, the Manoa-based institution founded by Congress to help America better communicate with Asia-Pacific nations.
future looks brighter
The center will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. "Will it survive to celebrate its 50th?" I asked the former Hawaii governor. After all, its annual federal allocation was cut from $24 million to $10 million a few years ago, but now is back to $12.5 million.
"I believe so," Ariyoshi told me. "Two years ago I would not have been at all certain of that," he added, "but now it is back on track and doing many things to assure its future."
Center governors from abroad, the mainland U.S. and Hawaii are unified again, he said, after a years-long period of being divided. He said they are firmly in support of the center's new president, Charles Morrison, a longtime scholar of Asian politics who had previous service as a staff person with Congress.
The staff is down to 155 and many programs have been eliminated or reshaped, partly due to a management study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Ariyoshi feels the center is moving closer to Congress' original goal of increased mutual understanding in the Asia-Pacific region.
He dreads any idea that it should return to being a part of the University of Hawaii or be taken over by the state of Hawaii. Its strength is as a national institution, he feels, a display of U.S. concern for the Asia-Pacific area. The region welcomes it, he said, and would not equally value it were it representing just one state.
The center, he said, can help introduce more cultural understanding into our national discussions of Asia-Pacific affairs. Already it has stepped up its congressional briefings. Sen. Daniel Inouye frequently has had to use his clout to rescue the center's budget but Ariyoshi feels current Washington contacts are building a wider support base.
Ariyoshi said the center long has had many friends in the Asia-Pacific region. As the Asian economy picks up, he will be personally interceding to get more Asian support for the center. He has fairly extensive business contacts in the region and expects the center's 44,000 alumni will want to do more to help.
President Morrison now is traveling quite a lot to both Asia and Washington. Last week he was in China and Japan.
CHANGES at the center include the abolition of research cubbyholes pursued without regard to the greater mission, a new policy that external funding must be for projects related to the central mission, more emphasis on international collaborative projects and project-selection, and a rejuvenation of the alumni program.
A recent fund-raising letter from Morrison stressed the integration of research, strengthening of education programs, more preparation of U.S. teachers for teaching about Asia and the Pacific, an expanded program of international seminars and dialogues, and an increased number of fellowships but for shorter periods. Alumni will be invited back next July 4-8 for a 40th anniversary conference on the center's role.
Morrison has had the daring vision that U.S.-led steps toward better understanding among Asia-Pacific nations eventually can lead to a community as unified as Europe.
A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.