Thankful everyday, 21,055 times

It's currently 3AM as I start this blog post on Thanksgiving Day, in London, and I have been spending the last several hours reflecting, reminiscing and thinking. Every day of every year, I have so much to be grateful for and I do my best to show just how genuinely appreciative I am for everything I have been blessed with and that has happened in my life. This year is absolutely no different.

But actually, it completely is.

Of any 12-month period, I think I grew the most, learned the most, discovered and explored the most and was able to invest my time most in myself and the people I love in this past period. From last Thanksgiving to today, so much has happened that I cannot begin to imagine how I can ever be thankful enough. But I try and do my best. Most of all, I hope the people I love most know just how thankful I am to have them in and a part of my life every single day and just how much of a difference each has made in my life.

The best way I know how to show my appreciation to my family and friends was to both let them know personally, a continual process that never stops, and to put together some of the Moments That Matter to me in a timeline to give them a well-deserved shoutout. To put this together, I scrolled through more than 21,055 photos and videos from November 2014 in Google Photos, stopping to look at various photos, think about the memories that were created and how I grew, tried something new or did something bold in that particular moment.

There is a lot that I am thankful for that was not included above, or, because there just is no photo that exists of the moment. For example, all the late-night monument walks or magical snow days I have had in DC with people I care so much about is not shown, but mean just as much to me. And, on an even higher level, the conversations and the laughter I have enjoyed this past year just cannot be represented in any way, but the words that were said, lasted and backed up in my mind may be my favorite memories of all, even more so than the photos automatically saved to Google Photos.

From DC to Los Angeles, Atlanta to Phoenix, Dallas and Memphis to San Francisco and the parts of Europe I have been lucky enough to explore this semester, a lot of memories have been made this past year. There have been several times in the past months where I have talked about how uniquely different this year has been for me and the different type of focus, mindset and outlook I have had this year.

I have always talked about people being the most important part of my life, of any organization and of any vision and I genuinely spend a lot of my time thinking about the people that play a crucial role in my life, more so than I spend time thinking about how technology can simplify life for all of us when pushed out of the way or of the friendly skies, or even singing Taylor Swift. This year, that could not have been more true and the one absolute thing I am thankful for this Thanksgiving: the people I love. I could not mean that more when I say that.

The people in my life are the only thing that I care enough about losing.

So, to the people in my life, pictured or not pictured, who I know personally or only through Google+ or Twitter, thank you. Thank you for making me feel alive. Thank you for making me feel so loved. Thank you for letting me be crazy and insane and passionate. And thank you for contributing all that you are and all the energy you have to me and to this world.

To everyone I love, wherever you are in this world, have a very happy Thanksgiving and holiday season. I hope you are celebrating, enjoying and reminiscing next to people you love as much as I love you and I hope we get to be united again, or meet, so soon.

From London, with so much love.

<3 Ian Tang

From sea to shining sea

If there is anything I have learned in the past 15 years since coming to America in 2000, it is that America is beautiful. Today, I will be dipping my toes in the Atlantic Ocean as I spend Fourth of July with my parents in Jacksonville, FL this year. I can't help but think that exactly one year ago, my breath was being taken away, in much the same way, by the Pacific Ocean at

#CampEmeraldBay

, and for everything in between, I am endlessly grateful.

Looking out into the Atlantic Ocean (Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville, FL)

America is great because it is so vast. It's not only vast in landscapes, but also vast in ideas and in diversity of its People.

Each city that I have had the chance to visit in the past year has been so absolutely different, each so absolutely gorgeous, energizing and vibrant in their own ways. Yet, what is more noticeable is all the things that weave us together as Americans and the common story, aspirations, hope and Dream we all share, whether born here or not.

America is not perfect and we have made mistakes, many of them. In fact, the manner in which we became such a vast Nation is not one of our best moments. But, as Emily Mortimer (MacKenzie McHale) says in Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom,"America is the only country on the planet, that since its birth, has said over and over and over that we can do better. It's part of our DNA."

