JimmyWin’s Ways To Win In Life: Alumnus of the Year Speech given at 2010 Mt. San Antonio College Graduation
Watch Jimmy deliver this speech at Mt. SAC’s 2010 Commencement Ceremony
While I was attending college at UCLA, I also enrolled as a student at Mt. San Antonio College and competed for 2 years at Mt. SAC’s speech and debate (forensics) team. Those 2 years are among the most defining of my life, and since then, I have spent many years helping coach Mt. SAC’s forensics team. In 2010, I was honored to be selected as Mt. SAC’s alumnus of the year. I had the thrill of speaking in front of some 7000 people at Mt. SAC’s Commencement, and this is what I had to say.
I am so honored to be back here at Mt. San Antonio College, speaking to you today. I am eternally grateful for the life lessons I learned and the friendships I forged here – including with some of your college’s best professors. Yes – you can become friends with your former professors. It’s fun but a little awkward. You go to dinner and a movie, but then there’s a quiz afterward.
I’m sure you are all excited to be graduating today and moving to the next phase of your life. For some of you, that will be stepping up to a four-year university; for others, it will be entering the workforce to pursue career dreams. But I’m sure you are also anxious because you’re graduating during economically-challenged times. Yet I have all the faith in you. Indeed, you are the generation LOL, OMG, BRB, and TMI, as in “Photos of you on or near a toilet should probably not be on Facebook.” No matter what you do, be prepared to stay involved as alumni and give back to this campus; the experience will enrich you a thousand-fold.
As you heard, my last name is pronounced like the word WIN – so I thought I’d use my short time today to share with you a few strategies you can use to WIN in your lives. Let’s do three.
Jimmy’s Way To Win #1: Be Undaunted.
When my family came to the United States, my parents took whatever jobs they could get. My mother was a seamstress in a massive sewing factory. My father – once the man who wielded justice from a court bench – got his first American job… as an orderly – at a nursing facility. We were a family of 6, plus my cousin thrown in, living in a 2 bedroom apartment. My mother bought groceries with food stamps. And we managed to fit 7 people into a beat-up old Ford Pinto to drive to church every Sunday. But in the face of that adversity, my parents were undaunted in providing opportunities for their children to succeed in America. Every day, I am grateful for their undaunted courage. And in my legal career, I often have to call upon such courage.
I’m sure many of you already have faced great adversity in your lives. Challenges with family, finances, health, Math 71. In the future, you will face even more – as you try to finish more education; as you try to find a job in this tough economy; as you try to move up the career ranks. But let me tell you – you can handle it. Be undaunted.
Jimmy’s Way To Win #2: Be Vanguard.
When I began my law career, I was still quite young. And since I am blessed with Asian genetics, I looked even younger. All you Asians out there know what I’m talking about. Corporate clients didn’t always see me as someone who could handle their multi-million dollar cases. They saw me as someone who could park their cars.
So rather than trying to compete with senior lawyers in established fields of law, I focused on a vanguard area of law – the Internet and new media- where I could help lead legal developments with evolving technologies. It’s a choice that has since defined my career. Now I get to surf the Internet and play with techno gadgets for some of the leading companies in America. And write it all off my taxes.
Maybe you will become a cutting-edge web app developer or an environmentally conscious architect. No matter what you do, just always ask yourself – how can I can be a vanguard in my field?
Jimmy’s Way To Win #3: Be Authentic.
Let people know you. When I was younger, I was much more guarded. Some of that had to do with Asian family upbringing. Some of that had to with the experience of being gay. But one day, I woke up to the fact that who you are – your heritage, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, everything about your identity – is what defines you and makes you unique. I thought that being myself might be a detriment in my personal and professional life; but in fact, it has actually become one of my greatest assets. Rather than shying away from who I am, I now realize that makes me distinctive in big corporate America. And being authentic will give you stronger relationships in life – both professional and personal – particularly in those trying times when you will most need them. Being true to who you are – and what you want to do in life for you – not for anyone else – that will help you WIN.
So now you know three of my secrets to winning. I wished someone had told me these things earlier so I did not have to learn them later in my life journey. But it’s been a great life journey so far, and one that came full circle five years ago. That’s when I went back to Saigon for the first time since my family fled Vietnam. I found our old house from decades before. It was on a gray, alley-like street. The same next door neighbor who knew my parents was still there. He took one look at me, and said “You were the baby.” And in that moment, I realized – Yes, I was that little baby. I was that little baby who lived in that house a lifetime ago, but who was so fortunate to be given a different life – a life where I have been able to live the American dream – and where I learned that I WIN by just being ME.
I congratulate you on your achievements here at Mt. San Antonio College. Today you are putting a huge WIN on the board by earning a college degree. As you move forward in life, it won’t matter how much money you make or how many promotions you earn… you will already have won – as long as you can be UNDAUNTED, BE VANGUARD and BE AUTHENTIC. And above all else, just BE YOU.