October 11, 2006
Young people who dream of improving the world can start as local
leaders serving their own communities, New York City Councilman
John C. Liu told a classroom of students taking St. John’s
University’s unique “Discover New York” course.
“Especially in New York, international issues are often felt on
the local level,” said Councilman Liu, who represents residents of
northeastern Queens, NY. “You prioritize on the larger level – what
are the issues that have the greatest impact on people’s lives –
and then consider the ways these issues affect people in the
communities around you.”
Mr. Liu came to St. John’s to address students in an evening
section of “Discover New York,” part of the University’s core
curriculum that uses the city as a “living textbook.” Through the
course, first-year students focus on the city’s history, culture
and politics to learn about larger issues in the arts, economics,
ethnicity and social justice.
Leadership and Service
James P. Pellow, Ed.D., a “Discover New York” professor who also
serves as Executive Vice President and COO at St. John’s, invited
the Councilman to speak. “The University developed this unique
course to use the city as a learning lab,” said Dr. Pellow.
“Councilman Liu’s achievements are especially relevant to vital
issues this course addresses, such as immigration, leadership and
Noting this focus, Councilman Liu thanked Dr. Pellow and St.
John’s University for inviting him to share his experiences with
the students. “This is Dr. Pellow’s – and St. John’s – contribution
to the principles of leadership and service that you learn in this
In addition, Councilman Liu acknowledged the international
character of students in Dr. Pellow’s class. This too, he said,
reflects St. John’s University’s own contribution to instilling an
appreciation for diverse cultures. Students at St. John’s represent
43 states and 131 nations.
The diversity, he added, reminds him of the districts he
represents. “Travel through northeastern Queens,” said Councilman
Liu, “and you’ll feel like you’re taking a world-wide vacation,
eating international foods, hearing different languages.”
Councilman Liu answered a variety of questions from students,
Dr. Pellow and Brian Browne, the Assistant Vice President for
Government Relations at St. John’s. He discussed such issues as
public education (ESL classes might be an effective way to teach
English to immigrant students); the city’s 311 complaint line (it
provides translators) and the rigors of running for office (you
need to meet with your constituents, one at a time).
A Success Story
In addition to providing leadership on vital local issues like
public schools, neighborhood safety and accountability in
government, Councilman Liu has earned a reputation for tackling
larger issues. For example, he has spoken out against unfair
immigration policies, hate speech on the air waves and
The first Asian Pacific American legislator elected in New York
City, Councilman Liu took office in November 2001. He represents
the residential northeastern Queens communities of Auburndale,
Flushing, Fresh Meadows and Whitestone. St. John’s University’s
Queens campus borders Fresh Meadows.
Born in Taiwan, Councilman Liu came to New York City with his
family at the age of five. He attended public schools in Queens,
graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and went on to earn
his bachelor’s degree in mathematical physics at Binghamton
Ultimately, Councilman Liu said, a legislator must develop a
skill that benefits every professional – and every student. “You
must never be afraid to ask questions,” he told the students.
“Chances are a lot of other people will have the same questions you
do. The silliest question is the one that doesn’t get asked.”
We invite you to recapture the excitement of the evening by
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