In a Jordan Ink. exclusive, columnist Connie Schultz, who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, reflects on her visit to Hong Kong:
It is 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning in our home in America, and being the cook of the family I am the only one up. Being the only journalist in the family, I am also the only one already on a computer checking the news and e-mail. Some habits will die only when I do, I’m afraid.
One of my e-mails included a wonderful note from Professor Robin Ewing, who asked me if I had checked Professor Michael Jordan’s blog, “Jordan, Ink.” to read what some of the students have written here.
What? My beloved Hong Kong friends are writing about their experiences with us? I rushed to click on the link. I was eager for my HKBU student-fix, as spending time with all of you created a new addiction in me. A good one: I yearn for more of our lively conversations.
I am so moved by what has been posted here, in large part because, from my perspective, the gratitude is all mine. When I arrived in Hong Kong bedraggled and blinking like a newborn, I had no idea what was in store of us, but it didn’t take long to find out. Immediately, I was greeted by the smiling faces of students who traveled at night just to meet me. Yang Zhuo stood front and center, recognizing me immediately and welcoming me like a long lost relative.
I had the hunch that I was about to have the adventure of a lifetime, and boy, did I. Woo-hoo, as my son always says.
I am still digesting all that I learned during my time in Hong Kong. Meeting such a brave group of students and faculty – and yes, it is brave what you are doing – shook me of any resigning thoughts I might have been having that the best days of American journalism must surely be behind us. The newspaper industry in our country is deeply troubled right now. But how can I possibly give up trying to find ways for us to continue to play a vital role in our country’s democracy when you are fighting so hard for the right to practice ethical, responsible journalism in your country? I feel newly charged, and it’s because of you.
At HKBU, you are so full of questions and big ideas, so committed to something larger than yourselves. You remind me of myself when I was young, but you are a much better version of the aspiring journalist than I was because you see that what you want to do matters, not just to your career, but to the lives of your fellow citizens. For the first two or three years of my college career I just couldn’t get over how total strangers would talk to me, I could write about them and then other strangers would not only read the stories, but praise or insult me for them. What a hoot. Only later did I fully realize the power of what we do, and the responsibility that comes with it. Your relentless questions and observations illustrated how much better you grasp the importance of your work at a young age.
I have precious memories of the young faces and the spirits behind them that produced so many smiles and laughs, frowns and even occasional tears. We never ran out of things to talk about, did we? And we’re STILL talking. I relish the dispatches coming my way, via Facebook and e-mails, that provide updates about your lives and what’s on your minds on any given day. We are building a community across thousands of miles, and it is one I cherish.
I will keep checking into Michael Jordan’s blog. In the meantime, dear students, I want to remind you of this: You have the support of some amazing people in your lives. Your parents stood at train stations and in airports, often in tears, to send you off into a world most of them can only imagine. That’s how much they love you. Your professors are full of stories about why you matter — as budding journalists, yes, but also as amazing human beings. Honestly, you should hear them go on about you. How they believe in you, how they dream for you. You’d think they all gave birth to you.
There is yet another group whose faith in you is boundless, and I am a proud member of that group. We are the seven American journalists who spent a week with you in November 2009. I am changed from knowing you, and I carry memories of you in my heart. As you already know, we always have room to love another human being. And then another, and another…
I miss you.
P.S. The last time I wrote an e-mail on Thanksgiving Day was in 2002. I was responding to a flirtatious note from a guy named Sherrod Brown. The following Thanksgiving, he asked me to marry him. “It will never be boring,” he said. Promise kept.