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Interview with Hue Van Lien

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Hue Van Lien was born in rural Vietnam. After his father passed away when he was 13 he moved to Saigon. At that time he began working for an electrical company and got married. He got his GED when he arrived in Minnesota and is now the president of Modern Manufacturing and Engineering, Inc. Hue has four daughters. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Childhood in Vietnam; Fall of Saigon; living in refugee camps; immigrating; learning English; charity work; Vietnamese culture; family; going back to Vietnam.

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Hue Van Lien Narrator Phước Thị Minh Trần Interviewer October 29, 2010 Brooklyn Park, Minnesota PT: Phước Thị Minh Trần HL: Hue Van Lien PT: My name is Phước Thị Minh Trần. I‟m going to be conducting this interview. Today is Friday, October 29, 2010. I am with Mr. Hue Van Lien at his company Modern Manufacturing and Engineering Inc. in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. PT: Good evening Mr. Hue. How are you? HL: Good evening! I am very good. PT: Yes. HL: How about you? PT: Good! Thank you. It‟s a nice company. I love it. Thank you very much for accepting my invitation and giving this interview. First I would like to know if you have any questions for me regarding this interview? HL: Well I‟m very much knowing that, what it can be so it will be okay, it will be fine. PT: Wonderful! Thank you very much. Let‟s start the interview. Will you please give me your full name? HL: Yes, my first name is Hue, spelled H.U.E, my middle name is Van, spelled V-A-N my last name is Lien, spelled L-I-E-N. PT: Wonderful! Now I would like to start the interview with your childhood. Would you tell me more about your personal life, your living, your family, parents and siblings? Talk a little bit about them and yourself. HL: Well I have a very unfortunate childhood that I grew up in a very poor family. Everybody understands the Vietnam back before 1975. There was a war and what happened in the family of all boys. We have six boys in the family and I am the youngest; and my dad passed away when I
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was barely 13 years old. At 14, I left school and went to work and there is---just a lot of bad memories then. PT: I know that you did very well. But how just 13 years old, your daddy passed away; but how did you do next? HL: Well my older brother, the number three from the top down, was very much helping the whole family until my dad passed away and he forced me to go back to school, but when you were young and a lot of things were happening and I was kind of confused, so I refused to obey his orders and somehow---then we ended up---he ended up connecting with some friends so that I can learn something from him more the electrical career, but that wasn‟t for me. But anyways, I moved to Saigon and worked there for several months and at that time I was only like 14 and that how I met my wife. PT: Wow, at very young age (laughs). HL: Yes PT: How is your mom? Where was your mom? HL: My mom, all her life, was very much a housewife and she remained [to] live in the town where we grew up with my older brother so we just tried to send as much as money to support her, but myself I hardly made enough money to support myself so I could not do that, but the other brother did so…. PT: So you met your wife- to- be in Saigon or where? HL: I just knew her you know. Back then with Asian culture, it wasn‟t open like now so we‟re kind of staring at each other, smiling and a note back and forth, just more like friendship. PT: You were a student at that time or just working? HL: I was working. I was helper for a guy who did the electrical [work] for a company. PT: How old were you when you left Việt Nam? HL: I was, I was almost 21 years old. PT: Were you married at that time? HL: Yes my wife, my wife---Our family was so poor and we were barely able to get by day by day so---but we know that we love and, and we don‟t have money to have a wedding or anything like that. So we just skipped that part and my wife was pregnant, 8 months pregnant when we left the country.

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PT: Yes we‟ll talk about her pregnancy during--- when you were in the camp. But now what memories did you have when you left Vietnam, like being after the Fall of Saigon? HL: A lot of confusion, anxiety and, black future, you don‟t---you see that, that things just go backward every day, people jobless and you just didn‟t know what to do and more restrictions, and they just take away all your freedom, and job…something like that , so we were so, so anxious to get out of there. PT: So you escaped by boat and what year? HL: Yes, one of my brothers was partner with another cousin and that‟s how I was able to go with my wife, pregnant with my oldest daughter. PT: With the first daughter, yes? HL: (Nodding) PT: Would you please tell a little more about your expecting wife, about 8 months, but living in the refugee camp. She mentioned to me one time that was a very hard labor, right? HL: Yes, it was very difficult when we were in the camp. We basically didn‟t have anything, just a couple pair of clothes, that‟s all we have, we don‟t have---no money, nothing. We have some money. We and three other brothers and sisters---so before we left the country, we just left everything for our mother, so we don‟t have nothing; and I was a believer, I was young and, and hardworking person, so I know that I can make it, so I have no fear to just go without any money. My wife was pregnant and when we were in the camp. Shortly later she had my first child named Linda and we don‟t have anything and we do have doctors there, but no medicine, no equipment, but we‟re very fortunate that we get through. I was pretty much the one who take care of wrap up, clean up, all of the afterwards‟ birth so it‟s a good memory and, and once a while, I told my kids that I had to bring it up to my kids so they appreciate what they have today, yes. PT: You talked about your mom? Where is she now? HL: My mom passed away in 1997. PT: In Vietnam or here? HL: In Vietnam. PT: Oh, in Vietnam. HL: She was 82 at that time. PT: So all the brothers and sisters left at the same time?
