The Summit Round Two: Gaining Momentum
For the second time we returned to Harvard bringing together exemplary young Americans to participate in the Project Pengyou Leadership Fellow Training Summit. After the first summit in March 2014 , we had learned that when you arm passionate individuals with simple but powerful community organizing tactics, they are truly a force to be reckoned with. Creating change at the grassroots level is no small task, but the results are amazing; this sophomore group of Fellows surpassed our wildest hopes.
The excitement was tangible on the first day. Many of us hadn’t felt this kind of kinship since our first time abroad in China, and we were all anxious to learn how together, we could help change the ecosystem of the U.S.-China relationship from the ground up. Holly Chang, Chief Pengyou and President of the Golden Bridges Foundation describes the importance of the Leadership Fellows Program below:
“Most social movements are reactionary, but we are trying to do things differently. We are trying to proactively bridge the cultural gap between China and the US, because every day that we don’t we get closer to “hell” (a theoretical array of bad situations we had discussed on the first day, ranging from maintaining the status quo, to all-out war)”
Those of us who have seen China and broadened our global horizons have a responsibility to act on that knowledge. Although we were all strangers meeting for the first time, Holly’s words imbued us with a sense of purpose and we felt ready to take on the world. However, we knew the task before us would not always be easy, and we were learning not only leadership and community building skills, but also to trust and support each other as a team. We are building on the foundation laid for us by the first group of Fellows, many of whom are still actively involved and piloting Pengyou Chapters at home. Coach Abel Cano noted with amazement:
“it’s only been a few short months since the first training…it’s incredible to me that you’ve already managed to create a sense of legacy here; that’s a real accomplishment.”
In the span of a weekend, what started as friendly curiosity and camaraderie turned into true friendships. We may have come to Harvard as strangers with a common goal, but we left as Pengyous. Laughter, late nights chatting, and impromptu break-dance battles in the Harvard yard (the kind that gather a crowd,) are the moments we remember most fondly. However, the true takeaway from this summit, as with the first, was inspiration.
Our Fellows have returned home, but the glow we felt from the training hasn’t faded. Fall 2014 Fellows, we are so excited to see you utilizing your new skills. It makes our day to hear from each of you and share your successes and your challenges. As you continue building your chapters, we are constantly amazed and inspired by your fearlessness, imagination, and passion. We could not be more proud of you!
Advice From the Pros: Our VIP Speakers
We had the privilege of listening to several individuals who have all been bridge-builders in their own lives and careers. Each person gave excellent advice and added their own unique perspective and character to the dialogue of leadership.
Claire Conceison, Visiting Professor of Theater Studies at Harvard University, explained to us the importance of being a leader who empowers others. She compared the Fellows to football coaches, explaining “they have high-standards and a lot riding on each game. They are very good at inspiring and empowering their followers to believe they can reach them (the high standards).” She encouraged us all to be the same: high-achieving but empowering as well. Claire was engaging and down-to-earth in a way that made her very easy to relate to.
Clarence Kwan, Chairman of the Committee of 100, and Senior Partner of the Sino-Century China PE Partners, reminded us the importance of having fun. “Fun is very important because you’re dealing with volunteers. You don’t want to alienate your followers and make it so that every time you pick up the phone they’re afraid to answer your call.” He also introduced to us the concept of “情” “理” and “法” (emotion, reason, and legality). These three characters represent the order in which people approach situations. He explained that in the west, we approach a problem first by questioning its legality, then reason, and finally, emotion, whereas a Chinese person would first approach the situation from an emotional perspective, then examine reason and legality. Clarence’s insightful comments had the crowd nodding along in agreement, and his relaxed nature and easy smile warmed the crowd.
Henry Tang, the Managing Partner of Carnegie Towers Group and Co-Founder of the Committee of 100, and Golden Bridges Foundation Trustee, honored us by saying the that he applauds the work we’re doing. He also said that the bridges we build should not be limited to the US and China: “…the Global GDP now includes many actors, not just the US-China, so you need to see it as a petri-dish of major actors, not just a pugilistic boxing match.” Tang’s sincerity was compelling, and we hung on every word.
Mei Mei Tuan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Notch Partners LLC, and Committee of 100 Member, is obviously very successful, but even more importantly, she seemed extremely invested in sharing her experience with our fellows. She added her input, which was both thoughtful and insightful, to every prompt. She also finished the discussion with a powerfully candid answer on next steps for the Fellows. “Think about what interests you…what you like, what you don’t like…and don’t be afraid to take some risks.” She stated that a life-changing opportunity can come your way if you stick to your guns. “Even if it’s not something that anyone else is doing, it’s fine, and there is plenty of time to try new things.”
Jeremy Wu, Committee of 100 DC Regional Chair emphasized the process of leadership and persistence towards goals. He said, “There is no magic formula to solve all your problems. The words we’re sharing with you come from the wisdom of failure: a lot of success is about attitude and the refusal to give in to failure.” He encouraged us that although there might be tough times, we should not lose hope.
Thanks to all of the Coaches, organizers, hosts and of course, you, the Fellows. Let’s keep spreading the pengyou love!
We would also like to extend a special thank you to the Committee of 100 and the Ford Foundation, whose generous support made this event possible.