Revolutions and Dreams

An aged edition of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, framed in dark oak, is prominently displayed on the wall of my grandfather’s study. As a child, I would always run my fingers along the fine-grained wood and wonder why “Wai-gong,” who only spoke minimal English, treasured a book that he could never read. It was only when I was well into my teens that I began to understand its complete significance. During a visit to China one summer, I learned that on the day my grandfather received his degree from the prestigious Tsinghua University, the Cultural Revolution consumed the school. Anything Western was condemned and higher education was outlawed.

After being denounced by one of his classmates for not expressing support for the revolution, my grandfather was marked for “re-education.” In a risky move, one of his professors smuggled him a vellum-bound copy of A Tale of Two Cities before he was herded onto a dilapidated bus headed for rural Anhui. For the next four years, my grandfather would wake up at dawn to start a day of back-breaking farm work at the labor camp. And every night, under the cover of darkness, Wai-gong would thumb through the book’s pages, their substantialness reminding him of the aspirations that he hid away.

After finally reading A Tale of Two Cities, I gained a more profound comprehension of the message that the professor conveyed to my grandfather, and my grandfather to me. It is a message of the risks that are involved in the pursuit of our goals. The frame hangs as a tribute to the struggles we have faced and the many more that we have yet to weather. My grandfather’s experiences have instilled in me the courage to seek a business career that involves bold enterprises and to take the initiative to bring together diverse cultures.

Spending my early years in Shanghai, I witnessed a different sort of revolution—the break-neck pace of progress that transformed fields of rice paddies into multi-storied office buildings and commercial centers. Seeing this growth spurred my interests in the global arena; the rapidly expanding international market portrays endless possibilities. With a focus in international business, I seek to use my education to help forge links between countries through commerce. My drive is to connect the East and the West in a mutually beneficial partnership, to bring understanding along with advancement.

Business is a field that encompasses many trials and requires a tenacious spirit unafraid of pitfalls. Any success I achieve is built upon the lessons gleaned from the experiences of people like my grandfather; their strength liberates me from the fear of failure. I can dare to dream in the face of any adversity and challenge myself to reach for the uncertain.

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