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Interview with Kei-Leung Albert Lun



Kei-Leung Albert Lun was born in 1947 in Shanghai, China. He came to the United States to attend college and worked for IBM. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Language and dialects in Shanghai - early life in China, and Hong Kong - John F. Kennedy's assassination - Martin Luther King's assassination - going to college in the US - the Vietnam War - events of the 1960s in the United States - family history - experiencing racism and prejudice - lack of an Asian community when he came to Rochester, Minnesota and then the area becoming more diverse - Rochester starting its Diversity Council, and his involvement - his view of the younger generation of Asians in Rochester - staying in Rochester despite experiencing racism - using his IT skills to help the community - Jeremy Lin - working for IBM - how being introverted can keep some Asians from advancing in their careers - how grateful he is to be an American.





World Region



Asian American & Pacific Islander
Oral History Project
Narrator: Kei-Leung Albert Lun Interviewer: Saymoukda Vongsay



Cover design: Kim Jackson Copyright © 2012 by Minnesota Historical Society All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102.

The Asian population of Minnesota has grown dramatically since 1980, and in particular during the period from 1990 to the present. The Asian community is one of the largest and most diverse in the state, and is particularly noteworthy because its growth has been spread across such a wide spectrum of ethnic groups. The Minnesota Historical Society and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans formed a partnership to create a series of projects of oral history interviews with Asian community leaders. The projects are intended to help chronicle the history, successes, challenges, and contributions of this diverse and highly important group of Minnesotans. During the past twenty years the Minnesota Historical Society has successfully worked with many immigrant communities in the state to ensure that the stories of their arrival, settlement, and adjustment to life in Minnesota becomes part of the historical record. While the Society has worked with the Asian Indian, Tibetan, Cambodian and Hmong communities in the recent past, the current project includes interviews with members of the Vietnamese, Filipino, Lao and Korean communities, with more planned for the future. These new projects have created an expanded record that that better represents the Asian community and its importance to the state. The project could not have succeeded without the efforts of a remarkable group of advisors who helped frame the topics for discussion, and the narrators who shared their inspiring stories in each interview. We are deeply grateful for their interest and their commitment to the cause of history.

James E. Fogerty Minnesota Historical Society

Kao Ly Ilean Her Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans


Kei-Leung Albert Lun and his family in Shanghai.



Al, far left, with the Diversity Council hosting journalists from Armenia.


Al, sitting and fourth from the left with his family in Hong Kong.




Kei-Leung Albert Lun Narrator Saymoukda Vongsay Interviewer February 18, 2012 Rochester, Minnesota

Kei-Leung Albert Lun Saymoukda Vongsay


SV: My name is Saymoukda Vongsay. And the date is February 18, 2012. And I am in Rochester with Mr. Kei-Leung Albert Lun. And I‟ll have him. . . he‟ll pronounce his name for us. [Chuckles] Can you please tell me your name, age, date of birth, and place of birth? KL: Yes. I always say in Cantonese first. SV: Okay. KL: Leung-Kei Lun is my Cantonese way to say it. And the English way to say it is Kei-Leung Albert Lun. And people call me by my nickname. . . nickname Al. SV: Yes. KL: So we can use that. I am well, older than I look! [Chuckles] I‟m going to be close to… I‟m going to be sixty-five in September. SV: Okay. KL: My date of birth is September 22, 1947. I was born in Shanghai, China. And I was six years old when when our family moved from China to Hong Kong. I actually, I grew up in Hong Kong and went to high school there. And I came to the United States when I was, well, seventeen years old. SV: Okay. KL: That was in 1965 that I came to the United States to go to college. And my dad‟s name is Leung [unclear – sounds like Lak Sun], that‟s in Chinese. Or it‟s in the. . . in the English way is [unclear – sounds like Lak San] Leung. And my mother‟s name is [unclear sounds like Chow Sing Young]. And they were. . . my mother was born in Shanghai, China. And then my dad was born in Canton, China. Canton is about. . . Canton is near Hong Kong, so it was quite. . . maybe a thousand miles away from Shanghai. And my dad, when he was a teenager, he went to Shanghai 14

as an apprentice to become a jeweler. And that‟s when they. . . my parents met in Shanghai. And in China, Chinese people typically claim their heritage based on the village they came from. SV: Oh, okay. KL: So even though my mother grew up and was born in Shanghai, but because the village was in the South, you know, it was in fact in the. . . in Canton, where my dad actually grew up. . . SV: Yes. KL: So my mother will always say that she‟s Cantonese even though she was really Shanghainese, you know. And has been. . . was born there, grew up there, and spoke the Shanghainese dialect, because in China there are many, many dialects. Cantonese is one dialect. Shanghainese is another. And of course right now Mandarin is the national dialect. SV: How many dialects would you say there are? KL: I actually would not know how many. Probably. . . got to be at least dozens of dialects. SV: Wow. KL: And since 1911, when the Republic was born, there‟s a movement to make Mandarin, which is really the dialect spoken by people that. . . around the Beijing area. That the Chinese government really wants nationalized, and make that particular dialect to be the national dialect. So, right now, I would say that eighty, ninety percent of Chinese people speak Mandarin, even though they might have their own dialect. SV: I see. KL: From their own village, from their own province. SV: Why do you think they chose Mandarin? Was it a . . .? KL: Well, I think Mandarin has. . . because Beijing is such an important area in China. SV: I see. KL: And that part of the country has always been the central cultural area or of where the civilization came out of. So from the standpoint of cultural heritage, it‟s natural to pick that dialect. And as a [unclear] is even though we spoke different dialects in Chinese, but the written language is the same, so we can always write and communicate with each other. SV: Okay. KL: But when we speak it, we just pronounce it. . . the language differently. 15

