By  Billy Lee 李名信   April 2020

When Covid-19 Pandemic started to spread in the United States, many universities closed and left a number of foreign students stranded. My young friend, Jackson Barkstrom , from Richmond Virginia was a Third-year student at Brown University ( Providence, Rhode Island ). He learned that two schoolmates on his Brown China Summit Committee were for some reason unable to return to their homes in China.   With consent and even strong encouragement from his Mom ( Tina ), Stepfather ( Brent ), and younger Brother ( Walker – a freshman at Brown) , he warmly offered Homestay to his stranded friends.  They are now six of them living and weathering the pandemic together as one family – not knowing how long this crisis will last.

It was through Homestays that I got to know Jackson’s family. Near the end of my Freshman Year at Yale, Jackson’s Grandfather, David Gregg III, who was on the Freshman soccer team with me, approached me and asked if I would like to room with him the following year. We became roommates for three consecutive undergraduate years 1952-1955.

During those years, I enjoyed Homestays at the Gregg’s home in Darien, Connecticut so many times I can not even remember, but I shall always remember vividly the warm and kind smiles of Mr. Mrs. David Gregg Jr., and the special earnest and attentive look of David’s younger brother, Arthur. I shall always remember the various efforts they made to keep me entertained and to teach me about the American Way of Life.

I grew most deeply attached to Mrs. Gregg whom I affectionately called Virginia. In my mind, she became my American Mother – in many ways closer and more intimate than my natural mother in China.

Our friendship endured, grew deeper, as well as expanded to embrace more members from each side of our families. This was possible because we made efforts to keep in touch despite of David and Virginia’s passing. I think Tina now assumes Virginia’s Leadership role. Indeed, Friendship requires deliberate reaching out and helping each other. It requires true Compassion. In my view, Tina is much like Virginia.

We remain connected with Arthur and Sarah, but became more closely connected with Tina and Jackson who in the middle of his high school years developed a special interest in China and U.S.-China Relations. Four years ago, we introduced Jackson to a 1990 Institute sponsored Project, inviting American High School students to visit China and teach English at a Chinese primary school.  Last year as a representative from Brown’s China Summit he volunteered at the 1990 Institute’s Teachers’ workshop on “CHINA TODAY” -coordinating speakers’ speaking time.

We were delighted to hear that Jackson’s Family so generously offered Homestay to two Chinese students at this very scary time. We wanted to know how they manage. The following is what Jackson wrote to me:

Dear UB, ( Uncle Billy  )

Here are two pictures from Summer and Helen’s stay. The first is Summer and I gave my brother a haircut, and the second is a photo from our dog’s birthday celebration

Summer is from Suzhou went to Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania (fun fact, I played her school in squash!)… she said she feels like family here and loves having two brothers. She gets along very well with our sense of humor. 

Helen is from Shanghai and went to high school in China. We recently got her addicted to our favorite type of ice cream… last week Brent ordered 12 pints of Graeter’s Ice Cream, his favorite from his Cincinnati hometown, and Helen likes it more than any of us. She ordered another 12 pints that came in the mail yesterday, and made a post endorsing it on 知乎… Graeter’s ice cream is about to be Chinese internet-famous!! Her Zhihu account is apparently very popular. 

Helen introduced us to an anime (Japanese animated tv series called Stein’s Gate) about a hilarious mad scientist and his time-traveling adventures… all four of us (Walker, Helen, Summer, me) love it and we’ve been having “anime night” every couple days. Summer, Walker, and I also recently played tennis outside, on our patio, with chairs as the net.

My brother and I taught our friends some funny dance moves (i.e. the “crab rave” and the “floss”) as well as the art of silly walking. We really enjoyed dancing that evening after my brother presented his specialty – Walker’s Portuguese egg tarts- for supper.

Overall it’s been great, we haven’t really been able to leave the house but we’ve been keeping ourselves entertained.



I am so glad that they are extra innovative in finding ways to keep life joyful, but I also know that not knowing the end of the tunnel is extremely stressful. I can imagine the strain in putting up a happy face for your hosts or vise versa every moment of every day. It’s taxing. Homesick emotions sometimes cannot be restrained, and to host two foreign guests in the middle of house moving is definitely not easy. These particular friends of mine, however, will overcome all these challenges, because their COVID-19 Homestay Experience is shared and will forever be remembered with LOVE, COMPASSION, and GRATITUDE.


