On March 7th, the 2nd Annual Crossing Borders Conference sponsored by the Canadian Consulate, Seattle, was held in the Henry Art Gallery on the UW campus. Out of almost 60 applications, 16 participants were chosen from Canadian and US institutions, including two UW students – Lu Jiang, a major in Business Administration and history minor, and Sandley Chou, a double major in International Studies and history and a UW Honors student. Sandley presented on the melting of the Northwest Passage and the intensifying debate over sovereignty of the Arctic waters. Lu and her teammate, John Kardosh, University of Alberta, presented on the Canada-U.S. border and border security, winning $250 each in prize money for their performance.
I was selected to attend the 2008 Crossing Borders Conference, where 16 students from United States and Canada debated current critical issues facing both nations. The topic I was assigned was border security and its implication for the trans-national relationship between Canada and United States.
I entered this competition because I felt that there should be greater exposure and dialogue between the US and one of our closest neighbors – Canada. In my opinion our mainstream media often neglect our northern neighbor. Indeed, Americans’ lack of familiarity with Canada is quite disconcerting. Just days before the competition, my business professor asked a class of 40 capstone business students, “What is the capital of Canada?” No one, including me, knew the answer. I think it is time for me (and all Americans) to stop taking this easy friendship for granted.
The competition was a great experience. Judges were professors and researchers who are experts in their field. After each side presented its argument, judges and moderators had 45 minutes to ask questions and look for weaknesses in the arguments. The questions were direct, sharp and tough. I’ve never been as uncomfortable as when former State Attorney General and former Senator, Slade Gorton “grilled” us regarding the implications of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which aims to increase border security. (Keep in mind that Gorton is on the 9/11 commission panel which proposed WHTI.) But overall I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process.
I did not win the individual grand prize of $1000. John and I won the team prize receiving $250 each. An assortment of other non-monetary gifts and prizes were generously awarded to us by the Canadian Consulate. In conclusion, I believe there needs to be more opportunities like the 2008 Crossing Borders Conference so that my generation can communicate and strengthen our relationship with our neighbors.
The Crossing Borders Student Conference was co-sponsored by the Canadian Studies Center with funding from a US Department of Education, Title VI grant.
By Lu Jiang