SV: Oh. . . KL: So otherwise, you would. . . if all else fails, you can still write to communicate. So you might say the pronunciation is different. SV: I see. Can you give some examples of dialects? Could you do Mandarin and then . . .? KL: Yes. SV: Yes. KL: For example, Mandarin, for. . . “How are you,” would be, “Ni hao ma?” SV: Okay. KL: “Ni hao ma,” is Mandarin. And the Cantonese would be, “Lei hou ma.” So if you write it, it is the same, same character. Just when you speak it, it‟s different. SV: I see. Okay. Can you talk about your childhood? What were some fond memories? KL: Well, there was a. . . the struggle in terms of [unclear] when I was born in China, it was under the Communist regime. SV: Okay. KL: But it‟s still with the Communists right now in mainland China. And now the whole family had to. . . And during that time under Communism, it was quite difficult, so a lot of people from China emigrate. In fact, refugees, I would call them, leave the country when the turmoil in China. And my dad left China first, as a matter of fact, to go to Hong Kong. And then in those days under the Communist Government they. . . reuniting a family was not always a given, so a lot of times the father would leave first. And it would take a lot of effort to reunite a family. So, in our case, my dad left China four or five years ahead of us, you know. SV: Yes. KL: He went to Hong Kong. So we had to apply to join him. SV: I see. KL: Oh, growing up in Hong Kong was...is a kind of interesting episode, I would say, and it‟s a very metropolitan area. And I myself when we first came to Hong Kong, I had a lot of problems with adapting to it, because in Hong Kong it was a British colony. SV: Okay 16

KL: So English was. . . most people would know English when they go to school, as part of their education. SV: Okay. KL: So most people, most students kind of go attending school knowing both, both Chinese and English. So but when we first. . . when we came to Hong Kong, I didn‟t know anything of my English, so it was a little struggle for me to start school. I was a little behind. And I had to learn, pick up English in Hong Kong. SV: Okay. KL: And another funny thing was when I first learned English in Hong Kong, I thought that. . . I came home; I still remember this very well. I came home and told my mom, I said, “English is an easy language. Okay, all you‟ve got to do is learn twenty-six. . . twenty-six alphabets, you‟re done.” Of course, compared to Chinese, we had thousands of characters that you can learn. So I was quite naïve, thinking that knowing A, B, C, D would be sufficient. And I said that I‟m done now. But that. . . that was still a good story, I guess. And I think that the more interesting story probably is having grown up in Hong Kong until I finished high school, then I came to the United States in 1965. SV: I see. KL: That journey of from Hong Kong to the United States, I think, is the interesting story that I would love talk [unclear] about some more. SV: Please. . . please tell us! [Chuckles] KL: [Chuckles] And when you are. . . When, first of all, in the 1960s, I still remember, even though I was living in Hong Kong, but we were still very aware of things happening in the United States. People like John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was a very respected, a very highly admired person, leader. And I still even for us so distant from the United States, and yet you still followed United States politics. SV: Okay. KL: Including, I still remember when JFK was assassinated. That particular emotion was actually felt even in people in Hong Kong. SV: Sure. KL: Which is kind of. . . thinking back, it‟s kind of an astonishing why people so far away still get such a great connection to things that are happening in the United States. And then also, another interesting thing, too, is that there was also a lot of misinformation about the United 17

States. And I can remember growing up there and in high school and at that time there was a lot of riots going on in the United States. SV: I see. KL: And this is the early 1960s. SV: Okay. KL: And there was a great deal of racial tension. Martin Luther King [Jr.‟s] movement was happening. And it. . . and now in Hong Kong there are, believe it or not, okay, there are people misinformed, okay, about what‟s going on in the United States. And some of the people in Hong Kong, the Chinese people, were not necessarily sympathetic about what the African American movement was. SV: Yes. KL: They were misinformed, not knowing all the things going on. So I remember having conversations among my fellow high school students about what‟s going on. There are people that are quite, I would say, bigoted. SV: I see. KL: In hindsight, and that word is the word I would use. And at that time I wouldn‟t. . . that was not the way I would describe it, but on reflection, that‟s probably what it was. That there were some people over there overseas in Hong Kong who had some misconception about the racial tension here, not knowing the kind of injustice that was happening in the United States. And they were actually blaming, you know, the African Americans for causing. . . having the riots. SV: Okay. KL: And, you know, that‟s the typical stereotypes were being used to describe why there was rioting and all of that. And for whatever reason, I was always a bit more open-minded, and I wanted to learn more about what‟s going on. So even then when I was in Hong Kong I was already following the exploits of Martin Luther King. He basically became a hero of mine. So I wanted to know more about that movement. So I ended up, I guess, having some debates and discussions with my fellow students when these other people say things about, “Well, you know how these. . . you know, African Americans of …” Actually, when [unclear] people would use a more derogatory term. SV: I see. KL: “And they‟re,”. . . you know, just stereotypically, you know, “they‟re demanding too much, they are not working hard enough,” etcetera. And, “they have nothing. . . nobody else to blame but themselves,” that type of story they try to tell. And so I remember having stood up and kind 18

