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Hawaii high-schoolers share their impressions from inside the APEC CEO Summit

LAST UPDATED: 3:59 p.m. HST, Nov 14, 2011

Last month, five Hawaii high school students won the APEC Hawaii Host Committee’s essay contest and were offered the chance to attend yesterday’s APEC CEO Summit Saturday, which includes appearances by President Barack Obama and other world leaders. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser invited all the winners to write about their impressions of Saturday’s events.

By Zoe Claire Sims
Hawaii Preparatory Academy junior

We walk out of the Waikiki sunlight and through the security-monitored double doors of the main hall of the APEC CEO Summit, and I wonder if, like Alice in Wonderland, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. On the opposite side of the massive room, a glistening flat-screen TV declares, “THE FUTURE. REDEFINED.” Staring at a room full of world leaders and wall-to-wall flat-screens, I can believe it.
In that shimmering, futuristic room, we heard addresses by Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama; elsewhere, we heard Malaysian and Vietnamese leaders. Despite their differences, each spoke of trade, globalization, and economic growth, the common threads unifying the summit.
Some of the leaders placed admirable emphasis on environmental protection. President Hu Jintao, especially, underscored the importance of sustainable development. President Obama spoke only about economic considerations, without addressing sustainability. APEC focuses on economics, but clearly there is no long-term development without long-term environmental solutions. “Green and innovative growth” is what APEC needs, boomed President Hu’s voice throughout the hall.
APEC was part inspiration, part motivation: I was inspired by the leaders’ work, but motivated to remain an activist for sustainable solutions. Balancing economic and environmental needs is the real challenge to APEC’s leaders, and they are working together to strike this equilibrium. We, the next generation, heirs of this delicate planet, support them in this, even in the hard decisions, even in compromise. When our time comes, we stand poised to take this bright, essential torch, and run on.

By Ben Chao
'Iolani School, junior

At the CEO Summit of APEC 2011, we were blessed with the opportunity to hear President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama.
Having grown up in the United States with ancestral roots in China, I was very interested in hearing about how the two most powerful economies in the world could cooperate in redefining the future, despite the rivalry between the two nations in a variety of areas. For example, despite “friendly and constructive competition,” President Obama insisted that nations “play by the rules,” referring to the lack of protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in China, an issue that affects American inventors and pioneers.
In President Hu’s address, he envisioned a shift from “Made in China” to “Created in China,” noting that the promotion of innovation requires increased protection of intellectual property rights. For both leaders, there is a mutual desire to strengthen IPR protection laws and it is in this common ground that the true potential of APEC is apparent.
We live in globalizing world. In a globalizing world, nations depend on other nations. In a globalizing world, no nation can stand alone. Interdependency forms a web between nations that connects markets, ideas, and people, and with over 50 percent of world trade and the global GDP, the Asia-Pacific region is the largest of such networks. APEC creates a forum in which nations address common goals and interests, working together to create a common future of peace and prosperity. Our collective future lies in this spirit of APEC.

By Matthew Matasci
St. Anthony Junior/Senior High, senior

When you put a group of intelligent international leaders together in one room, great things can happen.
One thing that impressed me when listening to speeches at the APEC CEO Summit was that our world leaders are willing to work together. The President of China said that he actively opposes protectionism. The President of Vietnam said that he’s already begun working with China on the issues regarding the South China Sea. President Barack Obama wants to trade with China freely, even though China is an economic competitor. These things made me realize that change is possible.
It seems like every time you look at the news, there’s a report about someone doing something controversial, but that’s inevitable. I’m not naive enough to believe that everything they promise will be accomplished, because I realize that what’s said on camera is often carefully thought through to convey an optimistic message. Yet, it was this kind of message that gave me hope.
Will China protect its environment? Will the U.S. set its foot down with concern to the undervalued yuan? Only time will tell. Nevertheless, attending APEC was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hearing what our world leaders had to say about some of the most pressing global issues created the vision of a promising future in my head, and I’m eternally grateful for those who made it possible for me to be there.

By Shane-Justin Nu'uhiwa
Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama, junior

Ho‘āla: A New Day
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings have helped me realize even more the true importance of the role of our economies and their interdependence with one another. While attending various meetings led by dignitaries from across the Asia-Pacific region, I obtained a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding Hawai‘i’s role in today’s world. Here is an overview of some of what I gleaned from the conference:
>> Address by Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, Admiral Patrick M. Walsh: The U.S. Pacific Fleets’ goal is to protect and defend the maritime interests of U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region while cooperating with other countries in order to establish new allies. Walsh asserts that the fleets were recently able to achieve breakthrough cooperation throughout the region via “Operation Tomodachi.”
>> Address by President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama: Obama admits “our global economy is more integrated than ever.” He wants to see Russia in the World Trade Organization, and he believes that the U.S. and Russia can strengthen their own economies if each nation plays by the rules and contains its debt.
>> Address by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak: The Prime Minister points out that 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product is controlled by the Asia-Pacific region. He suggests that we use APEC’s platform to build change in order to bring “competitive competition” between economies both within and outside the Asia-Pacific region.






By Alexander Bitter, 

Waiakea High School, senior

Unity.  In a word, that's APEC. It was the concept articulated in nearly every speech and the overarching theme at each meeting or panel. Although this may sound monotonous, for me, APEC was anything but boring and repetitive.

Though many world leaders expressed similar desires for expanded free trade, greater cultural understanding and increased economic innovation in the Asia-Pacific region, each brought his or her nation's unique perspectives on these matters to the forum.

President Obama's interest in maintaining strong trade and defense relations with major powers in Asia, for example, differed notably from Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's message of moderation and cooperation between people of different religious beliefs; both, however, were striving to advance unity and harmony among the citizens of APEC's member nations.

Over the course of the conference, I began to realize how listening to new perspectives on problems can lead us to innovative new solutions. As I listened to speeches by four different heads of state, I heard problems presented in fresh, provocative ways.

In his speech on the merits of maintaining a moderate political view, for example, Prime Minister Razak pointed out that religious and political extremists not only exist in Muslim nations, but also in countries of any other faith or faiths — even our own. Hearing this and similar observations about our own nation reminded me that seeking other points of view is essential to understanding our world and taking any sort of progressive action in it.

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