by Lampo Leong


According to one wide-spread traditional understanding, the university exists to prepare young people for future careers in the discreet disciplines and fields of endeavor that make up the “real world.” In the past people looked to the university to provide those who would play leadership roles in the wider sphere of world affairs. But as the reality of globalization unfolds and the plurality of discreet cultural spheres rapidly gives way to one perplexing manifold, America’s universities must face the task of redefining their role in terms of a much larger world, a world where cultures are neither defined by nor confined within national boundaries. Many of the changes that have shaped this culturally fluid world — the emergence of the internet, for instance — have begun here in a university setting. The difference is that instead of providing the human resources for tomorrow’s leadership needs, the university must be willing to assume its own leadership role. In the world that is currently developing, the most crucial factor in sustaining a position of genuine leadership will be the creation of an environment that values diversity. As I see it, America, with its multi-ethnic heritage and its dynamically stable fusion of different cultures, already has a distinct advantage in this connection.

My background has made me keenly aware of the synergistic gains made possible by cultural difference. Not only have I benefited from experiencing education in two different worlds, but my understanding of my own discipline has been profoundly enriched by cross-cultural synthesis. I think the best way to help the university realize its leadership potential is to help it grow toward more diversity. Along this line, a primary emphasis in my service thus far has been to promote a higher level of international exchange and cross-cultural dialogue. Not only do we want to reach out to a wider world, but we want to invite the most talented representatives of that world to be active participants in our creativity. This is even more the case with a research university such as this one, which is devoted not only to education but to the development of new knowledge. I have a vision of the university as the place where the most creative intellectual developments can arise because the exchange of ideas is so rich in cultural diversity. Ultimately, however, my notion of service is not bounded by the university as such. As an artist, and a participant in the field of the visual arts, I see my highest responsibility lies in promoting and developing the role of art in all its manifestations for the greater enrichment of an emerging global culture.