Washington National Cathedral opened its doors to new perspectives on the spirit of China for its 2013 Nancy and Paul Ignatius Program on Wednesday, January 30. Following introductory remarks from Dean Gary Hall and Sarah Ignatius, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng gave a keynote address. James Fallows of the Atlantic magazine then moderated a panel with Dorinda Elliott of Condé Nast Traveler, Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton Center on China Studies, and Jerome Cohen of NYU Law School.

The blind lawyer Chen achieved notoriety in China when he spoke out against forced abortions and sterilizations by local authorities as an excessive interpretation of China’s one-child policy. After being imprisoned for years on spurious charges and enduring a long subsequent period of house arrest in northeast China, he ultimately engineered an escape to the United States embassy in Beijing and won asylum in the U.S. Chen is currently studying law and working on a memoir expected to be published later this year.

“Anyone interested in China, anyone interested in democratic change and the power of individuals and groups,” Fallows wrote afterward, “will find Chen’s presentation moving and inspiring.”

The Nancy and Paul Ignatius Program Fund was established by family and friends in recognition of the honorees’ longstanding service and commitment to the Cathedral in countless ways, including the NCA, which Nancy helped to lead for many years. Each year’s program enables the Cathedral to offer the public stimulating discussion from distinguished leaders and thinkers on timely issues from the Cathedral’s vantage at the intersection of faith and public life. The program can be viewed at www.nationalcathedral.org.