Xu Lin is honored at MTSU graduation ceremony

Updated: 2014-05-12 07:16

By MAY ZHOU in Houston (China Daily USA)

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Xu Lin is honored at MTSU graduation ceremony

The President of Middle Tennessee State University Sidney McPhee congratulates Xu Lin for getting an honorary doctorate degree from MTSU. May Zhou / China Daily

Xu Lin, director-general of Hanban, was awarded honorary doctorate degree by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) on Saturday. Xu was also invited to make keynote speech at the graduation ceremony of more than 2000 graduate and undergraduate students, an honor reserved for distinguished individuals.

According to Sidney McPhee, president of MTSU, Xu is only the third person that has been ever bestowed with an honorary doctorate degree in the 104 years of the university, "an honor that Madame Xu is more than qualified to receive due to her extraordinary contribution in promoting cultural and educational exchanges between China and US," said McPhee.

Xu, who learned English by herself, made the speech in English. In her speech addressed to thousands of graduates and their family members as well as a few state legislators, Xu said that during the past 3 years, through the exchange programs of CI at MTSU, more than 20 MTSU students received full scholarship to study at Chinese universities for a year or even longer; over 40 high school students participated in summer camps in China; 20 elementary school visited China; and 35 Chinese students visited MTSU. Xu said that another delegation of both students and teachers from MTSU will visit China this summer and she stressed that CI is committed to continuing its support for American students to study Chinese in china.

Xu gave three advices to the graduates: find two questions that are worth of researching, develop a hobby and be confident. Then Xu ended her speech by singing "only you, can make this world seem right, only you, can make the darkness bright", a performance wining great applause from the audience.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of CI and in her summary its past 10 years, and Xu considers CI a great success. "We have developed a network of more than 440 CI in 122 countries, and the teachers we send out are functioning as our goodwill ambassadors. They work and live side by side with foreign teachers and students, and their acts affect people of the countries where they teach. CI is an innovative platform and through it we opened our hearts and doors to let foreign educators to see who we are, " Xu said.

Xu sees CI as a primary language platform in its first 10 years and for the next 10 years, "we will focus on making it a cultural platform. Now that they have studied our language for 10 years, there will be more demand for understanding Chinese culture in the next 10 years."

McPhee, who has visited over 20 provinces in China in the past 17 years, styled himself as a Chinaphile - a term coined by himself to express his love of China. He even published a photography book titled China, through the Eyes of an University President,, which not only recorded his trips to China but also reflected the development of China throughout the years.

As a strong supporter of CI program, McPhee indicated that MTSU is planning to expand CI even more in the second five-year period. "We just acquired a 10 million dollar building and I already carved out a space for CI worth of millions of dollars to develop a Chinese music program,” McPhee disclosed.

McPhee said that MTSU has a very strong and top pop music program and he would like to further expand the school's music scope by introducing Chinese music and instruments through the platform of CI. "We already have the facility ready, and I am traveling to Beijing next week to finalize the proposal to Hanban and apply for funding. This will be a game changer, this will be the first culture integrated into our world renowned music program “said McPhee.

Xu said that Hanban has agreed to the preliminary proposal on principal already. "Our music, martial arts and traditional medicine have a long history yet still relevant in modern world. I am very happy that people in Tennessee which produced Elvis is willing to embrace the Chinese music. I know a lot of people at MTSU covet for some space of this new building, but McPhee has made it clear that the first floor will be for CI. He already set up the hardware, now we need provide software such as teachers and Chinese instruments. Supporting such efforts is our irrefutable obligation, " Xu said.

McPhee has great praise for CI and said that it went beyond a mere language program - it also facilitated the university to develop a research relationship with Guangxi Botanical Garden in Nanning to study the medicinal effect of Chinese herbs. "Scientists from both China and US are working on experimenting studies of traditional Chinese plants and their impact on various disease like cancer. We have received over 200 samples and our scientists have already discovered more than 40 cases that the extracts are positively related to fighting cancer."

The night prior to the graduation ceremony, McPhee held a reception at his official residence for Xu and her delegation members. University officials, faculties including CI director Zheng Guanping and associate director Cui Yiping, as well as VIPs such as State Senator Bill Ketron, Lieutenant General William Phillips and former mayor of Murfreesboro Tommy Bragg attended the warm welcoming party.