Sometimes it can be difficult to put into words—written or spoken—how much someone means to you. It can be even harder when the person you admire so much is profoundly humble. But today I’m going to try.
Growing up, I always looked up to my dad. Though by most standards he would be considered uneducated, I never saw him that way. In my eyes, he was the wisest man there was—even brilliant I’d say--and I never missed a chance to seek out his advice. Part of his brilliance came in the way he treated others—something that we often overlook, I think, when we talk about intelligence. He always put others first and made sure their needs were taken care of.
On top of the way he valued and appreciated others, he was one of the hardest working people I knew and always stayed humble. And though his formal education was limited, he took it upon himself to stay informed on current events. His interest and enthusiasm in world events inspired me to follow in his footsteps. I wanted to be like him, and he encouraged me to continually expand my learning, especially in terms of global events and other cultures. In many ways, he was my first and very best teacher.
Though I was lucky to have a dad who had big dreams for me, I was even luckier to have a dad who never pushed me into something I didn’t want to do. He never put pressure on me to excel in school or follow a certain career path. His quiet support, confidence, and faith in me were enough. And I always valued this. He raised me in a way to know that whatever I ended up doing, I would be great at it and inspire others.
I fully believe that his unwavering faith in me began the day I was born, and he made sure I knew it every day. When I was around 6 years old, I remember him telling me a story of the big, powerful tiger. The tiger was fierce and not to be messed with because he was the protector of all the animals in his kingdom. The other animals respected him. At the end of the story, my dad then said that I was the big tiger. I still carry that story with me today.
One of my most unforgettable memories of my dad was the time I told him I was running for 6th grade Vice President. I wanted my speech to be compelling and memorable, so I turned to my dad for help. Despite not having a college education and being an immigrant, he rattled off an impressive list of vocabulary words and phrases he thought I should use. I remember being in awe of his knowledge and his passion for ensuring that my speech would be the best.
Over the years, we also bonded over sports, specifically the NBA and international soccer. My dad and I admired the talent of the athletes and the dedication and life-long journey for them to become great athletes. He was also a fan of women’s sports and admired female athletes who became global icons. My dad’s favorite athletes were always the ones who were humble and had to overcome challenges to become the best. My dad would impress us all with his knowledge and enthusiasm for their stories, excited to share how they defied the odds and reach the top of their sport. I believe that my dad always wanted to make sure that I stayed grounded and humble, and these stories were a way for him to convey that to me. It was also through watching sports with my dad that I became aware of global issues and determined that I would pursue a career in which I could work with people from around the world and be involved in humanitarian efforts.
With his quiet, humble support and hard work, I have been able to live my dreams. And in living my dreams, I think I’m fulfilling his dreams, too. I’m so very grateful for all he gave to me and instilled in me. I am my father’s daughter, someone who is tenacious and never gives up, a leader, and advocate for others. And I like to think he’s proud that I turned out just like the big tiger from his story that amazed me so many years ago.