SIAS University started with 230 students in 1998 -- while we were in China we celebrated its 10th anniversary. SIAS now has nearly 20-thousand students and faculty. Sandy and I were VIP guests and witnessed the graduation of over 4,900 students from the second row. Overwhelming.
In the days leading up to graduation we had the opportunity to speak into the lives of hundreds of students as we lectured day-after-day. Nearly every day's schedule began at 7:30 a.m. and ended around 10 p.m. We spent little time in our room, because we were constantly going from one function to another. Neither of us has ever been so graciously hosted or lavishly toasted. Banquet after banquet glasses were raised in our honor. When roaming around the campus, we had more conversations with students than I could count. Many of them wanted a personal audience with us, because they had questions that our lectures raised, and some of them just wanted to drill a little deeper into our life -- Chinese love Americans.
Since I was 21 years old I have been a public speaker -- that's 32 years of experience and experiences. For the most part, I have been able to keep my audience's attention (people are gracious). But I have never addressed such motivated listeners as the young Chinese students that hung on our every word. Body language can speak as audibly as a voice, if you know how to read it and listen to what it is saying. A silent voice is not necessarily a silent person, and our listeners laughed or frowned a puzzled look, and their eyes followed me as I talked and moved around the classroom.
In China, if you can walk into a store, you can buy alcohol. There is no legal age requirement to purchase. Yet, on just about any of the university campuses alcohol abuse is negligible. Not one out of control fraternity can be found -- Animal House does not exist. The reason? Students are so focused on learning that they don't have the time or desire to do so. If they wanted to, they could party without impunity.
If you went to college you probably changed your major at least once. Nobody chooses their major in Chinese universities. Every student is assigned their major in the best interest of the State -- and there is no recourse. Pressure takes an immense toll on the collegians -- depression is pandemic -- suicide is rampant.
Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~ Howard Thurman
Every lecture began with the quote above written on the chalk board. Thurman's insightful quote laid the foundation for our lecture topic - Finding and Pursuing your Passion. They got it. I think that explains why we were received so warmly, and listened to so intently. Words are powerful, and ours stirred something latent in their spirit -- they began to dream, and come alive.