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One of the things I learned from my father is that a crisis is both a danger and an opportunity. That’s in the Chinese characters. And how you take advantage of the opportunity of the crisis rather than become despairing because of the danger. Is something we’re facing all the time, particularly at this time. It’s a philosophical approach I think that is very much needed and alive here in the city of Detroit.

Within Crisis, Opportunity

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Ancestors watching over the Boggs home.“That’s in the Chinese characters.” This passing reference by the 96-year-old Chinese-American philosopher Grace Lee Boggs got us wondering. What exactly does she mean? And what do those characters look like?

As it happens, explains our Public Insight Network colleague Melody Ng, the Chinese word for “crisis” consists of two characters: 危 or wei (pronounced “way”) and 机 ji (pronounced “gee”). Wei means dangerous or precarious. Ji means opportunity or chance.


Bound up in the meaning of “crisis” are both danger and opportunity. In each trying moment, there’s a chance for something positive to occur. Today being Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon, what a most auspicious thought to carry forward as we encounter our own crises in 2012.

A portrait of Grace Lee Boggs’ father hangs in her Detroit home. Chin Lee was a successful businessman who owned Chin Lee’s American and Chinese Restaurant on 49th and Broadway in New York. (photo: Trent Gilliss)

//Western ideas are so polemic, that it has to be EITHER a crisis OR an opportunity. In Chaos is Creation. Remember that.

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