The greatest thrill I had on my trip to China was to give a welcome speech to our sister city of Harbin and have my daughter Gracie step to the mike and translate it into Chinese. (We have a pretty rough video that should be up next week but here is what I said:)
One of my earliest memories from childhood was a hot summer day when I took a large spoon out of my mother’s kitchen drawer and went into the backyard to dig a giant hole. It was not going to be just any hole. It would be a hole so big I would get all the way to China!
I knew it was a huge task. The spoon was small and the earth was huge, but I knew I didn’t have to dig all that way myself. I was sure that on the other side of the earth there as a boy just my age with the same idea and we would meet exactly in the middle.
I thought about that boy as I dug. Would I be able to understand him? Did he like baseball as much as I did? I thought about the round globe in my house, the one with China and America on opposite sides. If we were both standing up where our countries were did that mean we were both standing sideways? Or maybe he lived his whole life upside down, but somehow didn’t fall off. I knew we had a lot to talk about so I kept digging.
Well, that spoon wasn’t as big as it needed to be, and I got distracted. The hole never got much deeper than my shin. I went back to it a few times over the next few days but never made much progress.
Now, almost half a century later, I have finally come to the place I thought about on that hot summer day. I want to ask whether any of you were that boy…or girl…with your own wooden spoon…hoping to meet me halfway?
I didn’t get here like I imagined I would but my childhood thoughts were right in one way: I didn’t have to get here on my own.
No matter where they actually meet, people from Harbin and Minneapolis have been meeting halfway for almost three decades. Our hands of friendship began reaching out at a time when our countries viewed each other with caution We grew closer as our countries established formal ties. And now we start a new era when those hands of friendship are needed to join together a world very much in need of our patnership to bring both peace and prosperity.
Here on the brink of an era of great change, our two cities, and our two countries, can be partners as we find ways to reenergize our economies. We can be partners as we develop great advancements in medical devices and biotechology that help end suffering for so many. We can be partners in inventing the new sources of power that lessen the impacts on our earch and its atmosphere.
Our cities are very different but also very similar. We both have harsh winters that people from elsewhere often don’t understand. They may say that even the birds fly away as soon as tney can. But we know better: We know those birds….who could live anywhere they want…come back as soon as they can. What could be more beautiful than Harbin, or Minneapolis, in the Spring?
Over our time together we will learn there is far more that brings us together than breaks us apart. And as we find great challenges in the years ahead, let us always remember with each spoon full of dirt we lift, that true partners only have to go halfway.