Academic journal article Washington International Law Journal

Reflections on the University of Washington's Asian Law Center

Academic journal article Washington International Law Journal

Reflections on the University of Washington's Asian Law Center

Article excerpt


Needless to say, I'm deeply appreciative and overwhelmed by this opportunity to be back at the University of Washington School of Law and to talk about it and the Asian Law Center. I am very grateful to the Dean, John Eddy, and in particular to Toshiko Takenaka.

To be in one's eighth decade, I discover, has one enormous advantage. You have been around for a while. You have known a lot of people. You can look out at an audience like this and realize that you have been here at this law school longer than almost anyone else. There are one or two exceptions.

I knew so many of you when you were students. I knew many of you when you came as young faculty. And I knew many of you when you were just starting whatever you are now doing. As I look around, I am also happy to see that at least two people in the room were here, or had been here, when I first arrived in 1969 as an LL.M. student and then in 1974 as a new member of the faculty. One, Eugene Lee, is a J.D. as well as LL.M. graduate of the law school; the other, Marjorie Rombauer was a member of the faculty. Both know a lot about what I want to say because they were here before I was.

This conference is not about me; or, at least, it should not be about me. It is about the University, the Law School, and the Asian Law Center. Nearly everything that I have accomplished in my career as a scholar-every book and almost every other published work I have-was done here. Nor did or could I have achieved any of this alone. Just last week, I was sending emails to librarian Rob Britt asking for his help. The library here is fantastic; not just the collection, but the quality of the service and the quality of the people. Indeed, what is so important about this Asian Law Program and this law school is not a matter of numbers but rather the quality of those, both faculty and staff, who work here.

I also look around the room and see at least a half-dozen persons who are now teaching themselves. Not all are graduates of this law school, but all of whom, I am very proud to say, I taught. The number of graduates who have gone into teaching is, I believe, among the most important contributions of the Asian Law Center. I believe that the vast majority of University of Washington School of Law graduates now in teaching around the globe are in fact either graduates of or were otherwise connected with the Asian Law Center.

So rather than to honor me or the medal I have received, I hope that you will instead consider me, my career, and the decoration as products of this University, this Law School, and the Asian Law Center. The half-century anniversary of the Asian Law Program is truly what brings us together here today. And, with the exception of a couple of people here, I do not believe anybody else knows as fully the history of the Center and what, in retrospect, has made it so significant.

The Program, as many of you do know, began in 1962 with a major grant from the Ford Foundation of around $600,000 that was later supplemented with a second grant of about the same amount. The Ford Foundation grants were obtained primarily through the efforts of Ralph Johnson, who, joined by Neil Peck and Arval Morris, had initially conceived of an Asian Law Program. None had apparently given much thought to the problem of how to achieve any degree of substantive coherence. After all, Asia encompasses the majority of the world's population, two of the world's axial civilizations, all of the world's religions, diverse historical experience, and multiple and equally diverse legal systems. As Dan Henderson used to say, there is little that, say, the Philippines and Japan have in common, except that they're both surrounded by water. They have very different historical experiences, very different cultures, and very different legal systems. Thus, at the outset, the new Program was challenged by the question of how one could develop a coherent program in Asian law. …

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