Pathway to Liberty

   Posted by: Chen   in Journey of life

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence

roadIt is raining hard again. I don’t remember another Texas October with this much rain. This non-stop rain has completely messed up my routine. I couldn’t focus on what I am supposedly of doing.

I decide to give up. Maybe it is time to do something else. Some of my friends have been suggesting that I should start a blog. I thought that was an intriguing idea. But, for a long while, I did not know where to start, and was not sure whether I have the self-discipline to keep it going.

Well, maybe, I am thinking, the rain could provide enough “juice” to get it off the ground.

I am going to give it a try, starting with some thoughts I wanted to share for quite some time now.

I am a first generation immigrant. I consider myself as someone willingly taking the steps of going through the “naturalization” process, a process that transcends from living in fear to the recognition of the inherent spirit of liberty. Of course, I am still a work-in-progress. For many years, I kept re-visiting the speech given by Judge Learned Hand, on May 21, 1944 in the “I Am an American Day” ceremony. The speech has become my instant reference on executing my duty as a citizen.

We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land.

What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty; freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning.

What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.

And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.

I am continuously fascinated by the implementation the Founding Fathers of this great nation engineered in transforming an ideal into a political and social architecture. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how those great minds arrived the same time in the same place, how were they, all with strong personalities and vast wisdom, able to work together in crafting a blueprint that would guild a nation in preserving and protecting the most fundamental rights of mankind for generations to come. I am in complete agreement with the suggestion made by Joseph Costello in his book Consent of the Governed: “One should approach the legacy of the Founding Fathers with a sense of reverence and awe. It is the brightest shining governance star ever created by the mind of man.”


alex and macy

When first came to the United States in 1982 with a background no such rights were respected, busy school work and language barrier did not allow me to fully embrace the significance of the freedom. It took an elongated process of melting. In 1989, a thorough democratic process took place in forming the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars. I for the first time felt the joy derived from exercising personal rights, and the noble fertile of the democratic procedures. The spirit of individual liberty started soaking in rapidly. Amid this transition, I witnessed the sacrifices people made and are continuously making in all parts of the world in their pursuit of justice and liberty, supplemented myself with the missing lessons on civil rights movements and the extraordinary vision, leadership, and conviction many great leaders ahead of us exhibited, from Frederick Douglass to Abraham Lincoln, from MLK to JFK. As I walk on the path that has been paved for people like myself, I frequently remind myself about the expanded personal and social responsibilities. I treasure the fundamental principles in the constitution that guarantee each and every one the individual rights including freedom of speech.

No, I don’t take any of these rights for granted. Neither do I take them lightly. I sometimes worry how fragile they can be. I am often cautious that we sometimes loose sights of the constitution when we put politics over and above the individual rights. It is my strong conviction that we must constantly remind ourselves that individuals have certain rights that no law may take away, not even with a democratically conducted voting process.

I don’t know a lot about M. Grundler. But it is hard for me to ignore the man for his this famous quote: “It is easy to take liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you.”

For a long time, it never belonged to me.



Go Titans

   Posted by: Chen   in Journey of life

It’s high school football season.

I miss high school football season. I mean I miss being part of the high school football season. The only thing I am doing these days is checking how the Centennial Titans are doing weekly. That’s because Alex went to the Frisco Centennial High. 

Titan Band

Titan Band

Alex started high school as a member of both the Titans football team and the Titans band. That was a tough schedule. He pretty much had to make a choice between the two, but did not want to disappoint his friends and coaches in either team. I remember he was struggling for a while to make a decision, and one day coming back from a prolonged practice afternoon with both teams, he was deeply troubled. That was the first time I saw Alex needed help in handling school affairs. We had a little chat. I asked him what he thought was the best thing to do for himself. He said he wanted to focus on the band. I volunteered to go with him to see his football head coach. And we did. The coach was supportive. I could see the sense of relief from Alex. 

