Simpson President John Byrd was a front-row witness to a piece of Iowa history Wednesday night.
Byrd was one of 650 guests invited to attend Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s dinner for China’s vice president, Xi Jinping, held in the Capitol Rotunda.
“I was fortunate to be fairly close to the head table,” Byrd said. “It was obviously the kind of event that you’re not able to be a part of very often, to sit down with the future president of China.”
The evening featured toasts between Branstad and Xi.
“Both toasts were very friendly, supporting the long relationship and friendship between Iowa and China,” he said. “Clearly, the earlier trip, when Vice President Xi was a young member of the party, had quite an impact on him. Coming back to Iowa was a special occasion for him.”
Simpson’s president did not have a chance to meet the Chinese vice president personally. “In fact, they brought him in after everyone was seated.”
But Byrd said he was reminded of how much the world has changed since President Nixon first visited China in 1972. “In my lifetime, we’ve gone from no relationship to speak of, to one that’s very much intertwined with China on many different levels,” he said.
Sitting in the Rotunda, watching Xi and other Chinese officials eat and mingle with Iowans, reminded Byrd how much smaller the world now seems.
“Halfway around the world, you have an important partner in commerce, and it’s an important relationship for both parties and one that Iowa wants to extend and make stronger,” he said.
“It really was a great lesson on the intimacy of the world that we now live in. It was a special event. It was great to be there, and a historic evening for Iowa.”