Photo & Article by Kenton X. Chance IC students in Taipei got some lessons in March on becoming global citizens from an academic who lived through racial discrimination in the segregated southern United States. Dr. Renford Reese, a professor at California State Polytechnic University, quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet as he urged students to be true to themselves amidst negative attitudes to some races, nationalities, ethnicities, and religions. “Once you have confidence in yourself, it does not matter… But before you can be true to ‘thyself’, you’ve got to know ‘thyself’,” he said. “Work on yourself. Be positive in yourself and in your heritage…. And once you feel confident with yourself, everything around you is immaterial. You don’t have to look for the person beside you to validate you.” Reese addressed the students on the topic: “The Importance of Becoming a Global Citizen”. He told them not to get caught up with “trivial matters” of gossip, race, nationality and sexual orientation. “We are not [on earth] long enough to get caught up in those things. This is the most diverse group of students that I have seen in Asia, ever. And the fact that you are here means something. … This is a microcosm of the world,” he said. Reese used the examples of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat Sen, “greatest all-round American” Paul Robeson, and his own experiences growing up in the segregated southern United States to show what people can achieve when they move out of their comfort zone. “In order to be a compelling person, you must put yourself in a compelling situation. Leadership is about being able to tell a compelling story. All of you have to challenge yourself to be the fish out of water and to be able to tell a compelling story,” he said. Reese has written five books. He told the students they are what they read and encouraged them to apply knowledge, adding that many scholars spend much time studying but neglect their bodies. He however noted that academic pursuit and physical well-being must be balanced with spirituality.
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