Not many Americans write letters to the president of China—and even fewer get a reply back.
But that is just what happened to John Easterbrook a few months ago. Easterbrook is the grandson of the American four-star general Joseph Stilwell, who served as commander of U.S. forces in China during WWII, where he developed a deep love for the Chinese people.
What is less well known is that his family and other supporters have been continuing Stilwell’s legacy by funding scholarships for students from mainland China to study at the Middlebury Institute since 1982. The committee selects scholars who demonstrate academic excellence and a strong character: they are honest and compassionate, and they aspire to help others.
Easterbrook mentioned the scholarship, among other cultural exchange activities, in his letter to Chinese president Xi Jinping.
“The foundation of China-U.S. relations lies in the people, and the source of strength lies in people’s friendship,” Xi wrote.
“It’s an important message at an important time, highlighting the importance of people-to-people exchange,” said Professor Xiaoyan (Grace) Shen, who was herself a recipient of the Stilwell Scholarship when she attended the Institute in 2006–08 and who was recently awarded the Faculty Excellence Award.