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HL: I---we, four of us, left the country at the same time. My number 2 brother is still remaining in Vietnam. My oldest was missing in action, so the oldest brother was never found after the war, so---he was a soldier. PT: Before the Fall of Saigon or after? HL: It‟s about a month. Well…actually we don‟t know what day he died…but one of his friends or his---somebody that in the same unit saw him about a month before the fall of Saigon and we never found his remains, so we believed that he‟s dead. PT: Would you tell me more about your journey, like boat on the sea, how many days you spent on the open sea? HL: We were spending 4 nights and 3 days, I believe. It has been a long time, 31 years now 33 years, yes. It was---during that time we thought that we had no chance for survival. It was stormy and the waves were so high and we‟re very much just hopeless but then the next day, we would see the wind kind of slow down, so, so we‟re still fortunate that it only took a few days we found, we found Malaysia. PT: You found Malaysia. So what camp was it? HL: It was called Pulau Bidong. PT: Wow! Yes. Now as a child what did you want to be when you grew up? Because with your life, did you ever dream of becoming someone or? HL: No, growing up in a war, a country with war for so many years, I don‟t believe that any kid that has an American dream like most of the young people here. We don‟t, we---I have thought that someday I will maybe a soldier to fight like everyone else for freedom, but other than that we just hope that we‟re able to have a job, that we‟re able to take care of ourselves. That‟s very much most of younger people like me back then. PT: Now I know that you had your first baby at the refugee camp; how did you find out that you‟ll be a parent at the camp with nothing? HL: I was, I was not really afraid, I was not scared, but especially when I was already at the camp, I had to find my way to make money. I was very much like a business person and go out to buy stuff and sell them and make profit; something like that, without money to start with. It was a friend that knew another friend who had 50 dollars, but right after that I made very good money and I was able to help a group of friends that we were living together and so for the whole year living in the camp, we had enough food because I was able to make the money. PT: Wonderful! What year was that? HL: It was 1978.
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PT: So you stayed well? HL: Almost a year. PT: Almost a year. What were the most stressful experiences you ever lived through in the camp? HL: The stressful experiences was just everyday that you‟re hoping that you can get out of there; the---so you don‟t have the freedom you really wanted…even though at the camp we know we do have freedom, but you‟re very much surrounding in the island, and we can learn nothing, basically just sit there and wait for the day so that the camp---so it was a kind of stressful that you kept hoping and you know it seemed like every day was so long. PT: So now we can talk about a little bit your life in America? When did you leave the camp and where did you arrive first? HL: I came to the United States approximately three weeks after my wife and my child--- and the reason was in one of the X-Rays pictures wasn‟t clear and they thought that I had some sort of lung problem so that‟s why how the delay happened and I was arriving here in September 30, 1979. PT: And where did you come? HL: Yes. We came to Iowa in a small town of population about 6000 people and a very peaceful place, very nice people. We had, we a chance to meet and get to know a lot of, of American people and one of them---one family we ended up very close to them , which we called them mom and dad right after that and until now the relationship is still there and we went back to see them all the time and we called. PT: You meant still in Iowa. HL: Yes. In Iowa, mom still lives and dad passed away. PT: So tell me your first job in America? HL: My first job was my work with my sponsor. His name Don Hartkopf and he‟s actually not a church member, but he heard that somebody needed a place to stay because my wife came to the town the first three weeks and they had an apartment for me , but then you know a young girl with a daughter isn‟t---may be not probably a good idea to live by themselves so they asked somebody to let her , my kid and my wife, stay for a few weeks and they were the one who volunteered and they owned the company; they owned the construction company so---and then they ended up hiring me. So I went to work up to two days I arrived to the United States, PT: Two days only?

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HL: Two days. PT: Wow! Where did you learn English? HL: I don‟t have---I can‟t speak any English back then, I learned English from my co- worker, from television, from books, very much from some schools on the weekends…I set my goal, I understand that this will be my permanent country and the only way to move up is to get education and before anything you have to speak the language and to me it‟s so important. I don‟t waste any time; set my goal each day, I learned 5 words, 10 words, some day I can speak and it‟s very true. So that how I learned my English until I moved up here and I go to school. PT: Wonderful! HL: Yes. But of course gradually I don‟t speak like I can speak now, but even now it is still not that good (laughs). PT: No, wonderful. Yes, you speak very well. Now I know you value education. Why do you think education is the key of success? HL: Well, I---throughout the years I saw a lot of successful people. They are most educated and maybe the main strive is that I missed school so much because when my dad passed away, I was forced…nobody forced me, but knowing that the family was unable to support my school, so I was just volunteering not doing it, quitting but I always dreamed that I go back to school because I know it‟s important. I want to expose myself but, but those dreams never happened so---but then when we came here, I can see that can be so…and truly anywhere I don‟t care what country education is the way to go and if just you use the knowledge and, and, and open up your opportunity door by knowing and understanding things so…. PT: How many children do you have? HL: Right now I have four daughters, I have four daughters. PT: Okay HL: Yes PT: They all are married or? HL: Two of them were married, my oldest daughter is a P.A. She is 32 now and (and) she works in the hospital. My second daughter, her name is Nancy Lien, and she‟s married and she works in here and she will be the company… PT: President? HL: Company president someday. She graduated from a Business School in Minnesota and she has been working here almost 7 years now, prior to that, she was working during the summer,
