A Vietnamese Immigrant Thanks God He’s American

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On Saturday, July 24th, 2010, the town of Prescott Valley, AZ, hosted a Freedom Rally. Quang Nguyen was asked to speak on his experience of coming to America and what it means.

A Vietnamese refugee, Mr. Nguyen immigrated to this country in 1975, where he eventually founded an advertising and marketing company, Caddis Advertising, with offices in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, and Prescott Valley, AZ. He is also a talented oil and watercolor painter (see his website here).

This is Mr. Nguyen’s speech, which he dedicated to all Vietnam veterans. Notice that he refers to himself as an American, not a hyphenated Vietnamese-American. How good it’d be if all immigrants—no, EVERYONE— felt like Quang Nguyen.

H/t my friend Bob W.


Proud to be an American

35 years ago, if you were to tell me that I am going to stand up here speaking to a couple thousand patriots, in English, I’d laugh at you. Man, every morning I wake up thanking God for putting me and my family in the greatest country on earth.

I just want you all to know that the American dream does exist and I am living the American dream. I was asked to speak to you about my experience as a first generation Vietnamese-American, but I’d rather speak to you as an American.

If you hadn’t noticed, I am not white and I feel pretty comfortable with my people.

I am a proud U.S. citizen and here is my proof. It took me 8 years to get it, waiting in endless lines, but I got it and I am very proud of it.

I still remember the images of the Tet offensive in 1968, I was six years old. Now you might want to question how a 6-year-old boy could remember anything. Trust me, those images can never be erased. I can’t even imagine what it was like for young American soldiers, 10,000 miles away from home, fighting on my behalf.

35 years ago, I left South Vietnam for political asylum. The war had ended. At the age of 13, I left with the understanding that I may or may not ever get to see my siblings or parents again. I was one of the first lucky 100,000 Vietnamese allowed to come to the U.S.A. Somehow, my family and I were reunited 5 months later, amazingly, in California . It was a miracle from God.

If you haven’t heard lately that this is the greatest country on earth, I am telling you that right now. It was the freedom and the opportunities presented to me that put me here with all of you tonight. I also remember the barriers that I had to overcome every step of the way. My high school counselor told me that I cannot make it to college due to my poor communication skills. I proved him wrong. I finished college. You see, all you have to do is to give this little boy an opportunity and encourage him to take and run with it. Well, I took the opportunity and here I am.

This person standing tonight in front of you could not exist under a socialist/communist environment. By the way, if you think socialism is the way to go, I am sure many people here will chip in to get you a one-way ticket out of here. And if you didn’t know, the only difference between socialism and communism is an AK-47 aimed at your head. That was my experience.

In 1982, I stood with a thousand new immigrants, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and listening to the National Anthem for the first time as an American. To this day, I can’t remember anything sweeter and more patriotic than that moment in my life.

Fast forwarding:  somehow I finished high school, finished college, and like any other goofball 21-year old kid, I was having a great time with my life. I had a nice job and a nice apartment in Southern California. In some way and somehow, I had forgotten how I got here and why I was here.

One day I was at a gas station, I saw a veteran pumping gas on the other side of the island. I don’t know what made me do it, but I walked over and asked if he had served in Vietnam. He smiled and said yes. I shook and held his hand. The grown man’s eyes began to well up. I walked away as fast as I could and at that very moment, I was emotionally rocked. This was a profound moment in my life. I knew something had to change in my life. It was time for me to learn how to be a good citizen. It was time for me to give back.

You see, America is not a place on the map, it isn’t a physical location. It is an ideal, a concept. And if you are an American, you must understand the concept, you must buy into this concept, and most importantly, you have to fight and defend this concept. This is about Freedom and not free stuff. And that is why I am standing up here.

Brothers and sisters, to be a real American, the very least you must do is to learn English and understand it well. In my humble opinion, you cannot be a faithful patriotic citizen if you can’t speak the language of the country you live in. Take this document of 46 pages – last I looked on the Internet, there wasn’t a Vietnamese translation of the U.S. Constitution. It took me a long time to get to the point of being able to converse and until this day, I still struggle to come up with the right words. It’s not easy, but if it’s too easy, it’s not worth doing.

