Symposium builds bridges between cultures, opens door to the world
By Katherine Hedland '88, Photography by Chris Tumbusch
The theme of the Wang Centers major China symposium was building bridges, but founder Peter Wang also sees the mission as opening gates and windows.
"We open gates to your heart and windows to see outside," said Wang 60. "Once you are willing to open your heart, once you are willing to see, then can the work begin toward a more peaceful world."
The inaugural Wang symposium drew 700 people from the Asian, business, academic and other communities interested in the top-notch speakers and compelling topics at the downtown Tacoma Sheraton. It represents another major step in the development of PLU as a globally-focused university that engages every student in the task of understanding the diverse, wonderful and sometimes difficult world.
"This symposium symbolizes our commitment to educate global citizens and peace builders, and to offer PLU to this community and region as a place where global issues are studied and discussed," PLU President Loren J. Anderson said.
Peter Wang was overwhelmed by the response to the
symposium from people both inside and outside of PLU.
A goal of China: Bridges for a New Century was to bring together people from different sectors of both nations to find similarities and work together. Speakers say that is key to healthy relationships.
"We need to know each other. We need to know each other more," said Ambassador Wang Yunxiang, consulate general of the Peoples Republic of China, who is based in San Francisco. "Both the United States and China are very important and great nations in the world."
He said the two countries complement each other, but must have mutual trust and understanding to find solutions to problems that do exist.
"Of course the United States and China are facing some difficulties especially with two different civilizations, two different cultures but the relations are guided by common interests," he said.
John Holden, president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, said the time is right for such exploration.
"This is an opportune time for global citizens to take the time to build bridges that will ensure a peaceful future," he said. "We have never, ever been more closely interrelated."
Sidney Rittenberg, PLUs visiting professor of Chinese studies, said he has known for decades that the two nations should work together. Rittenberg, 81, was honored with the Wang Centers first Peace Builder Award and spoke at the symposium.
When he first went to China nearly 60 years ago, he discovered a country with the greatest population and history that was desperately in need of capital and expertise in science and technology. The U.S. had those things.
"If we could bring them together, I thought it would be one of the best things that could happen," Rittenberg said. "I decided thats what I wanted to devote my life to."
Rittenberg pleaded for peace, saying its not a luxury, but a prerequisite for future generations.
"We must have peace. We live in a perilous world
that has developed the weapons to destroy the Planet Earth," he said.
"The U.S. and China can play a major role in securing peace for the
In an effort to advance knowledge and understanding,
there were two packed days of seminars on topics of cultural, economic,
societal and political importance. Participants also got to view and discuss
the work of acclaimed Chinese film director Wu
Ziniu and to see Tacomas Dragon Boats on the Thea Foss Waterway.
All the events brought together people from different backgrounds with a common interest.
"Now the bridge has been lowered," Wang said. "Now faculty, students, leaders, politicians and business people can walk across the bridge to another culture, look at it, study it, understand it and appreciate it."
"Educating for Peace Day" preceded the symposium with events for students, faculty and staff on campus. The day was designed to better equip those committed to peace with skills to solve conflicts.
It began with a rededication of PLUs peace pole, located on the south side of Mortvedt Library. It was first dedicated in 1997 as a gift to the university from The World Peace Prayer Society of Japan. The PLU community then had the opportunity to learn about different countries at the student fair, where booths highlighted various countries. Simulations engaged students, staff and faculty in actively and dynamically dealing with conflict. Split into four groups, participants discovered ways of transforming and transcending conflict in different situations.
Recipients of last years Wang Center grants made presentations on their research, and this years recipients were named at the Presidents Reception.
"It is truly an international week on our campus," President Anderson said.
Student winners of the 2003-04 Wang grants are Rosanne Christian, Chinese studies; Aaron Kyle Dennis, anthropology and German; Lindsay Smith, Spanish and global studies; and Josi Tolman, French and global studies.
The following faculty were also awarded grants: Kelly M. Goedert, psychology; Peter Grosvenor, political science; Gina Hames, history; Paul Manfredi, languages and literature; John Moritsugu, psychology; Barbara Temple-Thurston, English; Teru Toyokawa, psychology; and William Yager, business.
Presentations of first-year grants were made by Nova Schauss, Faces of Women; James Kozak, Beijing "Themes of Development:" Images of Chinas Capital; Thu Nguyen, The Politics of Music in Communist Vietnam; Kimberly Andre, The Namibian Association of Norway; Amanda Kaler and Jeannie Sur, The Asia Pacific Environmental Exchange: An Opportunity to Work for Social and Environmental Justice from the Ground Up; Heidi Kyle, Theresienstadt: The Nazis "Model" Ghetto and the "Waiting Room" for Auschwitz; Leah Sprain, Study of Consumer Activism in Central America; Juli Miller, Creating Digital Opportunities in Africa; Jennifer Harsch, Understanding Religion and Spirituality: A Cross-Cultural Study Between the USA and Tanzania; Carlee Smith, Children: The Innocent Victims of War.
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