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vacation, anything like that, off school, work at home. I bring work home and she has been involved working on that kind of business since little, 12 or 14 years old, yes. PT: You‟re a good role model for all your kids. HL: Yes, they believe so and I, I believe so too. My number three and number four are also working here. PT: Wow HL: They are all finished at the University, yes. PT: In Business School? HL: In Business School, yes. PT: I know by learning from your biography that you got your GED in America. HL: Yes PT: After working and can you tell me more your first feelings after you got your degree? HL: Oh. I was very excited, very happy that, that was probably my first dream in America that I never thought that you‟re able to do that but then ---and after that I got another diploma from Tools and Die and I was happened to be the top of the class. PT: Wow. HL: Yes. PT: I can see it. You know perseverance, hard working, passion. HL: Yes, yes. PT: I know you‟re the president of MME now, would you please tell me more a little bit the history of the company because it is very wonderful? HL: Modern Machines was born in 1949 by the founder who was my boss‟s dad and his name is Clint Larson. And up to 1975, his kid---Chuck Larson took over and moved the company into the NorthEast Minneapolis in 1979 and in 1983 after I graduated from Tools and Die, I started working for Chuck Larson and…shortly after that I was a shop leader without a title. I‟m very much stand [ing] behind and supporting my manager …until my manager resigned, I was elected to be manager in 1992 and in 1994, I was partner with my boss to start a small company called MMI and I was 51% holder, share holder and he, 49%. Four years later, I bought him off on that company and he decided to sell part of his MMI to me and I will be the person who makes the decision. But then when we close to the time that we, for the transition--- he found that he had
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some medical problems so he decided and his family decided to sell the whole thing so I ended up buy 49% of MMI and 100% of MME and he was helping me by help finances and he allowed me to make payments and also one of the banks that I associated in the---with my smaller company, was willing to step up and loaned me some money and that is how I started. PT: You started with how many employees? HL: In my first company, just basically just myself and at the same time I still worked for him and later on we were able to buy another machine and, and then we had employees that we very much shared employees. Anytime that I needed employees, I can, I can use Chuck‟s employees and will reimburse whatever the labor cost back to him and that is how it worked for the first four years but by the time I completely took over the company, we were thirty something employees. PT: How about now? How many employees do you have? HL: Now we‟re close to 125. PT: Wow! 125 HL: Yes, yes. We, for the last 12 years, we‟re close about 600%. PT: Wow! Big success! HL: Yes. PT: And for you like the American Dream, right? Not only you have an education, you‟re the president of a big company. How do you define the American Dream? HL: Well! You know a lot of people dream about things. But besides dreaming, I think a lot of hard work and a lot of efforts, the patience, the honest[y], a lot of truth to make your American Dream a success. And of course, you know in many other countries, especially Vietnam, you probably don‟t, don‟t ever had this kind of opportunity for such this dream to come true so truly American--- America is really the place to---for any talented people and people dream of things and it can happen. PT: I know you and your wife do a lot of charity work. Could you tell me more about these activities? HL: I involved on the charity back in 1990 for the first time that I went to one of the fundraisers for the flood victim in Vietnam and I wasn‟t prepared to donate so much money because I didn‟t really have it; I just took over the company, just a lot of payments, just started my life in business, but then when other pictures were seen, all countrymen were desperate for food and help, so I thought sharing and giving is the right way to do. You know we, in here a lot of time we‟re saying that “I don‟t know what I‟m going to eat later because I ate too much of that?” You
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know we‟re spoiled a lot things, but you think people don‟t have any food. Their dream is to have something to fill their stomach at the moment so I turned to my wife and said, “Well Honey I decide to give whatever the fundraiser can raise today and just double it.” So we doubled the amount and ever since then the caring drew me in more and more and in addition to my background, I lived very poor in [Việt Nam]. There was a time that food is, is something that kept spinning around your mind so you understand you have a strong feeling about that. And of course your ability is very limited, it is not that you can do as much as you want. Thank God the business goes well and allows me to do more and more after that. PT: Yes. HL: And I believe in sharing. PT: Yes, sharing and caring. HL: Caring, yes. PT: Yes, yes now I saw a lot of awards on the wall. Can you tell me more a little bit about it? HL: Most of these awards are after I took over the company, I believe in, in service. I believe in doing things in the right way and I strongly believe that there is always room for improvements. I am very dedicated for what I‟m doing and I‟m always there if a customer needs my support. There is a time that I stay at work 24, 25 hours straight to make something for my customer only because they need it and the airplane was on the ground waiting for that part and I have done that. So my service and, and, and the quality that we‟re able to provide to a customer is the result of all these awards. PT: You„re like a star in 1999, right? HL: Yes. PT: I see it on the wall. HL: A lot of other stuffs on the wall; old stuff from my boss and all of the new stuff down here are from the last 12 years, and so many times that we got the Award of the Year from one of our major customers. So the Green Award for the Environment, so we are the only company, the first company ever won that among many hundred companies. PT: Wow! HL: Also I won the so called The Major Association Awards for the Twin Cities in 2007 and we were the only company in the---in Minnesota that won that award. PT: Going back to the company‟s employees; earlier you told me that you have 125 employees and how many Vietnamese people are there?
