Friday, November 22, 2013

100k Strong Foundation Inaugural Conference

The 100,000 Strong Foundation Inaugural Conference was held on Thursday, November 21st in honor of the US-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange and in celebration of the fourth Anniversary of the Launch of 100,000 Strong.  Unfortunately, Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to be at the conference to commemorate the launch as well, but was not able to come because he was in situation room with President Obama.At 9:30, President of American University Neil Kerwin and President of the the 100,000 Strong Foundation launched the conference with their welcome speeches.  

 The first conference had a theme of “Building a Globally-Fluent Workforce.” James Goldgeier, the Dean of SIS at AU, was the chair. Dean Goldgeier along with the Principal of Dewey Square Group Maria Cardona, President of Xavier University of Louisiana Norman Francis, and President of Wanxiang North American Pin Ni discussed the importance of educational exchange between the United States and China. Drawn from their past experiences, they all emphasized that educational exchange was crucial for enhancement of language ability and culture awareness. The first conference was followed by performance by students from Yu Ying Chinese Immersion Public Charter School. 

After a welcome message by Jim Hall, the CEO of WorldStrides, guests were having traditional Chinese food as lunch. A group of American students who used to study abroad in China and Chinese students who study in the US now then had a student testimonials session. The president of Ford Foundation Darren Walker was the chair for this conference. Students shared their personal experiences from their educational exchange. Many shared anecdotes they encountered due to misunderstanding of foreign culture, inaccurate usage of language, and being judged by stereotypes. For example, Charles Chen, an undergraduate student from American University said many Americans asked him “Can you hack into our computers?” and “Do you like eating doggies?” when his answers for both questions were always an absolute “No.”  However, both young people from America and China said that they were optimistic about the future of US-China relations. 

After student testimonials, Mona Locke, the interim executive director of Susan G. Komen Puget Sound chaired the US-China Strategic Relations and People-to-People ties conference.  Former Special representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs of State Department Reta Jo Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, and CEO of Blackstone Group Stephen Schwarzman share their personal understanding about the topic. Daniel Russel highlighted that Americans need to understand how the world works and the US need people who understand Asia in culture, business, politics, and other arenas. He stressed that people-to-people tie is not something “feel good to do,” but is something crucial for US long term national security. When there are ties between Chinese and American people, Americans can  understand China’s political actions and intentions; hence, people-to-people ties with China is strategically important for US.   

Finally, Vice Premier of China Liu Yandong gave her keynote address as the concluding of the conference. In her speech, Vice Premier Liu recalled the story that President Xi’s friendship with his American friends when he visited the US 28 years ago endures when he came back and visit his old friends after he became new President of China.  She said that from President Xi’s story, it is obvious that communication among young people can influence relationships among countries. After China and US changed their leadership last year, her visit this time marks the first round of high level humanity exchange between the US and China. After China’s Reform and Open Policy, there were 3000000 Chinese young people that studied overseas, and 50% of them studied in the US. Vice Premier Liu said that “Investing in US-China relations, One Student at a Time,” which was the theme of today’s conference, speaks to the essence of such educational investment. To invest in youth is to invest in future. Vice Premier Liu concluded that the foundation of US-China relations is people, and the hope for US-China relations is young people from both countries.

Two of our Global Scholars, Yuyang Zhang and Shuyu Shen, were invited to the 100k Strong Foundation Inaugural Conference. Credit for this blogpost and pictures goes to Yuyang Zhang. Thanks Yuyang! 

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