of presented another side of the story. So that‟s kind of started, you know, my. . . I‟ve always sort of felt that I have this longing to. . . to be helpful, to be helpful to equality. So then I came to college to the United States. And my first time I left home, basically. SV: Okay. Oh. . . KL: So you can imagine, seventeen years old, and flying all the way to this. . . The first place I landed was San Francisco, and then I went to L.A. [Los Angeles], etcetera. So I. . . I could go on with that story if you‟d like to hear it, too. SV: I would like to hear it. [Chuckles] KL: [Chuckles] Then what is so kind of. . . the first thing I can remember was that when I got to Hawaii first. . . In those days, there was no direct flight from Hong Kong to the United States. SV: Okay. KL: Because the plane needed to refuel. It couldn‟t just. . . there was no. . . there‟s not enough fuel to fly then across the Pacific Ocean, so it lands in Hawaii. So I remember. . . now this is when I was seventeen years old, the first time I left home. I remember landing in Hawaii and I said, “Gee, this is a beautiful place.” I had to tell my parents. Okay. [Chuckles] SV: Yes. KL: But then I. . . next thought that came was I wouldn‟t be able to see them for another two or three years, maybe even longer! In those days, people don‟t fly back and forth that much. And of course there was no Internet, there was no cell phone. You know. . . SV: I can‟t imagine! [Chuckles] KL: Right. [Chuckles] For those young people here, you have. . . cannot imagine what this. . . what the situation was. You couldn‟t really pick up and call, you know. SV: Yes. KL: So and then. . . so there is a human side of the. . . so and in fact I. . . I wouldn‟t say that I had it that bad, you know, I just came here for college. But there‟s still the notion of immigrants leaving their home country, landing in a different place. That emotion of this. . . of longing for their homeland and knowing that they would be away from home for a long period of time. SV: Mmmm-hmmm. KL: It‟s something, you know. . . I certainly personally appreciate it, even though I really don‟t have it as bad as I imagine some other people that really came here as refugees. 19

SV: Okay. KL: And to kind of go fast forward a little bit. I ended up my sophomore year, I ended up in the University of California, at UC-San Diego. I was studying the information science. SV: Okay. KL: And that was in the 1960s. SV: What does information science mean in the 1960s? KL: Information science means. . . and these days is what you would call computer science. And then in my days computers, computer science was still in infancy, so it‟s. . . it‟s really equivalent to computer science. SV: Okay. Were there computers back then? KL: Yes. There were. . . SV: Oh. [Chuckles] KL: There was computer. . . we had mainframe computers, and there was still, obviously, no personal computer. You carry around a deck of cards, you know, to input in the computer. You don‟t type anything, it. . . SV: So they were these computers that took up whole floors of buildings? KL: Yes. They would. . . SV: Oh, I see. KL: Well, whole floors of buildings and air conditioned rooms and. . . SV: Wow. KL: And the way you input programs, you cannot just type in using a keyboard like this, go through a terminal. There was no such thing. What you do is you punch all these instructions, the program instructions on punch cards, a deck of cards. You‟ve never seen it before? SV: No, I haven‟t. KL: These were relics of the computer. [Chuckles] Museum, if you ever to a computer museum. SV: Oh, I think I‟ve been to the IBM building here and I saw like the. . . 20

KL: [Chuckles] Yes, then you‟d. . . you might recall that. . . a deck of cards. SV: Yes. Yes. KL: It‟s where you punch. . . yes, because there were key punch machines. You‟d punch them out, a deck of cards, and then you would. . . you‟d go turn it into some computer library. Some people would load them; load that deck of cards into the computer for you. You couldn‟t go and go inside the room, you know. They were in a highly protected, highly secured area. SV: Oh, okay. KL: So you really couldn‟t go and touch the computer. But anyhow, then in the 1960s. . . this is in 1966 or so, for people of my era would know that is the year of Vietnam. SV: Okay. KL: The Vietnam War. There were a lot of protests going on, a lot of demonstrations, riots. Or demonstrations, particularly in the college. Protesting against the United States‟ participation in Vietnam and other things. And also the racial. . . racial tension was very high. And 1968 was a memorable year. That it. . . I think that that was, like I remember correctly, that was the year when the two. . . two of the most respected leaders of the United States were assassinated. Martin Luther King [April 4, 1968] and then Robert Kennedy [June 5, 1968]. SV: Yes. KL: Two of those stories I still remember clearly. Well, Robert Kennedy was. . . we were down in the student lounge watching TV. And he was just celebrating his victory in the California primary. He got. . . he won the California primary. So it was TV was showing that he made. . . he had just made a speech. So I actually went back to the dorm. I said, okay, you know, that was the end of story. And then later somebody was. . . started telling, “Oh, he got shot.” So I remember going down the student lounge and watching TV and saw the whole scenario. And then Martin Luther King was also assassinated, and that was another turmoil. And of course every incident like that, in those days, would cause a lot of students to rise up to demonstrate, to rally. SV: Alright. KL: And for some reason [chuckles] I also participated. Okay. SV: Oh. [Chuckles] KL: And let me tell you the story about Martin Luther King. SV: Okay.