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HL: We have about six, close to 70% of Asian people working here. There are some Hmong people, some Chinese, Vietnamese and Lao and the other 30% is mostly Caucasians and some African Americans and Hispanic. PT: Wow! Just like the World in here (laughs). HL: Yes, yes that is what America is all about. PT: Diversity. How do you define diversity? HL: I think diversity is very good, that gives you seeing and learning and getting to know a variety of things people come from different cultures, they have different ideas, they---but after all of that, I‟m kind of person that I like people regardless of who they are, the color doesn‟t make any differences to me along with the people that are good, that you can deal with, nice and honest and what I like to work with every day. PT: What do you value in Vietnamese culture? HK: Well, I‟m fortunate to grow up with a variety of cultures. My parents were Chinese called Chaozhou and I went to school to learn Mandarin and my wife is Cantonese and I grow up in Vietnam. Here I am, between Vietnamese and Chinese. There are some similar cultures. There are a lot of good cultures. The cultures that I will always carry with me until the last day of my life. But of course there are also things that can be improved or perhaps is no longer, you know, really fitted into in this country. But in general I love my cultures and I am proud of it. PT: Do you speak Chinese? HT: Yes I speak Chinese, I speak Cantonese and I speak Mandarin yes. PT: Wow! So how many languages do you speak? HL: Several. Yes. PT: Wow (laughs). Good! Again we‟re going back about Vietnamese cultures. Can you tell me more how you value it? HL: Value cultures, I‟m not sure if I understand this right? But, I love, I love---Well even though my parents are Chinese, but I very much grew up with the majority of Vietnamese and most of my friends are Vietnamese. I prefer Vietnamese food versus Chinese food. PT: (laughs) HL: I value that culture. It‟s a very strong culture that perhaps some other ethnics, other cultures can learn from it, we---our cultures which taught to be nice, hard working, truly you see a lot of Asian people, a lot of Vietnamese people that are very success[ful]. We come from bare hands
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and now especially the second generation they‟re very educated, very successful and it has a lot to do with our cultures, and I think our cultures are very valuable cultures. PT: What are your proudest achievements? HL: My proudest achievement is my children that they are able to, to become what I dreamed of. I wasn‟t forced them to have all the education or careers, but I have advised them, I have supported them and dreamed that they can have the kind of education that when I was young and always dreamed of it and never get to it. So instead of depressed from my own situation, I put that as positive thinking and hope for my kids to be successful and our dream came true. A couple years ago that my youngest daughter graduated and they‟re all very well, do very well in school and now they all have good jobs, good careers. PT: How old is the youngest one? Boy or girl? Oh! All are daughters, right? How old is she? HL: The youngest one is 23, going to be 24. The oldest is 32. PT: And she will be the future president of MME? HL: No, the no.2 will be the future president. PT: Oh, good! HL: The number 2 and number 3 and 4 will, will be their right hand and left hand. PT: Wonderful! Are you a strict parent? (laughs) HL: No, in a way I taught my kids that, try to pull it out what right from wrong in the early age. Yes, I‟m strict, very strict in term of, kids been wearing proper clothes, didn‟t do things they‟re not supposed to be like, for example that‟s something I don‟t know if really appropriate for some thinking but to me that before I was walking to the store with my children, I made them hold my hands when they walked out the car and we had to walk together into the store. Before they were going to the store, they have to say, “If we don‟t buy, we don‟t touch and we never steal.” And I taught every single one when they were little because I believe in early education. You get more better influence when the children [were] young. I‟m very strict on those areas. Otherwise I am a parent that can be a brother to my children. We, we can sit down and talk, we can have fun, we can. We---I‟m unlike some of the older Vietnamese parents that after your kids especially your daughters, when they grew up, passed your teenager age, you kind of open up a gap. I wasn‟t that way. I talked to my kid, it doesn‟t matter when they were young or when they were old, so we get along very well and every single time I tell them not to do certain things, I always explain…give them a good explanation, point it out what right from wrong, why I am not wanting them to do this and that and so they understand. Instead of just saying no, you cannot do it and maybe the question is why? Or some may say, “Because I say so.” I don‟t like that. PT: You have an explanation.
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HL: Explanation, sure yes. Kids like that better. PT: And they seem they are good kids. HL: Yes, I have very good children and they, they‟re good citizen. PT: And how about your wife? Is she working or she is staying at home? HL: My wife was helping the company in the early stage, then later on and when everything was stable a few years later; then I told her not to have to work that much so she had more time to take care of the family and do charity things, and spend more time with, with whatever she wants to do, yes. PT: Yes, I know she does a lot of charity work. HL: Yes, yes. PT: How many grand children do you have? HL: I have my first grandchild, yes. PT: A boy or a girl? HL: It‟s a boy and the name is Theodore and so cute…yes. PT: What advices do you have for your children and your grand children? HL: My advice for my children ---well they already know what I want them to be and they‟re already be; but advice for the grandchildren, advice for my children to teach their grandchildren in an early stage and spend more time with them, educate them and provide enough care and support so they can be like their parents. And for the children--- grand children that “Don‟t take things for granted. You have to look up…look up to your parents to be like your parents or better and always honest, always work hard That will take care of your future, that will, that will make yourself proud, and not only yourself, but your family, your, your---everything else will, will be better if you set that goal.” PT: Did you come back to Việt Nam? HL: Yes I went back many times, few months ago, I went back with my wife and we, we of course , we both go for a tour, visit the country and spend sometimes with the people that I‟m helping. Some of the children that, that lost their parents and they live with their grandparents and I support them, give them food and provide some tools so they can continue the school and something like that. PT: Tell me more about your feelings for the first trip back to Vietnam after so many years since you left Việt Nam and now?
