Building Bridges to Create Civic Harmony
Opening Remarks by Board Chair Emerald Yeh at the 2011 gala
Thank you all for being here tonight. It is my honor to welcome you to our annual gala on behalf of the Fund. This is my first year as chair and I want to express my appreciation and admiration for my predecessor Ray Ocampo who led our board so ably the past five years and always made such eloquent welcoming remarks at our galas. He always managed to skillfully tie in what was going on in our society with the role the Asian Pacific Fund plays.
So to continue with that tradition, I thought it appropriate to make note of the fact that our gala this year happens to be taking place the same month the world lost a creative genius and astounding communicator Steve Jobs. Upon hearing the news of his death, it was an inescapable act on everyone’s part to pause and think about how this man changed our lives so swiftly by personalizing technology and making it so accessible and appealing at the same time
He literally put a universe of music, information, ideas, and yes, games at our fingertips. At the same time, he was part of a constellation of great minds in our time… (one of them being our own fellow board member Jerry Yang ) so that many “if only’s” have become everyday realities. If only I could type out a question and get the answer instantly. If only I could say what I’m looking for and get a wealth of options. If only I could put a thought out there and have it reach the right people even if I don’t know who they are.
With such instantaneous and unlimited connections, it becomes even more important that we seek and sustain meaningful connections. That we not let the overnight, countless “friends” crowd out the enduring and reliable relationships in our lives. That the countless possibilities we can access not obscure the importance of doing something meaningful and lasting.
That’s what the Asian Pacific Fund is about— we began 18 years ago, shortly after the World Wide Web was invented, about the time Beanie Babies were launched. Over the years, we have steadily built a successful history of connecting Asian donors to important and underserved needs in our community that has made a difference in many lives.—young, old, troubled, disadvantaged and brilliant people alike.
That is the type of connection we believe in. During our program this evening, we will update you on what the Asian Pacific Fund has been up to and what we are seeking to do. Equally important, we will be honoring Hsing Kung, a quiet giant in our midst-- a man who is the ultimate success story in the way he has achieved, gives back, and does so without seeking attention for himself.
Before I turn the podium over to our President and Executive Director Gail Kong, I have to make note of one other thing that happened this month. The same month that we lost Steve Jobs (the man who gave us iTunes and the iPod), the word “cassette player” was dropped from the Oxford Concise English Dictionary. It’s no longer a relevant part of our vocabulary--- replaced by the word “retweet.” I suppose “CD player” is the next word to go.
But as much as I want to lament this, I remind myself that it’s not the devices, as revolutionary as they are in their own time, but the music that lives on… and for us, it’s the quality of the relationship we build with our donors and the bridges we help them build to the community that is our enduring work.
Acceptance Speech by Honoree Hsing Kung at the 2011 gala
Forty years ago, I came to United States to begin a new career. Now, near the end of my professional career, I reflect on what I feel has been a satisfying engineering career in Silicon Valley. As for my thirty year community service career, I feel even more rewarded, and more fulfilled. The more you give to your community, the more you receive from it. Like today, as I receive this prestigious award from the Asia Pacific Fund, which I would like to share with my family and my community friends, we have been working together for community. I would also like to pay my utmost respect to Chancellor Tien, a founder of Asian Pacific Fund. His legacy has empowered Asian American community. That's why I am so humble and honored to receive this award.
New immigrants embark on their journey to this new country with two kinds of emotion. One is full of dreams and hope and the other is full of fear in facing new challenges and gaining acceptance in a new society. For new immigrants, integrating into mainstream society is a major challenge. We hope to integrate quickly, but this goal is not so quickly achieved, It requires time and effort. So how do we achieve our goal? We need to participate actively in our newfound society in a multitude of ways. We need to participate in political activities, register to vote, and become involved in political campaigns and elections.
Here I would like to applaud all Asian American elected officials and candidates. Their participation in the political process and their representation of us in government is vital to improving the immigrant experience in this country.
But even more importantly, each of us needs to participate in community activities and civic service organization like Asia Pacific Fund, Vision New American and APAPA.
