In 2017, Lottie Boggan and I flew to Hong Kong where we began a land and sea adventure into parts of the Far East. After spending two busy days in that historical, cosmopolitan city and covering as many sites as time allowed, we boarded our ship docked in Hong Kong harbor. As we unpacked and settled into our stateroom, we talked about the days to come, certain our world would be enlarged by the places we would visit and the people we would meet.
The heavens graced our sail away with a majestic sunset. The beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds gradually changed into shades of lavender, gold and rosy pink as the city’s skyline slowly faded into the horizon. It was the perfect backdrop for a champagne toast to the beginning of a voyage that would end in Tokyo. Evening faded into night, and the rhythm of the sea assured a restful sleep.
The next morning, Lottie and I opened the stateroom curtains to see a multi-storied pagoda and a large Buddha statue on nearby hills, a scene that set the stage and left no doubt of our presence in the Orient. We were docked in the port city of Keelung, Taiwan. Our first tour took us to nearby Taipei, where we spent the morning at the National Palace Museum, which houses antique treasures, including jade, porcelain, iron, gold, chime bells, and furniture. Many of the museum`s priceless items were originally a part of the Forbidden City`s Palace Museum, located in Beijing, China. Our guide shared historical facts (paraphrased) about how pieces from mainland China were moved to Taiwan.
Prior to World War II, General Chiang Kai Shek first sent the pieces from Beijing`s Forbidden City to various hiding places in China, because he feared they would be lost in a Japanese invasion. After the world war ended, the Chinese Civil War began between the Communists and Chiang Kai-Shek`s Nationalists. The General—in an effort to protect the treasures from being destroyed by the Chinese communist regime—sent them to Taiwan for safe keeping. When the General`s Nationalist Party in mainland China suffered defeat, he withdrew to Taiwan, where he stayed until his death and where the treasures remain in the museum.
I thought of the far reaching effects of Chiang Kai Shek`s leadership. His belief in safe guarding history and respecting heritage resulted (1) in the preservation of Chinese treasures that could have been lost forever and (2) in Taiwan`s having a world class National Palace Museum that houses the antiquities.
As the first day`s tour continued, we watched the solemn, impressive changing of the guard ceremony at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall; took pictures of Taipei 101, the world`s tallest building until 2010; and ate lunch at the elegant red pagoda-style Grand Hotel with its exquisite oriental decor, grand stairway, and rich history of entertaining world leaders for more than half a century. As I explored the hotel and walked the grounds, I imagined diplomats, generals, United States presidents, and world leaders of note arriving in stretch limos with all kinds of attending personnel. It was the kind of place that silently spoke to the imagination.
According to our guide, it was Chiang Kai Shek, who recognized the islands` need for a proper hotel to house and entertain foreign leaders. It was his forward thinking that culminated in the landmark we saw—another footprint he left, another example of how he improved the world.
The memory of Chiang Kai Shek`s presence on the island was palpable in the places we visited. I often remembered the lesson that one person can make a difference, one person can make the world a better place.
Our world today is in need of someone to champion the preservation of America`s relatively short history—with objectivity and without judgment, with accuracy and without additions or deletions. Future generations need to know and see historical evidence of the painful, joyful, and truthful journey of our amazing democracy.