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HL: My first trip to Vietnam was in 1990 that was the twelve years after I left the country….I was homesick to the point that I thought that I had an ulcer, stomach problem, something like that. The doctor prescribed the medicine for me and I had to take it everyday and back then it cost me 260 dollars for the medicine. Believe it or not when I went back to the country and the first, very first day after I left my mom and all my relatives and I actually feel that I am stand[ing] in a country that I am always dreamed someday I go back. Because the time we left, we almost said permanent good bye and we never thought that we were able to go back. After the first day, I didn‟t feel that I had the stomach problem anymore and the second day, the third day, the fourth day, I gave all my medicine to, to my cousin and said, “Hey, I‟m fine.” Then from that day on I never took that medicine anymore. PT: Oh! The healing from going back to Việt Nam, right? See the country. HL: Yes, it‟s the homesick. It‟s probably, because I missed my mother so much that, that caused that kind of problem. PT: And she doesn‟t want to come here or? HL: She was. But then living in this country of course we have the materials , we have a lot of things that most of other people in different countries don‟t have, but the problem is you don‟t have the time for caring for your parents. My mom was, my mom was over 70 at that time and you, you don‟t want to bring your mother over here and very much she stayed home by herself because you had to work and after that you had to take care of your family and something like that. But back in Vietnam if you send enough money to support her, you have enough people, she can hire somebody to take care of her, my brother, my sister there so---and, and she grew up here, she feels like happier, but of course, she wanted to come because when we get to the close time that I had to go back and she said, “Why don‟t you bring me over?” I said, “Mom, you have 4 children over there and grand children, we‟ll take turns and come back and see you. From today on, you don‟t have to worry about food or nothing, you know you get everything you want, you live in jewels. What you want is just to tell your son that is close to you to do it for you and we will support the finances though so…” I‟m pretty sure that later on, a little bit later that she realized that was very true, because she has friends that came to the United States, shortly they go back (laughs). PT: (laughs) Yes. HL: It was so lonely. This country is for younger people, not for old people, not for new older people, they come to this country, because you don‟t speak the language, the cultures are so strange to you, you can‟t go anywhere, your kids never have time and it wasn‟t the way you taught them before, so there are a lot, a lot of things that make, the old parents very uncomfortable so I myself, I---one of those unusual people---I really care of not just my parents, but even my relatives. The first ten years in the United States, I don‟t even have enough, I don‟t have even $5000 dollars in my savings because whatever I was able to make, I sent it home to
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my parent, to my relatives, because I believe in sharing and I believe that they need the money more than I have. I was strong, I liked to work and I know that tomorrow I can make some more, so… PT: You mentioned about the way your mom raised you in Vietnam and now you raise your kids a little bit different. Can you explain more? HL: Well, it‟s different. My mom, my mom was very much a housewife. She, she didn‟t have much food at all but one thing she taught me that I still remembered until now and I‟m passing down to my children and my friends and the younger people is the sharing. Even though at that time, my family was very poor, we didn‟t have enough for ourselves and how can we share? But what she told me was that, you‟re able to give, you‟re a better, you‟re a happier person and it‟s very true. I define it that was so true that, you know, that giving is also meaning helping, it‟s also meaning that you are already on the upper hand so you‟re able to help others, so, since living in this country and having a business and I think that‟s so true and that something that, that really got from my parents, that was she taught me. For my dad, of course he, he passed away when I was very little so I didn‟t really have a lot of memories from him. But one thing I remembered what he taught us is honesty, loyalty, and those things I have it inside my blood. PT: You bring it with you. HL: Yes. All my life if I promise somebody something, it happens. Yes I‟m very loyal; that‟s how my boss picked me to be his partner and that how he picked me to be a person that took over his business. PT: I bet he‟s very proud of you. HL: Yes we, we---he visits here several times and now he had some difficulties in transportation, something like that. But before he came over and he was very proud. I told him back then that I will keep this name because this came from his parents and that will be right to maintain this name instead of changing it. So I kept my promise. PT: Good, how about your daughter? If she becomes the next president, do you think she‟ll keep the same name? HL: Oh she will, she will, she will for sure. My daughters are just like me. They‟re all very honest, very loyal, very respectful. Yes that how some people said that “Wow, you have so many relatives work here”…It never works, you know, people have problem and things like that….not with my, my children, they, they‟re caring people, they‟re educated, they know what needed to be done you know, everybody has a boss. If she‟s at her position, she---their boss which is one of my workers assigned her something, the deadline is there and she said, “Yes Sir or yes mom, Dạ có.” She doesn‟t have the attitude, “Hey my dad is the president and what the heck you‟re doing.” It‟s not that so and they---all my children---the warmest feelings with my children is that