Of course, we sometimes encounter setbacks, such as discrimination or an invisible glass ceiling. But we work together to overcome these obstacles. In fact, in mainstream society there are many community leaders who reach out to new immigrants with a welcoming hand. They wish to work with us in order to establish a harmonious community. With our participation, we can make significant contributions, and naturally integrate into mainstream society. Over the past three decades, Silicon Valley’s Asian engineers’ participation has become the cornerstone of growth and prosperity in Silicon Valley. It is with such a successful example that immigrants integrate into mainstream society.
In order to continue the fulfillment of these goals, I ask you to continue participating in community activities. We need to be even more active. Let's ask ourselves a few questions:
"What can immigrants do for our community? Can we integrate our traditional cultures into our new communities as we integrate into the mainstream? And if so, how do we do this most effectively?”
We have a strong tradition of "family values". We emphasize that family harmony is a community foundation. We believe that parents should pay attention to their children’s’ education and lead by example. In return, children should respect their parents and embrace family values. Some will say that these values are out dated and no longer fit in our modern society. But, just looking at the South Bay community, many Chinese families have moved to this area, paid attention to their children's education and their participation in school activities have made South Bay Schools at the top in the California education system.
We also have traditional virtues: humbleness, tolerance, patience and dedication to work. The lessons we learned at an early age have deep roots in our culture. With our participation, our culture will take root in our communities. Take tolerance for an example: If we can tolerate different cultures we can learn from each other. As Confucius said “Walking three together, I am sure of teachers. I pick out the good and follow it; I see the bad and shun it.” In this diverse community, we can work together, learn from each other, and build a better society.
In conclusion: For immigrants, participation in the community is not only our right, but our obligation and responsibility. However, for new immigrants, there are barriers hindering their participation, such as language barriers, culture shock and, of course, discrimination. It is an important task for us to build community bridges. Only through tolerance and understanding can community leaders work together. Cupertino Rotary and Shin Shin Education Foundation's partnership has allowed mainstream community members to visit students in rural China. This experience has often brought tears to the eyes of the visitors and joy to the hearts of the students. This kind of bridge building can make society better. Let's work together to build these types of bridges. Let’s build bridges to bring harmony to community.
On a personal note, I am so happy to have Janelle, my goddaughter, mc tonight’s event. Her father and I were high school classmates, college classmates, and roommates. We came to the US together as new immigrants in 1969. Forty-two years later, we have seen our second generation grow brilliant and successful. Finally, I will dedicate this award to my mother. Since my father passed away when I was 11, my mother has dedicated her life to raising my brother and I. Now she is 88 years old and lives in Sunnyvale.
Thanks to Asia pacific Fund for giving me this award, and thanks to all of you, Good night.
Closing Remarks by Board Member Andrew Ly at the 2011 gala
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to thank Our Chair, Emerald Yeh, for inspiring me to be up here to speak.
Thank you! At Asian Pacific Fund, we have great staff, the best Executive Director/President and a wonderful board of directors. About 14 of us on the board and everyone is here tonight. If you are not here, please raise your hands. I see no hands so everyone is here. Thank you!
I am pleased and honored to be here this evening. There is nothing more important to each of us than being valued for who we are and what we do–your presence here tonight is that value to Asian Pacific Fund and the work we do. And you also extend that value for me personally as I have the opportunity to briefly tell you my personal story.
Like Mr. Hua Ngo of H & N Foods, who is a long time supporter of Asian Pacific Fund, I was born and raised in a very poor Chinese farming family in a small coastal village in the western part of South Vietnam. My father immigrated to Vietnam by himself, at the age of 15, from a small village in Canton, called Chiu Chow, by working on the ship. This was during the Chinese Revolution in the 1930s. He became a farmer in Vietnam and later on he opened a grocery store and became a small business owner. In our village, we did not have running water, we did not have a car, we did not have electricity and we did not even walk in shoes. I walked miles to school with my bare feet and often witnessed casualties of the Vietnam War on the way to school at a very young age.
My father did not have any formal education, but he was the greatest person in my life and I still have not met any other person of his caliber. At a very young age when I was about to go to junior high, I had to quit school to help my parents run their small neighborhood grocery store. Every day, my father biked miles to buy products for our grocery store to sell. Because I could not attend school, he would bring back books and newspapers for me to read. I considered myself a lucky boy to have a good father who valued education.
