Dr. Press’s son, a noted scientist himself in astrophysics, computational biology and other fields, said in an email that his father had been “proudest of his role in opening the U.S. to Chinese students, many thousands of whom have stayed to become American citizens.”
“That is of course controversial in some circles right now,” he added, “but I don’t think that Frank would change his mind on it.”
In a 2013 speech, Mr. Carter described how that influx of Chinese students came about.
“A president, when he’s sleeping in the White House, is rarely disturbed unless there’s some crisis that arises, something that he needs to address that won’t wait until morning,” Mr. Carter said. “One night, Rosalynn and I were sleeping in the bedroom and the phone rang about 3 o’clock in the morning, and I thought, ‘Oh, my, there’s a tragedy somewhere in the United States.’”
He was surprised to find Dr. Press on the line.
“I said, ‘Frank, what’s happened, another Mount Etna or something like that exploded?’” Mr. Carter recounted. “He said, ‘No, I’m in China with Deng Xiaoping,’” the Chinese leader.
“He said, ‘Deng Xiaoping insisted I call you now to see if you would permit 5,000 Chinese students to come to American universities,’” Mr. Carter continued. “And I was very angry. I said, ‘Tell him to send a hundred thousand,’ and I slammed the phone down. Within five years, we had 100,000 Chinese students with us.”
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