Michelle Chen, Honorable Mention
The year 2001. The year of the terrorist attacks on September 11. The year of the snake on the Chinese zodiac. The year George W. Bush became President of the United States of America. All of these. Wait. One more. My parents coming to America from Japan. They were the first to come to America. They are first-generation. I am second-generation, and I was born in America. America. Where they immigrated to. Or, in Chinese, “移民”. 2001 was more than 13 years ago.
To tell the truth, life in the United States can really change in 13 years. My mom brings me to dance class each Monday and Friday. Our dance team is going to go to a big competition on March 21. One Monday night a few months ago, as we were gathered in a huddle to discuss our team name, Sophie, one of my friends, leapt up and shouted, “HEY! We’re all Asian Americans! We can call ourselves the Double A’s!” Everyone laughed and looked at everyone else. It really was true! We were all Asian Americans. Filipino, Chinese, Indian… We were! We were all Asian Americans! We agreed on Double Ace as our team name. My dance teacher, Miss Lovela, told us to tell everyone why we chose this name. We all ran around telling all the parents the story behind our awesome new team name, Double Ace.
My mom was born in Wuhan, a fairly urban city. My dad was born in Shaoxing, a rural town in Eastern China. My mom and my dad lived 543 miles apart. I was born in Walnut Creek, more than 5,254 miles away from the easternmost part of China. If my mother and father did not decide to immigrate to America, I would not have the memorable experiences I have had today. My parents did not stop at the immigration step. They went on to become a US citizen. Their naturalization ceremony was on February 26. I had to carpool with a friend that morning. It was a very special day.
Moving to America and becoming a citizen doesn’t mean that our family left all of our beliefs and traditions in China. My parents still believe that hard work pays off. They still believe that planning is good for everything. They still believe that everybody should work hard in school and get a good education. They still believe in what they learned as a young adult in China. I carry on the influence of my purely Chinese grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. Things can stay the same, even when you move on.
You shouldn’t be discouraged because you are Asian American. Don’t ever be jealous of other people. Asian Americans have done so many things to shape our world as it is today. It is a wonderful privilege to be here today. I hope other people can understand that families will always be perfect no matter what, and that that perfectness comes from the roots of the family tree.