Table Speech

“Yoneyama Month” Meeting
“The Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation and My Life”

October 1, 2008

Mr. Jun Ji,
Broad & Bright
Former Yoneyama Scholar

I was born in 1969. When I was in my third year of high school, I was selected to become a member of the Communist Party. Then, I went on to enter the Peking University Faculty of Law. Those around me placed many expectations on me, and I also had big dreams.
When I was 20, there was the Tiananmen Square Protest of 1989. I was very actively involved in the protest and, consequently, I was prevented from pursuing my path to the master’s degree program at my university.
At that time, all jobs were assigned by the state and, naturally, no work came my way. Even if I had wanted to go overseas, I would not have been issued a passport.
In 1992, when I was 23, I was finally granted a passport. I came to Japan. However, I was not able to speak Japanese at all and I worked part time jobs while studying Japanese.
Finally, in 1994, I became a research fellow at the University of Tokyo. However, research fellows were not eligible for scholarships. I woke at 5 o’clock every morning to work part time. When I arrived at the campus at 10 o’clock to attend classes, I was always sleepy. In order to fight the sleepiness, I remained standing to read. My professors understood the reasons for my standing when reading and were very considerate. They also recommended me to the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation.
The most trying time for me when coming to Japan was not the hardships endured in living or in working, but not being able to see my future; having no dream.
The Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation gave me my dream in life. It gave me the strength and confidence to realize my dream.
Having graduated from the University of Tokyo Graduate School, I wanted to go to the United States to become an international lawyer. In 1997, I was accepted into Harvard University Law School and entered into the masters program there. I was also given a scholarship from the university.
After working for 3 years with a prominent law firm in the United States, I took on my big dream of “going back to China”. In 2000, I returned to China.
My dreams kept growing. However, what gave me my start was the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation that gave me my dream, strength and confidence. Now, when I look back on my 2 year life as a Yoneyama Scholar, there was a club that looked after me and there were counselors to assist me. It was not just the giving and receiving of the scholarship money, but there was also the human contact and communication. This is the most striking feature of the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation.
At that time, the Rotary Club of Tokyo Rinkai was a club that was in its second year of founding and I was its first Yoneyama Scholar. Every one there really went out of their way to help me.
The day before yesterday, I had dinner with the members of the Rotary Club of Tokyo Rinkai. Everyone commented on their own participation, “I did not do much but I did what I could”. For me, the RC is not just the RC of its slogan of service, but has a much larger existence of person to person, heart to heart contact.
The members who are here today are all more prominent than I. There is nothing that I can do for them. However, I think they are all thinking, “pass on what you have received to the next generation”. That is why I intend to do just that.
This year, I made a donation to the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation, and I intent to do so again next year.
Today’s youth are struggling. If I am able to give them even a small amount of strength, they will be able to take the next step. This was true for me when I was at their stage. For youth, that first step is very important. Please give the young men and women their dreams and strength.
It is because the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation gave me my dream and strength that I am here today. I will continue to give, because doing so is how I repay the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation for the kindness that its members showed me.
It is not me doing this, but I am able to do this because I was brought up by the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation. I became who I am now ten years ago. I want you to see me the next 10 years. I want you to see me, who was raised by the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation.