Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute cel­e­brates achiev­ers

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By CHINA DAILY in Wash­ing­ton Sophia Wu in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to the story.

The Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute US Cen­ter (CIUS Cen­ter) held its first na­tional gala on Sept 24 in Wash­ing­ton to honor the achieve­ments of 10 in­di­vid­u­als from Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute (CI) com­mu­ni­ties across Amer­ica.

The Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute, es­tab­lished by the Chi­nese Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in for­eign coun­tries, some­thing sim­i­lar to the UK’s Bri­tish Coun­cil or Ger­many’s Goethe In­sti­tute, pro­motes Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­tural learn­ing world­wide.

Mu­tual re­spect for in­di­vid­ual dif­fer­ences is at the heart of democ­racy.” Tony Cully-Foster, pres­i­dent, World Af­fairs Coun­cil

“Never have I found my­self sur­rounded by peo­ple who I couldn’t ver­bally un­der­stand, but whole­heart­edly felt a con­nec­tion to­wards,” said hon­oree David Cole, a se­nior at the Univer­sity of Ken­tucky, who was sent by the univer­sity’s Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute to three Chi­nese cities as part of a study pro­gram.

Jonathan Marek, a se­nior at Whit­ney M. Young Mag­net High School in Chicago, who has stud­ied Chi­nese since third grade, said that “liv­ing in China — eat­ing the foods, walk­ing the streets, watch­ing the shows, and see­ing the peo­ple — gave me a new per­spec­tive on learn­ing the lan­guage”.

Marek spent a month in Hangzhou, the host city for the re­cent G20 Sum­mit, through a pro­gram hosted by the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute in Chicago and Wanx­i­ang Amer­ica, the US sub­sidiary of a lead­ing Chi­nese auto-parts maker.

“Cul­tural un­der­stand­ing is key for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship,” said key­note speaker C.D. Mote, pres­i­dent of the US Na­tional Academy of En­gi­neer­ing. When Mote was the pres­i­dent of Univer­sity of Mary­land at Col­lege Park, he spear­headed the CI ini­tia­tive with the Chi­nese Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and helped to es­tab­lish the first Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute at the univer­sity in 2004.

Mote stressed that achiev­ing sus­tain­abil­ity of the CI pro­gram re­quires sup­port and ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion among the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute head­quar­ters in China, Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute in each univer­sity, and the greater com­mu­nity around that in­sti­tute.

“We need to learn how to work bet­ter to­gether, and the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute com­mu­nity is where it starts,” said Mor­gan Jones, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the US-China Strong Foun­da­tion, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion first es­tab­lished by the US State Depart­ment to send Amer­i­can stu­dents to study aboard in China. Jones was a Chi­ne­se­lan­guage ra­dio show host for three years and met his Chi­nese wife while liv­ing in China.

Tony Cully-Foster, pres­i­dent and CEO of the World Af­fairs Coun­cil in Wash­ing­ton, calls US-China re­la­tions the most im­por­tant in the 21st cen­tury and de­fines Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute as a truly global ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive.

“Mu­tual re­spect for in­di­vid­ual dif­fer­ences is at the heart of democ­racy and un­der­stand­ing,” he said.

Ti­mothy Brown, a 12-year-old from Sil­ver Spring, Mary­land, is the youngest among the 10 stu­dents hon­ored. His key­note speech at the gala re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion.

Brown first be­came in­ter­ested in Chi­nese cul­ture when he be­gan tak­ing mar­tial arts classes. He cur­rently at­tends Chi­nese classes of­fered by the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, where he also ac­tively par­tic­i­pates in ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties such as lan­guage com­pe­ti­tions, kung fu, and Chi­nese mu­sic (he sings in Chi­nese).

“We’re very thank­ful for the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute. As one of the most spo­ken lan­guages in the world, Chi­nese is im­por­tant, and with glob­al­iza­tion, there’s a rea­son why we should pre­pare those re­spon­si­ble for the next gen­er­a­tion,” said one mem­ber of Brown’s fam­ily, who oc­cu­pied al­most one ta­ble.

Al­though Brown has not set­tled with what he wants to do with his abil­ity in Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture, some awardees al­ready made up their minds, in­clud­ing Jenifer Gue­vara from Texas South­ern Univer­sity.

“I want to teach kids Chi­nese,” said Gue­vara. She no­ticed there are Chi­nese im­mer­sion pro­grams be­ing es­tab­lished in el­e­men­tary schools around Hous­ton and wants to be part of the first group of in­struc­tors.

CHAR­LENE CAI / CHINA DAILY

Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute US Cen­ter presents the Peo­ple to Peo­ple Ex­change Award to 10 stu­dents from Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes na­tion­wide for their achieve­ments learn­ing Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture, dur­ing the cen­ter’s in­au­gu­ral Na­tional Hon­ors Gala in Wash­ing­ton on Sept 24. Pre­sent­ing the awards are Gao Qing (left), ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the cen­ter; Wil­liam Reeder (sec­ond from left), pro­fes­sor of arts man­age­ment and for­mer dean of the Col­lege of Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity; C.D. Mote (fourth from left), pres­i­dent of US Na­tional Academy of En­gi­neer­ing and for­mer pres­i­dent of Univer­sity of Mary­land at Col­lege Park; Tony Cul­ley-Foster (fourth from right), pres­i­dent and CEO of World Af­fairs Coun­cil-Wash­ing­ton, DC; and Mor­gan Jones (right), chief op­er­a­tion of­fi­cer of USChina Strong Foun­da­tion. The 10 awardees (from left) are Sab­rina Tran, Rachel Li­et­zow, Olivia O’Dwyer, Jonathon Marek, Ti­mothy Brown, Mon­ica Rhodes, Jenifer Gue­vara, Deja Watkins, David Cole, and Den­nis Dele­hanty.

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