Before I knew this 46-page document, I learned of the 500,000 Americans who fought for this little boy. I learned of the 58,000 names scribed on the black wall at the Vietnam Memorial. You are my heroes. You are my founders.

A t this time, I would like to ask all the Vietnam veterans to please stand. I thank you for my life. I thank you for your sacrifices, and I thank you for giving me the freedom and liberty I have today. I now ask all veterans, firefighters, and police officers, to please stand. On behalf of all first generation immigrants, I thank you for your services and may God bless you all.

Quang Nguyen

Creative Director/Founder

Caddis Advertising, LLC

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22 responses to “A Vietnamese Immigrant Thanks God He’s American

  1. lowtechgrannie

    We need to have a tear-jerker alert! What a wonderful speech!

  2. Wow! Bless him, and thanks for sharing this.


  4. Dear Quang,
    Thank you!
    I was just one of the nameless, faceless young Americans sent to Vietnam (twice, in fact; I served for six years). I did nothing particularly heroic—I put on the uniform, went where I was told to go, stood where I was told to stand (that is, only occasionally in Harm’s Way). When I was discharged, I went to college. It took me almost eight years to finish, but since then I have been a college instructor. Every semester Vietnamese students like you came into my classes, and every semester I did my best to continue the work of liberating people from oppression—oppression being something greater than governments or political movements, something in the mind and heart. Then, your children started showing up in my classes, and now even your grandchildren.
    I grow old.
    I am well past the age at which I could retire, but I continue. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to be able to say, I made an American!
    Your words mean more to me than any of the ribbons or any of the medals tucked away in my desk drawer.
    Thank you for recognizing what it was really all about.

    Bert Dill
    Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies
    San Diego State University

  5. Very nice… I think Every immigrant could learn from you… and trust me I love your story. My only problem is that you seem to confuse American Ideals and American Foreign Policy. Think of America as a team. A team might come together for a good purpose, but a team who’s purpose is to be the supreme team rather than the better team, will care (and act) more about the wining itself than any other thing.

    To make it plain. No American Soldier fought for your freedom. They fought to preserve American Policy Interests and Sphere of Influence. You just happen to be on the American side of the divide. You can look all around the world and you will see that America, just fought for America (and probably rightly so), not even for Freedom, no even for Democracy.

    Fortunately for the world the American way of life at its worse is still based somewhere on principles that eventually will call Americans to actually live up to those ideals. That is the saving grace.

    • As a combat veteran of Vietnam I think you comments are those of a bitter person that doesn’t have clue what the war was about and I consider Quang Nguyen to be a true patriot of America. Sorry you missed the boat….

      • Actually I am not bitter at all… but if the only point of your response is to express a feeling then so be it there is nothing more to add to it. However should every want to engage some thoughtful discussion then by all means, I’d love to read some cogent arguments…

  6. Cafeproz — our nameless critic — how DARE you claim to know what I fought for? You should be ashamed to spread such crap in a public place!

  7. Sorry Cafeproz is my pen name, but should be necessary, I can tell you my name but it won’t change my argument. I am expressing a rather mild view, not from an emotional stand point but rather a logical one.

    To that effect I have to admit that you are correct in stating that I have no right to claim to know what you fought for, and I sincerely apologize. That is absolutely an uncalled for statement. Again I want to stress that you absolutely correct.

    A better statement is that the exercise of American Power is not in necessarily and not generally in the interest of Freedom, but in the interest of American Power. HOWEVER, Factual American Power, came to be, due to very real, noble and powerful ideals that somehow now get co-opted in the pursuit and the realization of American power. As a result on one hand you will have soldiers who are shipped out to war on the basis ideas and ideals of freedom, but who in actuality may or may not be carrying out a POLICY who’s aim is Freedom, but hegemony.

    America is a state and all state actors act primarily in the interest of their state… but in order for citizens and soldiers to support the state in it actions they need a bigger idea to look forward to which justifies the means employed by the state. That is just how things are. I am not covering any new grounds here. That said again if there are logical arguments to the contrary, I’d love to see them.

