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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, September 14, 2000

Pacific and Asian
Affairs Council brings
world closer to isles

I confess to being on the senior advisory board of our Pacific and Asian Affairs Council -- non-voting, non-paid and poor in attendance.

That mainly lets me know a bit more than average about its good works under four general categories:

Bullet A program of clubs in 15 high schools that involves nearly 4,000 students in learning about foreign affairs after-hours and in social gatherings. They sometimes play-act the roles of national leaders.
Bullet A free lecture program in community colleges that reaches another 4,000.
Bullet Operating for the U.S. State Department a program to show around international visitors to Hawaii.
Bullet Presenting foreign affairs talks open to the general public, mostly at lunches. Hawaii's high tech/globalization progress recently was included in this category.

It is Hawaii's chapter of the World Affairs Council. We once provided a council president -- Brenda Foster. She then was with PAAC, now is assistant to Gov. Ben Cayetano for international and national affairs.

PAAC's active governing board is top flight. The chairman is Warren Luke, CEO of Hawaii National Bank. The president is Frank Boas, an active promoter of international involvements for Hawaii ever since he retired here from an international law practice in Brussels and London.

PAAC has a paid staff of only 4.5 but more than doubles its effectiveness with volunteer interns, some academics or East-West Center grantees, some retired, some from business, some from abroad. They like its work, want to help and want the community contacts PAAC brings.

Its budget support comes from state allocations, federal support for the international visitor program, memberships and gifts. The overall annual figure is $300,000.

Executive Director Lisa Maruyama heads up this work. She is a Pearl City High School graduate who then studied international business at the University of Hawaii. She previously was the director of Mental Health Hawaii, a public policy advocacy organization.

The East-West Center values PAAC's community outreach so much it has provided it office space on the center's corner of the Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii.

CURRENTLY the PAAC is in one of several bungalows scheduled to be demolished because they don't meet building code standards. By year-end PAAC will occupy more commodious, substantial and attractive offices on the fourth floor of Burns Hall, the administration building for the East-West Center.

PAAC reaches all community colleges in the state but so far has its high school program only on Oahu, Maui and Kauai. More funding and more staffing would facilitate more high school outreach.

Some of its students were allowed to attend the March meeting here of the Pacific Basin Economic Council. Some also will sit in on Asian Development Bank sessions here next May.

VIP alumni of PAAC programs include Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, state Sen. Les Ihara, state Rep. Galen Fox, Hawaii Business magazine's editor, Floyd Takeuchi, and attorney Gerald Sumida, recently named counsel at Asian Development Bank headquarters in Manila. All have been willing volunteers to help the Hawaii program.

I wish PAAC had even more participation. Private and public leader knowledge of foreign affairs is going to be even more important to Hawaii's future. And it's plenty important now.

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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