People around the world look to America when they need a leader, a Nation that has a moral compass to stand up for the fundamental rights of all People and a Nation that recognizes the values it was created for. There's a lot to easily be cynical about, but it is the moments where America acts uniquely that we so often forget about how great our home is. From creating some of the brightest minds and promoting creativity to taking action on some of the world's hardest problems, America still remains both a force for good and a beacon of hope for much of the world. We are not in that position because we are perfect—we are in that position because we can so honestly, openly and vigorously have the tough conversations publicly, while still remaining one Nation.

A lot of people compare America with China nowadays. They talk about the Chinese government working so efficiently, a comparison that scares me. Efficiency is not what we want and was not what our Founding Fathers intended for. That's also not how democracy works, even if the world is moving faster now. For all the gridlock we have, we should also keep in mind that this Nation was built on the notion that there is no one right way and that all ideas should be put on the table, to be considered and discussed by the American People.

So, this Fourth of July, while you celebrate with friends, good food and amazing fireworks, also take a moment to reflect on all the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans and all the responsibilities so many of us, so often, shy away from. Reflect on how different we each are as Americans, but also everything that makes us One Nation. Reflect on all the mistakes we have made, how We the People can all work together to make this Nation better and all that we can be proud of and celebrate.

And so...

I pledge allegiance, to the Flag, of the United States of America,

And to the Republic, for which it stands.

One Nation, under God.

Indivisible. With Liberty and Justice for all.

Cross-posted on Google+: 

https://plus.google.com/+iantang/posts/e8qxXWySz7z

I LOVE HK: a spark for democracy

I LOVE HK.

My beautiful birthplace, Summer 2013.
There's a quote most often attributed to Thomas Jefferson that says: "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When governments fear the people, there is liberty."

And then, in "The Hunger Games," there's a quote that reads: "Every revolution begins with a spark."

I genuinely believe in these two profound quotes. And that's why today, my thoughts are with the brave peoples of Hong Kong, from students to working professionals, standing up for something they believe in and fighting for a universal right, namely universal suffrage, that we, as humans, should each have. I stand with you. I feel your pain and suffering. 

I say peoples, and not people, of Hong Kong because it's a diverse city comprised of so many backgrounds, beliefs, national and ethnic origins, race, religions and sexualities, all of whom are united to defend the freedom that Hong Kong has enjoyed over the past decades. It is precisely this freedom that has allowed Hong Kong to become a cultural, economic and political beacon in the East to so many.
Hong Kong today, September 28, 2014. Courtesy: CNN.
Governments like China cannot endure, at least not in their current form, especially in this new digital age. And a simple spark can lead to something revolutionary. The way governments work is a new game for this next century—people can demand their voices to be heard, more so than ever before and I believe what is right will prevail. Hong Kong has been so prosperous because of the equality and freedom—freedom of assembly, of expression, of information, of the press, of speech—that has existed over the past several decades. I don't think there is anywhere as prepared as Hong Kong to remind us that freedom is truly not free and must be defended daily.

My heart hurts and I am saddened seeing the devastating photos come out of Hong Kong, photos of streets that I have walked on and admired. But it also makes me proud of the citizens of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, just like as in American cities, these shouldn't be seen as embarrassments, but rather, a functioning civil society able to hold thoughtful conversations and stand up for what they believe in. The government is the entity that should be embarrassed for their oppressive response and for governing without the consent of the governed.

That's why I also think, for me, I find stories like "The Hunger Games" so powerful, because people are living out these scenarios each and every day. It's quite inspirational if you think about it.

Night lights in Hong Kong, Summer 2013.

"Echoing Tiananmen, 17-year-old Hong Kong student prepares for democracy battle"
CNN and CNN International
—"Fear has been deeply rooted in our genes through the past 65 years. The majority of China's 1.3 billion people are not true citizens; most of the people are simply submissive."
—"You can form political parties in Hong Kong. You can publish books that are forbidden in mainland China. The media can criticize the central government and the chief executive of Hong Kong."
—"Mainland China is a tinderbox that's been physically suppressed by the authorities, and Hong Kong is a seed of fire."
—"The Communist Party is very scared of this tiny bit of land, because if true universal suffrage can blossom in Hong Kong, it is very likely true universal suffrage will end up happening in the mainland."