March 21st marked a busy day for all Asian American Yale alumni in the San Francisco Bay Area wanting to take full advantage of what its alma mater brought to Northern California.

AAAYA convened its first formal planning meeting in mid-January 2009 to kick-start formation of a Northern California chapter.  Less than two months later, the chapter hosted its first event in conjunction with the Yale Redpath Seminar in San Francisco.

Our own Jimmy Lu ’77 introduced and moderated the Yale Redpath Seminar www.yaleredpath.org, which featured the topic of The Future of Asia.  Wayne Lew ’72 and his wife Fei Tsen hosted post-seminar reception (or pre-dinner) hors d’oeuvres and wine at their home with a view of the North Bay.  This was topped off with a lively multi-course banquet organized by David Yu ’00 in Chinatown, which included some of the featured speakers as dining guests.

Well over 100 alumni from the Bay Area attended the full day of presentations from Nayan Chanda, Director of Publications and Editor of YaleGlobal Online, Marian Chertow, Associate Professor of Industrial Environmental Management at the School of Forestry, and Amy Chua, John M. Duff Professor of Law at the Yale Law School.  The speakers, as well as representatives from the Association of Yale Alumni, distributed themselves among the tables during lunch and generally were personally available to chat between program segments.

Mr. Chanda provided a historical context to today’s concepts of globalization by presenting enlightening, fact-laden, animated slides highlighting India’s and China’s previous rises to world prominence.  He traced the proliferation of textiles and spices (including spices from the New World) that found their way to Europe by way of India and likewise the circuitous path of proliferation of silk and gunpowder from China.  As a result of such commerce, much of Europe’s gold and silver found their way to India and China.  The information from Mr. Malagasy dictionary . Chanda’s slides can be found in his book Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization and at the YaleGlobal Online site:  http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/history.jsp.  His remarks concluded with a presentation of the shifts in trade and commerce in recent year, notably how India and China have undertaken roles in areas previously located in the West and how the Internet has replaced the Monsoon trade winds.

Professor Chertow presented a sobering account of the ecological cost of progress in India and China.  Joking that she is sometimes referred to as the “trash lady,” her specialty is waste management and she is among the academic vanguard on industrial environmentalism.  After presenting very detailed slides of how industrialization has produced waste issues in the West and how some of that has perversely been unloaded into Asia and other developing countries, she hopefully presented incipient models of new industrial systems, which have been able to tap useful purposes for waste byproducts to attain zero waste.

Law Professor Amy Chua offered her provocative concept of “hyperpowers” by way of a 45 minute high level overview of her new book Day of Empire.  In her rapid fire, but clear and precise voice, she articulated her exegesis that tolerance was among the factors that propelled past empires to hyperpower status.  She listed multiple past examples of hyperpowers.  For example, Rome was able to rule over vast stretches of lands and people for centuries because, among other things, of tolerance.  It accorded citizenship to its conquered, offered its conquered the means to participate in the opportunities and benefits of the empire.  This included becoming emperor of the empire itself, citing examples of emperors native to conquered lands.  Permitting the conquered peoples to become part of the system, the empire was thus able to amass a large and supportive military force, use the collective intellectual powers and ingenuity of its peoples and install a governing infrastructure.  Ironically, tolerance could also sow the seeds of decline in the absence of compelling political, cultural, linguistic or other social “glue.”  Although not necessarily a causative factor, she noted that as a hyperpower waned from dominance, there was increasing intolerance and discrimination.  She concluded her remarks with her assessment of the whether the United States could regain its former hyperpower status and whether China cold ever become a hyperpower.

The presentations were followed by an expansive question and answer session with the speakers

After an interlude of wine and cheese at the Pacific Heights home of Wayne and Fei, some  25 AAAYA members and invited guests capped their busy day to a multi-course banquet at the Oriental Pearl restaurant in Chinatown.

There, AAAYA NorCal members had opportunity to dine and chat with Mr. Chanda, Professor Chertow and Kameka Dempsey, AYA’s Director of Shared Interest Groups, over Peking duck, winter melon soup and other delectable Cantonese fare.  Even the special dishes prepared individually for vegetarians were quite a hit.

AAAYA NorCal President Harry Chang welcomed the invited guests, who in turn, shared their thoughts within their respective tables.  Those at Mr. Chanda’s table learned that he was in Saigon during and after the fall of Saigon.   Professor Chertow has children about to apply to college and had her own assessment of Yale’s selection process.  Ms. Dempsey expounded on some of her forthcoming projects, including the Latino Alumni Reunion and the President’s Council on International Affairs.  A full range of alumni from Class 1971 all the way to recent graduates were present.

The energy, enthusiasm, and spirited discussion at the day’s three events thrilled us all.  Keep your calendars open for more great events coming up soon, including AAAYA NorCal -Yale Day of Service on Angel Island (May 16th) and a summer picnic in July.

Thanks to all that attended and especially to the AAAYA NorCal Spring Dinner Chairs (Jimmy Lu ’77 & David Yu ’00) for leading this dinner and to Wayne Lew ’72 for opening up his home for the pre-dinner reception.