Archive for August, 2009


Better Together

   Posted by: Chen    in Community

When discussing among a group of friends topics relating to social capital and networking, I offered the following:

I am intrigued and inspired by the various topics this board has addressed, and clearly sensed the underlining desire to be networked, or to work on certain projects in a “networking way”. It is, without any doubt, an re-enforcement to the term “social capital” mentioned frequently in the discussions.

This great nation has a rich history of civic movements, and an abundance of civic activists, which have had built the stockpile of social capital that had greatly enriched the nation’s heritage of diversity and equality. “America throughout its history has been exceptionally civic-minded,” remarked by Professor Robert Putman at Harvard University. On the other hand, in countries like China, such social capital never became a focal point in the society. What Xu Zhiyong and others having been doing in the recent years is a monumental social shift that can fill the void and become instrumental in inspiring and changing the landscape of social behavior. That is why I called for a discussion about what I called the Xu Zhiyong phenomena.

However, the stock of social capital in this country has been reduced significantly in recent decades. In the December 2000 report issued by the Saguaro Seminar – Better Together, it noted a downward spiral of civic apathy, warned that the reserve of personal bonds and fellowship has been seriously depleted, and called a nationwide campaign to rebuild levels of connectedness in the communities. In addition to the attributions to such decline depicted in the Report, including factors such as age shift, two-career families, urban sprawl, and television, I believe the large scale immigrations of ethnic groups with lesser civic heritage also contributed a great deal to the overall dilution.

This provides a challenge and an opportunity to all of us: are we willing to engage ourselves in such a historical civic renaissance, or better yet, are we capable of taking the leading roles?

I have great respect for each one in this group, and I have great expectations for this generation. While we criticizing what we see but don’t like, I am more for doing something about it.  I do not feel we are demanding ourselves more when we are talking about civic engagement than when we were talking about human rights, freedom, democracy, and justice. The only deference might be this is more direct in terms of personal commitment.

That is where “networking” comes to strengthen.

Better Together! I truly like the sound of it.



Xu Zhiyoung

About Xu Zhiyong (from various resources):

Xu Zhiyong (许志永) is one of the founders of the NGO Open Constitution Initiative and an active rights lawyer in China who helped those underprivileged. He is knowledgeable and enthusiastic, persistent and active. Many young people admire him as a role model, and intellectuals have great expectations for him.

Xu has made a long list of remarkable achievements in fighting for social justice and making changes in politics.

“I wish our country could be a free and happy one. Every citizen need not go against their conscience and can find their own place by their virtue and talents; a simple and happy society, where the goodness of humanity is expanded to the maximum, and the evilness of humanity is constrained to the minimum; honesty, trust, kindness, and helping each other are everyday occurrences in life; there is not so much anger and anxiety, a pure smile on everyone’s face.” – Xu Zhiyong


About Saguaro Seminar (
THE SAGUARO SEMINAR: CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN AMERICA is an ongoing initiative of Professor Robert D. Putnam at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The project focuses on expanding what we know about our levels of trust and community engagement and on developing strategies and efforts to increase this engagement. A signature effort was the multi-year dialogue (1995-2000) on how we can increasingly build bonds of civic trust among Americans and their communities.

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Silent Thought

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.

                  ~William Shakespeare

Robbie was someone I would pick up the phone and call if I felt the need to share something, or just have a chat. Robbie would find ways to make himself available. I observed Robbie would do the same for a lot of people. That’s just how he was.


Few weeks before his departure, Robbie met with a small group to start a new law school

Robbie Gowdey, Dr. Bill Bright’s right-hand man in promoting the cause of the Campus Crusade for Christ, devoted his life to his belief in God. He and his colleagues traveled over 150 countries to persuade his mission of furthering the cause of Christ, as Ron Jenson, then President of Campus Crusade’s International School of Theology, recalls:

Robbie and I joined Bill in traveling the world together including going into China with Bunker and Carolyn Hunt, Jim Irwin, the astronaut, Joe Foss and others VIP’s in the 1980′s. Robbie and I bought identical, custom made Asian-looking white leisure suits (you had to be there) to wear on our bullet train trip from the border of China to what was then called Canton. But, because we all tried to smuggle in Bibles and Jesus Films and were founded out by the authorities, we were punished by being put on a slow, local, dirty, wood benched train. I sat next to a couple of chickens (really, chickens!) in a pen. Robbie and I turned those nice white leisure suits into what looked like coal miner gear. But, we laughed, rejoiced and continued the many year adventure we were on.”

I would call Robbie a true People Connector, as characterized in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Helping others was part of Robbie’s life. It was something he enjoyed of doing, regardless how much help he was actually needing. “Robbie had an unrelenting desire for lifting the hopes and spirits of those around him”, as Andrew elegantly describes his beloved dad. Robbie came to their minds when his friends were seeking advices, directions, or helps, because he was someone they could relate and trust, often times for some, it might have been just a single acquaintance occurred a few years ago.

Robbie and friends

Robbie and friends

Robbie was going through tremendous wearisomeness, perhaps since early 2006. We sat in our favorite “meeting place” – various Corner Bakery Cafes – many times chatting about life and challenges. Even in those difficult times, Robbie was still actively engaged in helping a few projects aiming to make communities safer and better. I had made up my mind that for whatever Robbie was involved, I would make myself available to facilitate whatever he needed from me.

I still find myself in various Corner Bakery Cafes, alone though most the times. Occasionally, I reach the phone and start dialing…

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