Thursday, September 1, 2011

High-profile visitors

Today, my employer this summer hosted the delegation of the Congressional Asian-Pacific-American Caucus (CAPAC) currently visiting China. This delegation included Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa). Chu and Faleomavaega first gave speeches and a question-and-answer session for the students, faculty and staff; then the three representatives lunched with the faculty and the US Consul in Guangzhou, who had come to visit. Finally, the three and their staff met with students from the school for half-hour question sessions.

My involvement was pretty minimal. I helped set up the speech room and photo op, and guided faculty and some of the retinue to their seats. I also shook hands and acted the cute foreign intern for a bit - it's good PR for the school, I guess. Shaking hands with a Congresswoman is AWESOME.

The speeches weren't particularly spectacular. Chu mainly gave a lecture about the role of caucuses and citizen involvement, and the role of CAPAC in the Congress. Faleomavaega gave a speech more about American democracy and its effectiveness or lack thereof. While both speeches were good, the two representatives could have been somewhat more careful in what they said; Faleomavaega treaded on hot territory with some implications about China and democracy. This misstep apparently resulted in an awkward moment when a Chinese student directly asked the representative's opinion on China's one-party system. I, however, was not there to witness the moment - I was setting up the photo time. Chu used contaminated milk in one of her examples - a very sensitive issue in China, because of a massive 2008 brouhaha - although I think the example was something everyone in the room could relate to.

Chu is a phenomenal speaker. She speaks at two levels: the direct level of what she's saying, and then what she actually means, which is never far from the surface. Both are generally pretty intertwined, but the wording is *just so*. I think I found the speech a bit boring because it was stuff I was familiar with, but in talking about certain debates in the Congress right now, you could both hear the explanation - and on the inside, her own praise or criticism for various parties.

It was a pretty interesting day, even if my involvement was minimal - after the professors, big shots and delegation left for lunch, we admin team people went back to lunch, and for me, translation and planning. We only found out about the visit two and a half weeks ago, so it's definitely a really cool surprise Shenzhen had in store for me. This is one of the highlights of the work part of the summer for sure - although is it OK if I'm a bit conceited in saying that finishing my massive matrix on cross-cultural psychology research was a better highlight?

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