East-West Center, a place dear to my heart by Yasukata Yano, (’63-’65)

  • 2021.6.18

East-West Center … what a pleasant sound it is! The sound is always accompanied by the American Government’s generosity and Aloha spirit of people in Hawaii, which were lavishly given to us grantees. It’s a mystery how we manage to study in such an everlasting tropical paradise with gentle sea breeze and those twinkling blue lights of the city at night from Manoa Valley campus.

It was the third month of our arrival that we experienced that shocking assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We all adored him as an embodiment of ideal and hope. Caroline, who became Ambassador to Japan later, was only 5 years old and didn’t seem to know what happened to her father. In February next year, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a talk at the Andrew Amphitheatre during the Civil Rights Week and he too was assassinated. Today, half a century later, the situation has not been improved much and still “Black Lives matter.”

In May 1964, Crown Prince and Princess (the present Emperor and Empress Emeriti) visited EWC on their return from their visit to Mexico. We welcomed them at the Japanese Garden. The royal couple were gentle and friendly but had firm principles for peace. Later, as the Emperor and Empress, they continued their trips of apology to the war victims in and out of Japan while, or rather because of, the politicians kept praying at the Yasukuni Shrine to the resentment of neighboring war victims. When I received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays, we were invited to the Imperial Palace and received the words of encouragement for further activities from the Emperor. I sensed the calmness in him for having done what needed to be done before his abdication.

By the way, Barack Obama, Sr. (1936-1982) was an inter- national student from Kenya and lived in Hale Manoa. Therefore, the 44th US President Barack Obama, Jr. (1961-) was born in East-West Center and grew up in Hawaii. His sister Maya Kassandra Soetolo-Ng is working for EWC. In 2010, EWC alumni had its 50th anniversary in Honolulu and Maya was an intelligent, friendly, attentive hostess full of Aloha spirit. Due to the fond memory of people I met at the EWC, I am not able to be anti-American even if we had Donald Trump as president and still ‘Black Lives Matter.’

 I am grateful to East West Center for having led me to the world of applied linguistics.

Yasukata Yano, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Waseda University (63)