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celebration of life comments

August 20, 2017

Here are the comments I wrote up and delivered at the celebration of life event at Brookhaven on Sunday, August 6, 2017

Every child goes through a stage of differentiation when they want to be anything except what their parents are. I was no different. An academic social scientist? No way. When I was in high school, my favorite subject was biology. Although what I really wanted to be was a rock star. As I have said in my dedications for my books, our father was a psychologist, our mother was a sociologist so of course I had to be a social psychologist. Yes way.

Those of you who have not had the opportunity to read some of the biographical clips we have posted on our mother’s memorial webpage, let me say a few things about her background.

She came to this country at the age of 18 to attend Colby-Sawyer on a scholarship. After completing her two-year program, she transferred to Wellesley and completed her Bachelor’s degree. Her next stop was a small school in Cambridge where she earned a Ph.D. in Sociology. She never considered herself a “real sociologist” because she was not very good at statistics. Having gone through a program in sociology myself, I can say that her uneasiness with statistics actually makes her pretty much like most graduate students in sociology. What makes her unlike most other sociology graduate students is that her dissertation chair was Talcott Parsons. Those of you who are not sociologists, Talcott Parsons is one of the giants in American sociology and someone whose work is central to most graduate courses in American sociological theory.

It is important to remember that she did this in the 1930s and 1940s only a few years removed from the Chinese Exclusion Act. She was a single immigrant Chinese woman and her family was half-way across the globe. She actually did not see them again until 1972.

I’d also like to say a few words about our father who we lost about 25 years ago. He grew up in Queens the fourth child of an immigrant who opened a hand-laundry and put all four children through professional or graduate programs. Our father earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia. Upward mobility for the next generation is difficult when the bar is two Ph.D.s from Ivy league schools.

In my classes, I want my students to understand the concept of privilege. It is something many people have, especially those in first-world countries, and often they don’t recognize it. It is an important lesson for undergraduate students in higher education to understand if they want to be responsible citizens of a global world and to be effective fighting for social justice. I have lived a privileged existence. Our parents made sure that we had the best possible chances to be successful.

Like most asian families, this began with education. We went to Buckingham/Browne & Nichols for K-12 and later to college, self-pay, because our father felt that family finances were no one else’s business. How our parents managed to do this on a professor’s salary is nothing short of astounding. We were trained in the arts: music, dance. We played sports and participated in other extra-curriculars. No tiger moms in our family although there was never any question that nothing was more important than high-level academic performance.

My training as a professional sociologist has given me an appreciation for how one achieves a certain socio-economic status and there is no question that my successes would not have been possible without the dedication of our parents to their children.

When asked what is my greatest achievement, I say without hesitation: my children, who are both here.

I have no doubt that if asked the same question, our parents would say the same.

Thank you mom and baba.

2x90 birthday party

May 13, 2017

This is mom with Dianne Rahbee, her first piano teacher at the 2x90 birthday party in 2009 at the Yangtze River restaurant, Lexington, MA.

The party was to honor mom, who was 90 but also her sister Mei-li (Mary) who was one year younger. In the chinese way of counting age, you are one-year old when you are born so while it was mom's 90th birthday by western counting, it was Mei-li's 90th by chinese counting.

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