Publication Details

Yecies, B. (2006). Aspire and be inspired as a Korea foundation fellow: pay it forward in the long-term. Korean Foundation Newsletter, 15 (1), 1-3.


This essay's title refers to the 2000 feature film Pay it Forward directed by Mimi Leder and starring the talented Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment. The film is not all that great in terms of making a contribution to the art of cinema, which is what I research and teach. However, its message carries a deep meaning. The phrase "pay it forward" captures the spirit of the potential impact Korea Foundation fellows have/can have in and on society. Everything we do and everyone we come in contact with in our lives is touched in some way. Everything we say about Korea, especially when it comes to our particular research topics, can be influential. People DO listen to what we have to say. In the film Dead Poets Society, the Robin Williams character, an English professor, says: "No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world." Given the power of this so-called ripple effect (and the general power of speech), we always need to remember to aspire and be inspired to make a difference in the world. Perhaps this might remind readers of that scene in Jerry Maguire (1996), when the Tom Cruise character (while writing a heartfelt manifesto) declares: "We must embrace what is still virginal about our own enthusiasm, we must crack open the tightly clenched fist and give back a little for the common good, we must simply be the best versions of ourselves...that goodness will be unbeatable and the money will appear."