I knew for my eminent person this year, finding an expert on him would be somewhat challenging. This year, to look for an interview, I tried to aim high. There was probably a good chance I wouldn’t even get a response, but hey, if I knew if I got an interview with a journalist, who was there during Tank man’s moment, then I would get a really good understanding about the atmosphere, context, and knowledge of the event. So, I sent an interview request to Antony Thomas, the director of this documentary about the Tank Man. From his response, I was hoping that he would at least know the people, who are knowledgeable about Tank Man. This was the email I sent him:
“Hello Mr. Antony Thomas,
Can you remember how you responded when you first saw that picture of the young man stopping the column of tanks, what it said to you?
In many ways, the demonstrations in the spring of ’89 [were] about the power of the individual against the state, and so it seemed to sum up in the most graphic and symbolic way, I think, what everybody had been feeling: the power of the citizen to actually have an effect on the might of the state.
What does it say about China, though, that we actually don’t know who he was and a mystery still surrounds his fate?
The truth is there is much that the West doesn’t know about China. Again and again and again, we look at China, and we don’t know what we’re seeing. We look at the president and present Party chief, Hu Jintao. We really don’t know who he is; we don’t know what he stands for. It is not clear at all, very opaque. So in a certain sense, it isn’t surprising that a detail like this could go uninvestigated and that no conclusive end to that story can be told.
These answers really help me understand the context behind the tank man incident, and help me with the mood, and tone that I would use in my speech.
In hindsight, there were TONS of people who I could of interviewed, but in the researching and preparation stage, I completely blanked on the thought of interviewing someone who was there, someone who was in Beijing in 1989. It was only until Night of the Notables that the obvious literally hit me across the face, that there were so many people, whos parents, or siblings were there during the 1989 protests. One in particular was Galen Wang. His parents were part of the Tienanmen protests, and I only learned about it until the night. I really did look foolish, since Mr. Jackson always said you don’t have to pick the “expert”, but really anyone, and Night of the Notables has really shown me that there are way more options than you would think. If I have learned anything from this, it’s that anyone, including ordinary people can have a lot of knowledge that you might not expect.