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they‟re so bonding and love each together. Every single time in the family is that everybody has a birthday, you‟re always together, have lunch together, dinner together, and every time somebody has something happened to them, you know sad things, car accident, broke up boy friend so---something, they‟re always together, comfort to support, to---very close. PT: All of your brothers live in Minnesota? HL: All my daughters? PT: Brothers. You said that you have 4 brothers here in America. HL: Yes. Two of my brothers work for me. PT: Oh good. HL: Yes and the other one lives in Philadelphia. Yes so two of the brothers work for me and the older brother, the number 3, he--- his wife also works for me, his two sons work for me and I have two sis---two brothers-in-law work for me too. One of them has a wife with him. PT: One of them… HL: All of them get along well. PT: Right. HL: We have been working together for 12 years so. PT: Enough people may love to hear about you guys get along very well? The tips? Can you share with us some of your tips? (laughs) HL: I think that---you have to, happen in all sides, all sides have to understand that, that you have to do your job, you know, don‟t step out of bounds , which is why I lined the rules to them and I told them up front. Don‟t ever look at me as your brother, look at me as your boss when we‟re in here. Look at other people like your boss. It‟s your boss, don‟t ignore him and make short cut and come to me. Because if you do wrong, you step out of bounds, you get more trouble if you come to me and they understand it. They live in here long enough and they understand the American way of working in a factory, something like that so, so…so I‟m very proud of all my relatives that, they‟re able to get along. On and off you know once in a while, they get a little hiccup, but which is very normal for somebody and we sat down and talked and, and it‟s over. PT: You mentioned earlier about a birthday like a family together. HL: Yes. PT: Can you tell me one typical day, all of you together. What did you do? (laughs)
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HL: Well, on birthday, Father‟s day, Mother‟s day, something like that and kids come to our house and we cook, and then we eat and some play games, some watch the movies, some even invite some friends over, so like a kind of hang out, spend a day together, yes and, and I like that, I like that so much because in my childhood, I don‟t have that, I was missing so much so---and it was a part of my dream that someday my kids grow up that I am able to see them more often but my dream was fulfilled because I see three of my kids everyday. PT: Are they staying with you? HL: They‟re working in here. PT: They‟re working here, uh yes. HL: And then the other one is only living two miles away and my wife sees them everyday because she helps take care of the kid and I see them probably a maximum, I mean once a week and sometimes more than that, they come to our house, we go there so yes, I didn‟t ever had it before. I had been forced to move different provinces and only see my parents few days a year so I „m really missing that. PT: Do they speak Vietnamese? HL: Most are, unfortunate[ly] that the only thing I regret. If I can rewire my time, I probably make sure that they all learn Vietnamese and speak Vietnamese very well because the…the---I don‟t try to point finger blaming, but because I was a workaholic, I was working too much and when were the time we‟re meaning to teach your kids the right thing, to make sure they do homework for schools like that. I admit I feel guilty that I didn‟t spend more than what I really liked with my kids when they were young, but my wife did a wonderful job, you see, that‟s how my kids all grow-up successful. But because where we lived is far away and just us, schedule, our work schedule so tight, that we don‟t really have enough time to bring them to school. We don‟t have parents to live with us, to help maintain our language, to talk Vietnamese and besides both of us, we, we, we speak English a lot of time at home, so (laughs). PT: (laughs) HL: That was a mistake. PT: Good. (laughs) HL: (laughs) But I didn‟t feel that way or believe in that way when I was younger because I want to. I know English is important for myself and my career so I like to speak English even at home all the time so to get used to it and you know , more just practice, but then the consequences my kids--- but now they‟re learning. They understand a lot but they have a thick accent when they speak. PT: At least they still keep the Vietnamese cultures and traditions.
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HL: Yeah. they are, they are. PT: Did they eat Vietnamese food or American food at home? HL: Both, both, both, right. PT: Yes. HL: I brought them back, all of them, even my son-in-law went back together mainly to know what--- where we are, where we come from and also to let them understand and see things that, that …so far different from what they are now. So they can appreciate more because I myself appreciate everything, good things I have---I appreciate a lot of things that this country did for us, not that for us, but for all Americans. So listening to or reading a book is unlike what you live in there or you witness so that‟s why we make go kids back. And they came back, I can see they feel very different after that. PT: Especially they never know Vietnam before, right? They never knew. HL: Yes they never know Vietnam before. PT: So how were they for their first trip to Việt Nam? HL: A lot of time you know like, like …that ---rolling their eyes and something like that see people begging for money and no hands, no arms, no legs, something like that, cripple and I told them why they ended up. They were soldiers and left behind, something like that, which is because Vietnam Vets, the, the Thương Phế Binh, yes. PT: Yes. HL: And so, so they---.every charity we, we involve, all my kids involve. PT: Yes, I met them before. HL: Yes. PT: They‟re wonderful. Now your son in law, he is a Caucasian or Vietnamese? HL: Yes Caucasian. All Caucasians. PT: All Caucasians. HL: Even the other two, they‟re not married but their boyfriends are Caucasians. PT: Yes. They can learn Vietnamese culture, too, right? (laughs)

