Sunday, January 8, 2012
“If you find discrimination, you need to fight for rights, no matter what.”
–California Assemblyman Paul Fong
Professor Paul Fong introduces me to his friends and relatives as a poet, writer, and his former student at Evergreen College each time I attend his events. If Professor Fong is surrounding with media, fans, and supporters, he gives a signal to say “hi,” or let me know he notices my presence. His warm welcome boosts my self-esteem up to the sky and pacifies my ego. Thus, I often attend his events when I have a chance to say “hi” to him, to learn more about his life, his political path, and to be proud of knowing an outstanding California Assemblyman and a well-known politician. The more I know about Professor Fong, the more I am inspired by him and wish to write about him. While the artist Flo Oy Wong created the visual art called Unveiling of Made in USA to honor Professor Fong, I collect information about him, and with my experience as his former student, highlight his characteristics and contributions to the United States.
The Chinese community is one of the oldest Asian communities in the United States. They contributed to the building of the Western United States with hard work. However, the United States government did not treat the Chinese pioneers as well with tremendous unfair laws and policies: they could not become U.S. citizens and own their own property. The Chinese fought against the government to achieve the significant Burlingame Treaty of 1868, which established friendly relations between the U.S. and China. Unfortunately, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed by Chester A. Arthur on May 1882, which limited Chinese immigration to the United States. This legislation was not overturned until 1943.
Professor Fong’s family is one of the traditional Chinese American immigrant families who live in Sunnyvale, surrounded by the Chinese community’s protection and support. Being raised in the Eastern cultures and educated with a Western education, Professor Fong inherits the Chinese values he proudly described in a speech: “I am a typical Chinese-American who cultivates hard work, achievement, independence and family.” During his early life, he demonstrated a love of nature, animals, and freedom with the interesting story to set a monkey free when he saw it was entrapped. Professor Fong expressed his love of animal with his recent Bill AB 376, the Shark Fin Bill, to protect the endangered animals, although shark fin soup is a popular Chinese traditional meal that brings good profits to Chinese businesses.
Once, when Professor Fong introduced me to his friends, his coworker asked him, “Did she learn from you?”
Professor Fong laughed loudly and answered her, “I do not know what she learned from me.”
When I took Political Science with Professor Fong, I had no idea of the basic concepts of the U.S. political system, because of my English language barrier. Political Science is one of the toughest General Education courses for English as a Second Language Learners. Understanding the difficulties that we newcomers coped with, Professor Fong encouraged us and provided us another opportunity to pass the course by joining community services to earn extra credit points. He told us that he did not expect us to understand and remember the organization of the U.S. governmental system, but he provided fundamental rights for us, the newcomers. He also predicted that at least five percent of his students would be successful in the United States.
A few years later, we easily passed the U.S. citizenship interviews without taking time to learn and memorize all the English political terms. We all agreed that Professor Fong’s Political Science class helped us a lot. I never knew that the subject of racial hatred would become my special interest. The community service hours opened new perspectives on the United State society, taught me to interact with other peoples and cultures, and stimulated in me a desire to succeed. Professor Fong is a magnet with his words: “Whenever you find unfairness and discrimination, you need to fight for rights, no matter what.”
January 8, 2012