“To promote Cross-cultural Friendship, increasing understanding about people and their difficult conditions can help. My writing – Reflective Thoughts – these days focus on upgrading Understanding. “

By : Bill W.Kwong – Global Educator and Program Consultant – April 2020

BA: Cornell MA: NYU & Stanford / 35+years teaching experience in N.Y.C. and S.F. / Previous Dir. of Global Initiative – Crystal Springs Uplands Sch. – Hillsborough, Ca. / Conducted educational immersive travel experiences since 1991 – mostly Asia – particularly China / Member – 1990 Institute Board of Directors – Promoting Trust and Understanding between U.S. and China

Reflective Thoughts and Stories: Entry #1

Many decisions from China often puzzle those who look at things through American lenses. I find it helpful to share the comparison elaborated below with my colleagues and students when I try to get them to understand why China does what it does. 

Geographically, U.S. and China have roughly the same landmass.  In terms of population, China has slightly more than 4 times that the U.S. has. In terms of land where you can grow food, U.S. has about 1.5 times that China has. The same landmass has been continuously cultivated for at least 2 to 3 thousand years in China when the land in the U.S. has only been heavily used after the Europeans arrived in the 16th century.

Sustaining a lot more people with a lot less land, particularly land that has been heavily used for a much longer time, requires a different kind of governing.

To bring this home to my friends who teach at independent schools, I ask them to consider the management of China and the U.S. similar to working with students situated in two different classrooms.  First, I invite my friends to think of teaching 72 teenagers in a classroom that is the same size as the one they currently have in an independent school. In this extremely crowded room, the students only have a fraction of the books, usable pens, and pencils. In addition, these overused instruments are generally worn, books come with torn pages, and pencils are broken. Teachers assigned to teach in this room are looking at a class that is far different than what we generally find in an elite independent school. In the more affluent school setting familiar to my friends, each of the 18 students belonging to a class comes to school every day with “new” books, functional equipment, and connection to a vast amount of resources. Two very different conditions indeed.

In the classroom I am accustomed to teaching in my independent school, I encourage free-flow sharing of ideas.  Students are allowed to speak their minds and inject their thoughts into the discussion without raising their hands.  When a student violates a rule, I have time to rationalize with the offender to show my care and to give him the extra dose of motivation to do better. Students feel validated, respected, and encouraged to embrace their individual aims and values.

In the other classroom, to get anything done so the arena can resemble a place of learning, I imagine that establishing and maintaining order would be the key.  Students have to wait for their turns to speak and speaking may be limited to a fixed time on the schedule.  Violations will be severely punished, often publicly so all can learn from the example.  Rule breakers will think twice before daring to disrupt the proceedings again. Individual requests serving the needs of a few do not have a chance to gain recognition when the needs of the mass are deemed supreme. It is very difficult to manage this classroom.  The purpose and the goal often focus on “survival”.  To get anything done, strict adherence to a rigid structure is crucial for its existence.   

This comparison often helps my fellow teachers and others to understand that the American style of government with its emphasis on freedom of speech, individual pursuit of happiness, and democracy are difficult to achieve and not necessarily suitable when it comes to governance in China today.

What FRIENDSHIP and RELATIONSHIP mean to my ANDOVER-YALE classmate BOB DORAN ( PA’51 YC’55 )

When Billy Lee first asked me to write a little something on friendship, I quickly thought of my many relationships. But then I saw the differences and similarities between the two.

I have many fewer friendships than relationships, and my friendships are deeper and more powerful than my many relationships. But they do have things in common:

            Gender is not a factor in either…    

         Nor is race or nationality…

            And the time spent together doesn’t matter…

            And both can happily go on and on.

That said, it’s better to have both than neither.

A friendship can have a very simple beginning…a handshake, nod or smile. But over time, and over changing times, it becomes deeper and more meaningful for any number of reasons. In life, stuff happens; over time, a relationship can become a close friendship.

When I think back, my early friendships started at Andover. Of a list of 8 friendships I highlighted there, 4 have died, and one has Alzheimer’s. Those living remain close friends, and those we have lost are meaningful memories

The list of friendships formed at Yale has 10 names, and again, 4 are no longer alive. Some became highly recognized but, surprisingly, the friendship only got deeper. Music was a factor in some of the friendships, and art was a factor in others.

And then to highlight the impact of forming friendships at educational institutions, I recall five at Harvard Business School that made a difference in my life, or I made in theirs. One had something to do with helping me get my first professional job, a profession he also chose. Another became deeply involved in my professional life during a difficult time. One has died.

I also developed friendships with our landscape designer, art dealers, our trainer and our rental house postman. And I have close friends on Martha’s Vineyard and San Juan Island. These friendships were formed “in season” but have deepened over time. The location of the friend is irrelevant.

I had the opportunity to join three others to form our own company. The friendship between the four of us was tested during a very difficult time, but it simply got stronger and the company survived and flourished…and our relationship and friendship did, too.