  8. cafeproz,
    While I completely understand the emotion and criticism brought forth in response to your initial post, I have to say I agree with you in the fact that we as a nation were persuaded to go to war many times in the name of power and greed masqueraded by the premise of freedom, and is in fact well documented this is indeed the case should one take the time to amass and comb through the countless controversial reports and memos supporting such. Though the intent of our conflicts from the few who rule were of greed and power, i suggest the unintended consequence was indeed that of freedom and liberty from oppression of which was a very real and noble cause that people did die for, and this is where the emotion and anger come from. To those who fought and in many cases died for our freedoms whether it was a direct or indirect result of the intent of the powers that be, we the nation and in many cases those that were in the perils of conflict worldwide owe more to you than words could ever say! With that being said, one should also appreciate the fact that cafeproz brought this to attention as it may further clarify and demonstrate the intent of those in rule now of their true nature to those who did not know about this. Perhaps we should all look at the grand scheme of things with an open mind and consider a path that benefits humanity as a whole instead of just that of the greater good or even the few that rule. Peace.

  9. After reading this wonderful story, it made me even more proud to be a Vietnam Veteran, and more importantly, an American. This is what immigration is suppose to be about. Not free handouts. Thank you Quan Nguyen for your wonderful and amazing story…

  10. Completly agree w/CAFEPROZ.
    Combat MARINE, 2/5/foxtrot
    Viet Nam…’68/’69
    Semper Fi

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  12. Quang Nguyen and Viet Nam Vets – All of you cause me to greatly admire your actions and considerable accomplishments. Recently, one of my acquaintances (from Mexico, likely illegal) was complaining about the United States. She didn’t feel that she was being paid enough by her employer, felt food prices were too high, likewise mortgage payments were too expensive, and so on. This person received welfare benefits for her two “anchor” children, lied on her income taxes (understating income), received the “earned income tax credit”, and so on. Additionally, her children received tax free educations.

    One day, as she was complaining to me, I asked her if she realized how many Americans had served this country, even paying the ultimate price. Moreover, did she realize how many Americans pay ALL of their taxes? Her view of America was she deserved all that the U.S. could provide. After all, didn’t we steal CA, NM,AZ, and parts of CO from Mexico? The alleged AZTLAN myth.

    Well, I could hardly contain my temper. Frankly, this is a person who does not deserve citizenship in the greatest country in the world. It’s time for America to “expect” something in return. And, this is why I commend our immigrants who understand this and our “dear” veterans. I thank the veterans for their service. Legal immigrants – we’re happy to welcome new immigrants who recognize how lucky they are.

    America is no perfect country, but I know we’re way better than most. May God bless America.

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  14. CafeProz, while in some cases you are correct that has happened, I want to go back and state some other things. While America has not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination in almost every case they have not waged wars in the modern era for land and only sometimes for access to resources. Referring to WW II, we freed how many people and the only land we asked for was to bury our dead. We rebuilt the economies of Japan and Germany, we fed a destroyed Europe and helped protect it from Soviet Russia. A Russia whose leader Stalin killed more people than Hitler, we did the same protecting nations against China whose leader Mao made both look like they didn’t have a clue.

    No we are not perfect never will be, but what we are is willing to look at our faults and try and get better. No Nation or Superpower in the history of the World has done more scab picking to its own detriment to try and improve. So if you want perfection you will only find it in death, if you want a country that will try to be as good as it can be then this is it.

    Welcome to this fellow citizen who came here with goals and wanting to be a part of the country and adopt its ways. Thank you for following our laws in coming here and actually obeying them to become a citizen.

  15. If only we could get every young American person to truly understand this, we could save this this great Country, before its to late…….

  16. I just rec’d an email with the orig.Quang Nguyen story re: 2010 Prescott, AZ speech. I found it rewarding & poignant, hopefully it’s really true. I’d like to think so, but before I pass-it-along, I must try to verify it for all my ”skeptic’ friends….and, apparently, it is true. Bravo Quang !
    I put in military duty in Korea, in the 1950’s, but luckily missed having to serve in Vietnam….DGP

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  18. And the rest of us Americans should be proud to have you here Quang!


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