Our guest today: Van Le
“I must have been six or seven years old. I remember gun battles, unmanned helicopters, soldiers deserting. As I looked around, I saw candy stores that no one was watching and thought…could we go get that candy?”
Van Le recalls his last memories of Vietnam before he left with his father, grandmother and eight brothers and sisters in April 1975 during the Fall of Saigon.
My special guest on the feisworld podcast is Van Le. We first met in 2006 and kept in touch ever since. Van is now the father of two adorable children and runs his law practice at Van Paul Le, PC Law Firm in Dorchester, MA.
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Van Le has a genuine and compassionate soul. He is an entertainer who can make anyone laugh. He is a friend who is easy and comforting to be around.
Many people, myself included, find these qualities foreign and perhaps a little bit strange when it comes to describing a lawyer. For years, I’ve been eager to sit down with Van and find out about his secret origin. What exactly made him who he is today?
In this episode, Van speaks to us about his journey from the Fall of Saigon, to Commonwealth School, Harvard University (and running the biggest student organization at Harvard called Phillips Brooks House as the President during Junior and Senior year), running (and winning) a campaign for the Mayor of Cambridge, one year of public service in the Philippines, the Sports Philanthropy Project and most recently launching his own law practice.
I was shocked by how little I knew about Van and his incredible life journey after knowing him all these years.
My challenge to you today: with a recorder turned on or off, try asking your family or friend a series of questions and I bet you will be surprised how much more you will learn about them . Perhaps you will want to write about them. My guests always tell me how much they enjoyed sharing their experience and packaging them into a one-hour conversation.
Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, please leave your comment below and share the podcast with your family and friends. Your support will keep me on track and bring many other unsung heroes to this podcast.
Soundbites from my interview with Van Le:
Leaving Vietnam in April 1975
We were “Boat People” and only a third of us made it to the United States. We were refugees and not immigrants. Refugees are not prepared. My older sisters had the wisdom to take many family pictures with them. We went out into the ocean, not knowing where we would land.
When we were rescued by the American ship. I remember looking up at a bunch of white American males with crewcut hair, and they all looked the same to me. As a 6 year old, I remember playing with the bullets and throwing them into the ocean.
My father was one of fourteen children and he grew up poor. By the time we fled Vietnam, he had a sugar factory, ownership stakes in banks and petroleum. As a child, I remember playing in the tropical rain. I knew there was a war going on but thought it was far from me.
First Stop in America Harrisburg PA (1975-78)
Our family first arrived in Harrisburg PA (1975-58). We went to Catholic School and local community donated clothes and furniture to us. We received a lot of charity, knowing our father went from multi-millionaire to having nothing at all.
When you receive a lot, part of you wants to help people in some ways.
My family always had the ethics for education and real emphasis on learning – ‘it’s something they can’t take away from you’, they always said.
I applied to Commonwealth School (I still don’t know why I got in). These were exceptional and very privileged kids from established old money families. Though I had straight As, I was no longer the hotshot. Commonwealth School introduced me to critical thinking which is so important for a child. In Asia, education often is focused on memorization. It was the first time for me to be exposed to this type of education. I want to credit Commonwealth for the time and effort they invested in me. It’s a place where you are encouraged to express yourself. Although I was Asian, I had my fair share of roles at Commonwealth from creative writing, singing to dancing. For me, it was a outlet to the new world I was seeing. I was thrown from inner city to the upper crust society. My summers were not in Europe, but finding anything I could do to make a living. None of it came from my family.
Subconsciously, I feel that I owe someone something. At Harvard, so many opportunities were opened up to you. I did a lot of public service in college and I enjoyed it. We put together programs that did not take us to the Ivory Tower but back to the housing projects, to the real problems of society. Those four years were supposed to gear you up to Wall Street and lead to a very lucrative rest of your life. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t do any public service, I would continue to look the other way. ‘Here’s your ticket to a better life!’ For whatever reason, I made college those critical years that shaped my view that enabled me to connect with people.
Phillips Brooks House (largest student organization at Harvard)
Phillips Brooks House is the largest student organization (now over 1,600 student volunteers) doing all kinds of public service programs from running summer camps, to teaching in prisons, homeless shelters, organizing unions, advocating for the environment. I became the President of the Organization during Junior and Senior year at Harvard.
It was leadership training. At an early age, you were asked to manage staff, put together budget, curriculum for kids (and you are 19!). It was more rewarding to me than helping other people because I was the one being helped. My other classmates too were exposed to these opportunities that challenge you to all aspects.
We had 13 camp counselors, 13 junior counselors from high school, 1 Deputy Director, 1 Director and 8 of these programs were running in parallel.
One Year of Public Service, Rockefeller Fellowship
With a Rockefeller Fellowship, I worked at a refugee camp in Philippines for a year. At Harvard, I had roommates who knew exactly what they wanted to do – business school, law school and they had a clear path. I didn’t get the memo and I didn’t do any of that. After one year of public service, I decided to go back to law school.
Campaign Manager for Ken Reeves (Mayor of Cambridge)
At age 22, I ran a local campaign and worked for the local mayor of Cambridge, Ken Reeves. I was his second campaign manager. He was doing very well and halfway through the campaign, he came to me and told he was gay. We didn’t care and ran the campaign based on the strength of his experience, relationship in the community and track record. He won, and he is now the godfather of my daughter.
It was an incredible experience because they made law school not only fun and challenging, but also practical and useful. I worked in great firms when I was still in school, many of whom remain my colleagues to this day.
Sports Philanthropy Project (SPP)
Sometimes you get a job that challenges all aspects of your experience. At SPP, we were consulting for professional sports team at the league level. SPP received a grant from Rob Johnson to promote public health. The theory was that professional sports are excellent at effective messaging. In America and many parts of the world, sports are attention grabbers and people fanatical about their teams. I don’t really follow sports and I met a lot of these folks from NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. but didn’t know they were famous.
Our goal was to put emphasis on impacts rather than hats and shirts. We had a role in setting up and getting people thinking about philanthropic effort. The fund did not renew so the current team and effort are now in conjunction with University of Washington in DC.
There’s training available in sports philanthropy. It’s not rocket science but a platform to apply your positive impact on the community. There is one project that took place In Cincinnati, where there was a history of racism. The challenge was: how do you promote diversity? One simple idea we came up with was to invite kids to play sports together from different areas. In turn, our goal was to increase health and fitness of these kids together. We treated kids as clients.
