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The buzz of discussion included six varieties of English accent--Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai and Japanese. Frequent objections and proposed amendments erupted from the mainly consensual hum generated by the 24 delegates, university students from six participating countries.
The young men and women who participated are all potential leaders, bright, self-assured and committed. Their academic backgrounds range from law and policy management studies to city planning, from political science to education; from engineering and physics to Russian language and literature. Despite different academic, national, racial and religious backgrounds, however, they share certain common characteristics, and were selected on the basis of academic achievement, leadership qualities and dedication to civic affairs. All have been prominent in academic, sports and community service associations. They plan to go on to careers as diverse as mass communications, government, business and education.
Two years in preparation, this first regional forum for future Asia leaders was presented and sponsored by Hitachi. The theme was "Asia's Identity in the 21st Century: Preserving Diversity in the Face of Global and High-Tech Influences," with two dozen future Asian leaders discussing how Asian traditions might be integrated with Western influences and high-tech industrialization.
The opulence of the ballroom at the Oriental Hotel, Singapore, together with the multinational nature of the assembly, suggested promise of the century to come in Asia. The keynote address was presented by Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean, Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Second Minister for Defense, to about 300 observers from universities, embassies, government ministries, the private sector and the media. Setting the tone for the forum, he commented, "It's important that we have social and cultural ballast. We need a sense of values and continuity. We need to preserve what is good in our society, to absorb new ideas that are beneficial, but not to overturn our socieries."