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Oscar L. Tang

Displaced from China by war and revolution, I came to this country as a youth knowing I could not return. America took me in, provided me with the opportunity to learn, and I became a citizen under the 1953 Refugee Relief Act. While I arrived here with no English, the schools I attended allowed me to catch up and develop a sense of my own potential. These American institutions nurtured fledgling family and Chinese values, and taught me to adapt them to my new country. Central to my American experience was the focus on an individual's role in the larger community.

My late wife also came to this country under similar circumstances. In later years, we often marveled at the spirit that extended these remarkable opportunities to us at a critical time when we had little to give in return. This created in me a deep sense of obligation. I came to realize that selflessness is what gives our lives meaning beyond our own indulgence. The U.S. has a vast network of private voluntary institutions in countless fields where untold numbers of people give of themselves. Together this army of contributors renders this country unique and helps make it a richer, more open, more just society. We all benefit from their efforts.

So too, we must invest in sustaining this effort for others into the future. For me, what could be more appropriate than to return part of the fruits of my labor to the system that invested in me? Each time I participate in some worthy volunteer effort, I am re-energized and my gifts give increased meaning to my own achievement.

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