I decided to open up a law practice in the Dorchester Community, primarily focusing in real estate and general business. My previous experience was part law, part consultant and corporate philanthropy particularly in the sports sector and non profit organizations. About half of my clients are Vietnamese, the other half are African American, Latino American and Asian Americans.
What is the service, vision you hope to provide to your clients?
I remember one partner from a previous law firm said to me: “When clients come to you, they are not just looking for legal advice. They are looking for holistic advice that’s part legal.” I tried to bring a world view to my legal practice. I have my client’s best interest in mind.
A good lawyer isn’t someone who gives legal advice, but complete advice well grounded in experience.
What’s your view on entrepreneurship, or someone who’s looking to become a lawyer or hoping to start his/her law practice?
- Everyone is different and everyone has different realities. All I can say from my own experience is that it’s helpful to be open to new things and try to live a life you want (not what your parents want, or how others may approve or disapprove). Give yourself a break and a chance. If you don’t, you will regret it.
- You really can’t predict your life or anyone else’s for that matter. My life is a testament because it’s so serendipitous and unpredictable.
- Be ready for the diversity of life as well as situations and opportunities. Don’t track yourself too early.
- The importance of love in everything we do.
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Van Le 0:00
When you’re a child, you will remember, I think just images and some scenes like almost in the movie without really understanding what’s going on. And that was certainly the day. That was my experience. The day that we left. I remember seeing, you know, gun battle helicopter unmanned helicopters. You know, soldiers did deserting, hearing gunshots.
Fei Wu 0:30
Vaughn recalled his last memories of Vietnam before he left with his father, grandmother, and eight brothers and sisters in April 1975, during the fall of Saigon. My special guest today on the face world podcast is Vaughn Lee. We first met in 2006 and kept in touch ever since. Vaughn is now the father of two adorable children, and runs his own law practice at Vaughn Paul Lee law firm in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Vaughn has a genuine and compassionate soul. He’s an entertainer who can make anyone laugh. He’s a friend, who is easy and comforting to be around. Many people, myself included, find these qualities foreign and perhaps a little bit strange when it comes to describing a lawyer. For years, I’ve been eager to sit down with Vaughn and find out about his secret origin. What exactly made him into who he is today. In this episode, Vaughn speaks to us about his journey from the fall of Saigon to come and while school, Harvard University, and running the biggest student organization at Harvard, called Phillips Brooks House, as the President during both junior and senior year, as well as running a campaign for the mayor of Cambridge, and one when you’re a public service in Philippines, the sports philanthropy project, and most recently launching his own law practice. I was shocked by the end of the conversation, just how little I knew about Vaughn had his incredible life journey. So my challenge to you today is when you get a chance with a recorder or not, try asking your friend or your colleague, or your family members a series of questions. And I bet you’ll be surprised to perhaps you’ll want to write about them. My guests always tell me how much just how much they enjoy sharing their experiences, and packaging them into an hour conversation with me. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy this interview with Vaughn Lee. And I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to share his journey and wisdom with you. soundbites, bytes, links and other resources are available on my website at face world.com F e i s wo rld. If you enjoy this episode, I welcome that you check out other episodes also on my podcast. It’d be great if you consider writing a review for me on iTunes, Stitcher and share with your families and friends.
So I am here live with Bom Lee and I have a big smile on my face. Because I feel like that’s one feeling I always get from you. Every time go for them. So I’m hanging out every time I talk to you, you just put a smile on my face.
Van Le 3:48
Oh, thank you very much the feeling the feeling is very mutual. And over the years, it’s been wonderful to keep up our friendship and I really appreciate your coming.
Fei Wu 3:59
Yeah, that’s that’s great. And I realized if I ask people to guess what your profession is, and perhaps happiness smiling and comfort doesn’t quite naturally derive from the title lawyer. No.
Van Le 4:16
And sometimes I do feel like, you know, the work is is very different from what I would like to do on a daily basis. But there’s so many good parts of practicing law. You’re really solving people’s problems. A lot of times and that is a part of you know, the joy that I get from my work. I’m I’m almost 50 It’s the bio is no long but in a nutshell. I have a law practice in the inner city of Boston Dorchester community. I work with immigrants put regularly in the areas of real estate in general business, which is more my background, but I had previous experiences during my legal career where I worked as a consultant, part law, but mostly consultant in corporate philanthropy, mostly in the sports sector. And Prague prior to going to law school, I did a lot of public service and nonprofit work. So that’s a special my work history.
Fei Wu 5:32
That’s great. And why did you choose Dorchester? Massachusetts?
Van Le 5:36
Well, I’m Vietnamese American, and, you know, the Vietnamese community really grew out of this base here, I think it must be five to 10,000. I, you know, the, the numbers are not very accurate because the community changes a lot. But it’s really centered here. So I have a nice base of Vietnamese clients. I think that about half of my clients are Vietnamese, and the other half are diverse. You know, this area is very diverse. We have Cape Verde, and we have, of course, African American, the you know, you have Irish Americans. You have a thriving Latino community also here. So I think I’m operating in a very diverse community here.
Fei Wu 6:25
And we, you know, we talked about your background before we hit record the recording button. Okay. The fact that you came to this country, you came to this country when you’re a little boy, five years old? I
Van Le 6:39
Yeah. Yeah. Roughly, I, when I left Vietnam, I was about six, seven years old. And this is 1975, Black April, when you’re a child, you will remember, I think, just images and some scenes, like almost in the movie, without really understanding what’s going on. And that was certainly the day. That was my experience. The day that we left, I remember seeing, you know, gun battle helicopter unmanned helicopters, you know, soldiers deserting, hearing gunshots. And when you’re a little boy, you don’t really know, everything that’s going on. I remember thinking, wow, you know, there are stores with candies in it. And that’s empty. I wonder, we can just get the candy. That’s all what I was thinking about. I didn’t really know what was going on. And certainly my father told us that we were just going on a vacation, and then we won’t be back for a while. Little did we know that we would flee by boats. We were both people in 75, fleeing when Vietnam was falling, and we basically fled by boat out to the ocean, and we were picked up by the Filipino ship working with the American Navy. And so, you know, my story is one of a million Vietnamese Americans who came over this way. And many Actually, only 1/3 made it. So there’s two thirds who get you know, either die or get caught. And then they have to go back to Vietnam. So I Yes, I was one of the fortunate ones, boat people who made it to America in 1975. We were refugees. We’re not immigrants, immigrants. You know the difference? I think as you are, you know, you by choice, you decided to migrate to another country for a better future or what have you. But refugees, you’re fleeing from your country. And you don’t really you’re not really prepared, it was really not by choice. You don’t have the, the as many options, and you don’t get to bring many things with you. You basically, I remember my sister who, there’s nine children, my family, my oldest sister had the wisdom of taking the most valuable things with her. And that was pictures, old family pictures that are irreplaceable. So she took a lot of pictures. My dad he took as much you know, jewelry, but at the time, the Vietnamese currency was worth nothing. So you know, we didn’t really take much money with us. We just took whatever things we had in the game, we just went out into the ocean and not knowing where we would land. So that that’s, you know, unfortunately, was the experience of many people who fled in 1975.
