No Longer Am I Living the American Dream Just for Me

-- Lucky Number Eight
 
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This is an essay written by a young Falun Dafa practitioner who submitted it when applying for admission to the prestigious University of Chicago. Teachers who were in charge of recruiting students shed tears while reading the essay. The University of Chicago admitted the writer ahead of time due to this excellent essay. The university administration highly praised the student, saying, "You are the kind of student we need!"

UChicago Essay Option 5

Question: Numbers often possess significant meaning in novels, movies, and people's lives in general. If you could choose one number that can capture everything important to you in your life, what number would that be and why?

Lucky Number Eight

June 30th is a very important day. No, it's not a national holiday. It's not the day we won a war or landed on the moon or even the day microwavable mac-and-cheese was invented. Yet, in a very small way, the world changed on June 30th. On June 30th, the American Dream came true for my parents. I was born on June 30th.

Exactly eight years to the day before my birth, my dad arrived in the United States. And since eight is the luckiest number in the Chinese culture, I hold all my parents' hopes and expectations. The number eight's roundness and symmetry prophesy a fulfilled and even life, which I have tried my best to give my parents and myself.

But the number eight has other significance as well, a more personal significance that has marred the perfection of that number. I haven't been back home to China in eight years because eight years ago the Chinese government began its malicious persecution of my religion, Falun Gong, a peaceful cultivation practice. Should I return to China now, there's a chance that even I could be detained by the government. But I'm here, safe, in the United States. More importantly, my entire extended family lives in China right now, in the midst of a genocide.

I grew up listening to stories about my parents' lives in China and the harassment they endured from the government during the Cultural Revolution--the "Chinese Holocaust." I've heard stories about how my grandparents had to kneel in gravel for hours while being whipped on their backs with belts. I've heard stories about how my aunt broke her arm when farm equipment malfunctioned. I've heard stories about my mom not having enough to eat and my dad walking miles with no shoes every morning to school. And I've heard stories about the freedom my parents found when they left China. I've heard all these stories. But I've lived none of them.

This persecution I have. This discrimination against Falun Gong affects me directly. This is my religion, my belief and values, my way of life that is being attacked. And I attack back. Since the day the government declared Falun Gong an enemy, I have spent endless hours trying to amend this atrocity. I have been to conferences, marched in parades, written letters to Congressmen, written articles in newspapers, passed out fliers, spoken to crowds, signed petitions, and protested outside of the Chinese Embassy. Even though I fear public speaking, I stood outside the Chinese consulate in Chicago with a loudspeaker, telling everybody the truth about the Chinese government. I have done all of this not for me--I already have all that I need--but to give back to the people of my native country what my parents have given me.

I have received so much from so little. My parents lived a meagre life in China, came to the United States with nothing but the clothes on their backs to a place where they couldn't even ask for directions, just so that my little brother and I could live a better life. I have an obligation not just to pay back my parents for all they have done, but to pay forward the life I have been given--the life that started exactly eight years before I was even born.

As I look forward right now to what the future holds for me, I can't help but worry more about what I can do for those people still grappling with the idea of freedom. My parents have given me my life today, and I, in turn, return to them a better tomorrow. In eight more years, I will probably have started yet another new part of my life, but I want to impart the same hope and fulfilment to others that I have held for my parents. No longer am I living the American Dream just for me.

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