Among many things I read, there was a quote from a great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. He said:
“Hope and dreams are better than food." (Remember this, he said this long time ago way before we had our Sugar Bowl Bakery. Otherwise, he would have said–Hope and dreams are better than foods, except Sugar Bowl Bakery’s Palmiers, Brownie Bites and Madeleines. Anyway, let me quote him.) “Hope and dreams are better than food. Be careful with what you water them with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life of your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn problems into opportunities for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your hopes and dreams.”
After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, I looked for a way to escape the hopeless life under the new Vietnamese government. After three failed attempts to escape. We finally left Vietnam in 1978, by crossing the Pacific Ocean to Malaysia on a very small crowded fishing boat. During one of those failed attempts, one of my companions was shot dead. And during this journey, we met the Thai sea pirates three times and they robbed everything from us. If you think your meal is good tonight, wait until you are in desperation. The best dinner in my entire lifetime, up to tonight, was still a simple cup of instant noodle soup at a temporary refugee camp in Malaysia after a few days and nights without food.
For nine months, I lived in a 3 square mile island refugee camp in Malaysia, isolated from the rest of the world, with 53,000 other refugees, but my family survived and made it to America at the end of 1979. I was able to endure this difficult time because of hope and dream of coming to America. Hope provided more sustenance for me than food. Having hope and dream were as important as the oxygen I was breathing to survive.
Coming to this country without understanding a word of English and without any money, presented another challenge (I wish I knew Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Yin at that time. Because burgers at that time for me were the equivalent to my steak meals). I could not even afford to buy hamburgers as often as I wanted to. Our family had experienced more than our share of poverty and disadvantage both in financial wealth and higher education. By any measure, we had always been in the ‘have-nots’.
I understand that I came to this country by my own choice so I did not complain about it. I did not expect to come to this country to pick gold from the street of San Francisco but just wanted a better hope and better dream to rebuild our lives. I dreamt that I would one day own a business in this country, but it was hard due to the language barrier. Therefore, I decided to pursued higher education by going to ESL class, and then, going to City College of San Francisco, and San Francisco State University to get my computer information system and accounting degree in 1986.
Regardless of whoever we are and whatever we do, either we own a commercial baking company like my family, having a seafood company like Mr. Ngo’s family, being the biggest Mc Donald Franchisee in the west coast like Mr. and Mrs. Yin, having a hi-tech company like Jerry Yang of Yahoo, running a division for a big bank like Maggie Mui or doing great work for non-profit organization like our very own, Gail Kong, this country offers the best foundation for us to build our future. The glass ceiling in this country is not as difficult as in other countries. If we believe in ourselves, work hard, know the rules and do not let anyone kick us around, then the glass can be seen through and the ceiling can be broken.
Sugar Bowl Bakery has grown from a small family neighborhood coffee shop with about $300 sales a day back in 1984, to where it is today because of our passion, quality, persistence and integrity. We have two manufacturing plants with about 120,000 square foot space, and we serve Fortune 100 companies all over this country and beyond.
Before joining the board of Asian Pacific Fund I received Asian Outlooks from Gail from time to time and I read them. That publication provided me information that touches my heart personally. While many of us who came to this new land to seek for a better life made it, others are not so fortunate. The statistic was so grim. Many Asian elderly are having depression and might commit suicide. The percentage of high school dropouts is very high in our Asian community. One in five immigrant Asian children might go to bed hungry. That newsletter talked about how we might be able to help that young mother who engaged in an abusive relationship and did not know what to do with her situation. She was too afraid to come out to tell you or us or the authority about it. Her children eventually might become the victims like her. The hope for a better life will vanish and the dream for her children in attending UCLA, UC Berkley or San Francisco States might disappear if there is no help from the outside.
At Sugar Bowl Bakery we make our product “every bite is just right!” but the Quick Bytes e-brief that Asian Pacific Fund recently sent you talking about the lives of those young Asian girls being forced to sell their hope and discount their dream without knowing a way to get out of it. This is why Asian Pacific Funds and its works are so important to all of us. With your consideration, help and participation, we will continue to work for the past, give hope to the presence and fulfill the dream to the future.
Because you are the leaders of the corporate world, the leaders of our community, the leaders of yesterday and the leaders of today, in closing, let me leave you with this quote.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” - Mother Teresa
Thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening.