Commentary

May 24, 2013

Our land of limitless opportunities

Tags:
r. Tung Thanh
Professor of Medicine at the University of Calif., San Francisco President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Dr. Nguyen is pictured with his mother, father and brother in 1976, shortly after their arrival to the United States.

May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. For Vietnamese-Americans, this time of year is an anniversary of great importance to us. Most Vietnamese-Americans can trace their presence in the U.S. back to April 1975, the end of the Vietnam War. It is a bittersweet memory for us commemorating a time when we left all that was once held dear for an uncertain future. This is the time that we grieve for what was lost but exult in what was found. 

 My immigration story started in April 1975, when my mother, my four-year-old brother and I found ourselves stranded on a barge floating in the South China Sea. In the chaos that followed those final days of the South Vietnamese government, we were separated from our father. My memories of those days on the barge included the warm rain that fell down on us and the sound of crying — those of grown men who wept for their lost world and those of children who were scared and hungry. As a ten-year old, I remembered no fear, only the exhilaration that came with a new adventure.

Looking back on the experience as a father of three, I can only shudder at the anguish, horror and fear in my mother’s mind.

 Unlike many stories with this beginning, ours had a happy ending. We were picked up by a freighter ship and within hours, found our father among four thousand other refugees. Reunited, my family began life in Pennsylvania, where there was no time for fear because survival kept us busy.

Comfort could not be found in food since ingredients for our familiar Vietnamese dishes were nowhere to be found. So, seeking warm weather and fish sauce, my parents were among the first group of Vietnamese-Americans to relocate to Santa Clara County, Calif., now home of the second largest Vietnamese community in the U.S. Life for my parents remained hard; they were small business owners who worked 12 or more hours every day except for Christmas, New Year’s and Têt , the Lunar New Year.

My parents’ journey and accomplishments laid the foundation for my own professional and personal path, which steered me to my current position as Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and as a commissioner on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Professional successes amidst the storms and tears on that barge in the South China Sea, no one could have foreseen.

My story as a refugee to where I am today is not uncommon. There are many similar stories among Vietnamese-Americans and other AAPI groups. According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2011, approximately 58% of the refugees admitted to the United States were from Asian countries. Many immigrants contribute to the success of the U.S. through innovation and hard work. America gave my family and me a second chance and continues to be a welcoming land of opportunity for everyone to achieve the American dream. America offers everyone the hope of limitless opportunities. Let us come and let us stay, for in return, we will bring the fresh perspectives and the blood, sweat and tears that a great nation needs to continue to grow.

Immigrant stories are never finished. The stories of Asian, African, European, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Central American and other immigrants to this country must tell what their descendants are accomplishing now, as those are the next chapters in their stories. The accomplishments of our descendants are an immigrants’ reward for giving up everything we knew for a future that is limitless for our children and ourselves.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
HHM_14_Poster

Hispanic Heritage Month: Knowing the facts

In 1988, Congress established National Hispanic Heritage Month by amending the 1968 law that created National Hispanic Heritage Week. Under this law, the president was asked to issue an annual proclamation designating the “31...
 
 
4-of-11-photo

U.K. cemetery resting place for 452nd men

(Fourth in an 11-part series that was first run in the Beacon in 2007) Thirty men killed while serving in the 452nd Bombardment Group during World War II are buried at an American military cemetery near Cambridge, England. They...
 
 

Comprehensive Airman Fitness: A lifestyle and culture

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Comprehensive Airman Fitness (CAF) is comprised of a multitude of targeted programs and activities as well as resiliency skills taught to enable Airmen to make sound choices. The program’s goal is to build and sustain a thriving and resilient Air Force community that fosters mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness. The new...
 

 

Suicide prevention takes courage, communication, official says

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Veterans Affairs Department has named September National Suicide Prevention Month, but the Defense Department continues its year-round, comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to address the issue of suicide in the military, a Pentagon official said Aug. 21. Army Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, military deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for personnel...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Megan Crusher

Padres honor Team March Airmen during Air Force Appreciation Day

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Megan Crusher San Diego Padres second baseman, Jedd Gyorko, greets Senior Master Sgt. Donald Branscum, 1st Sgt., 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron, as he took his position on the field, during the Pa...
 
 

Air Force revamps Air Expeditionary Force

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force will deploy Agile Combat Support (ACS) Airmen under its redesigned air expeditionary force (AEF) construct October 1. The primary purpose of the redesign was to look at ways to deploy more ACS Airmen with their units and standardize dwell times across the Air Force as much as possible to...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin