New Beginnings and Expectations
Concerning Daniel Tailai Hwang’s immigration to America with high hopes and dreams
essay written by Cyrus Hwang
Cyrus Hwang unravels Daniel Hwang’s journey to America, the hardships, and the accomplishments. Daniel Hwang left behind everything he had in Taiwan in search for a new life and a chance at living big. Hwang made it through many obstacles such as racism, constant job changes, and adjustment to American lifestyle. Despite these obstacles, Daniel Tailai Hwang lives in America without regret. Now, Daniel Hwang, married to Gail Hwang, has 2 kids, Cyrus and Jasmine Hwang. Hwang wishes to see his children grow to be successful without the hardships Hwang faced as an immigrant. Daniel Hwang wishes to live the rest of his days in North Carolina with Uncle PK.
Daniel Tailai Hwang had an interesting story to tell as an immigrant. Despite several job changes and a language culture barrier, moving to America was well worth the journey because of the wide economic opportunity and a chance at a fresh life.
Daniel Tailai Hwang was born in Taipei, Taiwan, on January 7, 1955, to Hsiung-I Hwang (a government official at the Taiwanese Railroad Bureau, and Wang Chi (a pharmacist). Hwang had a brother, David Hwang, who was six years his senior. Hsiung-I and Chi married late (he was 37 and she was 30) because of World War II, which . In 1945 before the Communist took over mainland China in, Hsiung-I was sent to Taiwan by the Nationalist Party government as part of a special team overhauling the railroad system. Hwang and his brother, David Hwang, were thus born and raised in Taiwan (a semi-democratic country until after the death of President Chiang Kai Shek, an influential political and military leader of 20th century China who was a member of the Kuomintang (KMT) and Sun Yat-sen’s close ally, and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo in the late 1980’s.
Even though Hsiung-I and Chi lost all of their inheritance (houses and land) to the Communists, they felt fortunate to flee the Communist regime. Had Hsiung-I not been sent to Taiwan in 1948, they would have most likely stayed behind and been persecuted (and even killed) in the “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”(The Cultural Revolution), a period of widespread social and political upheaval, during Chairman Mao’s rule. The Cultural Revolution has been treated officially as a negative phenomenon ever since. The people involved in instituting the policies of the Cultural Revolution were persecuted.
Hwang’s parents were both college educated, which was extremely rare during that time period. His parents spent a large chunk of their savings sending him and his brother to a private primary school which only to upper class families could afford. Hwang appreciated his parents’ love and sacrifice. He studied hard and scored high in the national entrance exam to attend a top notch public middle school. He felt proud that he was able to reach his parents’ expectations.
Hwang grew up during the Cold War (1947-1991). He lived in a “repressive society with Chiang Kai Shek running the country with martial law.”1 Hwang was a quiet and reserved student who liked to think. His hobbies included soccer and bridge, a card game. Hwang excelled in both and he was once soccer captain of his college team. Life was fairly simple back then. As long a person did not speak or do anything against Chiang’s ruling, he/she could live a decent life. Hwang’s daily routine was split between school and his hobbies. Nevertheless, he knew his academic goals were the foremost important ones to achieve.
Hwang attended an excellent high school (Chien-Kuo municipal high) and university (National Tsing Hua) in Taiwan. He was a B+/A student throughout his student life. He excelled in math and analytical analyses. His college major, power mechanical engineering, came naturally to him and was easy for him to master but he did not enjoy working in a factory-like environment. This was extremely common in Taiwan because Taiwan’s system produces pupils with some of the highest test scores in the world, especially in mathematics and science.
In 1974 Chiang Kai Shek died while Daniel Hwang was a freshman in college. The United States government went on pursuing diplomatic contact with communist China (in 1978 – the year Daniel graduated from college in the US) acknowledged Communist China as the legitimate Chinese regime. In Taiwan, 1987 was a year of extraordinary accomplishment. Major political reforms, including the lifting of martial law, and remarkable economic performance fostered growing confidence and stability. While Taiwan continued to reject any official contact with leaders on the mainland, unofficial dealings became more flexible and included changes in travel restrictions, allowing Taiwan citizens other than military and government personnel to visit the mainland. This all happened while Daniel was on his two-year mandatory military service from October 1978 to June 1980. Chiang’s son was a better leader who gradually lifted martial law and promoted political freedom. But his efforts were not able to heal the wound caused by his father’s rule.
The native Taiwanese and mainlander often clashed over tragedies dating back to Chiang’s rule. Inflation was sky high. Chinese people suddenly felt their fortunes collapse overnight to the worse because majority of them did not own real estate.
