On this day in 1993, author Bette Bao Lord testified to the U.S. House of Representatives, arguing that human rights and freedom are not Western values, but universal ones.
Born in Shanghai raised in Brooklyn, Bette Bao Lord has explored the political currents of Chinese communism and American democracy in her fiction and nonfiction.
Author of the best-selling novel Spring Moon and other books, she looks at the U.S. through the eyes of an immigrant with a dual identity.
She arrived in America with her parents when she was eight. Her father, Sandys Bao, was sent on temporary assignment to the U.S. in 1946 by the Chinese government. But when Mao Zedong and the communist rebels won the civil war, the “bamboo curtain” came down, and he and his family were unable to go back.
Bette Bao adapted to American ways, was educated in the U.S., and married Winston Lord, a foreign service officer who later became U.S. ambassador to China.
In her March 10, 1993 testimony to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, she describes the qualities that make the United States a country of immigrants, a beacon for people around the world.
“Some consider it culturally chauvinistic to project our own values elsewhere. They fail to understand that freedom is not a matter of ‘Westernization,’ it is the core of modernization.”
And she makes a passionate case for her adopted country to “stay engaged” and promote democracy and human rights.
“Some consider it culturally chauvinistic to project our own values elsewhere,” she tells the legislators. “They fail to understand that freedom is not a matter of ‘Westernization,’ it is the core of modernization.”
In 1962, Bette Bao Lord’s family was reunited with her youngest sister Sansan, who was barely a year old when the family moved abroad and stayed behind with an aunt because because she was considered too young to travel.
After the Communist victory, Sansan was forced to remain in China.
At first, the family thought the separation would be for a year or two. But Sansan was trapped in China, and it would be another 16 years before the family could be together.
Bette Bao Lord’s first book, Eighth Moon: The True Story of a Young Girl’s Life in Communist China, tells the story of how Sansan grew up in extreme hardship in the People’s Republic. It provides a glimpse into the early days of the Maoist regime and a stark portrayal of the divergent lives of two sisters, cruelly separated by political upheaval.
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