Waseda hosts Future Leaders Program for 130 students from across Asia

As part of the Asian Future Leaders Scholarship Program (AFLSP), a platform sponsored by the Bai Xian Asia Institute (BXAI) to mobilize young people toward positive activism and good citizenship, Waseda hosted the second annual BXAI Scholars Summer Program from August 3-24.

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The three-week program, held at Waseda’s main campus in Tokyo, brought together AFLSP Scholars from across Asia to create constructive dialogue, mutual understanding and lifelong friendships. The Summer Program 2016 centered on the mission of building bridges across cultures, which matches the commitment of Waseda, one of the six Anchor Universities of the AFLSP, to produce leaders by promoting peace and progress through intercultural and international education. The program was coordinated by Waseda’s School of Political Science and Economics.

Over 130 scholarship students currently enrolled at BXAI’s 13 partner universities in China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea attended the Summer Program 2016, where they interacted with more than 50 renowned speakers in the arts, politics, academia and business. In total, the Summer Program involved more than 200 people from the Bai Xian Community, including BXAI’s partner universities, corporations, philanthropic and non-profit organizations, government agencies and individuals who support its mission. In addition to exchanging thoughts about global topics, participants also engaged in stimulating team-building challenges, focused on personal development and group projects, and socialized through excursions, sports and appreciation of the arts.

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Students gather at the Opening Ceremony

This year’s Summer Program focused on five themes of relevance throughout Asia: (1) Science and Sustainability; (2) Long-lasting Peace in East Asia; (3) Influence of Popular Culture in East Asia; (4) Poverty Issues in Asia and Globalization; and (5) Aging Society and Women’s Role in Asia. The Program also addressed the unprecedented challenges in the dynamic and quickly evolving field of Big Data, which will require young future leaders to sharpen not just their intellect but also their business acumen. Both are essential for them to handle information overload, drive collaborative efforts across borders, and create new ideas and practical solutions to solve the pressing issues in their lives.

In line with the five themes and these new requirements for young leaders, the Program offered social entrepreneurship workshops to equip AFLSP Scholars with basic startup skills, and plant in them the seeds of an adventurous spirit. Waseda professors led two separate study trips, to Hiroshima and to the Tohoku region. The Hiroshima study trip gave Scholars the opportunity to visit areas affected by the atomic bomb and interact with a survivor. Scholars from all over Asia reflected together on the tragic history of World War II and discussed ways to move forward. In Tohoku, the area hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, Scholars observed the aftermath of one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory, and were inspired by the incredible resolve of the people who are proceeding with reconstruction and revitalization of the region.

Inspiring Opening and Closing Events

The Program was bookended by opening and closing events which featured inspiring presentations by world-renowned intellectual and business leaders who are friends of the scholarship program.

The stirring keynote speeches at the Opening Ceremony on August 3 were delivered by Tadashi Yanai, Chairman, President & CEO, Fast Retailing Co. Ltd, and Ezra Vogel, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University.

Mr. Yanai reflected on his own long-lasting friendship with Ronald Chao, Honorary Chairman of BXAI. Their 30-year strong bond credits the entrepreneurial spirit that they share, which distinguishes them from others and forms the base of their kinship. Through his speech titled “Go Beyond Borders To Make a Positive Difference in the World”, Mr. Yanai made a passionate appeal for the young AFLSP Scholars to foster a considerate mindset, nurture a network of like-minded friends, and reach out to meet other people’s needs.

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“Disputing and picking fights leads to mutual poverty. Never think narrowly. Think about the larger good, the collective benefits.  What are the borders to cross? Deeply rooted ideas of running your own closed-up shop, putting up fences to protect your vested interests, and keeping safe the matters of your heart. Please break down all these barriers; then, go in the direction for a common good. With big hopes, we connect ourselves to a bigger world. I long to see you act in a way that makes your own life and your community a better one.” – Tadashi Yanai

Another heavyweight speaker, Ezra Vogel, Harvard University Professor Emeritus, delivered an intensive engagement with the students on the “Long History between China and Japan”. Dr. Vogel frequently speaks about East Asian relations in view of all the different political, social and economic aspects of Asia. Spanning many decades, Dr. Vogel has written numerous important books, including “Japan as Number One” and “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China”.

