World Fellows gala kicks off new year

The Yale World Fellows Program opened the year with a gala event Thursday night, celebrating the diverse cultures and personal accomplishments of the 16 fellows who have come to campus from all corners of the globe.

Strewn across the third floor of Betts House, amidst colorful displays, steaming plates of Indian food and a noisy crowd, the fellows huddled in the corners, patiently answering the questions of students and other guests. Their answers were seasoned by the accents of the far-flung nations they represent. Men and women who would be found on the front pages of the newspapers back home, were openly conversing about subjects ranging from AIDS to Communism.

Bringing a sense of celebrity to the evening was Rui Chenggang, a Chinese television news anchor viewed nightly by hundreds of millions of people.

“[China is] constantly adding new content to the theory of Communism,” Chenggang said. “Why can’t we be more creative? Maybe we should call it Chinaism — socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

He went on to joke that he may lose his job for coming to the United States for such a lengthy period of time.

“My shows have been very stressful,” he said. “You can’t be late for a live show. No matter how tired you are, you can’t stop.”

The World Fellows Program, begun four years ago, brings 16 to 18 rising leaders of the world to Yale for 13 weeks. The fellows, who have between five and 10 years of experience in their respective fields, have academic schedules tailored specifically to exchange ideas of leadership. Each fellow gives seminars on his or her area of expertise and meets with students, alumni, faculty and guests. The first lecture is Sept. 22 and will focus on universal human rights.

“Our mission is to uplift the international conversation here at Yale,” said Daniel Esty, the program’s director.

Kazushige Tanaka, a leading policy maker in the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, spoke about the importance of controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

“I see the benefits of environmental protection going hand-in-hand with a rising economy,” Tanaka said. “More and more cleaner, fuel [efficient] cars will be on the road,” he added, pointing to a pamphlet on the Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle, while an anime movie played in the background.

Each fellow emphasized a different area of discussion. Darius Gudelis, an adviser to the president of Lithuania, spoke of how his country’s economy is “the fastest growing in the European Union.” Shifting his tall, lanky frame in black leather boots, he spoke fondly of his wife, a newscaster who has been filming segments in America to air on television back home.

Gudelis has quickly ascended the ranks in Lithuanian government. After being elected the youngest mayor in his nation’s history at age 26, he managed the campaign of a presidential candidate in the wake of the sitting president’s impeachment. “My candidate won, so, now I am his advisor,” he said.

Henry Njoroge of Kenya discussed the state of the internet in his country, and how he looks to improve it. Some 50 feet away, Vietnam’s Oanh Khuat spoke to a group of inquisitive women about the damaging effects of AIDS in her homeland.

This tableaux of global leaders also included Hauwa Ibrahim, a fellow from Nigeria who is best known for defending a woman sentenced to be stoned to death under Islamic Sharia law. When asked what she hoped to accomplish while at Yale, she said she wants to develop her leadership skills.

“How can I think globally?” Ibrahim said, a sentiment shared by her fellows.

Marvin Dames (right), a world fellow from the Bahamas, speaks with a student at the opening event for the World Fellows Program.
Han Xu
Marvin Dames (right), a world fellow from the Bahamas, speaks with a student at the opening event for the World Fellows Program.

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