It turned out to be the right decision. Alex flourished and excelled in the band. He became a drum major in his senior year. The Titan Band won many regional, state, and national awards. I made sure I was in those competitions as much as I could. I enjoyed every performance.

But the real excitements came from the Friday night football games. The kids were certainly into it. The fans – parents – were even more into it. All the yelling, shouting, cheering made the evening that much fun! Then here came the half time show. That was when I felt even more proud. Sometime, our football team was over powered (this is a very young high school). Then you would hear one of the parents saying: “Our band will beat ya!” It was in those games that I felt the strong family and community bonds. 

I know high school football has over a hundred years of history. But this kind experience was brand new to me. In all my school years, rarely the parents got involved in any extra curricular activities (if there were any those activities). As I sat there with other parents cheering in those games and performances, I could sense how much more the boys and girls enjoyed themselves, because they knew that on top of bringing the best to their school, they always have their loved ones behind them. Win or loose aside, they wanted to do their best to make themselves proud, and to make their folks proud. 

Game Time

Game Time

I have been following the Cowboys for some time now, and I am also attached to my UW Badgers and Alex’s Longhorns (I admit that I am more attached to the Badgers). But only by going to the high school games could one understand the deep roots of football and the love to the game in this country. 

Go Titans!

Go Badgers!

Go Longhorns!

Go Cowboys?

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NEVER Forget

   Posted by: Chen   in Journey of life

Never Forget

Never Forget

Today marks the 8th anniversary of 9 11. What happened 8 years ago on this date completely changed the lives of many. As we begin to observe this day, let us not fall into a mere routine action of comfortably relegate to remembrance on a single day each year. We must never forget!

The 9 11 tragedy was a direct attack to the humanities, a direct attack to the freedoms, and  a direct attack to the inalienable rights of to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Such attack could
come in other shapes and forms. We must join force with all the peace lovers across the globe to protect those rights.

Let’s join our spirits in unity and dignity to honor the heroes who lost their lives on that tragic day.

God Bless America!


A beautiful poem by Adam Zagajewski
(translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh – shared by my friend Xiao)

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
And wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
The abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
One of them had a long trip ahead of it,
While salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
You’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
In a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought of the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
And leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
And the gray feather a thrush lost,
And the gentle light that strays and vanishes
And returns.

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Better Together

   Posted by: Chen   in Community

When discussing among a group of friends topics relating to social capital and networking, I offered the following:

I am intrigued and inspired by the various topics this board has addressed, and clearly sensed the underlining desire to be networked, or to work on certain projects in a “networking way”. It is, without any doubt, an re-enforcement to the term “social capital” mentioned frequently in the discussions.

This great nation has a rich history of civic movements, and an abundance of civic activists, which have had built the stockpile of social capital that had greatly enriched the nation’s heritage of diversity and equality. “America throughout its history has been exceptionally civic-minded,” remarked by Professor Robert Putman at Harvard University. On the other hand, in countries like China, such social capital never became a focal point in the society. What Xu Zhiyong and others having been doing in the recent years is a monumental social shift that can fill the void and become instrumental in inspiring and changing the landscape of social behavior. That is why I called for a discussion about what I called the Xu Zhiyong phenomena.

However, the stock of social capital in this country has been reduced significantly in recent decades. In the December 2000 report issued by the Saguaro Seminar – Better Together, it noted a downward spiral of civic apathy, warned that the reserve of personal bonds and fellowship has been seriously depleted, and called a nationwide campaign to rebuild levels of connectedness in the communities. In addition to the attributions to such decline depicted in the Report, including factors such as age shift, two-career families, urban sprawl, and television, I believe the large scale immigrations of ethnic groups with lesser civic heritage also contributed a great deal to the overall dilution.

This provides a challenge and an opportunity to all of us: are we willing to engage ourselves in such a historical civic renaissance, or better yet, are we capable of taking the leading roles?

