Entrepreneur, philanthropist, activist, and public speaker, Tan Le entered college when she was only 16, and in 1998, was named Young Australian of the Year. She has helped to implement work training and employment initiatives for Vietnamese Australians, has worked for one of the leading law firms in Australia, and is the President and co-founder of Emotiv.
The following video, posted last month, has been on my radar for some time now, but I finally had the chance to watch it over the weekend. It is of Tan Le’s poetic and heartfelt account of her personal immigration experience, from Vietnam, to Melbourne, to San Francisco. She retells the story of the women across three generations of her family — grandmother, mother, and sister — a story that is an integral part of her own.
Qui Le says
Really emotional for me to watch and hear that. I’ve always heard my parents stories about getting on a boat and not knowing what was going to happen. In the talk, Tan mentions the suburb of Footscray, which I consider my second home even though I’ve never lived there. The reasoning being that my mum first lived there when she came to Australia and she can still recall the sights, sounds and smells years later.
My sisters, cousins and I were all born in Australia and we know of only a few that were children when they made the journey with their parents.
I remember as a small child, maybe 9 or 10, watching my cousin do her high school project. She played a tape recorder that she had used in an interview with a family friend of ours. On the recorder, our friend described how as children, her brothers and her made the perilous plight of leaving Vietnam. And the whole time I was listening to it, I thought to myself, “No child should’ve endured this”. I thought, this is dark, brutal and horrifying. How in the world will her teacher ever view this from an objective standpoint? How in the world would any of her friends or my friends even approach this?
In the 14 or so years on, I’ve heard these stories a few times from different people and it never ceases to amaze me at the brutality of it all. It makes you look at the person differently in the eye the next time you pass them. It makes you grow and mature with every rendition.
For another Australian perspective, I’d recommend Anh Do’s book ‘The Happiest Refugee’. A much-loved Australian comedian’s personal story about his move from Vietnam to Australia.
What’s up with her lips?