Dr. Vogel fielded diverse questions from AFLSP Scholars on history and current world politics during an engaging discussion session, focusing especially on Chinese internal politics and the deep historical ties between Japan and China. In response to one AFLSP Scholar’s question about how we can learn from history, he emphasized the importance of transcending propaganda through the opportunities presented by the internet and accessible world travel, which allow people to learn about other countries first-hand. Dr. Vogel echoed Mr. Yanai’s philosophy:

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“The world is global and you must go beyond your local borders. I hope that all of you here today can play a large role in popularizing this.” – Ezra Vogel

The Closing Ceremony featured a keynote speech from Ronnie C. Chan, Chairman of Hang Lung Properties and Global Co-Chair of the Asia Society.

In his speech titled “Challenges of the New World,” Mr. Chan reflected on the successes and failures of his own Baby Boomer generation, and the challenges the youth of today will face going forward. Although he lamented his belief that the Baby Boomer generation is the luckiest yet most selfish of generations, leaving as its legacy many problems for succeeding generations, he gave inspiring advice to the Scholars on how to face those issues. Answering a question after his keynote speech, Mr. Chan passionately expounded on the importance of moral courage:

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“I have two recommendations for the kind of person you should strive to be. First, try your best to be multicultural, and at the very least bicultural. For this, you must study language, travel, read widely and make friends from different countries, religions and backgrounds. (Secondly,) above all, you must have moral courage. This is mandatory. You must have values that you are willing to make sacrifices for and never be afraid to stand alone, even if the whole world is against you. After all, history is always written by those who have such moral fiber.” – Ronnie C. Chan

Yutaka Aso, BXAI Advisory Council Member and Chairman of Aso Cement Company Limited, delivered closing remarks. He reflected on the significance of the study tours that enabled Scholars to experience and learn about Hiroshima and Tohoku. He finished by urging the Scholars to maintain the invaluable bonds they formed through the Summer Program:

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“I hope this has been a period of discovery for you, and that you went places you had never been, learned things you never knew, and had conversations that opened your minds. I urge you to treasure the seeds of understanding and trust that have been planted in the last few weeks. Nurture them into lasting and meaningful friendships as you continue to face problems, create solutions, and build strong bridges across cultures.” – Yutaka Aso

The Closing Ceremony culminated with the presentation of Summer Program 2016 certificates to the Scholars, and the handover from Waseda University to National Taiwan University, the host for next year’s Summer Program.

Handover from Waseda to National Taiwan University

Handover from Waseda to National Taiwan University

Students with their certificates:

About the Bai Xian Asia Institute

BXAI is an independent, non-profit organization established in January 2014 with funding from Bai Xian Education Foundation, Ronald Chao’s private family foundation. Its establishment is grounded in the belief that education is the most effective catalyst to promote and achieve a prosperous, sustainable and conflict-free modern Asia.

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Students and supporters at the Closing Ceremony

About the Asian Future Leaders Scholarship Program

AFLSP is BXAI’s pan-Asian initiative that enables young Asian scholars to study abroad in another Asian country, take part in an intercultural and interdisciplinary Enrichment Program, and connect with like-minded peers and leaders from across all sectors. By granting up to 105 scholarships per year to elite students enrolled at 16 leading universities across China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea, the AFLSP supports their tuition and living expenses for undergraduate, MBA, or other advanced degree studies. The AFLSP aims to develop future leaders who embrace cultural diversity in Asia.

The first cohort of AFLSP Scholars graduated in 2016 and AFLSP envisions the growth of a vibrant and connected network of alumni who collaborate on projects and initiatives not bound by borders.

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