Daniel Hwang did not feel that he would have a better life if he stayed in Taiwan after military service. He heard about America and it’s background. Hwang became interested in moving there when he was in high school. Hwang did research on the United States and discovered that America had a better life style. Hwang was also influenced greatly by the media, which showed many American films. This made America seem to have more freedom than Taiwan and their strict discipline. He did not want to leave his parents and friends behind, but he chose to pursue graduate studies in the United States of America – following his brother’s footsteps.
Daniel Hwang applied for several universities, because he thought his grades and GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores might earn him some form of financial aid. In 1975, Hwang was accepted by Marquette University, a Catholic university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He got a tuition waiver and a teaching assistantship with a $4,000 yearly stipend from Marquette, granting Hwang a master’s degree abroad without having to spend his own money. On August 22, 1980, Hwang bid farewell to Hsiung-I, Chi, friends, and relatives, boarding a Northwest 747 flight from Taipei to Milwaukee. It started a brand new chapter of Daniel’s life as an immigrant to the US.
Daniel’s journey to the States was a unanimous one. Both parents supported him and his college education was free, so he did not have any financial obstacles along the way. Although his parents knew they would miss their son, they knew that America had more opportunity and freedom than Taiwan. “They encouraged me very much. They supported me 100%,” says Hwang.2
Hwang’s flight to America was a most interesting one. He got into an argument with the flight attendant who neglected to give Hwang his meal. When Hwang finally got the attendant to give him his food, the food was only half cooked. Outraged, Hwang made a scene and demanded that the flight attendant be fired. However, due to Hwang’s language handicap, he could not win the argument. The flight attendant was white. Having realized that he had been racially discriminated against, Daniel Hwang did not have a very good first impression on the United States.
Hwang’s first impression of America was that America “is the land of opportunity and anybody who is willing to work can build his dream.”3 He had difficulty getting used to American culture, which contrasted greatly with Taiwanese culture. For example, Hwang had to alter his diet because he wasn’t used to cheese and barbeque in American ingredients, which were not found in the meals he ate back in his homeland. Also, because he grew up with a strict set of morals, Hwang was confused and at the same time intrigued by American socialism. The practice of telling white lies, a lie to someone to spare a person’s feelings was frowned on by the Taiwanese which who valued straight-forwardness and respect. Although Daniel Hwang had to adjust to these and other cultural obstacles, he still believed that moving to America was worth it.
In Daniel Hwang’s perspective, “the American government in general has good intentions; they always act as a big brother.” 4 Daniel Hwang favored the United State’s democratic society, because he believed in a society where a person of any status can rise up and be something they want to be. Although he did not like America’s aggressive foreign policy, Daniel Hwang favors the lax American government over strict Taiwanese government.
Hwang liked many things about America. For example, he liked how American culture emphasizes creativity, entrepreneurship, and acceptance of different opinions. On the other hand, Hwang liked things about Taiwan as well. For example, he liked how Taiwan is hard working and would not give up until they’ve succeeded in gaining what they desire.
“Strictly speaking, I did not have a formal job in Taiwan, because I graduated from college and then I completed a 2 year mandatory military service. Then I just came to the states afterwards. The only job I had in Taiwan was a student college summer job. It was a very easy job, because my dad had connections through our neighbor. I just spent some time in a government agency and sat there, do some reading and go through the lecture. This was quite obviously different from the job working as an instrumentation engineer at the Nasa Louis Research Center in Cleveland Ohio, which I already told you about.” 5 Other than being a teaching assistant, Daniel Hwang did not have a real job in Taiwan. He did not feel it was worth the time and effort for such small pay. Hwang would rather study hard and earn a job in the Unites States of America. When Hwang began working in America, he struggled with constant job changes from “NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio”, to “The now not-in-business in Tustin, California”, to “a failed start-up company in Maryland” 6. He also had few opportunities of getting promoted at work. On the other hand, Hwang found American life extremely convenient due to America’s technologically advanced society. Adjusting from manual labor, such as doing the laundry by hand, to machine labor, such as coin automated laundry and dryer machines, was a pleasant change and relieved Hwang of daily annoyances. However, adjusting to the English language was not at all a pleasant and easy task, especially in terms of speaking and writing.
Daniel Hwang had to study extremely hard to speak better English. He studied English in Marquette University to brush up on his speaking skills. He also had to put aside Taiwanese culture while thinking as an American at work places. He missed his friends, his family, and home-made food. It was not until 15 years after he first arrived in America soil did he feel comfortable speaking in English in front of an American audience.
Daniel Hwang knew about the racist problems between the black and the whites in the mid country before I came here because of the media. Other than the ordeal with the flight attendant, Hwang did not experience much racism. However there was one small incident that was potentially due to racism. The manager of the company Hwang was working for in Tustin, California was promoting white people who weren’t as hardworking as Hwang. Instead of confronting his boss, Hwang kept calm and continued to work hard. Eventually, the manager of the company saw how hard Hwang was working and promoted Hwang. This incident did not affect Hwang much.
