Inside Info from APEC delegates

10 11 2011

Aloha from the Australian APEC Voices of the Future delegation. It’s Day 2 and we now know the deeper meaning of that synonymous Hawai’an greeting. Aloha is made up of a compound of Hawai’ian words ‘face’ and ‘breath of life’, emphasising the deep connections the islanders wish to make with those they meet.

This fits the Hawai’ian people well. They exude authenticity. Always smiling, welcoming us to events and keen to share about the colourful history of the archipelago and its indigenous people.

Today an early start saw up have breakfast at 6.00 am and in the bus by 6.45 am to travel to the outskirts of Honolulu where the opening ceremony was held at Kamehameha International School. We were greeted by traditional singers chanting a welcome to us and placing grass necklaces around or nets, and we saw the school’s Glee club (yes just like the TV show!) perform. Later the state government, congresswoman and Honolulu’s mayor welcomed us and officially declared APEC Voice of Youth 2011 open.

Kamehameha School is an amazing place. It was left a legacy of land and finance by Hawai’i’s last queen which has now grown to a value of over $7 billion dollars! Only native Hawai’ian’s can attend the school and most do on generous scholarships. The students were proud of their school and spoke to us about their preservation of traditional practices, including the Hawai’ian language.

In the afternoon we have the privilege of attending a forum at the Asia-Pacific Centre of Security Studies. The guest speaker was Admiral Patrick Walsh, Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Walsh is one of the USA’s most highly credentialed military operators, with a history as a naval aviator flying for the navy’s elite Blue Angels.

Admiral Walsh spoke on security in the Asia Pacific zone and the (obviously difficult) task of ensuring the right balance of security between the major powers in the region. The Asia Pacific is a phenomenal trading block with the largest ports in the world and has been one of the great success stories of globalisation. One statement he made which we thought was particularly insightful was:

We don’t want to see the prosperity that brought us wealth now become the prosperity which brings fear and conflict to the region.

The Admiral saw his role as one where leadership blends high level management and diplomacy and from observing him in action we would have to say that intellect and courage figured heavily in the mix as well.

When asked the ‘how did you get where you are?’ question, he emphasised the importance of lifelong learning, imploring the young delegates to keep up with the ever-changing world. He said that over time we develop ‘blinders’ so have to stay in touch with what’s happening through education whether formal or self-taught. He said he rarely goes anywhere without books and added that understanding history was important to him.

Afterwards David had the opportunity to ask the Admiral’s views on the role smaller countries such as Australia play in the security of the region, when they may not have the financial capacity to invest in significant defence capability to the extent the USA, China and Russia might be able.

Admiral Walsh replied that in some ways their role was more important because they have the ability to specialise in certain areas and play important diplomatic. He believed Australia’s relationship with the USA was strong.

Commander, James Soh (pictured left) and David Speirs (right)

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4 02 2012
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