Fei Wu 9:43
It’s a it’s an amazing survival survival story, ya
Van Le 9:48
know, I do remember I mean, you know, talk about, you know, people looking the same when I want to when we were rescued by the American ship. I remember looking at Roll of maybe 2030 white males with, you know, all like poop cut hair and they all look the same. It was it was was bizarre. So wow, they all look the same. But yeah, and I also remember, you know, on our little boat, there were deserts, soldiers who had deserted than they were dumping their guns and bullets into the ocean. And I remember, as a six year old I was, you know, playing with bullets, rounds of bullets and also dropping them into the ocean because you know, these weapons were certainly no good anymore time.
Fei Wu 10:38
I wonder when your your childhood story is drastically different than you know those from various parts of the states?
Van Le 10:48
Well, I mean, you know, there were people who fled by boat, we were boat people, a so called bow people. And there were people who fled by land, from Vietnam over to Cambodia and Thailand. And then there were people who were related and connected to the US government. And they were airlifted out, and so they were the select few who got cut out that way. But and then after 75, there were immigration programs that allowed the orderly departure. It’s called ODP. And there’s other programs that allowed the Vietnamese to reunite with their families over here. Or if they were persecuted by the Vietnamese government, they could also apply for an you know, as an immigrant, to come over under special immigration programs with the US government. But those numbers are very little, I would say the vast majority of people fled in 75. But then again, in 78. And then throughout the 80s, there, there were still a lot of folks who were fleeing Vietnam. But those were the major waves, I would say,
Fei Wu 12:00
Well, I’ve never had this complete picture of what happened. And I also heard that prior to this image that you painted, that your family was very well off and had a very comfortable life.
Van Le 12:12
Well, it’s funny, you know, you know, fortune comes and goes. And that’s sort of the truth. True for my dad, he was one of 14 children, a farmer and farming family, and he grew up poor. But by the time he was 38, and by the time that we fled Vietnam, he had a sugar factory he had, he had ownership stakes in banks, lumber mills, petroleum, he did very well for himself. But, you know, at that time, he was viewed as aligned with the US government and solely a threat to the Vietcong back then so he was targeted, he was actually they tried to assassinate him many times, because he refused to pay what they said, Were taxes owed to liberated, liberated lands that he had owned. But that’s going back to the politics of that era. But we, you know, we certainly had a life back in Vietnam. And as a child, I remember running around playing in the tropical rains with my kid, my friends, my childhood friends, and, you know, a lot of pleasant memories. I, you know, I didn’t know that there was a war, but it was always somewhere else and not where I was. So I didn’t really understand that the country was at war. I just remember that. And seeing in the news that there were stories of war and, and death, but that, you know, was still far from from me until we really had to leave and then still, I didn’t know much what was going on. I six years old. Yeah. Six years old. Yeah. But
Fei Wu 13:53
the first that’s the first destination I heard that you arrived was not in Boston?
Van Le 13:58
No, no. So I mean, a lot of thanks to the US government at that time, I think President of Ford was was primarily involved, but they had a program to evacuate and to basically allow Vietnamese who fled Vietnam to be first processed, if you will, in the Philippines, in the refugee camp. That’s when I was first introduced to Bugs Bunny, which is fantastic. Wow, this is no we watched movies all day with you know, cartoons and had food as it was is great because it really was a vacation except it was probably a one way ticket. So from there, we were processed again in the in town gap which is outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And then my father knew a doctor who worked who operate on my mother in Vietnam, and he sponsored us, he and the Catholic parish in Pittsburgh, sponsored my family to live in Pittsburgh from 75 to 78. We, you know, got to go to Catholic school, we, the community donated furniture and clothes to us. I mean, it’s it was a wonderful time. And I remember receiving furniture from our house, our family received furniture from the frick family in Pittsburgh, and they were a very well known wealthy family. So it was we certainly were welcomed, we were helped. We were we, we received a lot of charity. Which, which, which was a phenomenal thing, because my my father certainly was the by our standards, multimillionaire, but then we became what really was, you know, destitute people in a new land. Pittsburgh.
Fei Wu 16:00
Yeah. And I think for the past 30 years, philanthropy has been this consistent theme, regardless of other changes in your life. And I kind of see where that came from.
Van Le 16:12
Probably Probably, I think it came also from my mother, when I my, my memory of my mother is I think, and my grandmother, because mom and my mother passed away. I think it’s yeah, 73, she also left a memory of someone who was very warm and very giving. And my mother’s mother who, when my mother died, really took over and helped raise me, she was always very, you know, compassionate, and giving to anyone and strangers. So I think I mostly learned from those relationships. But then I also learned because it’s that subconscious, I’m not, you know, some kind of good person, but I think you just, you know, something just happens you, you receive a lot, and then you turn around and you, you do your share, and maybe it’s subconscious or intentional, I don’t know, but it’s always been a part of me to try to do something that, you know, helps people in some small way, you know, even as you try to provide for yourself, and, you know, take care of your family, if there’s a way that you can also help others in your community. That was always part of my ethic, I think.
