Letter: Roll up the welcome mat on Darien High School’s China exchange program

To the Editor:

As we live in our Darien bubble, our government, under Trump, has hit another new low; twice denying visas to Chinese exchange students. A U.S. State Department program meant to engage students from Darien High and Qingdao #58 in an educational and cultural exchange is cancelled for the first time in 16 years! The Darien-China youth Eexchange has touched many families, whether as participants, hosts or through interaction in our neighborhoods. Recently we hosted an early Halloween Trick or Treat night on our street for our Chinese guests.

Today, we’re faced with the harsh consequences administration policies that seek to limit such interaction.

After second visa denial, China exchange students won’t reapply — Darien students cancel visit

This is personally disturbing as my son, Darien High School’12, studied Japanese and Chinese at Williams. He lived in Japan and was the recipient of a State Department Critical Language Scholarship which enabled him to study Chinese language and culture in Dalian China during 2016. The long-standing CLS program seeks to develop critical language skills and cultural awareness in strategic countries around the globe. Scholarship recipients also serve as ambassadors to their foreign hosts. These programs further our global understanding and strengthen our position internationally. Chris is a better person for these experiences and as a grad student is teaching Chinese youth how to speak English via internet tutor services. Those families value language skills and invest in their children’s language education.

In 2018 these aren’t skills valued in Trump’s America. Why welcome Chinese students here? Why send students abroad as part of the exchange. Why expand our horizons or let people in?

As America rolls up its welcome mat I challenge Trump voters who continue to support his administration to reevaluate and speak up. The short term damage of visa denials may seem small, yet the long-term harm is alarming. The destruction of long-standing norms that enhance young people’s lives, promote common understanding and strengthen our society is NEVER wise. I’m listening, hoping CT Republicans voters, candidates and those in office, will speak out firmly about this unwarranted denial of short-term student visas and the direction our country is being taken.

Kathy Finnegan

Darien