Hawaii's East-West Center Responds to Criticism by Visiting Professor that Veterans, Military Personnel Dishonored by National Endowment for the Humanities Program
An East-West Center program, “Legacies of the Pacific War,” which EWC co-sponsored in July with the USS Arizona Memorial Museum Association and the National Park Service World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, has been the subject of some critical attention because of one complaint that the program was anti-veteran.
The EWC takes all feedback seriously and is fully reviewing this program. The Center would not purposely promote a program that is disrespectful of our service personnel or veterans, or seeks to impose a one-sided agenda. We remain mindful that the Center’s very purpose, as laid out by the U.S. Congress in 1960, is to bring together different perspectives from East and West in order to promote greater understanding and cooperation.
The program in question was a workshop for college instructors which examined multiple perspectives on the impact of World War II in the Pacific. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded the workshop, which was attended by college professors from nine nations.
One of the participants in the workshop, Dr. Penelope Blake, Professor of Humanities, Rock Valley College, Rockford, Illinois, has been highly critical of it and has expressed her concerns to the NEH, her congressional representatives, Fox News and various blogs.
She charges that the program dishonored service personnel and veterans, and cites excerpts from the hundreds of pages of reading material and presentations.
The excerpts from materials, of course, represent the views of the authors of those materials and not necessarily those of the cosponsoring institutions.
However, the Center is reviewing whether the materials, speaker selection, presentations, and curriculum as a whole could be considered biased. Other participant evaluations at the end of the program were highly positive.
For example, one wrote that: “Rest assured, the Legacies of the Pacific War workshop was anything but an anti-American, anti-veterans conference. Our group went to Ford Island (USS Utah Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum, and USS Oklahoma Memorial). We had a private visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. We also went to the Fort DeRussy Army Museum, ‘Punchbowl Cemetery,’ Hickam Officers Club, Hickam Field, and Hickam Headquarters Building. I and others went to the USS Missouri Memorial. These sites and the people we met at them were pro-American, pro-military, and very patriotic. In addition, I had the opportunity on three occasions to talk with a Pearl Harbor veteran who was seriously wounded on December 7. He is a great man, who in his upper 80s, volunteers his time at the USS Arizona Memorial.”
Another participant from Nebraska wrote: “As an American historian and also someone whose family members died in concentration camps, I am hyper-sensitive to prejudice and discrimination concerning WWII. At no time did I feel that the workshop was disrespectful, anti-American, or anti-veteran. If anything, I felt even prouder to be an American and privileged to meet the veterans.”
Since 2005, the Center has also conducted, with National Endowment for the Humanities funding, another Pearl Harbor program for high school teachers, led by Dr. Namji Steinemann. This is a separate activity, with a curriculum adapted to the high school level. It also includes interaction with veterans, survivors, and USS Arizona and National Park Service personnel. Participant response to this program has been consistently positive.
The EAST-WEST CENTER promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.
Submitted by Karen Knudsen of the East-West Center
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