International Impact Award recipient Sarah Lande shared details of her recent reunion with Mr. Xi
Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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University of Iowa (UI) alumna and recipient of the UI International Impact Award in 2020, Sarah Lande (BA and MBA) is a true global Hawkeye. This Muscatine resident doesn’t just call Iowa home; she’s claimed the world as her community through life-long involvement in citizen diplomacy with a passion for forging friendships that transcends political borders and geography. 

One of the highlights of being a citizen diplomat is her friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping for nearly four decades. The story began in 1985 when Lande arranged the Muscatine itinerary for Mr. Xi’s visit to the state of Iowa and hosted a dinner for Mr. Xi and his delegation at her home. Lande has made several trips to China in subsequent years. In 2012, then-Vice President Xi returned to Iowa and visited Lande and her husband in her home, turning the clock back to the days of his first visit. 

"Friendship is big business. Our relationship started in friendship, let it continue to flourish and grow."

Fast forward to the post-COVID-19 era, their bond has only strengthened. During Mr. Xi’s recent visit to the U.S. last month, Lande was invited to attend the "Reception and Dinner Honoring His Excellency Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China," on Wednesday, November 15, in San Francisco, California. Lande attended as an American guest and a citizen diplomat, and was among 300 business and community leaders. Host organizations included the National Council on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council.  

“I was honored to sit at the head table,” shared Lande. “Prior to the dinner, President Xi greeted 30 ‘people to people’ friends and each of them had an opportunity to shake his hand and express greetings. I encouraged him to work with President Biden on all of the critical issues of the day.” Many of Mr. Xi’s old ties from Iowa were among the group, including former U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad. 

Xi with 30 friends
Mr. Xi with Lande (in pink jacket) and other "people to people" friends

The friendship between Lande and Mr. Xi, brought together and nurtured by the power of citizen diplomacy, stands as a testament to their shared visions for peace and opportunities for people. “Friendship is big business. Our relationship started in friendship, let it continue to flourish and grow," said Lande.  


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.