Fei Wu 17:23
And I think he started doing really, really good things for the community for people in your around you at an early age. Excuse me, if I may, just quickly kind of fast forward, your years. A lot of stories I’ve heard about you is from high school. And I know I probably skipped over American elementary school, middle school, and please feel free to invoke any stories you find relevant. Not only that, you know, the hardship that your family lived through, I think your family, all your brothers and sisters have done very well for themselves. And you in particular, you know, I’m not sure if you read I think US News or the Fortune magazine basically mentioned the Commonwealth school here in Boston, Massachusetts, and particularly on Newbury Street. Commonwealth school is ranked I think, number one in the country, I think. And it’s amazing. And that’s a that’s a high school you attended and, and then later on, you went on to Harvard. So could you tell me something along the line of perhaps how you how you applied and, and how you’ve kept your focus?
Van Le 18:30
Sure, I really have to, I’m not just trying to be humble or, you know, a false modesty, whatever. I really think it was luck. I mean, I think as you’ve heard, it was luck that we made it over here. It was luck that, you know, we were helped by so many people. And it was luck that I also did okay in school because, well, first of all, my family always had the ethic for education. My, my father, my mother, they’ve always placed a real emphasis on education. That’s one thing that they said that people can’t take away from you is your education. So they always stressed the importance of doing you know, doing well in school. I actually went to public school and we were too poor to even think about private school. So someone recruited me was someone in the in some summer program for inner city kids and Linda and Jane, these two wonderful people told me that, hey, you did very well in Boston Latin Academy. Why don’t you apply to private school and I didn’t even know what what it was aware of who you know, how do you start? So she they literally took me down to the Commonwealth school and nobody my family knew that I had applied. I you know, there was no way we would have money I mean, back in he’d nating at three $5,000 was a lot of money. I think it’s the equivalent of, you know, probably 25 $30,000. Now, I don’t know. But it was a lot of money. And we certainly did not have that as an option. But I applied, I got in, I don’t, I still don’t know why I got because, you know, the class. These were, you know, I think exceptional kids, children of mostly professional and well to do folks, you know, established old money folks who, you know, Brookline and Cambridge and Wellesley, and these were, I would say, I would say very, very privileged and very well prepared kids. And although I had straight A’s in public school, I nearly flunked my first year at Caldwell school in 10th grade, I was no longer a hotshot. And so I had to relearn a lot of things. I, they introduced critical thinking, which is so important, as a child. You a lot of times, especially in Asia, I think learning is about rote memory and your ability to regurgitate. But at Commonwealth school, and with many good schools, I think the emphasis is no longer, you still remember things, but it was more important to, to train your brain to critically think and analyze things. And that’s that’s the first time that I was really exposed to that. And, and I think I credit Commonwealth for for, for doing that. That was very well done that it was a lot of time and effort that they had invested in me.
Fei Wu 21:40
Yeah, this is amazing, because the Commonwealth reputation, it’s really known in our community, and I don’t know, as well as the rest of the country. But I would imagine, when I talk to my friends in Hong Kong, she’s like, of course, of course, I’ve heard of Commonwealth, and this is someone from Hong Kong five years ago. So let’s, I was wondering, Did you receive any type of scholarship?
Van Le 22:03
I did, I did. I they. So the package, the package, I remember was half it was from Carlos Cohen, you know, it was not a well to do a well established school, it may be highly regarded now. And it was, I think, highly regarded back then. But it was more like an experimental renegade school, we’re going to take these, you know, 3040 kids, and we’re gonna treat them like adults, and we’re going to let them know, we’re gonna get them to learn and think, you know, and to get ready for college and life, you know, as you know, as much as possible. And I think that’s, that was the experiment really. And, more importantly, it was also a community where they really tried to promote an ethic of being a part of community we, you know, we, we, we took turns doing school chores. We tried to look after each other, you know, and the fact that it was so small, you know, you really, you really had to, people just knew if you did your homework or not, and it was just really hard. I mean, so,
Fei Wu 23:19
I love how you sound it’s So, still so humble and very serious this far, but I’m going to go quickly, that what you were really known for it a Commonwealth back in the 80s. Were theater, dancing, singing, acting, creative writing. Yeah. So talk about though,
Van Le 23:40
yeah, sure. I think. I think I think it was a community that allowed you to express yourself and if you were afraid of failing, you know, you you would, I think, allow yourself to be creative. And although I also practice martial arts, I always enjoyed the creative self expression. And although I was Asian, I had my fair share of, of, you know, roles at in the play the Commonwealth. And we also took dance and we also the creative writing, and I very much enjoyed that it for me, it was an outlet for the new worlds I was seeing. I mean, I was thrown from an inner city, you know, immigrant refugee background to, you know, the Applecross Brahmin, you know, society really of at Commonwealth school. And, you know, it’s, you know, my summers were not in Europe, or in Hawaii, my summers were, you know, doing, you know, anything I could do to make money, so I forgot and so half it was half of my tuition. schmooze Commonwealth, you know, probably 20% of it was money that I had to work to make to pay for my my own tuition, none of it as a 1514 per year, none of it came from my family. And the state also had a little bit of scholarship money. So I was always one who benefited from a lot of these things. So, you know, maybe subconsciously, I feel like I owe somebody something. And that’s maybe part of the reasons why I continue to try to, you know, do something that benefits others to in my, in my life, or during my career.
Fei Wu 25:36
And I think the next part of your journey from Commonwealth was Harvard University, right? As much as you want to say that you were not a great student, or you got lucky. How many times could you get lucky for as well?
Van Le 25:48
Well, I, again, this is not not false modesty, I think back in the 80s, yes, you know, Harvard, or any of the ivy League’s or top schools were very hard to get into. But fast forward, 2530 years later, it’s only become, I think, what, four or five times as hard because as the world produces, you know, more and more top notch students. But anyway, so I do feel I was lucky to get into Harvard, I was also lucky to get enough scholarship that enabled me to go there. And, you know, I really enjoyed Harvard, I mean, not not, because I really do believe that you can get a good education, wherever there are good teachers, and the branding really helps. But for me, what’s more important with the students who were just amazing, so I felt my classmates were, were a big part of it, of the of the, of the special experience. But also the opportunities, I mean, you know, it’s, it’s just so many things are opened up to you at that university. And those were the two big things. And the third thing is, I did a lot of public service in college. And the reason, actually, I don’t know what the reason was, again, but I enjoyed it, we, we were able to put together programs and do things that were not in the ivory tower that took you back to the housing projects that took you back to the real problems of society. And you know, even though those four years are supposed to be a gearing you up for Wall Street, and, you know, a, probably a sheltered, very lucrative rest of your life. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t do some of the public service work, I would continue to look the other way at the social programs, you know, because you know, you, you know, you struggled you, you know, you came from a broken community or broken background, and here’s your chance to, you know, Here’s your ticket, you know, ticket, you know, by choice to port to a better life, right. But for whatever reason, I mean, I also made college, some very critical years where it really shaped, I think, My my, my view of how I should relate to people and my role in society. And it’s become a more inclusive idea that I do feel that I’m connected to other people. And that really came from my years at Harvard Law School, I think,
Fei Wu 28:24
let’s talk about Phillips. Phillips.
