Secretary’s Remarks: U.S. Vision for Asia-Pacific Engagement

MR. MORRISON: Well, thank you. Aloha. I want to welcome everyone. And for our online audience, and also for the Secretary, I’d like to describe who is here in our audience. We have the mayor of Honolulu, Mayor Caldwell. We have our senator, Mazie Hirono. We have our former governor, George Ariyoshi, and our other former governor, John Waihee. We have many members of the business and intellectual and public affairs community here in Honolulu. We have members of the diplomatic corps. We have members of our men and women in uniform. We have the members of the board of governors of the East-West Center. We have the staff of the East-West Center. We have friends of the East-West Center. And most importantly, we have future leaders of the Asia Pacific region. And I was just telling the Secretary, I think yesterday we welcomed 130 new participants from the United States and 40 other countries. They’re here on a unique program to prepare them for being future regional and global leaders.
Now, how do you introduce a man who is so well-known for his own leadership and —
SECRETARY KERRY: First thing, you can just tell everybody to sit down.
MR. MORRISON: Oh. (Laughter.) Please sit down, yes. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Anyway, as you know, he has served in war and peace. He was a senator for 28 years; 59 million Americans voted for him for president, including 54 percent of the voters of Hawaii. (Laughter and applause.) But as a former senate staff person, I thought the way to really check him out was to see how his confirmation hearing went. Now, the issues were controversial but the nominee was not controversial, and what his former colleagues said about him, Republicans and Democrats, I think give the essence of the man: extremely well prepared, born in a Foreign Service family, served all 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, four years as the chairman of that committee. He knows the languages – several foreign languages, countries, leaders, and issues. He is a man of incredible moral and intellectual integrity. He brings conviction and compassion to his job and great energy. He has been, I think, on his seventh trip to Asia, coming back and so we want to welcome him back to the United States. We want to welcome him to our most Asia Pacific state, and we want to welcome him to the East-West Center, an institution that’s building community with this vast region which is so systemically important to the future of the United States.
Mr. Secretary of State. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Aloha. It’s wonderful to be here in Hawaii, and man, I can’t tell you how I wish I was as relaxed as some of you in your beautiful shirts. (Laughter.) Here I am in my – whatever you call it – uniform. Uniform, some would say. But it is such a pleasure to be here. Mr. Mayor, it’s great to be here with you. And Mazie, thank you. It’s wonderful to see you, Senator. I’m very happy to see you. Thanks for being here. And governors, thank you for being here very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests all, it’s a great, great pleasure for me to be able to be here. And President Morrison, thank you very much for that generous introduction. I appreciate it very much.
Charles was way ahead of the curve, folks, in seeing the trend towards regionalism in the Asia Pacific in the early 1990s. And he was calling for community-building within East Asia well before it became a standard topic of discussion on the think tank circuit. So clearly, and to everyone’s benefit, he’s had an ability to focus on the long game. And that is a talent that he actually shares with one of the founding fathers of this institution, a former colleague, beloved to all of you, who became a great friend to me, and that’s Senator Dan Inouye. During my sort of latter years, I actually moved up to about seventh in seniority or something in the United States Senate, and had I not been appointed to this job, with all of the retirements that are taking place, I don’t know, I might have been third or fourth or something, which is kind of intimidating. But as a result of that, I got to sit beside the great Dan Inouye for four or five years in the Senate. Our desks were beside each other, and we became very good friends. He was one of the early supporters of mine when I decided to run for President in ’04, ’03. But most importantly, Dan Inouye, as all of you know, was a patriot above all who commanded remarkable respect and affection of all of his colleagues. And Hawaii was so wise to keep him in office for so many years.
Having just visited yesterday Guadalcanal, having stood up on what was called Bloody Ridge, Edson’s Ridge, and walked into one of the still remaining bunkers that Marines were dug in on against 3,000-plus Japanese who kept coming at them wave after wave in the evening, it’s – it was a remarkable sense of the battle that turned the war. And no place knows the meaning of all of that better than here in Hawaii.
Yesterday commemorated really one of the great battles of the Second World War, and so it gave me a chance to reflect with special pride and with humility about Dan’s service to our country. He was a hero in the war, against difficult circumstances which we all understand too well. But he became the first Japanese American to serve in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, against all the odds of what was still a prevailing sense in our country of misunderstanding between people. And he just never let that get in the way. He shared a very personal commitment to strengthening ties between the United States and the Asia Pacific. And that’s why he championed the East-West Center for decades, and I want you to know that President Obama and I strongly support your mission of bringing people together to think creatively about the future of our role in the region and how we overcome the kinds of inherent, visceral differences that sometimes are allowed to get in the way of relationships, and frankly, in the way of common sense.
We remember too well in America that slavery was written into our Constitution long before it was written out of it. And we all know the struggle that it took – excuse me – to write it out. So as we look at the world today – complicated, difficult, tumultuous, volatile – for so many of us who have spent decades working on issues central to the Asia Pacific, there’s actually something particularly exciting about this moment. It’s almost exhilarating when you look at Asia’s transformation. And like Dan Inouye, I have had the privilege, as many of you have here I can see, you’ve lived a lot of that transformation firsthand.
A number of my – (coughing) – excuse me, it’s the virtue of many hours in an airplane. A number of my ancestors from Boston and from Massachusetts were merchants whose ships dropped anchor in Hong Kong as they plied the lonely trade routes to China. My grandfather, actually, was born in Shanghai and was a businessman who had a partnership with a Chinese businessman. So in our family and in Massachusetts, we’ve had a long sense of the possibilities and of this relationship. Today, East Asia is one of the largest, fastest growing, most dynamic regions in the entire world. And when the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are complete, about 40 percent of global GDP will be li