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The tribute to George Shultz ’42 by Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 (Princetonians, April issue) brought back memories of my conversation with Secretary Shultz in 1984. Learning of President Reagan’s plans to visit China, I wrote a letter to request a meeting. With the incredible gumption of a 24-year-old who had traveled halfway around the world to live and work in Beijing, I thought it would be interesting for Reagan to hear about China through the eyes of a young American. To my surprise, I received word that the president would like to meet. 

On the day of Reagan’s reception with the U.S. business community, I was ushered into a room next to the ballroom at Beijing’s Great Wall Hotel. Perched on the edge of a table was Shultz, also waiting for Reagan to arrive. Although shy by nature, I realized that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Princeton was the conversation opener, of course. When he learned I’d been living in Beijing for two years, he asked all of the questions I had prepared to speak about with the president: impressions of the people I interacted with, the lingering impact of the Cultural Revolution, the slow opening of markets and loosening of economic restrictions, the progress of American companies seeking to gain a foothold in China, the social campaigns attempting to influence behavior and thought, the restrictions on my movement and travel. He was authentically curious and kind. And, yes, I did find myself wondering about whether the story of the tiger tattoo was true.