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HL: Yes, to me I believe in their happiness. ..I don‟t want them to marry because of me, I want them to marry because of them. That is more important or same thing when they go to school, you learn what you like, don‟t learn for me, for yourself, for what you‟re interested in. PT: I know you‟re very proud of your daughters and I can see it too. You know and could you please tell me more about each of them? HL: Well my older daughter is kind of---she‟s very much like her mom in a way and she--when she was young, she always likes medicine. She knows what her dream is- to be a doctor. She is a very caring person, she is very, very smart, she knows a lot of psychology; unlike other sisters of her, that every single time she asks for something, she knows when to do that, she knows the timing, she knows how to move around and I had to admire her that every single time she asked, she gets it (laughs) not because you favor her, but because she knows how to ask things in the right time, and she is a very intelligent person. She loves school, loves reading and a very caring person. PT: And she works in the hospital now and she is a P.A? HL: Yes, she works in the hospital, she is a P.A, she works in the emergency room, she works at the North Memorial Hospital, yes. PT: Did she ever share with you one day of her life or her work in the hospital. HL: Oh yes, all the time, all the time. My kids always share their stories, share their feelings, share their… PT: Can you share with us what she tells you? HL: Oh. There are some days that she talked to us about stressful things that, how patients react, something like that, another time she talked about desperate situations, something like that, and you expected that, you know you expected that but she can handle it and I told her, I said, “I‟m not sure why you picked that kind of career, but it‟s stressful, you‟re facing, facing sick people all the time or people in a very bad situation all the time and, and it is not easy to do that, but --to handle the situation.” but she said, “Don‟t worry dad , I can do it.” (laughs). And she did, she did. PT: Wow! Yes. HL: My second daughter, Nancy Lien. She is a very very caring person. She---I can see her is just like a photocopy from me and she ever looks very much like me. [A] very, very caring person, very intelligent. She‟s very business type but also very emotion. (laughs). PT: (laughs)

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HL: Very nice kid. She‟s always acting like a mom, a caring mom to help sisters and very, very sensitive in a lot of things. If she does something, you don‟t have to ask her to do it, she‟s there. PT: She is like a leader. HL: Yes, one time I remembered that her mom was out of town for a charity and that day I didn‟t feel that good. I was afraid I got a cold something and she saw me like that and so she kept asking and calling. I said, “I was fine, don‟t worry” So then I went home, then 5 minutes later, she came to our home and she cooked stuff for me and it‟s just a warm feeling. And she has been that way when she was little, so organized, so neat. And my number 3 is very much like her sister the older sister. They even, both of them, even look the same. (laughs) PT: (laughs) HL: Yes! But she don‟t---wasn‟t interested in medical, she‟s interested in psychology and something like that and she likes that. So right now she is working for us, she takes care of HR department, so she takes care all of the Human Resources things and very cute kids and we just love them, love them all, and my little one, if I said “my favorite” the other ones will be jealous. (laughs) PT: (Laughs) HL: But she is just like her number 2 sister, they look almost identical too. PT: Wow! HL: In faces. But personality, caring, emotion, the very business type, the--- When she was like 3 years old, she always--- every time she played house, she played the owner of the store. selling stuff, something like that and she is very smart, less than 3 years old, she knew how to tie her tennis shows, she knew how to wear her snow suit and she didn‟t even read yet, but we had a globe at home and that I taught her and she knew more than 50 countries in the world. Just by looking at the shapes and colors, and something like that and she can tell not only that but the name of the leaders or the presidents. PT: Wow! HL: Yes! PT: Someday she will be a leader! HL: I have a tape at home and, and my kids---Some may have difficult times with their children, but I don‟t have any difficult times with my kids. They are just nice children. PT: Because I can see you‟re so good, you‟re a role model and they look up at you.

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HL: I can make them do certain things, the things that I believe in early age in early stage. All my kids, when they were little, everybody had a work to do. For example my little one, less than 2,3 years old, but she can watch, she can understand, so during the day , when I‟m not home , they can play all day long or do whatever they want , but when I came home , her duty is put all the shoes in place and she does that. Not many two years old kids do that or less than three…something. And her sister, the oldest sister, make sure all the kids take their showers, cleaning. The number 2 would prepare the lunch table or dinner table, clean their rooms because we don‟t have time. And some of our friends that their kids like 10 years old, they can still do their stuff, they can be independent, but I think part of that is because I grew up very independent. I wasn‟t, I didn‟t have a dad so I have to go to work for somebody, so basically not only I have to do everything for my own. But I have to do thing for other people, so I became very independent for myself. And I thought if I can do it why not anybody can do it, so the first test on my kids and it works. PT: It works very well. HL: Yes, and you know eventually I trained them to, to have a good work ethic and they are, they are all hard working. PT: Yes, how about your wife she should be a wonderful mommy too. HL: Oh yes, she is a wonderful mom. She---The thing that I never tell her but I never thank her enough for that she helps me raise 4 beautiful kids and they are becoming very successful. That when your children grow up to be somebody and be a good citizens it won‟t just happen by itself. There are a lot of help, a lot of guidance, helping, supporting and perhaps yelling (laughs). PT: (laughs) HL: Yes and, and she is very good of that and she is a good wife, PT: Yes, talk about a good wife. I know that you and her, you guys met a long time ago and now a good marriage, tell me more about your marriage. HL: Yes I knew her when I was not even 14 and she was one year younger and kind of looking at each other and smile something like that but then later on I decided that I didn‟t like to be an electrician so I went back to my home town, my brother forced me to go up to his province, to his land so we ended up---I ended up working for somebody else at the grocery store so that‟s how I learned my business thing. PT: What province in Việt Nam? HL: It was called Quảng Đức PT: Quảng Đức?
