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.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Lindemann

Team March maintainers refurbish KC-135 Stratotanker in record time

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Lindemann Staff Sgt. Caleb Meyer, an active-duty crew chief, and Staff Sgt. Neftali Rivera, an Air Reserve Technician and crew chief, both from the 752nd Maintenance Squadron, screw in th...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan

Johnson assumes command of 56th Aerial Port Squadron

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan Col. Timothy McCoy (left), commander, 452nd Mission Support Group, March Air Reserve Base, passes the guidon to Maj. Mark E. Johnson, commander, 56th Aerial Port Squadron, ...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

Airman, Guardsman recognized as ‘heroes’ in Paris

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone (right), Aleksander Skarlatos (center) and Anthony Sadler pose for a photo in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was...
 

 
150822-F-RK887-146

Chief Kacsmaryk Retirement

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan Chief Master Sgt. Michael Kacsmaryk, superintendent, 752nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, receives a U.S. flag that was flown over the Capitol, duri...
 
 

The 452nd Air Mobility Wing 2015, 3rd Quarter award winners

Airman of the Quarter – Senior Airman Christian Bojorquez, 452 SFS   NCO of the Quarter – Staff Sgt. Kevin Duffy, 56 APS   SNCO of the Quarter – Senior Master Sgt. Winston Demmin, 452 AMXS   Company Grade Officer of the Quarter – Capt. Dawn Schultz, 452 MDG/752 MDS   (Not pictured) Civilians of...
 
 

Healthy Base Initiative ends, Team March continues concept

The Defense Department’s Healthy Base Initiative is about to end, but the emphasis on health and wellness is merely making a transition. The Healthy Base Initiative, a DOD demonstration project at 14 installations that tested ways to improve the health and wellness of troops, civilians and their families, is ending this month. However, the successful ideas that...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>