Jet Li Fights for Global Teamwork

World-renowned actor and martial-arts champion Jet Li spoke to a packed audience at Loeb Drama Center yesterday afternoon, offering advice to Harvard students on everything from how to build a successful marriage to how to view the world with a global perspective.

The speech was organized by the Harvard College Association for US-China Relations (HAUSCR) and Initiating Mutual Understanding through Student Exchange (IMUSE), a collaboration between students at Harvard, Tsinghua, and Peking Universities.

The event also featured a performance by the Harvard Wushu Club, a panel discussion between students from both China and Harvard, and a question-and-answer session with the audience.

In his remarks, Li asked audience members to think of themselves as humans, rather than identifying by their country of origin.

“We are very small, but we can change the world,” Li said, adding that no matter where one lives, everyone has the same hopes.

Li cited the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean as an example of people from various backgrounds coming together to help each other.

Li was in the Maldives at the time and had to be pulled out of the water with his baby daughter because of the rapidly rising tides.

“I yelled ‘help,’ [and] in a moment, I see 200 people from different countries, different cultures, different religions, helping each other,” Li said.

Li added that he realized then that it was the “right time for me to give back to the world.”

The One Foundation, founded by Li last year, asks supporters to donate one dollar per month in support of international disaster relief, among other efforts.

Anthony T. Zhang ’08 said he was surprised by Li’s speech because he “didn’t know very much about his humanitarian efforts.”

Zhang said he had “always thought of [Li] as an actor” rather than as a humanitarian.

But he added that what Li said “made a lot of sense.”

The event also had its lighter moments.

Li was asked how he has managed to keep such a lasting relationship with his wife, and he replied that love is “not just about receiving but also giving.”

Li also talked about how his mental training in martial arts has helped him explain a lot in his life.

“From my viewpoint, there is no real right and wrong.” Li said, adding that he thinks everything can be viewed from two complementary viewpoints, the yin and the yang.

The event was sponsored in part by the Beijing Olympic Committee.

In an interview conducted in Mandarin before yesterday’s event, Li said that this summer’s Beijing Olympics will be a time when eyes from all around the world will be focused on China.

While China has already transformed itself into a modern global power, the Olympics will be one of the first chances for the rest of the world to appreciate these developments, Li added.

Fifteen student delegates made the trip from China to speak on campuses across the United States and Canada as part of the IMUSE program, with Harvard their first stop.

When asked before the event about their experience here at Harvard, they praised Harvard’s dining hall food but said students in China have more of a social life because they live closer together.

During the panel discussion, when asked about his impressions of America, Robert Wei from Peking University said the “diversity in this society” represented the “harmony” in America.

Rachel Li, another delegate from Peking who is not related to the actor, said she was “impressed by the hospitality of the American people.”