The ultimate irony is that I developed a friendship with someone that I had to fire from our company. In spite of our friendship, his management style was inconsistent with the company’s culture and he had to be let go. That individual has since died but my memories of our many conversations will never be forgotten.  



Billy: Please tell me more about “The Ultimate Irony”

Bob: See two attachments

Billy: Thanks. I learned the following lessons from you: 1. Be honest, sincere, yet empathetic while sorting out differences. 2. Always appreciate and respect other’s positive qualities. 3. Must reach out deliberately to ignite, embrace, and nurture Relationships and Friendships. 4. Sometimes Friendship deepens after a struggle.


The stories of the website: Build connections, carry on helping each other

By Yilu 2020.04.03

In June 2019, I received Billy’s email which says he has got a stroke and needed to do something before it’s too late. “I hope some of you will do something to help the world improve the way we relate to each other.”

Actually, Billy’s thoughts have affected many of us, making me start to think about the meaning of life and what we can to do carry on our precious humanity. When Billy’s in a bad health situation in June 2019, he wrote a letter during his wakeup to talk about what we can do to help children get a right. In that letter he emphasizes:

I think that all parents need to protect their own children but must be careful not to teach them to make quick all black vs all white , all good vs. all evil judgements. Indeed, people in this World are not all good or all bad. Every person has good qualities and misguided qualities. We should acknowledge and promote Goodness in all people. We should identify Bad Traits and Misdeeds, but should not condemn people totally.

I read about it and realized it would be great to let more parents see it. After all, Billy has devoted years in researching education and friendship, he knows more about them. So I decided to record Billy’s thoughts, hope that one day, those recordings could spread further and affect more people.

One of the things I learned from Billy is when we decide to do something, we should do it “before it’s too late.”

I discussed my ideas with my friends Wenmo and Yihua, they’re both very supportive, we figured out how to run this project very quickly, Yihua, as an engineer, helps to set up this website, Wenmo helps to manage the website. Later, we found another friend: Tingting, she helped us a lot in translation.

I’m more than grateful that the other three friends are of great help in this project. I’d like to introduce them one by one here to show my appreciation.

This article is all about the cute friends who help to build up this website for Billy and the stories of them !

Wenmo loves drawing, she recently has published a drawing series on her own website, telling the stories happened around her.

Yihua’s hobbies are a slightly special: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, rock climbing, Japanese (he has learned Japanese by himself for over two years) he always wants to make life shine more.

Tingting is currently an English teacher in Beijing, she loves to travel, yummy food and movie, just like all the other young girls of her age. Maybe you will be surprised, I haven’t met her so far, we just contact online and do this work together. We become friends online from strangers. haha~

I used to read about some books on psychology, those authors are trying to tell us the greatest happiness comes from the connections between people. Making friends is just like building connections, and the miraculous part of it is that when we know someone is caring about us, and we need to care about them, we don’t feel lonely even though we all came to this world all by ourselves. And I appreciate teamwork very much, it makes me feel powerful to work with different people for the same goal. I wanna say to my dear friends, thank you. Let’s “carry one our precious humanity”.

Here are the stories told by the three friends.

@ Wenmo

In July, my close friend Yilu asked me to help collect Billy’s articles and upload them to the website. I joined her without hesitation because I think she’s a very nice person and I wanna do things together with her. Yilu then told me about the story of Billy, I found out Billy is actually very charming. The more I read about his articles, the more I like him.

I have to say, Billy’s values and lifestyle really attract me that I think it’s a meaningful thing to collect his articles and spread them to more people.   

图片包含 人, 男人, 建筑, 雪


@ Yihua

My thoughts are quite simple and straight forward. I’m in this project because Yilu wants me to help, she’s my friend, and friends help each other O(∩_∩)O

@ Tingting

I think my life’s get a little bit different after I get to know Billy, a truly talented and passionate “young man”.

In August 2019, I saw a message from our alumni WeChat group, it says, “We need a volunteer translator with the knowledge of education to help…” Back then I knew nothing about the person who sent it to the group chat, but I was touched by her because of her passion for life through her words. And I appreciated it that she also volunteered to do something for others with her spare time, I decided to contact her.

Then she introduced Billy to me, I learned that Billy cares a lot about education in both China and the US and has done his efforts to help improve it.

I didn’t expect Billy is such a passionate “young man”, always wants to contribute to society. I was impressed by him deeply even though I haven’t met him before. I immediately joined that team to do the translation on weekends.

The work of translation also makes me rethink my way of education, from this perspective the work is a special gift to me. I really hope we can continue to do more meaningful things for others and society.