Au­thor proves old cliché wrong

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By LIU CHANG in Wash­ing­ton changliu@chi­nadai­

He joked that decades ago, most peo­ple knew what the ex­pres­sion “a Chi­na­man’s chance” meant — no chance in hell. But Eric Liu has spared no ef­fort to prove the cliché wrong, as have 4 mil­lion other Chi­nese Amer­i­cans.

With his mom’s gleam­ing smile in the au­di­ence at the Pol­i­tics and Prose Book­store on Wed­nes­day evening, Eric Liu proudly talked about his newly pub­lished book, A Chi­na­man’sChance:One­Fam­ily’s Jour­neyandtheChi­ne­seAmer­i­can Dream.

Liu is no stranger to deal­ing with au­di­ences. He served as Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s speech­writer from 1993 through 1994. He is also the founder of Cit­i­zen Univer­sity, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that teaches the prac­tice and art of be­ing an ef­fec­tive cit­i­zen in Amer­ica. Liu has thought deeply about what “a Chi­na­man’s chance” is — to serve a larger com­mu­nity and cul­ture.

“I founded Cit­i­zen Univer­sity be­cause I feel right now in Amer­ica peo­ple are for­get­ting how to par­tic­i­pate, how to in­flu­ence pol­icy and pol­i­tics, and they are for­get­ting they have the op­por­tu­nity and there­fore the obli­ga­tion to ex­press their voice,” he said.

Be­cause of their for­get­ting, there is a need to cre­ate a cul­ture in Amer­ica for peo­ple to want to do these things again, he said.

Liu’s par­ents were both born and grew up in China. Later his par­ents moved to Tai­wan and then to the US. Liu was born in Pough­keep­sie, New York. Liu grad­u­ated from Yale Univer­sity and Har­vard Law School.

How­ever, his jour­ney to these ac­com­plish­ments was not smooth. Grow­ing up in a Chi­nese house­hold, he of­ten wor­ried about his fam­ily and his obli­ga­tion to them.

“My fa­ther was very sick much of his life,” Liu said. “So I started to de­velop a sense of the re­spon­si­bil­ity to take care of my fam­ily as a child.” He took care of his fa­ther by help­ing him main­tain the ap­pear­ance of not be­ing sick, be­cause his fa­ther was a proud man and didn’t want peo­ple out­side the fam­ily to know he was ill.

Liu lost his fa­ther at the age of 22. How­ever, his life had al­ready been in­fused with a deep sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

When asked by China Daily if, be­ing so ac­com­plished, he had a tiger mother grow­ing up, he burst into laugh­ter, say­ing, “Quite op­po­site of a tiger mother!”

Liu said his mother was open and car­ing, mix­ing both Chi­nese and Western ideas in par­ent­ing. “When she saw I was in­ter­ested in some­thing, she would di­rect lots of re­sources and at­ten­tion there,” he said.

When he showed an in­ter­est in draw­ing, his mother took young Liu to the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art. Later, when Liu showed an in­ter­est in mu­sic, she got him a great vi­o­lin teacher. Liu said he is def­i­nitely not a big fan of tiger par­ent­ing.

“It lim­its the abil­ity of a kid to iden­tify his own sense of in­ter­nal mo­ti­va­tion,” Liu said. “For my fam­ily, I will do the best I can do to pass on what my mother passed on to me.”

Eric Liu, founder of Cit­i­zen Univer­sity and speech­writer for for­mer pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton

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