KL: And when he was assassinated the next day, there was a student rally. And now UC-San Diego, it‟s not in San Diego, it‟s actually in a city called La Jolla. It‟s a very affluent suburb of San Diego. But the students decided they would go to San Diego City Hall to demonstrate. To. . . in front of City Hall, and to. . . Now the tension was very high in those days. And then so a number of students decide to go, and I decided I would join them. And there‟s. . . when I drove to. . . from La Jolla to San Diego, what was unfortunate. . . well, unfortunate for me, was that the majority of the people have not arrived yet. So I found myself with ten other people gathering in City Hall, downstairs. So there is no safety in numbers now, okay. [Chuckles] So we got about a dozen of us trying to demonstrate in front of City Hall. Well, where is the rest of the crowd? Because they were still making their way from La Jolla to San Diego. So now, all of a sudden, there are some city officials who come down and start talking to us. And they said, “Well, the mayor wants to talk to you guys.” SV: Yes. KL: So now it‟s. . . so we went up the elevator. So now I became a little concerned for myself, okay? Because remember I was not a. . . I am not. . . I was not an American citizen. I had a student visa. And now we‟ve got ten of us rising up, riding up the elevator, going to go see now some official. I was beginning to get worried I might get kicked out of the country. SV: Okay. KL: So but anyway, nothing like that happened, you know. So we did go to meet with the. . . not the mayor but his representative, and voiced our concern about what‟s happening, and we all got listened to, etcetera. But that story actually. . . oh, it kind of gave me. . . impressed upon me the freedom point of the liberty that we treasure in the United States. SV: Sure. KL: That allows citizens like ourselves even for. . . you know, for people like me that really had no legal status to be here in terms of making a. . . making noise. But they still respect. . . give us the right to be there, to speak. SV: Right. KL: So I. . . I still believe that that is the ideal, idealism of America that I want to continue to really expand, and to ensure that we live up to the potential of the Constitution of the United States that guarantees that everybody has the freedom to speak. SV: Yes. So did you continue to have the same spirit about civic engagement after college? What did you do after college? Did you . . .? When did you come to Minnesota? [Chuckles] KL: Okay. So. . . 22

SV: [Chuckles] KL: Then so after college I. . . you know then I got my master‟s degree in Oregon. And then the. . . my whole family, in the meantime, from Hong Kong, I moved to Canada. So then. . . SV: When did they move to Canada? KL: That was in 1973. So in fact, when I got out of college, I actually. . . well, yes, seventies, that was. . . after I got out of college, I went to Canada. To. . . then. . . and to. . . so then I started working for a computer company, IBM there. And it was in 1976 then that I came back, you know. And my wife and I were determined to be on our way to the West Coast. SV: Okay. KL: We really wanted to go back to, you know, places like Oregon and California. And. . . well, we were living in Toronto at that time. So but we wanted to make a short stop in Rochester, Minnesota. But we. . . our determination was this was only a very short stop. Maybe we would be here for a couple years. And then we‟ll make our way to the West Coast. SV: But then. . . [Chuckles] KL: So it was in, you know, 1977, I believe that we came. . . we came to Rochester. And. . . SV: And what is your wife‟s name? KL: My wife‟s name is Donna. SV: Okay. Do you have children? KL: And she is a Chinese American. She was born, you know, in the United States. SV: Okay. KL: And she‟s got an interesting story of her own. She is third generation of Chinese American. Her dad was born in this country. And her grandfather came from China. And in those days, in that generation, Chinese people were not allowed to actually bring their wives over. Okay. And so my wife‟s grandfather. . . SV: This was her grandfather‟s generation? KL: Yes. Yes. In fact, my understanding is her great-grandfather was already here. [Chuckles] SV: Wow. KL: And probably he was one of those railroad builders. 23

SV: I see. KL: And but then. . . and in that era, you always leave your wife behind. And the men would go back, you know, once in a while, once a year, once every few years. You cannot bring your family over, and then without, you know some kind of a clearance. SV: Okay. KL: But anyway, her grandfather did come, but his wife, my wife‟s grandmother, was still in China. And so, long story short, okay, yes. [Chuckles] So my father-in-law basically came to this country quite young. You know, so. . . SV: Okay. KL: And in fact served in the Army. SV: Oh, wow. KL: Yes, served in the Army in the World War II. And my wife actually had a good story to tell about back then. Okay. [Chuckles] It‟s just kind of along the same. . . human interest, perhaps. This was a couple years ago, my wife was driving in Rochester and got into a parking lot, parking ramp. SV: I see. KL: Downtown here in Rochester. And she was just driving in. And this one. . . when this car backed up. And without looking. And backed into her, [unclear] back into her. SV: I see. KL: So this elderly gentleman came out very upset and angry. And he looked at her. It was. . . he says, “[Sounds like “Coolie” – “coolie” is a derogatory term for Chinese] I am a veteran,” he says. SV: And . . .? KL: “What are you doing? I‟m a veteran!” So my wife says, “So was my dad!” So that‟s another reminder that there still is some. . . some prejudice, some situations where people that automatically assume what an American should look like. And it‟s another one of those dimensions why I am so committed to. . . for equality, for doing this work of making sure that every one of us can be American. Americans have. . . that is long gone the time when we have a typical characterization of what an American should be. So. . . well, where was I? [Chuckles] SV: Oh, you. . . 24

KL: Okay. SV: We were also talking about. . . Rochester was supposed to be a pit stop. KL: Yes. And. . . SV: [Laughing] What happened? KL: Yes, and then so when we first came to. . . when we were in Rochester, we started to be here in the 1970s. It was actually quite difficult initially to adjust to it. It‟s surprising that, you know, because, obviously, I was educated and I was a professional. SV: Sure. KL: I didn‟t have the typical struggle of immigrants and refugees, that type of thing. And I was working at IBM. But one day I woke up. . . this is maybe in the late 1970s. Leaving to work and I did not park the car inside the garage that particular morning. So I came out and saw. . . what caught my eye was somebody chalked my car. It was not. . . luckily, it was not spray-painted, but wrote in chalk, “Kill Chinks.” All over the car, “Kill Chinks,” or, “Go Home,” or other things like that. And this is Rochester. SV: Yes. KL: And that is absolutely astonishing to me. Thinking, you know, my. . . remember, I came. . . and in college, I was in California. SV: Okay. KL: It was quite. . . and then Toronto, Canada, and now in Rochester. And I really did not expect to see this in a city like this. So anyway, I saw it and I was totally. . . I got real worried, actually. The word is actually quite hateful. It says kill. SV: I see. KL: So I had. . . I was going to drive to work anyway, but decided I couldn‟t drive along like that, so I needed to clean it up first. So that was some incident that. . . that I encountered. SV: Yes. KL: And then of course the other situation is my next door neighbor would tell us that once in a while she‟ll get a call, she would. . . you know, she‟s a nice white lady. She gets called. . . hate called. “You are a chink lover.” That kind of call, you know. She. . . firstly, she wouldn‟t tell us. But then because she found it, said… 25

