Because of the political support that the 100,000 Strong Foundation enjoys from the US and Chinese governments, it is only logical that our primary hubs for doing business are in Washington and Beijing. The 100K Strong movement, however, is national in scope. For the 100K Strong mission to be realized, we must engage stakeholders – political leaders, business executives, academics and students — from across the country. For our next generation of leaders to compete and collaborate with China, we must invest in a China-savvy workforce nationwide.
That’s how I found myself in New Orleans last week. I went there to join Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University, to announce “Advance Louisiana,” the Foundation’s inaugural initiative to work on the state and local level.
Xavier University, a 100K Strong Signature Partner, established a Confucius Institute (CI) two years ago, the first CI housed at an Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Click here to read my Huff Post piece on HBCUs in China.
Under the leadership of Dr. Francis and his remarkable team, Xavier’s CI has not only expanded its own Mandarin language program and sent dozens of students to China for summer programs, but is also working with K-12 schools in greater New Orleans, providing Mandarin language teachers and study materials. Over the next few years, Xavier will partner with other universities and school systems around the state to develop a comprehensive statewide effort. Call it Louisiana Strong!
Louisiana is a natural first partner. Home to the largest port in the Western Hemisphere (and fourth in the nation in terms of quantity sent to China), Louisiana ranks sixth amongst US states in total exports and one out of five jobs in the state is tied to international trade. China is Louisiana’s top trading partner: in 2013, state exports to China totaled $8 billion – in comparison to $1 billion in imports from China. Louisiana recently announced the first major Chinese investment in the state: Yuhuang Chemical will invest $1.85 billion to build a methanol plant in Joseph Parish, which will create almost 1500 jobs for local workers and related companies.
We are honored to work with Xavier, local business executives and state and local government leaders to make “Advance Louisiana” a huge success. It will serve as a model for other states to establish similar programs. So let the (healthy) competition begin!
In closing, let me quote one of Xavier’s students, Chandler Schexnayder, who spoke at our “Advance Louisiana” launch event. Chandler is a 100K Strong Student Ambassador, and hails from a small town in Louisiana, population 6000. When he spent last summer in China, it was the first time he left the United States. His life was transformed, he said: “Because of my trip to China, I feel like more of a man, more like myself, and more ready to give back to my community.” That young man is going places.
President & CEO