Van Le 28:28
Sure. What is that? Actually? It’s, yeah, it’s just a student organization that probably has, it’s the largest one that probably has 11 to 1200 student volunteers doing all kinds of public service programs from running summer camps to teaching in prisons, to homeless shelters to organizing unions, you know, to advocating for the environment, you name it. It’s basically an org, a student run organization that promotes public service.
Fei Wu 28:57
What was your role? And what type of activities have you participated?
Van Le 29:01
Short? Well, I lived during my summers at Harvard, I lived in a housing project in Cambridge to work with inner city kids. And then I later ran that summer program. And then I became the student president of that organization.
Fei Wu 29:16
For how long would make junior senior year? Well,
Van Le 29:19
yeah. So sophomore year, I was a vice president, and then junior year, I was the president of the organization. And it was it was great. It was no, it was leadership training tool. I mean, because at an early age, you’re asked to, like manage a staff put together a budget, raise money, you know, put together a curriculum to teach the kids I mean, even as you’re like, going to college and trying to excel in school. So, you know, I think was was more rewarding to me than, you know, helping other people. I feel like I was being helped because I, at an early age, I was expanded and my other classmates too, were exposed to these Some wonderful opportunities that really challenge you in all aspects. It makes you think that Well, it’s, you know, you know, taking a test is easy compared to having to run a program for 200 inner city kids while to your 19. Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of kids, I mean, in these programs. So
Fei Wu 30:20
how big was the team that you manage?
Van Le 30:23
Well, we had 13. One summer, we had 13 camp counselors, and we had, you know, 13 Junior camp counselors who were high school students from the housing projects. And then we had a deputy director and myself as director of the program. And we close books house was running eight of these programs, you know, throughout the neighborhoods, Chinatown. Roxbury, Mission Hill, Cambridge, you know, Austin, Brighton. And so that’s just one of the things they did. And so we did a lot of that public service in college.
Fei Wu 31:00
So after four years of Harvard, how did you land your first job? And like for you, I would imagine, you’re, you’re very have a very multifaceted life. And you’re equipped with many skills.
Van Le 31:12
You know, right after college, I received a Rockefeller fellowship, and I went back to work in the refugee camps in the Philippines for a year. Yeah, that was a fabulous year, because basically, you got to go to a neat place. Yes, you were doing public service, but you are traveling to. And so that was a wonderful year, and I came back. Not, I feel like, you know, you can be on a track, and a lot of my classmates were tracked, and that sometimes I envy them. Because, you know, I had roommates in college, who knew that they were going to go to medical school or law school or business school, and they needed to get, you know, this grade point average. And this my Discord, you know, I somehow I didn’t get the memo. I didn’t do any of that. And then I remember, you know, after coming back from my year abroad, doing public service work, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do. But I had the idea that I would like law, because a lot of the things that I was dealing with, with involve policy involve, you know, laws that work or don’t work. And I thought that that might be an interesting thing to do. So I kind of backed into go to law school. You know, I came back and did a year where I ran a local campaign, and I worked for the mayor of Cambridge for a year before I went to law school. So you know, talk about taking the safe route, you know, they statistically, most Harvard students would become either a doctor or lawyer or get an MBA. So it’s statistically it’s sadly tracked like that. But maybe, you know, what else would you do? Maybe, I wonder, I think it’s still very statistically, those were the safe things to do, which is, you know, get an MBA, get a law degree or become a doctor, those are your choices.
Fei Wu 33:16
Yeah. So I think you already started talking about her being a campaign manager, and I don’t want to change the your actual title. What was that experience? Like?
Van Le 33:26
Well, quickly? Well, you know, I can remember when he first ran, he didn’t make it. So the second time he ran was when I was his campaign manager. And he did make it and I think it has a lot to do with the demographics and who was running at the time, but we were lucky. He, he did very well. But I remember halfway through the campaign, he came out and he told me oh, by the way, I’m a, you know, I’m gay. I remember looking at him and saying, you know, this is when it was not popular to be gay. Especially if you’re trying to get votes from black churchgoers. It was not something that you know, we thought would really help the campaign but we didn’t care. I mean, you know, we we ran the campaign on the strength of his experience, his his track record, and his relationships in the community. And so I remember telling him I can you know, I love you as a person. I don’t care. You know, you’re gay or straight or whatever. I just I want to win. I want I want these, these issues are too important. We need to get you in there. He treated
Fei Wu 34:36
you like a strategist.
Van Le 34:40
How do you know? No, I was No, I was 22. I just graduated from college. I ran it for six, six months before going on my Rockefeller fellowship. And when I came back when he was mayor, I worked for him for a year but so that was kind of the the timeline but I was Asian working in the In the African American community, and this is in the early 80s, you know, gay gays were, were still being beaten in the streets. I mean, that’s it was a horrible time. But I, you know, I, I did work as his campaign manager. Yes, they definitely strategy. I mean, as you know, a campaign is really set up to convey messages, you know, because you really trying to convince voters that you’re, you’re the right person for them on the issues. And, yes, a lot of a lot of strategy has to go into it, and then you, you got to get the message out, you got to kind of be persuasive. And then you got to get the people to actually come out and vote for you. And these are folks who have, they have not voted for you in the past that you’re new. So that’s the another element. But it was fun, very fun. I mean, and when he became mayor, I worked for him in local politics. And I, I very, I very soon realized that, you know, government and public life is not easy at all. And a lot of times what is put out there is not the truth, necessarily. But it’s involves a lot of spin, you know, people spinning stories and hoping that people can get their view of the world. You know, out there. But anyway, yeah, so I it was very interesting. It was very eye opening, to say the least you guys are so fun. Oh, yeah. He’s the godfather of my daughter. Yeah. Yeah. So I know, we just I just saw him a couple of weeks ago at dinner. And
Fei Wu 36:37
this is some odd years later,
Van Le 36:39
since 85, almost 30 years. Wow. Yeah. 30 years, almost 30 years.