[Recording interruption] SV: Okay. KL: So my. . . then we found out that my neighbor was getting phone calls. Anonymous phone calls saying, you know, accusing her to be a chink lover. Because she was being friendly. That was, of course, in the late 1970s and early. . . you know, late 1970s, so. . . things have hopefully have changed for the better in Rochester. SV: Right. KL: But I‟ve got a feeling there‟s still something going on. SV: Okay. During that time, was there any sort of mobilizing, any kind of community forums that happened? KL: No. No, not at that time, because at that time the Asians. . . the ethnic mix was quite low, it was not very diverse. SV: Okay. KL: Rochester, when we first came here. . . It was essentially a monolithic community, very. . . so not that I recall. And the incidents were sporadic. The real situation came, is when in the early phase of the Asian immigrants who started coming here. SV: Right. KL: From Cambodia, and Laos, and. . . That’s when that, you know, triggers even you know, some more overt and more massive actions, I think, yes. And that brought it to the forefront of and of the Diversity Council. Okay. [Chuckles] SV: Okay. KL: That I am now kind of volunteer. . . serve on its board of directors. SV: I see. KL: And that was that. . . at that time where then more immigrants started to come from Southeast Asia. SV: Okay. KL: And there‟s. . . they are in school. You know, people like Kim‟s [Kim Sin, a CambodianAmerican activist and community leader in Rochester] generation, I guess, that started going to school. That‟s when they were facing more problems in school. And that‟s when the city of 26

Rochester decided we need to do something about advocating, about educating the population about diversity. So that‟s when Diversity Council was founded, was started. SV: In the 1980s? KL: In the 1980s, yes. SV: Okay. Can you talk more about your role in the Diversity Council, and also the role of the Diversity Council, and who makes up the Diversity Council? KL: I am on the board of directors of Diversity Council. I‟m the secretary of the board. Diversity Council‟s mission is one of education. We emphasize education. Educate people so that they understand and value our diversity, that diversity is not something to fear. SV: Yes. KL: Diversity is something to embrace. Diversity is the foundation for a community so that it can thrive and to be able to compete globally. So we are focused on education. We are not an advocacy group. In other words, we don‟t go and push for legislation. SV: Yes. KL: Or we don‟t go lobby. But we educate. How do we do that? We go to. . . we have prejudice reduction workshops, which we call Spark, which we go to public schools and other schools as well, K-12. We go to schools and get kids to talk about various kinds of -isms. Racism or sexism, or. . . people who are handicapped, you know. SV: Yes. KL: So every year we go to all the schools. We show some films, we have some discussions. Get kids to talk about what‟s happening. And in the hope that it. . . that they talk about their own experience, they become more tolerant, they become more aware what speech, actions can. . . are hurtful to people. So we have a youth kind of education, we have also an element of parents‟ education. In that regard, we want to show. . . wanted to kind of give. . . empower the parents to be more involved in their children‟s education. SV: Okay. KL: So that they are more aware that in the school system they. . . you need to, first of all, encourage the students to participate, just to. . . to work hard. SV: Okay. KL: And also give the parents some training so that. . . because we all realize that we are. . . And in the school system, a lot of times, the teachers, because of their own background, whether they 27

behave. . . they are conscious of it or not, they look at certain racial „whole‟ groups and then sort of. . . sort of set expectations. SV: Right. KL: And because of the expectations are such and that reflects back. That achievement of the students. So once that expectation level is formulated in a teacher‟s mind, it will lead to the performance that‟s living up to expectations of the teachers. SV: Right. KL: And our education is to kind of remind the parents to say, when you see that, we need to stand up, we need to stand up for your kids. You need to somehow correct that impression. SV: Right. KL: To help them. SV: I had a discussion with a friend. Ah, you know the stereotype of the model minority? Some friends don‟t view that as negative, because, you know, you‟re. . . Asian Americans are being viewed as very smart, and very studious, and industrious. But, as you said, at the same time it‟s negative, because they get treated differently, because expectations are not being met, and it‟s unfair. I wanted to ask you, what sort of metric is being used to map the improvement or success of the programs that the Diversity Council has implemented? KL: The matrix, to be honest. . . that‟s a good question. For the metrics are very difficult to measure. SV: Right. KL: Because we. . . there‟s so many things that, you know, that you‟d need to look at, somehow. But what we try to monitor our. . . and really improve upon the metric, too. What we try to measure really is how many students we touch, you know. That‟s one. In other words. . . I don‟t remember the exact number, let‟s say, ten thousand students this year, and then next year it is whatever. SV: Right. KL: And another one is we do some kind of awareness, you know, kind of take some surveys how. . . how before the workshop, what is their knowledge about diversity, about prejudice, about discrimination, about human behavior. SV: Okay.


KL: Yes. So this. . . there‟s a pre-test kind of idea. And then after we‟ve been there, we try to measure the. . . kind of get them to answer some questions in terms of their understanding. So but that‟s still more or less intellectual. You know the challenge is: how do we know that we are actually making a difference in their behavior, in their conduct? SV: I see. KL: In the way that they really truly embrace diversity. SV: Yes. And maybe less reporting. . . KL: Yes. SV: Or just less bullying, maybe. KL: Now it would be less bullying. Yes. SV: Not less reported bullying, but less bullying period! [Chuckles] KL: Yes. But the story is. . . the fact is, it‟s not. . . it‟s mixed, okay. [Chuckles] Because it‟s. . . bullying is still a major issue. SV: Yes. KL: And then, of course, realizing that there are so many factors that can contribute to it. And we the Diversity Council offer one avenue. There are other contributing factors, too. SV: Yes. KL: So it‟s a difficult thing to measure. But those are the things that we try to measure. Knowledge, number of people that we touch, and then we also continue to try to figure out what other. . . what better ways that we want to measure, too. Yes. SV: Would you want to expand outside of Rochester? Maybe neighboring cities as well? KL: Well, actually, we have. SV: Okay. KL: We do some. . . for example, some of the outlying school districts found out about what we do for Rochester. They‟ve asked us to go send our facilitators to go to Plainview or Stewartville, or Byron school districts. SV: Okay. 29

KL: Invite us to go. But then we are kind of limited, obviously, by our resources. Our facilitators, we have twenty, thirty facilitators. They are part time people. These semi-volunteers, you know. Even though the expenses are covered minimally, nominally. But. . . SV: And volunteers are from different parts of the community also? KL: They are. . . SV: They‟re educators, they‟re professionals. . . ? KL: They are. . . they have their own. . . they have their day jobs. SV: Okay. KL: But they are not exactly volunteers though in only the sense that we do pay. . . we do pay them an hourly rate, you know, when they do the facilitating, go to a school for three or four hours of. . . yes, they get compensated. SV: Yes. KL: For those four or five hours that they do the facilitating. But that‟s very nominal, you know. SV: Yes. KL: About the money. They. . . that would pay. . . you know, folks like that don‟t do it for the money, they do it, you know, because they have a passion for it. SV: Yes. KL: And they cannot live on that. [Chuckles] That. . . that wages. But the. . . yes. SV: Okay. So what other sorts of . . .? Other than prejudices, I know. . . I couldn‟t. . . I can‟t imagine having “kill chinks” written on my car. Yes, we were bullied on playgrounds and all that stuff but. . . Why didn‟t you just pick up and go to somewhere that was more comfortable, that had more diversity? Was it because of IBM and you had to stay? KL: Ah. . . well, I. . . but I think maybe it‟s because we internalized this sort figured that. . . this is not as widespread. . . Even though I think that‟s an underlying concern. But we didn‟t feel that it was so pervasive and that we felt our life was actually at risk, you know. SV: Yes. KL: And it‟s really our own judgment that says. . . even though the word was very strong, but it was more likely to be done by kids than with a systematically Ku Klux Klan, you know, type of 30

thing. We didn‟t think there was. Even though for a while, you know, for the first week or so, I got. . . you know, I was concerned. SV: Yes. KL: I was. . . I told my wife that maybe we shouldn‟t have the kids outside playing. And we live in a, you know, a very middle class neighborhood. It was not, you know, typically, you don‟t worry about that. SV: Okay. KL: Those kinds of things. SV: Right. KL: So. . . we had thought about moving, but then. . . and then, oh, it just. . . we just didn‟t. . . the job was one thing, by the way, you know, yes. [Chuckles] SV: Yes. KL: Yes. SV: But Rochester was home? KL: Yes, Rochester was home and then. . . it‟s. . . by and large, it‟s a good community. And we make. . . we make progress. SV: Yes. KL: And as I said, that they responded to some of their problems, and Diversity Council was formed, and other activities were formulated, you know. SV: Sure. Okay. I know you said that you have retired. Last year, was it last year that you retired? KL: Three years ago. SV: Three years ago, okay. Yes, I remember you said at the restaurant. Hmmm. What have you been doing with your time since then? Since you retired? KL: Well, like I said, I‟ve been with Diversity Council and. . . And I am bringing kind of my IBM, IT skills to bear for the community. SV: Okay. 31

KL: What I am doing now is to. . . I don‟t know how familiar you are with cloud computing, the Internet. Internet computing. And then so that my passion is to help nonprofits to use technology better and more cheaply. More economically. SV: Yes. KL: In other words, my. . . to just give an example of Diversity Council, that it‟s a relatively small staff, four or five staff members, and then there are about fifty, a hundred people that volunteer, our facilitators, etcetera. And, of course, our board members. SV: Yes. KL: The thing about all these people are. . . are all remote. You know, we need to collaborate remotely. And sending emails back and forth with huge attachments is not a really good way to communicate, you know. SV: Sure. KL: So my time is mostly spent right now is to build what we call a collaborating center. Think of it as a. . . a work site. That our board members can go there, sign in, and get the meeting materials, agenda, some of the initiatives we‟re doing, the most current material from the repository. SV: Okay. KL: And then our volunteers can also go there and look at meeting agendas. If there is curriculum that needs to be updated, they go there to update the curriculum. SV: So do you have a site already that they can just log into? KL: Yes. We have a site, built this. . . SV: Or do you build sites for each organization? KL: Ah, I build sites for each organization. SV: Okay. KL: Because every organization is slightly different. SV: Yes. KL: Their processes are all different, you know. And the kind of people that work there is different. 32

