The East-West Center opened its 50th anniversary celebration Friday, the start of a weekend-long gathering of alumni, scholars and business leaders.
Congress created the center in 1960 with the aim of promoting understanding and cooperation in the Asia Pacific region.
Center President Charles Morrison said many of the institution’s 57,000 alumni have positively affected their home countries and regions.
“As Asia Pacific societies change and historic forces of globalization intensify relationships in the region, we believe the East-West Center’s mission of strengthening relations and understanding among the peoples and nations of Asia, the Pacific and the United States has become more vital than ever,” Morrison said.
About 800 people are expected to participate in the celebration, which runs through Monday.
In an address to the gathering Friday, Gov. Linda Lingle said no one a half-century ago could have foreseen the dramatic economic, political and social changes that have occurred in the Asia Pacific region.
She also noted that Morrison and the East-West Center played a vital role in Honolulu being selected as the site for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in November 2011.
Hosting the meeting of heads of state and other top officials from 21 countries “will be a stretch for us,” Lingle said. “It will take the entire state pulling together.”
The center has engaged in public diplomacy in the Pacific region, interacting with government and private officials on economic, social, cultural and other topics.
Its 21-acre campus, designed by architect I.M. Pei, sits adjacent the University of Hawaii.
About half of the center’s funding comes from federal funds. It claims it generates more than $25 million for the state’s economy each year.