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renford reese
Dr. Renford Reese

TAIPEI, Taiwan: – International students at Ming Chuan University (MCU) have been urged to be “fish out of water” and discover themselves amid the challenges of living and studying in this Asian metropolis.

Dr. Renford Reese, a professor at California State Polytechnic University, quoted Shakepeare’s Hamlet as he encouraged the students to be true to themselves amidst untoward attitudes to some races, nationalities, ethnicities, and religions.

“Once you have confidence in yourself, it does not matter… But before you can be true to ‘thyself’, you’ve got to know ‘thyself’,” he said.

“Work on yourself. Be positive in yourself and in your heritage…. And once you feel confident with yourself, everything around you is immaterial. You don’t have to look for the person beside you to validate you.”

Ming Chuan University International College has the largest population of international students among Taiwan’s 125 universities. Reese addressed the students on the topic: “The Importance of Becoming a Global Citizen”.

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He told them not to get caught up with “trivial matters” of gossip, race, nationality and sexual orientation. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)

“We are not [on earth] long enough to get caught up in those things. This is the most diverse group of students that I have seen in Asia, ever. And the fact that you are here means something. … This is a microcosm of the world,” he told the student from 65 countries.

Reese used the examples of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat Sen, “greatest all-round American” Paul Robeson, and his own experiences growing up in a segregated southern United States to show what people can achieve when they move out of their comfort zone.

“In order to be a compelling person, you must put yourself in a compelling situation. Leadership is about being able to tell a compelling story. All of you have to challenge yourself to be to be the fish out of water and to be able to tell a compelling story.”

Reese has written five book, including Prison Race. The advice he gave the college students was the same he gives to prisoners in the United States:

“In order for you to reach your optimum potential in life, you must be able to combine the synchronisation of your mind, body, and spirit.”

He told the students they are what they read and encouraged them to apply knowledge, adding that many scholars spend much time studying but neglect their bodies.

He however noted that academic pursuit and physical wellbeing must be balanced with spirituality.

“Take some time out. Be introspective. Think about why you were put on this earth. Don’t just always be caught up doing things. … Discoveries are not made just by doing what everyone else does.”

According to Reese, “humility” is the most important English word and he told students that while they are each special, “that does not give you the right to look down on anyone”.

fish out of water
Dr. Renford Reese chat with students after his speech at Ming Chuan University.

“[Regardless of your religious belief], when it is all said and done, someone is going to hold you accountable for what you did down here — the way you treated people. Not just your own people, but the way you treated everyone and [not just your academic and material accomplishments].”

He however encouraged the students to self actualised, even as he cautioned them that becoming rich doesn’t necessarily equal self actualisation.

He instead urged students to embrace “Ubuntu”, an ethical concept of African origin emphasizing community, sharing, and generosity.

Reese is founder of “Colourful Flags”, a programme that “breaks down ethnic mistrust by teaching specific cultural facts and five basic human relations statements in the five most spoken languages in a school community or organizational community (excluding English)”.

The program has serviced over 130,000 Grades K-12 students in 17 school districts in Southern California. It has also serviced police departments, social service agencies, and various other organizations.