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Punahou's connection with China
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By Maverick Chen
China.org.cn staff reporter

"With the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, Punahou is now the only school in the world that has educated a Chinese president and an American president. … One hundred and twenty-three years later, Dr. Sun Yat-sen would not be surprised by what has remained unchanged at Punahou. What would surprise him is the change in bringing the culture of the world – and of China in particular – into the classroom." – Dr. James K. Scott, President of Punahou School.

US president-elect Barack Obama at Punahou. Photo taken in 1978
US president-elect Barack Obama at Punahou. Photo taken in 1978

Hawaii, a pearl in the Pacific Ocean, was a memorable place to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, father of the Chinese Revolution and founder of the Republic of China (1911-1949). "This is my Hawaii. Here I was brought up and educated; and it was here that I came to know what modern civilized governments are like and what they mean."

Punahou School is one of the two schools Dr. Sun attended during his brief stay in Hawaii. It is also one of the 200 high schools in the US where courses in Mandarin are available. "We have been teaching Chinese for nearly 35 years, and we have a well-established Mandarin program," notes Dr. James K. Scott, Punahou's president. "But Punahou is also proud of its longstanding connections with China."

This connection can be traced back over a century ago when a young Chinese student from Guangdong Province walked into the school. The student was known as Tai Cheong (Sun Yat-sen's boyhood name). There is a building called Old School Hall on Punahou's campus which was built in 1852. Its classrooms are still being used today, and, according to Scott, Dr. Sun Yat-sen also attended classes there."

Dr. Scott, who is one-quarter Chinese, is the 16th president of Punahou. "So when I talked to my brother before the trip to China, he told me 'say hi to our relatives,'" Scott says in jest.

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