When I was 9-years old, a U.S. Marine carried me from the tarmac in San Francisco. He was the first American I ever met.
It was 1975, and I couldn’t thank him because I didn’t speak a word of English. A few months before that, my dad dropped my three siblings and me off at an orphanage in Saigon just before the city fell. None of us knew if we’d ever see each other again. I didn’t know it then, but my father’s selfless act of love gave his children a shot at freedom and a better life.
Miraculously, my family was reunited in rural Oregon later that year, having escaped our war-torn country. We became farmworkers, picking berries alongside hundreds of other migrant families. A bus would pick us up in town very early each morning to bring us to the fields, then drop us back off each night, tired, sore, and covered in dirt. To make ends meet, my parents rented out our only bedroom to a stranger, while the rest of us crammed into our living room and kitchen.
We were poor, but safe, and with the help of some government food assistance, a public school, and kind neighbors, we forged ahead.
I cleaned bathrooms as a janitor, working my way through Harvard with the help of Pell Grants and scholarships. Dartmouth/Brown Medical School came next, again with the help of scholarships, student loans, and federal grants. finished my residency in Pediatrics at UCLA, and settled in Orange County, where I have been caring for the children of working families for the past twenty five years.
I overcame some pretty long odds and feel privileged for the opportunity to give back and serve my community as a pediatrician because America never turned her back on me.
I’m also a two-time breast cancer survivor, and was blessed to become a mother in my forties. Thankfully, I had reliable health insurance that I could afford, or neither would have been possible.
I would not be where I am today without the love and support of my family, but also the open arms of a country which accepted me as a refugee, helped me get an education, and set me up with my shot at the American Dream. Now, I’m looking on in horror as the very pillars of that dream are eroding around us. I’m running for Congress to fight for the dream that this country has always represented to me, and to make sure storied like mine remain possible.