22 October 2002
Charles B. Wang's Speech
I am excited and proud to be speaking to you today as we officially open the door to this new Stony Brook facility. As someone who emigrated to this great country 50 years ago and became a product of its public education system, I believe that this Center will serve as a model of the best that people of different cultures, all working and studying together, can create. It hopes to be a catalyst for a host of cultural, academic, business and technology initiatives, and will make possible the exchange of ideas of different approaches to medicine, science, business, engineering, the arts, and many other fields.
Now what makes this Center particularly significant is that it is located here at Stony Brook, which, like all great public universities, shoulders an enormous and noble responsibility. And this responsibility is to insure that the dream of a quality higher education can be realized by people from all different backgrounds.
You know Iíve always said that I have been doubly blessed. Blessed to call China the land of my birth and blessed to call the United States my home. I cherish the blessings that have come to me from these great lands. They have shaped me, enabled me to achieve, and taught me to really dream the dreams.
Iíve always been proud to say that Iím an immigrant in this great land Ė proud because immigrants have helped to build this country of ours. And I owe a special thanks to my parents for sharing this immigration experience with me. Well, actually I really had no choice in the matter. I also owe them for teaching me the importance of hard work, cultural heritage, and the importance of giving back.
Now like so many of my fellow immigrants Iíve been through what they call the school of hard knocks. These challenges and experiences are so central to the character of the United States and its people that itís almost like the air we breathe. We hardly even recognize it on a conscious level because hard work, social assimilation, cultural diversity, freedom to pursue opportunity to the fullest - the American experience has been forged from these precious raw materials, and we must never ever take them for granted.
We especially must never take for granted our unique cultural diversity, how it enriches us as people, and how it defines our liberty. And to insure this diversity we must do more than just promote tolerance and understanding. We must celebrate and embrace it. In order to bring such a wide variety of people together and make the whole worth more than the sum of the parts, you have to be deliberate, pro-active, and promote diversity as a significant national advantage, rather than seeing it as an accident of history.
Now Iíve thought about this challenge a lot and a few years ago during a speaking engagement here at the University I met Dr. Gary Mar who asked me to help to fund the conversion of a part of a building into an Asian American cultural center and I was happy to help at that time in some small way. One thing led to another and after a series of meetings with Dr. Shirley Kenny and many other fine people at Stony Brook, it became clear there was much more we could do.
And my fondest wish is that what we dedicate today is a cultural center like no other. And thanks to its incredible architecture and state of the art facilities, it can be an environment where minds are enlightened and spirits are lifted - where inspiration can walk hand in hand with celebration. It will be a venue for showcasing art, music, dance, and even cuisine. It will link minds across cultures and continents.
Most importantly, my hope is that it will forge relationships. Because in my experience, it is relationships that change lives and write history. Relationships ultimately will bring us peace, prosperity and a richer quality of life for people throughout the world.
There are a lot of people who deserve thanks here for this great effort. And first I would like to thank my good friend and someone whom I regard as one of the brightest architects in the world, P.H. Tuan, for the remarkable (canít understand word through audience applause) we have here today. What he has accomplished is to transform concrete, steel, glass, and plantings not only into a stunning visual expression but also into an incredibly functional facility. ÖAs you can see today it is an absolute joy to behold.
I also would like to thank Governor Pataki and the State of New York for all the support we received throughout the planning and construction process. The building we dedicate today is a tribute to how government and citizens can share a vision and work together to achieve it.
Of course the incredible administration, faculty, and students of Stony Brook, especially Dr. Shirley Kenny, cannot be thanked enough for their input and guidance on this project. And Iím a firm believer in the value of public education, which is uniquely capable of building the cultural connections that Iím speaking about today.
And lastly, I would like to thank my wife Nancy, and my kids, for their boundless enthusiasm, and tolerance, and their unconditional support throughout this.
But this moment is special not only for me but for many people from all walks of life who made this dream a reality. And I appreciate the fact that so many of you are here today. And I want to thank you all again.
Letís all enjoy this wonderful day, and letís hope that this wonderful Center does its small part to inspire future generations to build the kind of cross-cultural relationships that make the world a more peaceful and happier place.
Thank you very much.