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ISE’s Forum Examines China Inside and Out

From China’s Reform Era and taped conversations of past presidents discussing strategies on China during the Cold War to how U.S. higher education must work harder to keep pace with China’s astounding increase in university enrollment over the past decade. These talks, and the discussions and conversations that followed, made for a thought-provoking day aboard the MV Explorer during Day 2 of the Forum on Global Engagement.

Forum participants listen to Forum speaker Brantly Womack

“I’m attracted by the speakers and the opportunity to attend great seminar and reflect and ruminate on them and then engage in a community where you can have a nice dinner conversation with an eclectic group of people,” said Zerrick Bynum, a Fall 1990 SAS alum who’s attending his third Forum.

Sarah Libman, who sailed on the Spring 1996 voyage, has also boarded the MV Explorer for each of the Forums.  “I have the chance to think and be around people who are challenging all of us here to change our perspectives, or gain new insight on what’s happening in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.,”she said.

As an employee for Delta Airlines, Libman enjoyed listening to the talk by The Boeing Company president and CEO Jim McNerney. Today, she and other participants got to hear excerpts of White House tapes that past presidents secretly recorded during various conversations about political issues.

Secret Presidential Recordings
“Who knew that there are 5,000 hours of secretly recorded White House tapes over 30 years,” Libman said. “Who even knew there were secret White House tapes. You just don’t get to hear those things all the time.”

The recordings were presented by Forum speaker David Coleman, professor and scholar at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. From FDR to Richard Nixon, presidents from the 1940s to the early 1970s secretly recorded conversations by having microphones planted in lampshades, under desks, and on the ceilings of rooms and offices throughout the White House. Several conversations related to the delicate relationship between the U.S. and China following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, during the Vietnam War and following President Nixon’s infamous – and legacy building – visit to China in 1972.

UVa professor and China Scholar Brantly Womack

Forum participants also learned from University of Virginia (UVa) professor and China expert Brantly Womack about how China’s Reform Era transformed that country and helped pave the way for the rapid era of growth, development and success that China has been experiencing over the past 30 years.

“Chinese society is globally aware and with the Internet more locally aware than it ever was before,” Womack explained to Forum participants.

Keeping Pace with China University Graduates
Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, urged the Forum audience to work improving the increase in U.S. college graduates in order to keep pace with China’s exploding increase in college enrollment over the past 10 years.

Each of the sessions during today’s Forum were the injection of stimulating and intelligent discussions that SAS alum Rankin Sneed looks forward to at the Forum. “Every now and then you need some intense intellectual stimulation and to be surrounded by intelligent people and that’s what you get with this program,” said Sneed, who first sailed in Spring 1967. Now a lawyer in Huntsville, Alabama, Sneed returned to Semester at Sea for the 100th voyage in Fall 2009 and then for the 2010 Forum to meet his hero Civil Rights leader Julian Bond and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

ACE President Molly Corbett Broad

‘The SAS Experience Never Ends’

“The amazing thing about [Semester at Sea] is that the experience never ends,” Sneed said. “It sounds cliché, but it’s true no matter what you sail: You are changed. You see things differently. And the world isn’t the same to you anymore.”

Sneed and other Forum participants ended the evening with a documentary series by filmmakers Xiaoli Zhou and Brent Huffman that examined the Mosuo tribe in rural China — considered one of the few remaining matriarchies —and Chinese immigrants’ influence in Senegal and throughout Africa.

Check back tomorrow to hear more about U.S.–Sino relations aboard the MV Explorer in the Institute for Shipboard Education’s Forum on Global Engagement.

  • Culture
  • Education

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