American Dream in China?
One thing I find very interesting in Taiwan is the disproportionate numbers of news channels to its population. There are probably 20+ news channels for a country with a population of only 22 million. Each channel has a somewhat extreme political view, similar to MSNBC and Fox here. My dad spends a lot of time watching these news stories. I don’t have the time and patience to watch hours of news stories, but while I am there, I spend at least 30 minutes every day watching something with him.
When I was visiting our office in Taiwan two months ago, a story particularly caught my dad’s and my attention. The reporter was talking about a new Chinese movie called “American Dreams in China”. As an immigrant, I immediately thought, “Aren’t we supposed to pursue our American dreams in the U.S.?” So what does “American Dreams in China” mean?
The actual Chinese name of the movie was “Chinese Partners”, but someone translated the English name to be “American Dreams in China” which I thought was interesting. Until this day, I still have not watched this movie, but I know that the basic plot is of a story of three people who obtained a visa 20 years ago, to come to the U.S. to pursue the American Dream. They all pursued higher education in the U.S., but each experienced some sort of setback and could not stay in school. Eventually, their “American Dreams” weren’t realized, so they went home.
With the knowledge that they earned and the wave of economic growth in China, they opened a chain of English language schools. After a number of years, they became wildly wealthy and realized their “American Dreams” in China. While the details of the movie had many other interesting twists, I was attracted to the notion of American Dreams, which I can very much relate to.
This might sound like a Cinderella story, but it really is not. The fact is that there are a lot of real American Dreams realized in China. The founders and billionaires of companies such as Baidu, Sohu, CTrip all came to the U.S. to study and returned home to pursue their American Dreams. One of the employees who delivered food at one of the restaurants that I invested in even returned to China around 1997 and now is a billionaire, owning the biggest movie studio in China.
On a different news channel, I was fascinated by another story because I heard someone mention the University of Michigan. This is an American Dream that wasn’t someone becoming a billionaire. Rather it is a story about Daobin Young, who earned a PhD in piano performance from the University of Michigan, returning to Taiwan to pursue a different type dream.
Instead of going into music performance or teaching at prestigious university in Taiwan, he opted to teach at a small elementary school in his hometown, where a lot of children are underprivileged. He knew that there is no such thing as a “really cheap piano” to achieve the goal of “an instrument for every kid.”
He started a program in which he collects $50/month for group violin lessons. After 12 months, the child owns a violin. He put in tremendous effort to persuade the violin manufacturer to sell these tiny violins at an incredibly low price, and to convince parents to come up with $50/month for their children. For those kids who could not find even $50/month, he would go out of his way to find money for their lessons. After six years, he organized the largest violin performance in the Guiness Book of World Records, which included 4,650 kids of all the elementary schools of the county.
Somebody later asked Young what his motivation was to teach and promote music in such a small place. He said that when he was at elementary school, one of his teachers recognized his musical talent and offered to teach him violin for $50/month. He happily went home and told his mother. His mother’s tears came down and said that the family cannot afford even the $50/month. After many years of hardship and diligence, he eventually saved enough money to come to the U.S. to study and got his PhD from the University of Michigan. He said he fulfilled his American Dream already by then. Now he needs to help fulfill the dreams of other children. That was his American Dream in Taiwan.
My dad asked me, “What happened to your American Dream?” I laughed and said, “I have more nightmares than dreams, but some of the small dreams were really sweat.” After 18 years, Logic still is a relatively small IT company. Every year we recruit the top talents from all over. Many are immigrants and foreign students just like I once was. I am just happy that many were able to be successful in pursuing their dreams, no matter it is a big dream or a small one, no matter it is to become the biggest movie mogul in China or to become an IT strategist at IBM in the U.S. I am just happy that I was able to contribute.
As for me, as a small business owner, I am still trying to wake up from nightmares at times and look at brighter days ahead. I am so grateful while I am trying to help others, I have the greatest staff helping me pursuing my own dream. I am pumped to come to work everyday to see some of the entrepreneur’s dreams are coming together as well such as Larky, JEMS, Hired My Way, My Inch Of the Earth, Digital Edge Learning, and many other technology companies that we are helping.
I am pumped to come to work everyday to see that our own products of Showcase (www.showcasecloud.com) and Quantum EH&S are making a difference in the marketplace. I am pumped to come to work everyday just to see that we are making incremental improvements of our small company and hopefully everyone is making small increment improvements of their life. I could not have achieved even these types of small dreams without many of my very talented staff, American or immigrants.
I participated in a committee to help realize these dreams of international students for a number of years. I am a living example of it, and I am grateful that I was given such an opportunity to pursue my dreams and help others.
American Dreams could be in America, China, Taiwan, or anywhere in the world. I wish everyone’s American dreams, small or big, come true.