Coming to United States as refugees from the Vietnam War, my parents had no money and limited knowledge of the English language. Despite these initial challenges and other obstacles, their life story of success taught me that it takes both individual determination and a supportive society to help raise people out of poverty to reach the American Dream.
Taking care of its people is what makes the United States government great. Arriving in America, my mom and dad worked hard at different low-paying, odd jobs. Their miniscule salaries alone could not possibly pay for basic living necessities and most likely would have kept keep them in a cycle of poverty. Fortunately, the government provided welfare assistance programs that helped my parents survive and thrive.
If the government helped my parents live decently, then it was the community they lived in that helped them feel at home. With my maternal grandparents overseas and my paternal grandparents deceased, my young parents were truly on their own in a new country. Fortunately, caring neighbors helped and supported my parents build a healthy and loving family. When my mom became pregnant, the local Buddhist temple provided emotional support and helped pay for hospital fees that my parents could not afford by themselves. Non-profits, like the Goodwill, offered my mom and dad the ability to buy a cheap crib, baby clothes and bottles to welcome me into the world.
For my parents, education was the great equalizer. They were determined to learn English and earn a college degree even though they had to work. Government assistance allowed them the time to focus on school. Affordable tuition allowed my parents access into a public university. They were working students and eventually received a college education. Their degrees opened doors to better paying and more personally-fulfilling jobs.
However, being qualified did not guarantee my parents jobs. While there are many reasons why people do not get job offers, my parents repeatedly learned that the color of their skin was one of them. While many welcomed my parents warmly, there was a segment that only exploited the difference between them. Despite facing prejudice my parents persevered and succeeded professionally; however, they hoped their children would not be subjected to such hatred.
As my parents reached financial stability, they formed a non-profit to help other immigrants adjust and succeed in America. Whether it was connecting new immigrants with their new government or organizing an annual Christmas gift-giving charity event for poor families, my mom and dad are committed to enriching the lives of the people in their community. They are continuing the cycle of kindness they received in America over the years.
To make the American Dream a reality for all Americans, everyone has to be involved. Poverty is not an individual problem. Financial success is not an individual achievement.
In order to lift people out of poverty, I believe everyone must be part of the solution.
I plan to do my part.