Chinese American Connections: President-elect Barack Obama's "Chinese Connection" in Chicago
History was made in November when Sen. Barack H. Obama was elected to become the 44th president of the United States. Now, with the Jan. 20 inauguration ahead, change is coming not just to the White House but to relationships the U.S. has with other nations around the world, including China.
As a result, Professor Russell C. Leong, director of UCLA's U.S./China Media Brief, asked one of Chicago's leading Asian American educators, Dr. Yvonne Lau of De Paul University, to comment about Obama's work in Chicago to integrate the Chinese language and less commonly taught tongues into the Chicago and Illinois school curriculums. Obama's work in this area is little-known. Dr. Lau provides an "insider's view" of Obama's "Chinese connection."
Dr. Lau writes about Obama's activism in Chicago's multiracial and multicultural communities, and about his support of, in Lau's words, "more American students to learn about Asia, Asian Americans, and the study of Asian languages."
Lau's complete essay - "President-elect Barack Obama's Chinese Connection: One 'Jia'" - will be posted in English and Chinese on Jan. 16 at http://www.uschinamediabrief.com. ("Jia" is the Chinese word used for "family," including an individual family and the "family" of humankind.)
Lau is a newly appointed member of the U.S.-China Media Brief Experts Exchange where she covers the education area especially in terms of Chinese Americans and Chinese language learning in the U.S. She said states that, "While our nation may face many crises, both domestic and international, I believe that his multicultural sensibilities may guide him to adopting a Chinese outlook."
The New York Times Olympics blog called the U.S./China Media Brief "a handy guide for anyone to peruse Š Perhaps the most useful is the brief's concise explanation of the Sino-American argument over human rights."
These latest findings are part of the work of the media program, funded by philanthropists Walter and Shirley Wang, who have pledged $1 million to UCLA's Asian American Studies Center to establish the nation's first program and endowed academic chair focused on U.S.-China relations and Chinese American studies.
"UCLA's Asian American Studies Center is the premier research institution on these issues in the nation and the world," Walter Wang said. "Shirley and I are impressed by the quality, range and impact of its scholarship and significant policy research and by the positive contributions it has made and can continue to make in the years ahead.
"Effective communication is one of the biggest barriers to achieving greater understanding and appreciation of U.S.-China relations, and mass media is a vital vehicle for changing perceptions," Shirley Wang said. "By educating the public about the historical significance of these cultures and the important economic, social and political changes they have helped create, we can enhance cross-cultural communication and achieve a deeper understanding."
Walter Wang is president and chief executive officer of JM Eagle, the world's largest plastic pipe manufacturer. Shirley Wang, who graduated from UCLA in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in communication studies, is CEO of Plastpro, a leading manufacturer of fiberglass doors and home products.