WASHINGTON—Shen Yun’s song lyrics provide “words for your heart, … words to live by,” said B.J. Penn, once the Assistant Secretary of the Navy as well as briefly the acting United States Secretary of the Navy.
Mr. Penn called the entire performance by Shen Yun Performing Arts very, very positive, and “a good way for us to live our lives.
“Granted there are mean people out there in the world, but we cannot let them get us down. We have to do the right things,” he said. Mr. Penn saw the performance at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Feb. 17.
Through music and classical Chinese dance, Shen Yun aims to bring the heart of ancient China’s culture—a culture that valued principles such as mindfulness of others, truthfulness, and respect for gods—to the world.
“I am a spiritual person,” Mr. Penn said, and the pervasive spirituality of the performance resonated with him. Whether in the dances, in the songs, and even in “the people that are coming out of the sky and on to the stage, that was very spiritual.”
In many of the story-based dances, deities visit from the heavens via the digitally animated backdrop and then appear on stage as the dancers take over those roles.
The song that impressed Mr. Penn the most—those words to live by—came near the end of the two-hour performance and were sung by soprano Haolan Geng, in “The Moment of Salvation.”
The song mentioned that “we come to earth as a sojourn from Heaven,” but getting in our way of returning, we find, “The blind pursuit of progress” as well as lies that hide our true purpose.
He felt the lyrics, projected in both Chinese and English, were strong, yet subtle, and that viewers needed to pay attention to get the spiritual message within them.
President Bush named Mr. Penn Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he later served President Obama as the acting U.S. Secretary of the Navy in 2009.
During his many years in the Navy, Mr. Penn acted on his philosophy “to help others help themselves.” As an officer he would ask himself, “what is best for my people? What is the best for the department? What is best for the country?”
He fears people may not be asking themselves that question anymore, but he feels it’s a vital question to ask. Shen Yun, he believes, showed that kind of thinking, where one sees the bigger picture and considers others before oneself.
Mr. Penn would hope that Shen Yun’s message would benefit the policymakers in Washington because the performance left him with three words: “Peace, hope, happiness.”
“Even the last song was giving hope,” he said. “It shows that people could work together. And I think we have lost some of that skill in Washington. … It is no longer what we can do for the country, or what is best for—what is really best for my constituents,” Mr. Penn said.
“Having seen the words translated, they were very strong, they were very powerful words, … for your heart,” he said.
Reporting by Sherry Dong and Sharon Kilarski
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.