Story by Clint Kelly
Photos by Jerry Gay, John Warren and Shad Kayser

Human Rights Leader Speaks at Commencement
"Man Is Not Made for Defeat," Says Chinese Dissident

Some of the most sobering and challenging moments of the 1998 Seattle Pacific University Commencement ceremony were provided by guest speaker Harry Wu. The executive director of the Laogai Research Foundation in Washington, D.C., Wu spent 19 years imprisoned in a dozen different Chinese forced--labor camps for speaking out against the Soviet invasion of Hungary and criticizing the Chinese Communist Party. He was freed in 1979, came to the United States, and has spent the ensuing years exposing the existence and conditions of the Laogai -- the Chinese Gulag.

Sounding the theme "You Can Make a Difference," Wu told his audience that "man is not made for defeat." Though at times reduced from a human being to "the level of a beast" by his experiences in prison, he did not give up because of the power of the human soul and the protection of God. Even in those darkest moments when he fell silent and doubted the very existence of God, "I came back as a sheep of God. Every time."

When Wu, a 1960 graduate of Beijing Geology College, left China, he attempted to live a quiet life and pursue the career for which he had trained. But it was not to be. "I saw that there were not many years in the rest of my life. To enjoy them and try to turn the page over -- I could not. I am the witness. If I turn my back on those people now in prison and the way they are treated, I am a traitor."

So Wu has written three books; testified before the United Nations, numerous US Congressional committees and the parliaments of Australia, Britain, France and Germany; and appeared on many major network and cable television news programs including "60 Minutes" and "Prime Time Live." Less than two weeks before his SPU Commencement speech, Wu testified before a US Congressional hearing on the Chinese government's practice of selling human organs from executed prisoners, a gross human rights violation.

Wu, a devout Catholic, firmly believes that one day China will become one of the world's great democracies. The way to speed that day, he believes, is to speak the truth and act always on principle. He considers it a mistake for President Clinton to have met in Tiananmen Square, as he recently did, with the same individuals who ordered the brutal attack on students June 4, 1989.

"Money (economic partnership)," says Wu, "is not principle."

"Harry Wu is one of the world's outstanding leaders in the struggle for human rights," says Steve Moore, vice president for campus life. "We were honored to have him as our Commencement speaker."

Wu's foundation works to document the Laogai system and to keep pressure on the Chinese government for human rights reform. He says he can never forget the terrible experiences he endured including beatings, torture, starvation and witnessing the deaths of many fellow prisoners from brutality, disease, starvation and suicide.

A research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Wu is the recipient of many honors for devotion to the cause of freedom. In 1991, he was presented with the Hungarian Freedom Fighters Award and, in 1996, the Human Rights Advocate Award of the Harvard Foundation of Harvard University.

"May the transforming power of Jesus Christ show you the way always. May this light be with you in the days ahead...We send you on your way this day with our blessing and our love."

With those words of encouragement from President Philip Eaton, the Class of 1998 prepared to graduate from Seattle Pacific University. More than 900 men and women were eligible to receive their diplomas at the June 13 Commencement ceremony. From Joel Abbott to Lisa Zumsteg, they numbered 711 undergraduate and 207 graduate students. A crowd of more than 4,000 friends, family and well--wishers filled the new Overlake Christian Church in Redmond for a celebration of scholarship and achievement.

Among the students specially cited for outstanding scholarship were 12 University Scholars who had participated in a rigorous honors curriculum over four years. The President's Citation for highest academic achievement went to Diane Lee, a science education major; Lisa Malmin, a biochemistry major; and Joshua Ramey, a philosophy major. All three graduated summa cum laude.

The day before Commencement, graduating seniors stood in a circle of ivy on campus as the president and retiring faculty members clipped a sprig of evergreen for each. Students and their families left the annual Ivy Cutting ceremony with a living symbol of their lifelong ties to each other and their alma mater.

a) Senior Gary Major enjoys an Ivy Cutting moment with his son, Garett. b) President Philip Eaton charged the graduates to get involved in their communities and the world. c) Professor of Theatre George Scranton congratulates senior Kristen (Seo) Labrecque. d) More than 5,400 people attended SPU's Commencement ceremonies held at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond. e) Master's degree recipient Carol Moore gets a welcomed kiss from her son, Eric. f) Happy graduates at Ivy Cutting include seniors (left to right) Erin McCrary, Lory Hidano, Anna Lopez, Ben Park, Courtney Warashina and Carol Indirias. g) President Philip Eaton snips a sprig of ivy for seniors Stephanie Laube and Jared Utterback during Ivy Cutting in the Loop. h) Nine hundred and eighteen undergraduate and graduate students were eligible to receive their diplomas at Commencement. i) Seniors Christy Oosten, Kathy Bartlett and Shawna Ter Matten were all smiles at the thought of graduating. j) Crayons and paper can come in handy at Commencement. k) Bagpiper Charlie McNeill leads the graduates into the Loop at Ivy Cutting. l) The Class of '48 meets the Class of '98: (back, left to right) Jake DeShazer '48, Jonathon Dahlgren '98, Jackie Nolte '52, Max Watson '98, Lloyd Nolte '48; (front, left to right) Florence DeShazer '48, Sonja Vander Pol '98.

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