Celebrating My Roots

Adam Duong, Best in Class
Grade 8
San Jose

During the winter break, my father took a trip to his home country, Vietnam. My father arrived in the United States in 1982. He did not speak English, did not have any job and was not familiar with American culture. However, with his hard work and determination, he is now the Director of Finance in a semiconductor company. From the time I was a small child, my father often told me about his struggles in Vietnam. He always says, “You and your siblings are extremely fortunate in this country. You have so many opportunities and much more freedom than the children in Vietnam.” Even though he shares this with me so frequently, I still have not been able to completely grasp the significance of his words and message.

So, before my father’s departure to Vietnam, I ask him, “Why are you going to Vietnam again?” Like always, I see him packing a big box with bags of candy, extra clothes, vitamins, used toys, and stuffed animals. This time, he also includes my old indoor soccer shoes which are still in good condition to bring back to Vietnam. “Who are all of these items for?” I inquire. My father answers with pride, “I am bringing these things back to the orphanage and school in Vietnam because the kids there really have nothing at all. To them, these gifts mean a lot. You are very fortunate that you have so much in this country. The children in Vietnam wake up every morning with nothing.” This trip I also noticed that he did something new. He was raising and collecting money from friends and relatives to bring back to the Christian Brothers in Vietnam. This money was going to be spent on used bikes to be given to the children so they can travel to and from school every day. Otherwise, these children would receive no education at all.

When my father came back from Vietnam, he wanted me to see something very important. He turned on his laptop and inserted a disc. Suddenly, a video emerged from the screen and I could see a bunch of kids with happy faces. My father explained to me that these were the children he was giving the gifts to. During the video, all I could hear was the joyful children shouting and thanking my father for the gifts. I also saw their faces lighting up when they first laid eyes on the toys and candy. They were so thrilled to have gotten things that are so simple to buy in this country. It was not only this video that triggered my understanding of my father’s words, but also the sight of my father being emotional. I could see a tear trickle down his cheek as he watched the video. At the end of the video, my father said one more thing to me, “I wanted to show you this so you can see how little those children have and how excited they can be when they receive something, even if it is not expensive or new.”

After my father’s latest trip, I began to understand why my father was showing me the video and telling me about the less fortunate kids in Vietnam. He wants me to appreciate how much I have in this country, especially my freedom, opportunity and privilege. In addition, he wants to share his legacy with me and my siblings, which involves remembering your roots – where you come from and those you leave behind. He does this through his charitable work. He sets this example for us not only to aid the less fortunate in Vietnam, but so that we will learn to help others in our community here in the United States as well. Finally, my father is also stressing the importance of determination and perseverance because not everything in life will come easily to us; we must work hard to earn it. Now that I am growing up and looking toward my future in high school, college and after, I am increasingly grateful for this lesson that my parents are teaching me.