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."

My thoughts on Glass, integrity and the free flow of information

Today, I received this e-mail from my Macroeconomics Professor at +The George Washington University: "That means that Google glass and similar devices are NOT allowed during assignments..." 



I am happy that my Professor is starting this type of conversation about +Google Glass  nd new technologies so swiftly and transparently.

Certainly, as an Explorer, these situations where Glass is singled out, are expected, just like +Cecilia Abadie fighting her traffic ticket today (http://goo.gl/UN60mo) or those told to leave restaurants (http://goo.gl/neb8zf). I agree Glass should not be used during exams. Yet, it is utterly irresponsible for those in authority to single new devices like Glass, which functions just as smartphones and tablets do, in this manner. Certainly, this period of testing is where society is educating itself and distinguishing what is real and what is exaggerated by the media, both its features and limitations. For example, having Glass rest on top your head like sunglasses indoors will not enable a student to cheat and is not a qualification of cheating, just like having a phone in your pocket. However, this type of conversation is good to start.

While I don't know if this e-mail is directed to me currently, I do feel the need to share this information clearly and openly. Your feedback, both in agreement or disagreement, is encouraged.

We should embrace technology, especially with the potentials it offers education. More importantly, we should not create hysteria and spread misinformation. Finally, integrity, including in academics, is one of my core values and I believe a society well-educated in not only knowledge but also morals and values will not have these problems.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

From this point forward, I am reaffirming my commitment to act with integrity in an ethical and moral manner that takes into account my strict moral discipline, just like I did in 8th grade when I created study guides from public class notes and let information flow freely (allowing others to collaborate, build on top and download those guides at their own discretion) even after one teacher, with a complete opposite view than all the other parents, students and teachers, labeled it as a form of cheating.

You can learn more about my mission statement, vision and values here: