A small controversy over a graduation speech at the University of Maryland has actually proven the point that a young Chinese girl was trying to make.
Yang Shuping was asked to deliver a speech during her graduation ceremonies at the University of Maryland, and what she came up with was splendid.
Shuping praised the quality of air in the United States, as compared to the quality of air in her home town back in China. The graduating UM student also took the time to praise the United States for our history of defending freedom of expression and speech.
Here’s what she said (and I wish more college students would pay attention):
“People often ask me: Why did you come to the University of Maryland?” she said in her speech. “I always answer: Fresh air.”
“I grew up in a city in China where I had to wear a face mask every time I went outside, otherwise I might get sick. However, the moment I inhaled and exhaled outside the airport, I felt free,” she said, referring to her arrival in the United States.
“I would soon feel another kind of fresh air for which I will be forever grateful. The fresh air of free speech. Democracy and free speech should not be taken for granted. Democracy and freedom are the fresh air that is worth fighting for.”
The comments did not go unnoticed. The government of China and their supporters (in both China and Maryland) reacted in typical fashion – blasting the young girl for speaking truth and claiming that no one needs so much freedom!
A video of her eight-minute address at her commencement ceremony at the university went viral in China, attracting 50 million views and provoking hundreds of thousands of critical comments by Chinese netizens the following day. Even the People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, weighed in, reporting on a crescendo of criticism of Yang for “bolstering negative Chinese stereotypes.”
Accused by nationalist netizens of flattering the United States and belittling China, Yang was forced to make an apology Monday.
— Univ. of Maryland (@UofMaryland) May 21, 2017
Sadly, Yang Shuping was eventually forced to apologize for speaking truth and intimating that her thoughts were as valid and important as those of her leaders.
In her apology she wrote: “I love my country and home town and I’m proud of its prosperity. I hope to make contributions to it using what I have learned overseas. The speech was just to share my experiences overseas, and I had no intentions of belittling my country and home town. … I am deeply sorry and hope for forgiveness.”
You have nothing to be sorry for. Nothing at all.