What America means: Vietnamese leader Tony Tran

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Dr. Wayne Baker is traveling and is devoting space until Labor Day to voices of Americans talking about values that divide and unite us. Earlier articles are linked in the right margin. Today, we hear from Tony Tran, one of the leaders of the remarkably resilient Vietnamese-American community on the far east side of New Orleans. You can read more about this community in an article today in ReadTheSpirit.

QUESTION: What does America mean to you?

TONY: Hope.

Most Americans may not think of that word, but we know that people all around the world hope to come here. This is a land of opportunity. There is hope for everyone here if we work hard enough.

When we lived in Vietnam, life became so desperate that, even though we had survived the war, we could not continue to live there. The Communist regime came in with such a harsh new way of life that we went through our Exodus to the U.S..

We understand what hope means, what opportunity means. But we are not thinking only of ourselves. We strongly support education and higher education, too. We want to help the whole community in all the ways we can.

For all the things we have received as Americans, we should be constantly asking ourselves: What can I do to contribute back? We have received so much, we should be asking: What can we give back to be worthy of all we have received?

Here is what we really want people to hear from our little corner of America:

We have our lives, we have our talents, and we have to contribute to America, not just think of ourselves as individuals. Work hard at this. Too often, people give up without even trying to make a difference. If you are worried like that, if you are giving up, stop and think for a moment about all the people around the world who are facing huge problems, yet are surviving and have hope. That thought may help us to sit down again and begin figuring out just the next step we need to take. And then another step.

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