How Will Chow Mei-ching Fulfill Her New Role?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, China)
May 27, 2008
Once the news came out that First Lady Chow Mei-ching intended to retire, charitable groups began fighting over her tooth and nail, trying desperately to recruit her to their cause.
This was hardly unexpected. If Chow Mei-ching had continued going to work, had continued being a career woman, the public would have respected her decision. They wouldn't have bothered her too much. But now that she is retiring, the public has a whole new set of expectations of her. They want her to take part in charitable work. That the public would react this way was entirely predictable.
To Chow Mei-ching and the larger community, this is a big deal. Chow Mei-ching may be willing to meet the public's expectations. But would she be merely sticking her big toe in the water? Or would she be diving in head first? Would she be taking on all comers, or concentrating her efforts in a single area, for maximum effect?
Thirty years ago, Song Mei-ling retired from public life. She has been followed by a secession of First Ladies, including Liu Chi-chun (Mrs. Yen Chia-kan), Chiang Fang-liang, Tseng Wen-hui, and Wu Shu-cheng. None of these are the kind of First Lady we wish to discuss at the moment. Today the public has all sorts of expectations of Chow Mei-ching, and Chow Mei-ching appears duty bound to meet these expectations. In fact, If a nation has a First Lady who can participate in charitable activities and touch the hearts and minds of the entire nation, she is not merely a sidekick who can amass approval points for the president, she is a precious asset to the entire community. Does Chow Mei-ching have such expectations of herself? Is she ready for such expectations from the public?
We believe that Chow Mei-ching is willing to fulfill her new role. If Chow Mei-ching is conscientious, she should not merely dabble. She should devote all her energies to a specific charitable activity, enabling her to make a genuine contribution. She may wish to focus on families, with an emphasis on youth. If Chow Mei-ching becomes a field worker for a charitable organization, her high media profile may become a hindrance. It may be best if she settles down inside some particular charitable organization. She can then network horizontally with other organizations that deal with families and youth. For example, If Chow Mei-ching were to settle down inside the Tzu Chi Foundation, or the Family Support Center, she could set up a "workshop" within such a reputable charity, and through such a workshop connect with other charities willing to be part of a larger network. She could even link to universities and vocational schools. Each charity would solve problems its own way, but each charity would support other charities. She could do great things. Chow Mei-ching could become "The People's Chow Mei-ching." Chow Mei-ching would be working for everyone.
Chow Mei-ching participating in such an effort would be a golden opportunity for all sorts of charities. Helping families lies at the heart of all charitable activity. This includes low-income households and elderly people living alone. Helping youth, in turn, lies at the center of the heart of all charitable activity. One cannot not wait until parents, driven by despair, kill themselves and their children by setting charcoal fires in their living rooms. Such efforts as delivering meals, visiting the housebound, and tutoring, require vast amounts of human resources, financial resources, and love. If the various charities can establish horizontal links, they can share resources, eliminate dead corners, and reduce blind spots, They would complement each other and increase each others' effectiveness. Therefore instead of squabbling over her, the various charities should come up with a win/win approach that pools their resources. Only this will enable Chow Mei-ching to maximize her potential. Only this will enable her to benefit the entire community.
If by some miracle Chow Mei-ching still has energy to spare, she can participate in other charitable activies. But we think it would be best if she stuck to the same theme, such as families or youth. She should establish a solid reputation in a specific area before expanding out to others. Two years from now, in her capacity as a charity worker, Chow Mei-ching may even wish to visit children in the Sichuan region who were victimized by the earthquake.
Based on recent public reaction, charitable groups have exerted a great deal of pressure on Chow Mei-ching. But Chow Mei-ching should see these expectations as well-intentioned. The public should allow Chow Mei-ching to decide how she wishes to participate in charitable activities and to what extent. Chow Mei-ching is known for being as cool as a cucumber. But if you look closely at her forehead, you can detect a trace of tension and a touch of melancholy. The shackles imposed by the Ma family are something she can't talk about. If she dives into charitable activities right now, her public persona may lack softness, warmth, and openness. Becoming involved in charitable activities may not be much of a challenge for her. But if Chow Mei-ching keeps an open mind, and plunges headlong into charitable activities, she has a good chance of achieving something meaningful. Once she unleashes her full potential, and reveals the full extent of her charisma, the public will see a sunnier, brighter, more charismatic Chow Mei-ching. If so, the cool as a cucumber Chow Mei-ching we know so well, may finally allow the public to see her smile.
The public considers Chow Mei-ching more charismatic than Ma Ying-jeou. In fact, just as Song Mei-ling was able to be her own woman, Chow Mei-ching does not need to be conceived exclusively in terms of his relationship to Ma Ying-jeou. Why not take this historic opportunity to allow Chow Mei-ching to make a name for herself?
2008.05.27 02:27 am