Friendship is the core of the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation. Founded in 1974, the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation has focused on building and maintaining cultural relationships with citizens of the United States and China. Inspired by Kansas City native Edgar Snow, the foundation aims to maintain a healthy relationship with the city of Yan’an. Edgar Snow was a University of Missouri journalist student who is believed to be the first western journalist to interview Mao Zedong and who published a book that has never been out of print since its publication in 1937, Red Star Over China.
Jim McKusick is the current president of the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation. He chairs the meetings and is an executive officer, however he emphasized that the “board works as a team” and that they maintain strong partnerships with organizations in China.
A major event for the foundation is the Edgar Snow Symposium, which has an emphasis on cultural exchange. It is hosted every two years, alternating locations between Yan’an and Kansas City. This event will attract a delegation from China, roughly 2,000 people from across the Kansas City area as well as Chinese representatives from DC. In 2018, the foundation sold out the Kauffman Center for one of the symposium events that focused on traditional Chinese music and dance. The City Council of KCMO published a proclamation to acknowledge the work of Edgar Snow Foundation for the 2018 symposium. It was a great success and there will be another symposium in China in 2020 with a visiting delegation from the Kansas City area.
The foundation works very closely with the Kansas City Chinese Association and the Kansas City Chinese American Association in order to promote Chinese heritage and culture. Jim explained that people will often tell him that in the current political climate it should be difficult to maintain people-to-people exchange because of diplomatic relations between the United States and China. But he emphasized that this is the best time to sustain an everyday, cultural relationship. The relationship formed with Chinese people now is the infrastructure for future relations. While diplomatic relations are important, a true relationship between nations relies on people-to-people relationships and the cultures they exchange in order to promote a better understanding of each other.
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