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Asia Society President Speaks at ICA Institute Event

March 2007
Asia Society President Speaks at ICA Institute Event

Dr. Vishaka Desai, President of the Asia Society, gave a engaging talk on the efforts of her organization, which is working to bring about better understanding between Asia and America. The event held at the Palace Restaurant in Norcross, on Tueday, the 6th of February, was co-sponsored by India-China-America (ICA) Institute and Georgia Governor's Asia-American Commission for a New Georgia. Mark Hutchenson, Assistant Director of ICA Institute, and Ritesh Desai, member of The Governor's Asian-American Commission for a New Georgia, welcomed all and invited Dr. Jagdish Sheth, Founder and Chairman of ICA, to introduce Desai.

Sheth, a nationally sought after marketing guru and professor of marketing at Emory University, outlined ICA's mission to encourage business and economic co-operation between India, China and America. According to him, given the volatility in the world today along with the fact that geopolitics usually tends towards conflict, one way to possibly avert war is for the business community to ensure mutual interdependence. Business leaders, not politicians, he feels, should hold the reins of nations, driving them towards productive ends as opposed to war.

With this as the underlying motive, Sheth's institute engages the three countries that are most likely to be key players in the coming years on the global stage. He also mentioned ICA's focus on areas of agriculture, education, technology and trade in these countries. He said that it was serendipitous that Desai, who was in Atlanta to visit the High Museum of Art, accepted ICA Institute's invitation to speak at the dinner and meet the key figures of the Asian community in Georgia.

In introducing Desai, Sheth highlighted the fact that she was the first Asian American and the first woman to head the Asia Society. Prior to joining the Asia Society, Desai was a curator of Indian, Southeast Asian and Islamic Art at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Arts, many grants and fellowships, and has won numerous awards. A noted scholar, she has published and lectured extensively on traditional and contemporary arts and culture. "She has a remarkable passion in all she does," Sheth concluded.

Desai started by giving a synoptic view of Asia Society as a non-profit, international organization dedicated to strengthening relationships and deepening understanding among the people of Asia and the United States. Philanthropist John Rockefeller, III, who had a deep respect and interest in Asia, donated the land for the Asia Society headquarters in New York. The Society has centers in Washington, DC, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai and Shanghai.

She emphasized, "With the kind of growth India and China are having, by year 2050, America will have to share the stage with India and China, if not more countries. So we have to prepare Asia and America for a shared future that is peaceful, prosperous and together." She stated that arts and culture provides a gateway to promoting commerce and better international understanding of political and social issues. Desai also briefly mentioned some of the Society's current projects, including working with the Governors of different states to bring more Asian studies into school curriculums, and programs to train the next generation of leaders.

The Society maintains that international studies should be a new basic for all students in the world, and that school curriculums be replicated. In its efforts to bring this about, it has joined up with the Bill Gates Foundation to work with urban school districts to create 12 international studies secondary schools, with emphasis on foreign languages and appreciation of other cultures.

Besides many key Indian American community figures, there were dignitaries from the Asian American community of Georgia at the event, including Kwang-Jae Lee, Korean Consulate General; Baoky Vu, President's Asian Pacific Islander's Commission; Dr. Josephine Tan, Chairwoman, Governor's Asian-American Commission for a New Georgia; and Hugh Floyd, State Representative.

Desai opined that to be globally competitive, we have to be globally literate. For 50 years, the Asia Society has built up a vast reservoir of connections, and with that it is ideally suited to build bridges between Asia and the U.S. through culture, commerce and current affairs. More information on Asia society and its works can be found at www.asiasociety.org

~ Mahadev Desai and Deepa Sreetal

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