Sunday, January 4, 2009


(Picture courtesy of Mr. Charles C. King)
On December 27, 2008, the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon (CACO) hosted its 6th Annual Khmer Heritage Night. Leading up to the event, Portland was hard hit by an arctic storm that left more than fourteen inches of snow on the ground for about a week. The event was nearly canceled but successfully drew about 400 people including local public figures such Mayor Tom Potter and Sho Dozono. One of my personal guests was Jigme Topgyal (an exiled Tibetan who met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1959 in a refugee camp and a key person who helped bring His Holiness to visit Portland in 2001). My guests also included Filmmaker and Humanitarian Tiara Delgado (whose one of her documentary films Fragile Hopes was narrated by Actress Susan Sarandon).

At the opening, I gave a reflection as follow:

It is easy to lose ourselves as the world faces war, hunger, genocide, poverty, and injustice. It is easy to lose our perspective as our nation is struggling with the economic recession. It is particularly inconvenient to deal with the unusual snow and ice.

So, I encourage you to reflect on who we are individually and who we are as a community.

Who are we?

Who are you?

Who am I?

What am I?

I was a leaf at the mercy of the wind. The wind carried me from one remote part of the world to another. It blew me through turbulence and catastrophic weather. It took me to the Khmer Rouge labor camp and lingered for an eternity. It dehydrated me and nearly starved me to death. I helplessly watched the most devilish mother of all winds crush my tree into lifeless pulp. Like an almighty Olympian god, when the wind wanted to toy with me, it blew me through minefields, rockets and bullets. While two million leaves disintegrated, I persevered. Through an extraordinary journey, I discovered myself. I am fortunate, and I don’t easily perish. I was a golden leaf. Against all odds, I survived, laid down roots and became a tree.

I am a tree, but I am a tree among you.

That makes us a community of trees…a forest…and a force that makes the world a better place.

That is what we are.