Last year I was privileged to be able to travel with a group of young political leaders via a State Department funded program called ACYPL (American Council of Young Political Leaders). You can read about that fascinating trip here and here.
One of the great parts of the ACYPL program is that it creates a network of alumni that support the program moving forward. I had an opportunity recently to provide that support by hosting a dinner for a delegation of Chineses officials coming to America. I chose the Joseph Smith Memorial Building as our venue and invited Ryan Wilcox, a former Legislator who now works for Senator Mike Lee and Eric Hutchings who currently serves with me in the House of Representatives and who also happens to speak fluent Mandarin. Both also happen to be ACYPL alumni.
Here is a brief biography of our guests:
Our conversations mainly focused on political economy. I sat next to Mr. Wan Sucheng who is in charge of the All-China Youth Federation. It is an organization that oversees the civic education and molding of over 300 Million Chinese youth. I joked with him that being in charge of that many people was pretty close to being President of the U.S. But, since they are all kids, I am sure its much harder. Interestingly, he is fourth in line to become President of China.
We did share some of Utah's history and explained the importance of the month of July in our state. They listened intently as we rehearsed the pioneer story and how that heritage has affected our politics. My wife Kim also attended the dinner with us and one of our guests asked us directly about our LDS faith and how we raised our children in the faith. I am sure from their perspective where a one-child policy has been the norm for decades, it was alarming to hear that we had four daughters.
Our evening ended with an exchange of gifts. I presented each member of the delegation with a proof-quality commemorative quarter celebrating the completion of the trans-continental railroad. We also shared the story of how Chinese immigrants played a significant role in the building of that rail line and that many Chinese rest in our Ogden cemetery from that era.
It was great to make new friends from a foreign land. As we parted I told them that: "Peace comes from understanding, understanding comes from friendship, and friendship comes from eating dinner together." We all got a good chuckle from my pseudo-Confucius-like aphorism. I am glad we were able to give our guests a taste of Utah hospitality and good will.