MONTGOMERY - Celebration of a new year and Alabama's ties with China was the dual focus of the Confucius Institute at Troy University's event at the Montgomery Country Club on Feb. 26.
Highlighted by a keynote address by Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, the evening event provided a platform to discuss Alabama-China business relations as well as the University's impact on the state and in language and culture education in places like Montgomery's LAMP school.
"It is through the sharing of the economy and education and culture that creates the bridge that creates the ability to recognize that we are different as governments, but we may not be so different as people and that's what's important," Canfield said. "Troy University has been a very strong partner in this effort, and … we have been the beneficiary of the leadership at TROY."
Canfield spoke about the creation of a statewide economic development strategy to focus on building closer ties with the People's Republic of China through the Accelerate Alabama program to provide an emphasis on both economic development and education. Canfield said worldwide, some 126 countries have been introduced to Alabama products.
"The journey is never simple. The journey is never without risk … but at the end of the day, this is about opportunity and a vision for the future that we all share in common, no matter whether we are from Alabama or from China," he said. "Let's all continue to work together in a way to see greater understanding, to see greater opportunities, and all of the great economic benefits that come from that."
The evening also set the stage to recognize TROY Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., who received the World Confucius Institute's Individual Performance of Excellence Award, one of nine university presidents worldwide and the only in North America to receive the honor.
Worldwide, there are 475 Confucius Institutes, and 120 in the United States. In Alabama, the Confucius Institute at Troy University is the only such institute to have a statewide mission of expanding economic development opportunities between China and Alabama companies.
In addition to Secretary Canfield's address, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange brought welcoming remarks, and Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz spoke on China-Wiregrass initiatives.
A variety of performances dotted the celebration, performed by Chinese students, as well as students from LAMP, who provided a poetry reading and a Tai Chi demonstration.
Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. is congratulated by Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield on receiving the World Confucius Institute's Individual Performance of Excellence Award during a Feb. 26 Confucius Institute at Troy University Chinese New Year Appreciation Banquet in Montgomery. Dr. Hawkins was one of just nine university presidents worldwide, and the only one in North America, to receive the award this year. (TROY photo/Matt Clower)