Liberty and the pursuit of happiness

November 2, 2020

As part of National Immigrants Day on Oct. 28, Dr. Hi-Dong Chai shared his incredible life journey from his home at The Terraces of Los Gatos.

 The “American Dream” is not always easy to achieve for those fortunate enough to be born and raised in this country. But for Dr. Hi-Dong Chai, now a resident at The Terraces of Los Gatos, it’s been a lifelong pursuit.

“I no longer have to figure out where I should sit in a bus; I no longer have to figure out which restroom I should go into,” he said in a speech to his neighbors at The Terraces.

Born in Korea, Dr. Chai spent WWII under Japanese rule and the Korean War under North Korean rule. After his father, a Christian minister, was kidnapped in front of him, never to be seen again, his mother put him on a boat to the U.S. when he was 16 years old.

After arriving on the docks of San Francisco, he washed dishes and cleaned toilets to make ends meet. Over the next several years, he received scholarships and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering. In graduate school he met Phyllis, a nursing student. They’ve been married 57 years and have two children.

Dr. Chai’s journey wasn’t without challenges — segregationist policies during his studies, discrimination from Phyllis’ parents when he asked for her hand, and severe depression and guilt over the disappearance of his father.

But Dr. Chai’s story is like that of most immigrants — one of perseverance and determination. His career saw him work at IBM and San Jose State University, and he’s the author of several books. One is a memoir about his mother, with whom he eventually reunited with in the U.S.

Today, Dr. Chai is a regular contributor to The Rag, a resident-published magazine at The Terraces. He also regularly reflects on his unique path and how much has changed in his lifetime.

“I no longer worry about sitting alone in a pew because people come and sit beside me at church,” says Dr. Chai. “Americans have come a long way, and I am very proud and grateful to be an American.”

Read the story in the Patch: https://patch.com/california/losgatos/liberty-pursuit-happiness

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