Fei Wu 36:44
And that’s your first job. And as a lawyer,
Van Le 36:48
yes, yes. Yes. Well, and then I went to law school and law went to Northeastern law school.
You know, it’s an incredible community. Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. It’s an incredible experience. Because it may they made law school fun, exciting, intellectually challenging, but also practical and useful. I, I worked in some great firms when I wasn’t at law school. And I met great people whom many of whom are my colleagues now in practicing law. So yeah, law school was great. And my, my first job was with a big law firm, I came out with a lot of debt. And this was a quick way of dealing with 80% of it. So yeah, so I worked for, for a lot, a big law firm, doing mostly corporate law. At that time, we one of the big clients we had was Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. And I was, you know, a lower level associate, we did a lot of contracts, and you know, a lot of paperwork, stuff that I think the average person would find, amazingly boring, but it was, it was very fast paced. There were a lot of transactions based. This is during the tech bubble years, where, you know, if you had an idea, people would throw money at it right away with, and so we were all a part of that.
Fei Wu 38:28
That’s great. I mean, it’s a very well known law firm. Is it possible to reference the name?
Van Le 38:33
Yeah, I mean, you could but let’s just say it’s, you know, it’s one of the bigger law firms in Boston and they, they specialized in leveraged buyouts that they were now known for corporate transactions for the most part. They did a lot of things while they still do a lot of things well, but I think that their corporate practice was just enormous country full you know, they they were very well regarded in the top 25 firms in the in the country for their corporate practice, but anyway,
Fei Wu 39:11
but anyway, let’s move on to the very fun topic and I think the audience will find very intriguing which is SPP, which stands for sports,
Van Le 39:21
yeah, sports player three primary. Wow. Okay. That’s, you know, it’s it’s, it’s funny, sometimes you run into, sometimes you get a job where it really challenges different aspects of your experience and background. And so it’s doing philanthropy which is a big part of my my my experience in a corporate setting, but in but mainly the sports industry. So we were really doing, you know, consulting, for professional sports, at the team level at the league and also at the league level, we received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to promote public health. And the theory was we would work with professional sports. Because professional sports, they’re excellent at messaging. Think about Coca Cola, or Bank of America, let’s say or some other large corporations where they would partner with the local team or the league level to get their branding out. So the theory was, well, why can’t we as nonprofit or philanthropic folks, partner with them to get our messaging out, and it could be anti smoking, it could be fighting childhood obesity, it could be wear your seatbelts, it could be save the environment, it could mean anything. And they’re so effective at getting the message out, because let’s face it in America, and many parts of the world, sports is, is a big attention grabber people are sometimes even fanatical about their team. And so the idea was, we would work with these professional entities, and also athletes to leverage their assets to promote a social cause. And one of the things that I did was to work on shattered obesity issues. And we also worked on, you know, teams specific charitable causes, it could be, you know, to fight cancer or something, or it could be something that is unique, or to that particular team. And we did that for about 10 years. It was it was it was really was interesting was rewarding. It was excuses. 10 a lot of sports, sporting events, and meeting people that I didn’t know were famous. Well, I don’t I don’t I again, I don’t know because I I’m not believe or not, I don’t really follow sports. And so when I meet famous people, or people who are now retired, but were no big in their in their time, I met a lot of these folks, but I don’t remember them as much I work more with team ownership and management. And I also worked with folks at the league level, whether it be major league baseball, or the NFL, or the NBA. It’s this was a few years back, but it was it was a very nice gig. And we did a lot of good because we, for a while we believe when before we started, a lot of the philanthropy that we saw in professional sports, was more about marketing and getting the brand down and less about impact, which is what are you actually doing to improve your community? And how are you really helping the people that you say you’re helping? So we we I think we played a role in changing the question and putting the emphasis on impact and return on investment rather than sort of hats and T shirts and you know, go team go kind of thing. We turned we were think we had a role in getting people to sit up and really thinking about how effective their philanthropic efforts were, were they actually really changing the lives of kids that they are purporting to help or not.
Fei Wu 43:36
Is SPP still thriving now?
Van Le 43:40
Well, we have a well, it lasted for a little more than 10 years now. A colleague of ours has it and runs it in conjunction with the University of Washington down in DC. Our grant ended with the Robert Johnson when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation did not renew. But we and that was because I think then 2008 with the financial crisis there, you know, there were lots of lots of cutbacks. But anyway, the the concept really caught on, there are folks who are now sports philanthropy consultants. So a whole new career. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I think I, I think more schools that have sports management programs are more focused on that aspect of professional sports. Now, you can actually take classes and get training in philanthropy in within the sports world. And but you know, it’s not rocket science. It’s really examining your efforts and having a layered approach so that you have an impact, a positive impact in the community. And that’s just, that’s just something that we try to get folks to do. And I think more people are doing that. Yeah, that’s,
Fei Wu 44:58
that’s fantastic. That’s great. At impact on the impact you’re trying to establish?
Van Le 45:03
Well, we like to think so because I mean, these, think of think of a sports team, like the Boston Red Sox, they have their athletes, they have the ownership, they have the corporate sponsors, they have a stadium, that, you know, they have the talents of the management, you know, they have tickets, they have the media access, they have instant celebrity right now status. And when they say something is a problem, the community thinks it’s a problem, because why they have the microphone. So, you know, we, we always thought that they were great. And also they have access, in some cases, to fundraising and wealth. Because the people who come to the games, the people who partner with them, the corporate partners, certainly also have their foundations, and the team has their own foundation, and the athletes have their own foundation. So there’s a lot of resources, that when you deploy them in a strategic fashion, you can really make an impact. And, you know, this is without stating the obvious. When a company, Cisco, Microsoft, anybody, when they want to take on, you know, when they when they want to increase market share, they will deploy every department, every aspect of their corporation to achieve increased market share? Well, in philanthropy, you do the same thing. I mean, if you really want to make an impact, you’re going to do everything, you’re going to have studies, you know, you’re going to have the right resources, you’re going to, you’re going to stick to it until you actually get, you know, make a difference. Right. So if if, if folks, if folks approach philanthropy, with the same vigor that companies, corporations approach, market share, you’re gonna make a difference. And so the question is, do you really want to do it or not? And that’s the question, do you really want to do this? Or are you just doing it just to say you’re doing it? And I think it’s refreshing when you meet people who really do want to make a difference. And they do want to hear your ideas and, and get help on how to really make an impact with their philanthropic investment.
