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作者贾端端为新澤西蜜尔本高中畢業生,十二岁創辦ABC Club,今年秋天將進入杜克大學主修公共关系,也被布朗、康奈尔、达特茅斯、乔治城外交学院、纽约大学斯特恩商学院等录取。连续四年考入新州乐队,任高中网球队及辩论队队长。曾獲艾森豪威尔领导力獎 (Eisenhower Leadership Award),高中体育学者奖 (NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association & Educational Testing Service Scholar Athlete Award),新州学者夏令营(NJ Scholars Program),英文写作奖,也是新州美华协会第一届青年理事会主席。ABC俱乐部在新州几个镇的华人父母子女中开展活动,包括举办讨论会,公共演讲,接待中国学生,助选拜票,选民登记,面试培训等等。贾端端曾在中国高中介绍了这种模式,也借助微信和网络视频培训了加州、德州等地家长和学生建立俱乐部分支。

How the ABC Found Me
Austin Jia

If you were to ask me to describe the ABC Club (Achieving Better Communication, hence after ABC), I’d chuckle, scratch my head, and ask if you’re prepared for a long conversation. You see, unlike a sports club or an orchestra or a debate team, the ABC cannot be approximated or even summarized. But that is why I write this piece. It may be long and it may be tedious, but I will try my best to capture on paper what has been less of a club and more of a concept, a friend, and a guide to me. 

The origins of ABC were rather nebulous. Nameless, even. Our household has extensive relationship with non Chinese friends in town so we called together monthly book discussions. What allowed this infantile discussion club to grow was our book choice and its multiracial, multicultural nature. Unintentionally, we had selected controversial books, dense books, simultaneously unifying and divisive in their provocativeness. My Name was Keoko unearthed the dilemmas underlying kamikaze bombing during the Japanese occupation of Korea, as part of the broader illustration of the miserable lives of the Koreans under brutal occupation. Our Jewish friends were not aware of such pain suffered by the Koreans (or the Chinese for that matter). Their awareness was with the other book Number the Stars, which we compared with the first one. Steve Jobs revealed the roots underneath a software empire. Book after book drew the most reserved students out from silence; after all, who could reserve an opinion on sending their son off to die on a bomber jet?

After a year of inciting discussion with literary merit, I discussed to target directly what I wanted: the controversy within the books. Instead of operating off of the pretense of a book discussion club, I decided to morph the concept into a “general discussion club”. This also coincided with the teenage/preteen conflict between American Born Chinese kids and their recent immigrant parents. I observed a lack of communication between the two generations, and started with a language survey of how kids view their parents' English skills and what language kids feel comfortable speaking with parents both inside and outside the home. 

The survey resulted in much discussion as parents lamented why their preteens shut them out of their lives. Over the years, I fed my club members' explosive thoughts with equally incendiary topics: the merits of peer pressure, the pitfalls of social media, the balance between social and academic life, Asian identity and stereotype, social justice, time management, mental health. Soon, our conversations became so irresistibly magnetic that the parents could not help but to join. And, as the entertainer that I am, I decided to spice up the room with debates about parent-child relationships and proper parental involvement.  And thus materialized an unforeseen byproduct of my unsuspecting club: allowing children and parents to settle disagreements that would never have materialized in their own households.

Soon, there came to be a rhythmic quality to my routine of preparation, a simple quality. As the club members and their parents became more outspoken and less dependent on my mediation to carry on the conversations, I found myself generating fewer and fewer discussion questions. My group, that had once looked at me to revive dead discussions, was now self-sustainable, even energetic.

Running the ABC Club over such a long span of time has enlightened my awareness of the nuances of leadership. With practice, explaining plans, motivating groups, and mediating discussions became instinctive - a natural way of interacting. It was a good thing, a healthy thing, an empowering thing to taste the responsibility of management, to delegate, and even to share the mantle of mediator to those who were bold enough to try. All told, my transformation was as acute as those that surrounded me. Because, before I discovered ABC and ABC discovered me, I, too, was a nonconfrontational, inward teenager.

Some people ask me why I persist in running ABC, why I take so much time to support the growths of other people, rather than of myself. I think that at the end of the day, leading the ABC was never about its self-inflating moments spent heading discussion groups and directing conversations. Guiding a dozen listeners certainly made me feel powerful and leaderlike, but ironically, I felt always as if my personal satisfaction was derived from a sentiment that seemed diametrically opposed to leadership - that of humility. I think that it is quite appropriate that only now, as I hand the mantle of ABC down to the next generation, do I finally understand this irony. 

I understand that leadership is a fundamentally supportive role, about enabling rather than receiving. Power, when flaunted and demonstrated, devolves into mere accessory. Power, when exercised in charity and in selflessness, does good. And nothing feels as good as seeing a quiet teenager compelled by my efforts to shirk the limits of shyness and contribute his presence, his voice, and his bottled-up opinions. Five years with ABC was a gift because it allowed me to feel that singular rush when my leadership emboldens timid hands to raise, insecure mouths to speak, unsure souls to unlock and embrace their potential, vibrant and boundless. 



ABC的起源其实很模糊,甚至一开始连个名字都没有。我的家庭跟镇上的一些非华裔家庭一直来往密切,所以我们弄了个多族裔读书讨论会。这个一开始并不成形的读书讨论会得以壮大成长,要得益于我们对书籍的选择以及成员本身多种族和多元文化的特点。并非刻意,但我们挑选的都是一些颇具争议,内容艰深的书籍,它们在无意中达到了既能激发读者不同观点,又有统一共同之处的奇妙结果。比如,《当我的名字是Keoko》,这本书描述的是二战时韩国人被日本占领的悲惨境遇以及日本人的神风突击队自杀轰炸模式。我们的犹太朋友并不了解当时韩国人所遭受的痛苦(或当时中国人经受的磨难),所以他们关注的是另外一本书,《细数繁星》,我们把这两本书放在一起比较阅读。而《史蒂夫. 乔布斯传》则揭示了一个软件帝国内在最深层的故事。就这样,一本本书读过后,即使最保守的学生也开始打破沉默。说到底,谁会在就是否一个父母该忍心送自己的儿子去驾驶自杀袭击飞机这个问题上,吝于发表自己的看法呢?


调查结果引出很多讨论,华人父母们大多为孩子将父母拒之于(心灵)门外而苦恼。在五年多的时间里。我给俱乐部成员们提供了形形色色颇具争议的话题来讨论:同伴压力的价值,社交媒体的陷阱,如何平衡社交生活和学业,平衡亚裔身份认同和亚裔刻板形象间的矛盾,社会对我们的看法,时间有效管理,精神健康状况,等等。很快,我们的父母也被这些吸引住,以至于他们没法不加入我们的讨论。而我作为整个讨论气氛的总调动者,决定给讨论再加点料,即,让大家讨论父母子女关系,和父母介入多少算适当程度之类的话题。由此产生了出乎我意料的效果: 让父母和子女间有机会讨论和解决那些在家里绝无可能做到的分歧。

很快,我就形成了一个固定的准备模式,而且效果极佳。随着俱乐部成员及其父母变得越来越敢于放开说话,和越来越少依赖于我的情绪调动, 我发现自己越来越不需要提出下一个讨论问题了。我的小组成员,那些曾经总是看着我,等我重启进行不下去的讨论的组员们,现在完全可以进行自主讨论,而且充满激情。







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