SV: Yes. KL: So Diversity Council is one example, that I spent a lot of time building that kind of site. But and some of the effort we‟re doing. . . and this might be interesting, you know, for this audience, is that we‟re starting a program which we call. . . Anti Bias. What we want to do is invite people to tell stories, success stories. SV: Okay. KL: About what kind of program projects they have done in their organizations that have proven to be successful. So, in other words, say. . . I don‟t know. . . an organization like the Y [YMCA/YWCA] or something, with Rochester. They have a program called Y Mentor. SV: Okay. KL: So maybe. . . what we like to do is have an organization like that tell their story about why they got started, how they got started, and what makes that successful. So they can write some human article story. SV: I see. KL: And we‟re going to publish it on our website. So what we will offer of value is twofold. One is we know that a lot of the nonprofit staff, they have good stories to tell. But they don‟t have time to tell them, typically, you know. They say, “I‟m so busy,” even just doing their own day-to-day work. SV: Yes. KL: So our notion is that they will. . . can get. . . come to our site, show and tell us the gist of their story. And then we can go interview them. Much like you‟re interviewing me right now! [Chuckles] And then we‟ll help them, write a story for them. So that it can eliminate some of their kind of effort they have to put in. So that‟s one value that we want to provide, you know. So we. . . our volunteers will go there, interview, write it up, write up a story for them. And then let them proofread it and then. . . and edit it. So now it becomes. . . they publish your story and people can go on the website. So that‟s one thing that we are. . . one of the things, for example. An example of what. . . some of the things that I‟m doing for Diversity Council, in terms of, well, enabling our mission. SV: I see KL: I guess in the longer term, that program would hopefully collect up hundreds of articles nationwide, you know. Or even international stories. I‟m interested about the story. . . I don‟t know. . . I don‟t know if you heard about the story about Jeremy Lin? [Jeremy Lin is an Asian American professional basketball player for the New York Knicks.] 33

SV: No. What happened? KL: Jeremy Lin? You don‟t. . . you don‟t follow basketball, apparently. [Chuckles] Okay, let me tell you, Jeremy Lin. Okay. [Chuckles] SV: [Chuckles] I. . . I know a little bit. KL: Yes. SV: And he plays for the Knicks. KL: A little bit, yes. SV: About him. [Chuckles] KL: So that he would be good. . . and he has a good story to tell, if I were to write his story. SV: If I were to interview him, you know how amazing that would be? KL: Yes, he would be a really good story. SV: Yes. KL: Now even though. . . and his story, of course, is that a Chinese Taiwanese American and he went to Harvard. SV: He was also California born. KL: Yes. Yes, California born. SV: That was what people don‟t know. KL: And. . . great, great basketball. SV: Right. KL: But he led his high school to state champion. And nobody recruited him to go to college. He never. . . so he had to. . . luckily for him, he was a good student, okay. So he went to Harvard. And then he led Harvard into a winning season. In fact, in NCAA, they almost, they were very, very competitive. Can you imagine Harvard being competitive in basketball? [Chuckles] Okay. SV: Right. [Chuckles] KL: Not likely! 34

SV: Right. [Chuckles] KL: But there is. . . and in this case, they were. So the story really is that he was very, very skilled. Okay. But anyway, having graduated, nobody drafted him, nobody wanted him. You know. And so finally a couple teams picked him up and then a short. . . short. . . they only kept him for a while and they. . . yes, they got rid of him. And now he ended up in the Knicks. Three weeks ago he was sitting on the bench. But then there were so many injuries and so forth, he finally got to play. SV: They were desperate. [Chuckles] KL: They were desperate, before he got play. In fact, they were thinking about cutting him, too. SV: Right. KL: So he got to play and then they discovered how good he was. So the story element, of course, is there is some prejudice towards that. A stereotyping about an Asian American really cannot play basketball, you know. All these things about. . . he‟s good at basketball, really it‟s. . . they would never give him a chance. SV: And he‟s six foot three, so. . . he‟s not short! [Chuckles] KL: But he‟s not short. [Chuckles] But you know there is. . . there‟s a stereotyping about certain things, about Asians are. . . just cannot play basketball. SV: Yes. KL: So that‟s the kind of things that we want to tell, the varied stories about human interests that. . . That because of prejudice and because of biases, that sometimes you might leave a lot of good skills behind, you know. SV: Yes. KL: And that gets back to a little bit to Diversity Council, is that we actually also have a corporate training program. SV: Okay. KL: Which will go to businesses to educate businesses about the need for recognizing talent, to really, fully. . . SV: And do the businesses . . .? KL: Yes, businesses. 35

SV:. . . contact the Diversity Council for training? KL: Well, and vice versa. Yes. SV: Okay. KL: Yes, we. . . that need for diversity and why is it important, you know. And some of them realize that they‟re. . . if there‟s some. . . certainly, the legal thing. And then, of course, now we‟re living in a global world. If we really want to do business with the global, you need to have your workforce reflecting what a global society looks like. SV: Yes. KL: And thirdly is there is potentially a Jeremy Lin who is [chuckles] you know, within the organization that may be overlooked because of stereotyping. So we go around and kind of try to educate the companies about what are the things you could do to. . . to look. . . to the language you use, and the way that you look at the workforce, you know. SV: Yes. KL: To be more open-minded about people‟s achievements. And I‟ve got all kinds of stories to tell them about stereotyping within the corporate world, you know, being that I have. . . SV: We have. . . KL: Yes. SV: There‟s probably ten minutes left if you want to share a short one. KL: [Laughs] SV: [Chuckles] KL: A short one? Ah, I tell the story. . . and you know, I worked at IBM for thirty-five years. And IBM, of course, they‟re a very good company. I‟m very proud to have been associated with it. And. . . but we also were very determined to use measurement to see what is our proportion of our population, our employee ratio. SV: Right. KL: And does it reflect what the nation‟s ratio statistically looks like. In other words, if there is ten percent African Americans, you know, in this country, you will think that there should be ten percent in IBM or whatever that percentage is. SV: Mmmm-hmmm. 36