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HL: Right next to Ban Mê Thuột. Ban Mê Thuột is the first province in the south that had the war on March 10th, 1975. Anyway---so I ended up go up there but my wife always maintained the connection; once in a while she sent me a letter so we were just kids. It was not really love or anything, lay back and tell kids stuff and up to 1975, I was, was---had to run away from the province that I lived on, I worked for somebody and back to Saigon temporary stayed with my relatives. And that‟s how I get close connection with my wife and even since she never let me go. PT: (laughs) Love Story. HL: (laughs) Jesus, Jesus! Follow every step I go so I ended up stuck with her. (laughs) PT: She‟s wonderful! HL: Yes, yes, very talented, she‟s very flexible, very knowledgeable and has a good heart. PT: Right, I agree. Now who was the person that has the most positive influence on your life? HL: Influence me? PT: Yes HL: In the United States, it‟s one of our Caucasian friends. He passed away. He was my coworker. He was the one who taught me a lot of things, taught me to think positive, taught me think, sharing, caring which I very much had already. Yes, at the same time, we---I also influenced him in term of his relationship with his mom because he saw me that keep---I was talking about my mom, how much I loved her, how much I missed her and himself he had some misunderstandings with his mom from his parents‟ divorce so he haven‟t talked to his mom for 15, 20 years and but finally one day that his mom called me and thanked me for…what I didn‟t know what I do and I asked her. After we talked and she said because of you, my kid told me because of you, he started talking to me. Because I tell how much I care for my parents, that‟s part of our culture, very strong in our end and he‟s the one I keep telling my children. They all know that, that without knowing Gary, I„ve probably be who I am today. He helped me, he didn‟t physically help me by giving me money or something like that...but the advices, the influences, the clean influences and he, he is a very good hearted person. So I [he] passed away. PT: Oh… HL: I missed him a lot. PT: When you first came to America, In Iowa or in Minnesota? HL: Here. I first started working here. Yes PT: Oh.
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HL: In the United States, I only had 2 jobs-15 months in Iowa and after getting out school, I worked until now and become the owner. PT: When did you decide to come to Minnesota? HL: Well. I have a friend to come down to visit another friend and that friend was, was---we were in the same boat when we left the country, so he called me that he. He will come down and visit me and I said okay and tell me when. He said, “No, I‟m right next to your house.” Then I said, “Okay.” So he didn‟t call me up front so. Anyway he told me about up here that you can go to school because cities and all that, and when I heard that I can go to school, that is my dream. So, so we made a plan to come up here to take a look and see how it is and after I go back, I told my wife, “Well, we move.” So Dec.25, 1980 up to 15 months living in Iowa, we moved up here. PT: Wow. HL: And we go to school right away. PT: Do you have some words of wisdom to share with your children or the younger generation? HL: Well, you know too, I believe in sharing and devote yourself to give back to the society and always be a honest person, working hard and somehow one way or another , you will be successful, may not be, may not hit the top but you will be somebody someday, but I believe in honesty, in loyalty that, that, that, that, that---it lives in a lot of Vietnamese people naturally , we already have that but …and the younger generation should continue to carry on and I believe that they would ---All the opportunities, all the education that they can get over here, they will be far ahead of me someday, yes. PT: So your wife, she is in Việt Nam now? HL: Yes she, she went with a mission. She went with a group of eyes doctors, of 20 doctors and we have six surgeons, we have---we brought back approximately 5000 pairs of used eye glasses to help people who need help there; some of the surgeons will perform a lot of surgery for cataract surgery and such that thing, and the other doctors do the exam and something like that and so---This time, they go to the province called Bến Tre and it‟s about 30, 40 kilometers from Saigon and a lot of people have vision problems over there so the founder is Dr. Tạ Xuân Mai . Yes, she is, she is very good hearted. PT: Is she in Minnesota? HL: She is in Minnesota. And most of the doctors, they paid for their own fare to get there…but this time I tried to support so I helped pay for the hotel and the transportation over there so they don‟t have to spend too much and at least you feel you‟re part of it so. PT: And do you have anything to share with the readers?
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HL: Well. It should be---I think to be a good leader, not only to direct your, your company, but also find the good way to deal with your employees, help them when they need it, you show that you‟re caring, you‟re motivated them, you, you provide the opportunities for them to step up so someday they can be like you . And I myself, I started from the very bottom, but even later on I sit on the president chair, executive director of the company, I still talk to anybody, I very much know their first name, last name. I come to say hi and pat their shoulders if they do a good job. You motivate them, make them feel close and caring and beside I help, I help a lot of people who need help, not just have a job, but also there is time that they have difficult time, finance or family or personal issues, I‟m always there. I don‟t miss any, any, any time that people invite us to go to their wedding or birthday or whatever unless we‟re out of town, otherwise I‟m always there and I am just like them, I don‟t put myself so different because..I think it‟s the right way to deal with friends and people surrounding you, especially your employees because they devote their time and their knowledge to work in your company and, and bring your company success so they‟re very important, they‟re part of your life too so, so I think…caring for others and sharing is the right thing to do. It doesn‟t matter what position you‟re at. PT: Wow! I have a wonderful interview with you and anything more to share? HL: Well there are a lot of more things but you know (laughs) PT: Enough for today. HL: I think it‟s probably enough for today and thank you for the interview so I can have the opportunity to share my thoughts and my success, and also my personal life to the people, to the younger generation or the first generation that, that are living in that country so that they can see what happened to me, it can happen to them too that they can be who I am today also so, so. All they have to do is work hard and be positive. PT: Yes. Thank you very, very much for giving this interview and I wish you much more success in your business and in your family life too. HL: Thank you! Thank you very much! PT: Very welcome.

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