Fei Wu 47:20
I think over the course of your career, at SPP, there must have been numerous stories you can reflect upon, and, you know, people that you helped people you saved and, or things or, you know, things different places schools built out just to make the community better. I feel like there’s a pool of stories.
Van Le 47:41
Yeah, well, I yeah, there certainly there certainly are. No, as, as consultants, we can’t really say, Hey, that was my idea. We’ve got the team to do that. So I’m not I’m not going to do that. But we did go to certain teams, and we, you know, did consulting, where we analyze what they were doing, and then we gave them some suggestions so that they can really look at what the needs were in the community. In Cincinnati, for example, and I won’t name the team, particularly, you know, there was a history of racism, what can you do? How can you promote that? Promote, I mean, diversity and understanding, and one simple thing you can do is to put a link together, where you have kids come together and play a sport together from different areas. That’s one simple thing that you can do. You could, for example, increase health and fitness of kids, if you not only got them together to play baseball, but you introduce certain, you know, health programs, like an eye clinic, or monitor their, their vital statistics. And, you know, make sure that they are covered with insurance. And so we we, we try to get them to think of these kids up not just as kids playing, but as you know, clients, as kids who can benefit from social services that these teams can really either provide directly or provide with their partners. I think sports
Fei Wu 49:18
teams are really good in a way that which I never thought about this before, is in advertising we talk about owned in terms of platforms you have owned, paid and earned. And I realized that when we add an example for our own network for UI would be like our website and you know, our Facebook page and LinkedIn profile before sports. It’s almost infinite, you know, take it stadium, all these access and resources.
Van Le 49:44
Exactly. It’s infinite day. I won’t exaggerate but they they have a lot of just access to the media. They have a lot of inkind stuff like the stadium tickets. Their athletes go to events for You promoting your cause for you? You know, the talents, the talents of the management and staff, the owners, I mean, just think about the owners most of the time, they’re millionaires, and they already come with their foundations, their corporate relationships, you know, and then you think about the vendors. And then you know, I mean, it’s, it’s a lot, I mean, just the access to media by itself is invaluable. I mean, that’s why a lot of nonprofits love to work with professional sports, because they can get so much awareness, you know. So, yeah, that that was a terrific time. And we, we did a lot of things that which I can’t talk about, but we we basically, I think, helped to improve foundations, their grant making, improve their some of their partnerships, when they’re working with certain causes. So it was a rewarding time. I know, I’m not speaking in terms of specifics. And that’s mostly because I cannot confidential information. But there’s, there’s one project that I think I can toggle because it was more public. And that was in Arizona, the taxpayers agreed to fund the building of the Cardinal Stadium. And the way they got that legislation through was that they would set aside a $20 million fund to promote youth sports and fitness in Maricopa County. And we, we came in, and we did some consulting, and we helped to form an organization that would administer the $20 million fund to promote physical fitness in Maricopa County. And that was something that was, I think, very effective, because now you had, instead of, you know, random grants here, and there, it was put back into the hands of the community, and administered by a board of community leaders to make sure that the funds have a positive effect in Maricopa County. So that was one, one thing that was a very public initiative that we that we helped us bond,
Fei Wu 52:18
that’s great. And thanks for sharing an example. And what I’m seeing here is sort of the circle of life of Hakuna Matata theme here. And, and really just, we’ve never completed the story of your life. And in sort of a setting like this, and continuously and the themes we’ve been talking about painting, you know, from Harvard, or even Commonwealth, that philanthropy, law, your knowledge and law, and then strategy when it comes to campaign management processes in terms of managing the team and, you know, financial aspects of things as well. All that kind of comes together, and some of the skills and keep repeating, I’m sure you’re harnessing on, and improving upon, and all that comes together to what who you are and what you do now, having independent practice, as we all know, that’s where all the work needs to come together. And you’re probably working harder and longer hours than I ever imagined. What is your vision? I think we talked about at the beginning, but maybe perhaps after talking about all this, it makes even more makes more sense of what is your vision? What is the service you hope to provide to your clients?
Van Le 53:32
Well, I remember, I think I was trained well, at the big firm, because there were some really sharp shooters, there are some really great mentors. And I remember one particular partner who handled the big the big clients. I remember him saying that, you know, when a client comes to you, they’re not really just looking for legal advice. They’re looking for a complete advice. And that is based upon your understanding of business, the industry, the laws, also, of course, and how the law would operate in on for that particular set of facts. Really, they they value, a more holistic type of advice, and that is only part legal. And so I, I tried to bring that kind of worldview, if you will, to my legal practice, which is kind of sounds bizarre, but you know, but I think I think you’ll find that it makes sense, for example, give you a concrete example. Sometimes the law doesn’t help. Sometimes that’s not the best way to solve a problem. Going through the court code. The courts are just one option. In fact, people know that, you know, more than 90% of the cases get settled before even goes to trial. So if that’s if that’s the, if that’s the reality, then I think your clients really appreciate when you have their best interest, that you’re really trying to help solve a problem. that will be most ABA most advantageous not to you as a lawyer. But for them in terms of like, achieving their goals, saving them money, promote, you know, increasing value. I like to approach my work from that angle is how can I help bring all that I know, from my life experience and the law to help solve my client’s problem, and have it be the it sounds cliche, but client centric, because as you know, it’s not to my advantage to resolve a problem quickly. I can build more if the problem does not get resolved. That’s, that’s unfortunately, some some some folks practice law that way, they’re not in a rush to resolve something. Because the minute the problem gets resolved, you know, you can’t build anymore. So maybe, you know, maybe I’m talking about a minority of lawyers. But I think some some professionals, not just lawyers, I mean, it could be anybody go and drill. Drill. Yeah, that’s something that I, you know, I’d like to avoid doing. And I, I think a good lawyer and a good I think, I think a good lawyer is more than just a competent, but someone that you that gives a complete advice, not just legal, but you know, that’s, it’s well grounded in experience. Everything is
Fei Wu 56:33
connected, everything is connected. And I, you know, haven’t gone through sort of the green card process this and that, I realized everybody was not in law, including people are a law, underestimate the amount of the complexity that’s involved, it’s like, when you move, it’s almost like moving, you always underestimate the amount of stuff you have. Right? And everything’s connected. And I feel like there’s always a especially in law, every decision, every action you take has this downstream impact. And you as a call, you can only see so far, right? But someone like you with a holistic kind of worldview, you can more or less predict, so you can better predict things that may happen. So
Van Le 57:14
yeah, I think, you know, maybe the analysis is not great. But you know, like, if you’re a general contractor, for example, in some ways, you need to understand not only the blueprint from the architect, so that you can execute, but you need to know, you know, what good work is in putting together the house and everything has to be if the foundation is not right, the rest of it is not going to be right, if the roof is not, you know, type one or type is not going to work either. So I think in some ways, you need to be able to understand, execute, do it, you know, efficiently and with the best interest for your client. So, that’s what I try to bring to my my practice, even even if it’s not, it’s not high level corporate transactions, but I bring the same kind of seriousness to whatever I do, even if it’s a small thing, from the small thing to a big thing I had tried to approach it with great care and with my clients best interest. So that’s, that’s what I try to do.