KL: That IBM. . . So we are very true to measuring that. And somebody says, then some other companies ask, “Why are you so. . . looking at those bottom line numbers?” Well, I mean, that that is a measurable thing. SV: Yes. KL: Okay. If you look, you might talk about being. . . embracing diversity, but your workforce does not match what the ratio. . . SV: Right. KL: The national statistical. . . but there‟s. . . something is not going on right, you know. And then one story, of course, is that there has always been a stereotype. . . even, oh, a view of Asians within the corporate. . . I don‟t know if you‟ve heard of this thing called Asian ceiling. SV: Oh. . . KL: That it turns out that a lot of Asians typically. . . there‟s. . . so the stereotype is they are very good at school. SV: Yes. KL: They are good technical people. But then. . . and then they don‟t. . . they are not interested to be managers. SV: Hmmm. KL: They are not into management; they don‟t run companies. And what you‟ll find is, typically, if you look at the statistics of corporate America, you‟ll find that we‟re underrepresented. Asian Americans are underrepresented. SV: Okay. KL: And they could be the best students, they could be the hardest worker, the best team players. But they are. . . now, from an executive standpoint, you find very few of them. And in fact, IBM actually recognized that, okay. [Chuckles] SV: I see. KL: And one of our senior vice presidents, he‟s Japanese American. He tells a story about. . . He himself was born in the United States, Japanese American. And he had to overcome some cultural barriers in order to rise up in the corporate ranks. SV: Okay. 37

KL: What is that? Well, he says, typically, he was brought up in the typical Asian culture, being quiet, being deferent. And show. . . they don‟t. . . Asians don‟t show passion the way that the mainstream American does, so to say. So he actually had to kind of retrain himself in order to show outward passion, to be more conforming, which the typical American culture would recognize to be people that are committed to the company. Now what the Western company wants is passion in the sense of being rah-rah, very aggressive, you know, assertive, very extroverted. SV: Yes. KL: The behavior. . . the Asians typically are introverted. Yes. More reserved, more circumspect, more thoughtful. They think about it before they speak. So that actually inhibits a lot of Asians from getting up in the corporate world. And what IBM has done is some of the companies have recently found out, discovered that, well hey, we‟d better look at people a little differently now. SV: Right. KL: Maybe some of the so-called quieter ones, the introverted kinds, may not. . . should. . . might not be due to the fact that they lack commitment. Or they lack the drive, you know, they lack ambition. SV: Yes. KL: They are. . . simply because they are more thoughtful, okay. [Chuckles] They will think things through. So that‟s a story that, you know, I want to tell and I go around and. . . And within IBM also, tell those stories, you know. SV: Right. KL: And an additional story I tell my Caucasian colleagues is that the world is becoming global. And what if then you end up working for an Asian company one of these days? In fact, chances are it is very. . . very likely now. You might just find yourself in a culture that values the humbleness of humility, that aspect. And if you behave the way that the Western culture will have you behave, you will not go very far. You will be labeled as a braggart. SV: Yes. KL: Which is a value which is not that appreciated. So those are things that we all try and learn in our diverse. . . in our diverse backgrounds, you know. Aware. SV: So it looks like we have about five minutes left. KL: Okay. [Chuckles] 38

SV: Do you have any final messages or just any last thing you want to leave for the people? KL: Yes. Yes. The final message I leave is that I am truly grateful to be American. And I truly want to. . . and we have a lot of things going for us. We have now our Declaration of Independence says that all are created equal. And there are a lot of good things that we‟ve done. A lot of times we are falling short. We are not there. SV: I see. KL: We have made a lot of progress. We are. . . we‟re not there. I mean, I have some personal stories to tell of such a. . . some of the racism that has been leveled against myself. I have all kinds of stories to tell in that regard. But we have made progress. We you know, we shouldn‟t all necessarily be totally down on our journey. But we need to continue to work and there is a lot. . . there are still a lot of people that are underrepresented, a lot of people that need to be helped. Not to say that you give them, you know. . . they should work for it. But you need to at least extend a helping hand to make the playing field more level. SV: Yes. KL: Playing field, frankly, right now, it‟s not leveled. There are. . . So that‟s kind of what I‟m, you know, trying to work, and then I‟m optimistic. And I want to devote my life to really make it, make the gap. . . closing the gap, leveling the playing field. And to make. . . there are a lot of people, they don‟t realize that they have privilege. SV: Yes. KL: Okay. They think that everybody has what they have. In fact, I myself, even though I came from a good background, education, I know when I‟m, you know, in certain places, when I walk into it, I‟d better be careful. Okay. [Chuckles] SV: Hmmm. Yes. KL: So and then I talked to some of my Caucasian friends. They‟d never have that kind of concern that I have. I myself, I know there are places, where I go in and I need to be careful. I need to speak with more thoughtfulness. SV: Right. KL: And no, it‟s not a level playing field. And so for those of us that have. . . are made aware of that, we know that we need to equalize. SV: That‟s perfect. KL: Okay? 39

SV: Yes. Thank you so much! KL: Oh, okay. SV: Okay. KL: Why, have I talked that long already?