The 7th annual International Conference on Hmong Studies was held at CSP. This event brings together internationally renowned Hmong scholars and people who are eager to hear lectures on Hmong culture. The International Conferences have drawn more then 3,500 participants and have included more then 180 presenters. The opening plenary session speech was presented by Dr. Kou Yang. He is a Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies at California State University, Stanislaus. He spoke on his life journey up to this point. He discussed how he had many duties expected of him as the firstborn son of his family. In his native country there was an emphasis on tradition. The firstborn son would lead the family unit, lead religious ceremonies, and provide for the family. Dr. Yang said that he felt a need to learn. He became driven to learn as much as he possibly could with the opportunities he had.
Dr. Yang was talking about his vocation in life. This semester of Honors has also focused on the vocation a person has in life. Dr. Yang knew that his family had expectations of him as a family member in his culture. He also wanted to learn and study. He tried doing both, but it was not possible to fulfill both desires. He eventually left his homeland and came to the United States seeking more knowledge and a better life. He overcame many obstacles that were presented to him and became a leading scholar in the history and culture of the Hmong people.
I was happy I attended the Hmong conference. It was encouraging to hear Dr. Yang speak about his life. He had so many obstacles in his way. He came to the United States with no understanding of American life, language, or culture. He was able to learn a language one word at a time. I struggle with learning languages. Dr. Yang’s life story has encouraged me to focus on small successes instead of dwelling on the struggle.