Between 1982 and 1984, while Daniel Hwang was getting his second master’s degree in electrical engineering Hwang came to North Carolina, because they offered him another teaching position, where he received money monthly and he did not have to pay tuition. So he only paid $2000 for his two degrees. While he was in NC state, Gail Hwang was an undergraduate student in food science. Daniel Hwang stayed in an apartment which was next to hers. She was staying in the next door’s apartment with Uncle PK, who was a professor at NC State in Raleigh. They attended the same school. Daniel and Gail became acquainted with each other and became boyfriend and girlfriend for 6 years. Daniel Hwang proposed to Gail Hwang on July 5th, 1985 and they got married on September 5th, 1986. Daniel and Gail Hwang had 2 kids, Cyrus, born in September of 1992, and Jasmine, born in December of 1989. They first gave birth to Jasmine Hwang in Fullerton, California. They then gave birth to Cyrus Hwang in Raleigh, North Carolina while visiting Gail Hwang’s brother PK Hwang. At first, Daniel and Gail Hwang did not wish to have children.
In 1995 the Hwangs settled in Irvine, California, one of the top 10 cities to live in the United States. “I think the most rewarding thing is that [my kids] got a good environment. Irvine is one of the safest cities in the US, and Orange County is one of the top places to raise kids in the state. So I provided [them] with a good environment and good education. In this respect, I think I made the right decision to stay in this country and be an immigrant.”7 Settling in Irvine was a significant decision, because his decision would affect his children, Cyrus and Jasmine Hwang. Daniel Hwang knew that his children would take on a Californian attitude and personality; however, he did not forget to remind Cyrus and Jasmine Hwang that they were also a part of Taiwanese culture. In order to retain the knowledge of their racial identity, Hwang sent his son and daughter to Taiwanese orientated activities such as learning the Chinese language and cooking Taiwanese food. Daniel Hwang hoped to remind Cyrus and Jasmine of their American and Taiwanese background.
As an experienced immigrate, Daniel Hwang works as an immigration guide to family members of friends in church. “America is a country made of immigrants, back in the Mayflower and Pilgrim days. So it should continue receiving immigrants from all over the world because this is our melting pot. And if we do everything correctly and smartly, we can have a country that is made of the best people and have the best culture from all over the world. And so I think US shouldn’t close their doors to immigrants, but they should be smart in accepting new immigrants because US is not economically strong, so US can’t bear the burden of immigrants. We can help them, but we don’t have the means to help them as much as we used to be able to. Immigration is very important to US culture, and I don’t want to see it stopped because I also want to see it to be executed smartly.” 8 Daniel’s views on immigration are that the United States should continue their immigration policy because Hwang believes that immigrants are the United State’s source of brain power. He believes America is lazy and that Americans don’t value education as highly as other countries do. If immigration were to stop in America, according to Daniel, the United States wouldn’t be the strongest world power.
Daniel Hwang was thrilled to become a US citizen in 1992. Ever since then he has been casting his votes in most elections. He believes it is his civil duty to participate in elections and to select candidates with a similar value system and moral standard as his. The United States of America is Daniel Hwang’s second homeland. Daniel has adopted a sort of patriotic pride. “Well I don’t think I have any regrets actually until not only I had a fairly reasonable and fulfilling middle class life working as a software engineer even though I didn’t get any opportunity to be a manager as I would’ve liked to, but I got a peaceful life.”9 Hwang is extremely proud of himself for making it in this country. Although his expectations as a kid of living it rich fell short, he is still satisfied with his new life. Hwang arrived in the America as a 25-year old young man. Now he (54 year-old) has lived here longer than he did in Taiwan. He would like to see his offspring become elites in American society without the hardship and discrimination he endured. He believes in “Falling leaves return to their root”10 that he may ask to fulfill his last wish in bringing his ashes to rest along with his parents in Taiwan. I shall carry out his will to the best of my ability. As Hwang says, “In this country, as long as you work hard, you will get what you want.”11
1. Hwang, 5/22/09. 3, Personal Interview
2. Hwang, 5/22/09. 2, Personal Interview
3. Hwang, 5/23/09. 6, Personal Interview
4. Hwang, 5/22/09.1, Personal Interview
5. Hwang, 5/23/09. 5, Personal Interview
6. Hwang, 5/22/09. 2, Personal Interview
7. Hwang, 5/23/09. 3, Personal Interview
8. Hwang, 5/23/09. 7, Personal Interview
9. Hwang, 5/23/09. 8, Personal Interview
10. Hwang, 5/23/09. 6, Personal Interview