Although it's the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese lunar calendar — supposedly a year of calm after the Year of the Tiger in 2010 — the striped one continues to roar. A host of books with "tiger" in the title are national bestsellers, Tiger Woods is looking to get back into the groove and Charlie Sheen brags about having "tiger" blood.
The Asia Society Texas Center (ASTC) also channeled the festive feline spirit with the "TIger Ball: A Pan-Asian Celebration" —its most successful gala ever, attracting a record crowd of 650 guests and raking in a record $600,000.
Noting that the center is constructing a new building designed by noted architect Yoshio Taniguchi in the Museum District that will open next year, organizers planned a gala saluting "relations we have all over Asia," said executive director Martha Blackwelder.
ASTC board member Y. Ping Sun, who was honored with the Asian American Leadership Award, came up with the idea of kites as a unifying decorative theme. Eye-catching kites from Indonesia, China, Japan, Thailand and other Asian nations in the form of sailing ships and dragons hovered above the Hilton Americas-Houston ballroom stage.
Musical entertainment included an Indonesian gamelan ensemble, Japanese Taiko drummers, and Chinese pipa player Gao Hong’s trio. The menu, prepared by the hotel's executive chef Ruffy Sulaiman and Sunil Srivastava of the Great W'Kana Cafe, also had a pan-Asian theme, with chilled seared tuna and Asian slaw with soba noodles, lamb chops Chana, Oriental five spice based sea bass and paneer stuffed with jalfarezi.
Honored with the Roy M. Huffington Award for Contributions to International Understanding, former Secretary of State James Baker noted in brief remarks that those who see China as threat to the United States are "dangerously wrong." Baker cited common areas of interest, including trade, energy policy and establishing regional stability in Asia, and said he believes continued communication between the superpowers is important.
Baker also noted that ASTC “provides a place to bridge differences, and that, after all, is what diplomacy is all about.”
Japan’s Acting Consul General Takahiko Watabe thanked Houstonians for their support after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Mayor Annise Parker offered the city's sympathies and noted close ties between Houston and its sister city, Chiba, Japan, which escaped relatively unscathed. Master of ceremonies and Channel 11 news anchor Shern-Min Chow announced the ASTC board had raised $30,000 toward relief efforts in Japan.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett recalled that he was in Japan on Sept.11, 2001 when terrorists struck New York and Washington, D.C. The next day, when he walked into a restaurant, an elderly Japanese man asked, "Are you an American?" When Emmett nodded yes, everyone in the room rose and bowed in solidarity.
In the evening's most poignant moment, Emmett asked guests to offer the same gesture to Watabe and the entire room rose and bowed.
Gala co-chairs Albert and Anne Chao and Vijay and Marie Goradia received congratulations for the successful gala. Also on hand, honorary chair Nancy Allen, who has spearheaded the drive for the new ASTC building, Charles and Lily Foster, Eddie Allen and Chinhui Juhn, Willie and Linda Chiang, John and Anne Mendelsohn, Jan Duncan, Frank and Cindy Liu, Renu and Suresh Khator, Jeff Smisek and Diana Strassman, Rick and Nozomi Watanabe, and George and Alice Yang.