Reflection of My 5 Years of YLF

This is the summary of what I talked during this year’s YLF about my personal experience of the program

The theme of this year’s YLF is YLF Time Capsule – what I am going to put into the time capsule to be opened in the future to help understand the present. I actually will put something that I took out of the time capsule I started about 5 years ago. It is a list of articles I wrote about YLF. You know, I am a blogger. I write daily, in the last 10 years. I have about 70 entries mentioning YLF out of the 3000 entries, which means YLF is at least 5% of my life. The actual impact is even higher than that. I am lucky to be able to read the articles and understand how it got started, and how the magic happened.

The Start

I know exactly that it was 11:30 am on June 29, 2006, that I met Jan the first time with the introduction of Haisong. It was the Public Intellectual Program of the NCUSCR. I love the program and enjoyed talking with people from the National Committee. I had already heard about great things about YLF and asked Jan if I can be a YLF. She asked “How old are you?”. She may thought I was too young for the Young Leader’s Forum. Then on August 30, 2007, I got the invitation to join the YLF.

A Bridge

That year, I wrote a blog about the need of a bridge. Since I was writing a blog in English, I got great amount of questions from my friends in the States about China. I was encouraged by how they are willing to know about China, but also surprised to know how little they know about the country. I realized that we need a bridge, seriously. The logo of the YLF program happens to be a bridge that connect US and China, cross an ocean. What we are doing here in the last 10 years is to build the bridge. We use the unique ways to build the bridge.

Personal Connections

The first way to build the bridge is personal connections. I am a strong believer of personal connections. It cannot be replaced, even by social media. We hear so many news, people, places, and events everyday. I don’t feel strongly for most of them since we don’t care. “Why I should care when a space shuttle launches in Florida?” I started to care so much when the friend I made here, Chris, is on that shuttle. That makes a huge difference so I wake up in late night to watch it. I had no personal connection with architect, until I have great friend Gregg, and I started to pay attention to any architect. That personal connection is so strong, and powerful, and it can help to make the relationship between US and China better.

I would say, John Holden’s initial vision about the program is archived to certain extend. The idea about the program is to build personal connection, so in the future, if things like the bombing of Chinese embassy, or plane collapse happens again, someone in US or China can pick up the phone and dial the counterpart to seek for a solution before the situation get escalated.

Different Perspectives

The second way we build the bridge is by sharing different perspectives from both side. The best story to describe the current US-China relationships I know is the story of the blind men and the elephant. The six blind men approached the elephant and everyone just grasped part of the elephant, and cannot agree with each other. The best way to help them is to get everyone sitting together around a table, and share what he saw in an open and honest way.

In the forum, there are different opinions, and some times, conflict options. In fact, those conflicts are often the highlights of this program. By acknowledging that we are only blind men who are able to see only small part of this world, and just a small slice of time in history, we share and we understand better.

First Hand Experiences

I cannot express how much I appreciate the organizer to arrange the conference in both China and US alternatively, and the great places we visit. No to mention forums held in US, even for the forums held in China, I got completely new perspectives even for China. When I was desperate about how ugly and fast-pace the current China is, the trip to Suzhou during the Nanjing forum, and the trip to Folk Museum, and Shuiluan during this trip let me find the confidence that how beautiful and graceful ancient Chinese were. The trip to Suzhou Museum and this time, to the Jade Valley enforced the hope that there are people building grace and beauty today. With the accompany of my American friends, I actually see China better with their thought-provoking questions.

Time Capsule

I want to put the list of articles I wrote about YLF in the last 5 years into a time capsule and open it in 25 years. I hope at that time, the seed we are planting today via Personal Connections, Sharing Different Perspectives, and First Hand Experiences will have great fruit to help build a better US-China relationship.

Photo by Ron Xu

2 thoughts on “Reflection of My 5 Years of YLF

  1. Elizabeth Haenle

    Hi. I’m Paul Haenle’s wife. Paul forwarded me your blog. It’s very nice to hear about your wonderful YLF experiences. Enjoy your time together. Elizabeth Haenle

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