A Bridge Builder in the New Era
— Remark by An-Wei at the opening of Witness to Change
Thirty years have passed in a flash. The world has changed, China has changed, and so has the Sino-American relations that is paramount to the future of humankind. These changes have taken place due to political leaders like Deng Xiaoping and Richard Nixon, to scientists and inventors like Bill Gates and Wang Yongmin, and also to thousands upon thousands of common people like every one of us. Sharon Crain is one of the most outstanding individuals among these common people.
I got to know Sharon in the year of 1979. It was Deng Xiaoping who introduced Sharon Crain to Helen Snow, and Helen Snow then introduced Sharon to me. Therefore Sharon Crain and I came to know each other through the Bridge of the Snows and eventually become true friends. In the past 30 years, Sharon has witnessed the great changes in China while I have become an eye witness to her numerous projects and nearly every event as well as the great efforts she has made in building the bridge of friendship between the Chinese and American people.
Sharon Crain spared no effort in promoting the exchanges and cooperation between our two peoples in the fields of education, culture, arts, business, economy and technology. She keeps bringing American citizens of various circles to China group after group, and inviting the Chinese to the United States one after another. She keeps returning to China, learning about China and teaching the young Chinese about the United States of America. Having returned to the United States after each of her visits to China, she keeps studying about her own country by comparison with China and introducing China to the American citizens.
With her lobbying and assistance, the local governments of our two countries were encouraged to establish official relationship of sister schools, sister cities, sister provinces and states. So the exchanges between the governments were accelerated by the people-to-people exchange programs. Thus the channels have been expanded for further exchanges between the two countries and people.
Sharon Crain is a special bridge between China and the United States in the new era. She plays a role which the officials sometimes cannot. She is able to accomplish what we want but sometimes cannot. Here I would like to share two things with you.
Having returned to the United States in 1940, Helen Snow, due to political reasons, had been in great difficulties in her writing, publishing and daily life since 1950’s. The Chinese government and many of her friends like Huang Hua wanted to help this sworn friend, but were unable to do so for a long time. In the last 20 years in Helen’s life, Sharon Crain offered Helen Snow all kinds of help in various aspects. “A close neighbor is more helpful than a relative afar”. As a close neighbor and friend, Sharon volunteered to help Helen Snow as her secretary, coordinator, representative, driver and guardian.
China had been in great difficulties diplomatically between 1989 and 1992. Confronting the situation of “no business, no contact” with China in the United States, Sharon Crain, as a board member of Edgar Snow Memorial Fund and Chairman of the Kansas City-Xi’an Sister City Committee, took an active part in organizing the 1990 Edgar Snow International Symposium in UMKC, with the purpose to help Americans further understand the history of Sino-American people’s friendship. Sharon initiated a wonderful idea to sponsor an exhibition of Huxian farmer’s paintings during the symposium. She said to me, “it is an acceptable way to help Americans understand China through farmer’s paintings. Nobody has any reason to oppose the Chinese farmers!” She also invited Fan Zhihua, a farmer painter from Huxian, to Kansas City to give on-site demonstrations. It turned out that both the symposium and the exhibition was a great success. Fan Zhihua was invited to return to the United States to lecture in the following year.
Sharon Crain is one of the most outstanding individuals among the second generation of Friends of China in the United States after Edgar and Helen Snow. She is a bridge builder for Sino-American friendship in the new era, and a very special one, too. By standing high and seeing far, she is a down-to-earth person, always beginning with small projects for her great goal.There are three characteristics in her friendship work that distinquish hers from others.
Firstly, she always plans her work with focus on the common people. As we all know, she began building her bridge of friendship with an old couple in Xi’an, Mr. and Mrs. Wang Zengwu. She has made a large number of good friends among the common Chinese citizens like Deng Wanfang and Fan Zhihua. She has been conferred the title of Honorary Farmer of Huxian and Honorary Villager of Anshang, which testifies how much she loves the Chinese people and how much the common Chinese trust her and love her.
Secondly, she always plans her work with focus on the small but significant issues. For instance, she has brought together the teachers and students between Fuxiao attached to ShaanxiTeachersUniversity and ParkwayPrimary School and tried to promote the exchanges between the two schools. She worked very hard along with other people in Kansas City to make a major donation and helped build the JamesLoyldLearningCenter for HanjiapingPrimary School in LantianCounty, etc.
Thirdly, she works for Sino-American friendship continuously and unswervingly. No matter what happened between our governments in the past 30 years, she has never stopped or slowed down her friendship work. She is an American of Helen Snow type, and a devoted friend of the Chinese people.
I can not continue my talk any further because Sharon Crain’s accomplishment and her story is more than enough for a big book. I would like to conclude my remark with a poem entitled What Is Friendship, which I would like to present to Sharon Crain and her photo exhibition.
When you are sad,
I will dry your tears.
When you are scared,
I will comfort your fears.
When you are worried,
I will give you hope.
When you are confused,
I will help you cope.
And when you are lost
and can't see the light,
I shall be your beacon
shining ever so bright.
This is my oath,
I pledge till the end.
‘Why you may ask?’
Because you are my friend.
An-Wei, President, Shaanxi Translation Association and Sino-American Society.