I have great respect for each one in this group, and I have great expectations for this generation. While we criticizing what we see but don’t like, I am more for doing something about it.  I do not feel we are demanding ourselves more when we are talking about civic engagement than when we were talking about human rights, freedom, democracy, and justice. The only deference might be this is more direct in terms of personal commitment.

That is where “networking” comes to strengthen.

Better Together! I truly like the sound of it.



Xu Zhiyoung

About Xu Zhiyong (from various resources):

Xu Zhiyong (许志永) is one of the founders of the NGO Open Constitution Initiative and an active rights lawyer in China who helped those underprivileged. He is knowledgeable and enthusiastic, persistent and active. Many young people admire him as a role model, and intellectuals have great expectations for him.

Xu has made a long list of remarkable achievements in fighting for social justice and making changes in politics.

“I wish our country could be a free and happy one. Every citizen need not go against their conscience and can find their own place by their virtue and talents; a simple and happy society, where the goodness of humanity is expanded to the maximum, and the evilness of humanity is constrained to the minimum; honesty, trust, kindness, and helping each other are everyday occurrences in life; there is not so much anger and anxiety, a pure smile on everyone’s face.” – Xu Zhiyong


About Saguaro Seminar (http://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/):
THE SAGUARO SEMINAR: CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN AMERICA is an ongoing initiative of Professor Robert D. Putnam at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The project focuses on expanding what we know about our levels of trust and community engagement and on developing strategies and efforts to increase this engagement. A signature effort was the multi-year dialogue (1995-2000) on how we can increasingly build bonds of civic trust among Americans and their communities.

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Silent Thought

   Posted by: Chen   in Journey of life

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.

                  ~William Shakespeare

Robbie was someone I would pick up the phone and call if I felt the need to share something, or just have a chat. Robbie would find ways to make himself available. I observed Robbie would do the same for a lot of people. That’s just how he was.


Few weeks before his departure, Robbie met with a small group to start a new law school

Robbie Gowdey, Dr. Bill Bright’s right-hand man in promoting the cause of the Campus Crusade for Christ, devoted his life to his belief in God. He and his colleagues traveled over 150 countries to persuade his mission of furthering the cause of Christ, as Ron Jenson, then President of Campus Crusade’s International School of Theology, recalls:

Robbie and I joined Bill in traveling the world together including going into China with Bunker and Carolyn Hunt, Jim Irwin, the astronaut, Joe Foss and others VIP’s in the 1980′s. Robbie and I bought identical, custom made Asian-looking white leisure suits (you had to be there) to wear on our bullet train trip from the border of China to what was then called Canton. But, because we all tried to smuggle in Bibles and Jesus Films and were founded out by the authorities, we were punished by being put on a slow, local, dirty, wood benched train. I sat next to a couple of chickens (really, chickens!) in a pen. Robbie and I turned those nice white leisure suits into what looked like coal miner gear. But, we laughed, rejoiced and continued the many year adventure we were on.”

I would call Robbie a true People Connector, as characterized in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Helping others was part of Robbie’s life. It was something he enjoyed of doing, regardless how much help he was actually needing. “Robbie had an unrelenting desire for lifting the hopes and spirits of those around him”, as Andrew elegantly describes his beloved dad. Robbie came to their minds when his friends were seeking advices, directions, or helps, because he was someone they could relate and trust, often times for some, it might have been just a single acquaintance occurred a few years ago.

Robbie and friends

Robbie and friends

Robbie was going through tremendous wearisomeness, perhaps since early 2006. We sat in our favorite “meeting place” – various Corner Bakery Cafes – many times chatting about life and challenges. Even in those difficult times, Robbie was still actively engaged in helping a few projects aiming to make communities safer and better. I had made up my mind that for whatever Robbie was involved, I would make myself available to facilitate whatever he needed from me.

I still find myself in various Corner Bakery Cafes, alone though most the times. Occasionally, I reach the phone and start dialing…

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