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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Three Decades of Sino-American Relations Celebration

Georgetown University Law Center
November 9, 2009


Thank you for your introduction Dr. Feinerman, as well as for your outstanding efforts on this initiative.

I’d also like to recognize our special guests including:

• Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, we’re honored to have you with us again tonight;

• Madame Li Xiaolin, Executive Vice President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, our partner in today’s celebration and a frequent visitor to Georgetown University, and

• Cheng Sewei, Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress and Director of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Science Management Division.

• As well as the many other distinguished members of the Chinese delegation who are here, especially Georgetown’s newest alumni: The recent graduates of our Executive Education Program on Financial Crisis Prevention and Risk Management, and the leader of their delegation, Governor Liu Shiyu.

• One with whom they engaged, and an eminent leader in his own right is General Brent Scowcroft. Thank you for being with us tonight.

I’d also like to recognize the many members of the Georgetown family who have played essential roles in our growing engagement, including:

• Fr. Dennis McNamara, Special Assistant to the University President for China Affairs and

• Provost James O’Donnell;

Finally, I would like to welcome all of you to this celebration of our thirty years together.

Thirty years is a long time. It is often seen as the span of a generation.

In his Analects, Confucius famously described his own life course by saying, “At fifteen, I set my heart on learning. At thirty, I was firmly established.” So I’ll begin by looking back at our first generation together, and then look forward to our future.

Three decades ago, our two nations formally restored relations. Just as that was happening, in December of 1978, the first delegation of 52 Chinese exchange students arrived in the United States.

Their all-day flight began in the city then known in the West as Peking, and included several stopovers since there no direct flights from China to the U.S. They finally landed in Dulles Airport, where Georgetown University’s Father Harold Bradley was waiting to greet them.

Thirty-six of those scholars were coming to the Hilltop to study English at our American Language Institute. Georgetown’s relationship with China began in expectation, as well as uncertainty.

But we listened to one another, and we learned together. Less than a month after that first delegation’s arrival, the Georgetown Voice reported, “The Chinese students here are becoming more comfortably accustomed to life in Washington,” and added that the members of the delegation were virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the Georgetown community.

And just like what was happening on the Hilltop, the more our nations engaged, together, the more we both grew and benefited. We experienced a mutual desire for even deeper dialogue.

Seemingly suddenly, our initial exchanges developed into a special relationship between our two countries which surpassed even the most optimistic expectations of what we initially thought possible.

The photo exhibition on Sino-American Relations, which just opened here, tells part of that story.

Tomorrow, panel discussions on the Georgetown University campus will cover other chapters of our 30 year history.

And in the future, individuals will be able to enjoy the oral history archive which our Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship is compiling.

We expect that the archive will be launched later this month, and we hope it will become a resource to all U.S. and Chinese citizens, scholars and students who wish to learn more about the special relationship between our two nations…and between Georgetown and China.

That archive will highlight many of our mutual efforts. For example, in recent years, Georgetown University has formed numerous partnerships with schools and institutions in China. I, and many other senior members of Georgetown University, have had the honor of visiting your country many times. And we’ve enjoyed various opportunities to extend the Hilltop’s friendship and hospitality to senior leaders from your country.

Those new relationships have led to even more mutual exchanges. Three years ago, we established a fellowship program with the Chinese Scholarship Council. Two years ago, we opened a Liaison office in Shanghai.

And last month we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the China Friendship Foundation for Peace and Development, which will serve as a foundation for a larger, longer series of educational programs beginning next year.

We have many other ongoing partnerships as well. They include our formal partnership with the Central Party School and memoranda of understanding with Fudan University in Shanghai and Renmin University in Beijing. We also signed an agreement for the exchange of researchers and scholars with the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

But the true story is told, not by programs or partnerships, but by people. The alumni of our exchanges are the builders of our special relationship; they are the keepers of its traditions and its trust…as well as an important bridge between our two nations.

Moreover, engagement is always a choice, one that must be made by each generation in its turn. Each new generation must shape and reshape it; imagine and re-imagine it; interpret and reinterpret it. We must remember that as we now begin our second generation of engagement.

Tonight’s celebration of our thirtieth anniversary of engagement—between Georgetown and China and between China and the U.S. – proves how far we have come from those earliest days.

Each anniversary marks both a celebration and a challenge. So let us consider: What will our relationship look like when the next generation takes its account of us? Will they say we used our time well? Will they say we engaged together and grew together, that we worked with one another to address the great challenges of our time – that we cherished our truly promising relationship?

So tonight, let us recommit ourselves to deepening our engagement and developing our special relationship. Let us pledge to work together to form competent leaders who are also compassionate and thoughtful global citizens; leaders committed to our special relationship.

Let us promise to learn together and grow together, so that those who meet here thirty years from now will again have great reason to celebrate.

Thank you.

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