Tom and Eleanor Dvorchak were just doing the right thing when they welcomed a young Chinese leader to their Muscatine, Iowa home in 1985. The Dvorchaks shared what they had and showed hospitality and respect.
It came as something of a surprise to them in 2012 when Xi Jinping, now Vice President of China, wanted to return for a visit. Xi had political reasons no doubt, as he moved toward the highest office in his land. But Eleanor Dvorchak suggested another reason. As reported then by David Pitt of the Associated Press, “She speculated that Xi wanted to return because volunteers in Muscatine were generous with their time as they showed the Chinese delegation their farms and the community, and invited them into their homes.”
Xi confirmed that sentiment with his response, as reported by CNN, “You were the first group of Americans I came into contact with,” Xi told his Iowa friends. “To me, you are America.”
And we all know that a little hospitality has gone a long way. Xi Jinping is now president of China. He is one of the first global leaders to visit the United States under the Trump administration. And Governor Terry Branstad, who shared a toast with Xi Jinping in 2012, will be changing his address to Beijing. Iowa seeds of friendship and respect are producing a harvest of apparent good will and international understanding.
In the next few weeks, we will welcome the world to our region. I’m not talking about the tourists. They’ll be here for sure. Instead, I’m thinking of the J-1 students, hundreds of them, who will be among us all summer to help meet employment demands. Who will be hospitable to the students who help us offer hospitality?
Employers, churches, tourism leaders and others are growing a unified effort to assure safe, happy, productive experiences for the visiting students. That effort will be multiplied when those of us who reside here emulate the Dvorchaks of Muscatine, making a memory of American kindness and respect.
Of primary importance is patience on the roadways as our guests learn the ropes of biking and walking here. This also includes how we treat them as they serve us. Their English is a work in progress. Kindness will ease the adjustments. An invitation to your home will never be forgotten. Research indicates that only 1 in 5 international students are ever invited into an American home. Let’s improve that ratio.
Are there future global leaders among them? You never know. But every one of them is a brave human being who took the risk of leaving the familiar cultural comforts of homeland and language for an adventure at minimum wage. Let’s all do our part to make it a great experience so that in years to come, wherever they are, part of their hearts will be at Okoboji.