A few people like to buy boats costing hundreds of millions of dollars. I like to buy memories.
My memories of Saigon are few but vivid and nostalgic. One of those memories was floating a toy boat along a stream. It might have a sail or it might not, but what it surely had was the ability to glide through an expanse of water so effortlessly. I was mesmerized. I was a boat person.
As one of the Vietnamese boat people who arrived in the United States under the Jimmy Carter administration in 1980, I was fortunate to see happy American faces when I landed in Puyallup, Washington, USA. Everyone was so welcoming. It was like Emma Lazarus's poem from the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
My account isn't an exaggeration, in case people today doubt how refugees and immigrants used to be treated.
Unfortunately when Americans start to erroneously believe that ambitious, highly-motivated people -- no matter how poor they are -- would be a drain on the existing system, then it is time for self-reflection. That's when a nation isn't great, but rather scared, petty, conservative.
But winners of life aren't conservative. They are cowboys and swashbucklers. They don't care who you are as long as you wanted in. They see the potential in people. Many centuries ago, a similar superpower ignored or resisted outsiders. China has been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.
China forgot the lesson of Sun Tzu who told a story about two enemies Wu and Yueh stuck on a boat together in a terrible storm. Even though they despised each other, they both joined forces like left and right hands to avert disaster. Imagine the good that can be gained with people who want to join us!
True strength is signaled by how open we are to those who want to join our cause. Does it matter their background, dress, skin color? Of course not. Peace is achieved when others share in our struggles as well as our successes.
Ultimately, we can only hate others when we hate ourselves: our weakness, inability, insecurity. Peace is achieved when we are at peace with ourselves. ☮