Fei Wu 58:21
That’s great. I really like this last part. And one aspect I would like to introduce on my podcast, as the listeners age expand from fresh out of school to people who are more experienced. And I believe that there are many people practicing law and many other professions are considering in this day and age to kind of come come out on their own, you know, taking on entrepreneurship, and become an independent consultant or freelancers. All that what is your advice for people who might be considering law or even in general, you know, what is it like to go out on your own and dealing with clients? And, you know, finding the clients closing out on contract all of that? What is that personality? What are some of the counterintuitive? It’s a very loaded question. I know.
Van Le 59:11
Well, first, you know, I’ve, I’ve learned that everybody’s different. So what works for you, is not necessarily going to work for them. People have different realities that they grew up in. And so it’s hard to give advice and different people have different needs. All I can say is from my own experience, I have found that it’s helpful to be open to new things, to take risks. To try to live your life the way that you want to live and not live your life the way your parents or your best friend or what you think other people would approve or disapprove of. But really try to give yourself a break and a chance because you know, out. If you don’t do it, you’re going to regret and you didn’t, didn’t didn’t do it. And sometimes the things that you find yourself doing may not be what you thought you would do. But it will turn out to be the most satisfying thing. And if you didn’t take that risk to the unknown, you would know, I guess I’m rambling. But so I guess I’m saying Be open to new possibilities and really try to fulfill yourself, fulfill your life with things that you that you enjoy doing. It’s a cliche, but it’s true, you know, you probably will make some money doing it. But if you put money first, yeah, money can bring some security and some happiness. Yeah. But in terms of long term, satisfaction, and happiness, and well being those things are important too. And if you don’t pay attention to them, you can be may, you may miss out, and you may be living a humdrum kind of sort of settled for less, you know, situation. I’m not saying that, you know, that isn’t a good way to go through life. But I think that if you were open minded, to give yourself a chance to just strike out and be and do the things that you find satisfying, I think you will, you’ll be happier for it. And yeah, I think your children will be I have kids now. And I, that’s what I want for them. I mean, I have a two year old and I have an eight year old. And I think my role, you know, in some ways, it’s like, they’re like rockets, and they need your they need fuel to, to help them send, you know, go to their, you know, as far as they can, and your, your love is the rocket fuel is the jet fuel. And so I want to give them as much of that as possible and let them go where they want to go. Of course, I’ll gently guide them, as you know, good parents ought to do, and they should do well, and they should be well prepared. But it’s their life, I can’t live their life. As much as I want to control outcomes, and this and that. I think you really can’t. I mean, life is as my life. I think as a testament is so serendipitous. I mean, so random. I mean, from a small town in Vietnam to, you know, the upper crust of Boston, and then back again, to Dorchester. And then the inner city. I, you know, I think it’s been wonderfully, you know, random and exciting. Yeah, I think so. I mean, I’ve, I’ve enjoyed it. And if if I have any advice for anyone who’s open to the way of thinking that I have, which is to be ready for the, the diversity of, of life, as well as some situations and of opportunities, but don’t, don’t track yourself too early. Because that’s, that will be a shame, that’d be pretty sad. If you track yourself, and that in a way that you may not necessarily find the most satisfying.
Fei Wu 1:03:07
I really, I really liked that because I, I was laughing a little earlier to say when you suggested do something you feel passionate about, follow your own path, and not something that you feel other will have to prove. You know, I didn’t really ask many other people about podcasting in general, because I know, you know, as much as my friends really care about me, podcasting sounds a little bit cheesy, a little bit corny, and, you know, all that and but I realized I, you know, one of my guests asked me say, why are you doing this exactly, like, at the very end of the podcast, and I said, I want to reflect upon these conversations. And we do this you know, when occasionally dimsum lunch dinner, you’re very busy with your kids and your family’s very busy. So, oftentimes, I realized I don’t take notes and it’s hard to do. So when you are having a good time. I’m gonna listen to these. I will certainly in the next few weeks, but also 510 years from now I want my kids to listen to this and and let them realize that look, all these interesting people that I had, I still have in my life, and I want these conversations to pass on and and you probably realize that 2030 years later, a lot of you know philosophical approach right now drastically different than what was in the past. So I just want to kind of let you know that this is a journey I’ve taken on that. Just like you mentioned wonderful
Van Le 1:04:30
I think I think it’s I think it’s absolutely wonderful. I feel honored to be a part of the kind of your conversation and your your project. There’s, there’s one thing I also want to leave and the importance of of love in everything that we do. When you travel, if you travel with compassion and open heart, you will learn more you get more when you work with clients and you love your work you do but you chances are you probably do a better job because you care for them. And if you approach child rearing, and you realize that kids need your love, and you give it to them, you’re 90% there, you know, I, so I think I’ve grown up with that ethic. And I think it’s so true, and it’s probably corny and cliche, but when, when I when I have reflected on the important things, and things that oftentimes are the solution, I think, I think love is really important. It’s big family and your work and everything. So yeah, that’s
Fei Wu 1:05:34
a yeah, thank you so much for the feedback, four o’clock. And we have just a couple of minutes left. And I was wondering, you were open to talk about with love, compassion and all that and, you know, and randomness. So we talked about, and how did you meet your meet your wife, exactly.
Van Le 1:05:52
Random. I, she graduated from college was on her college trip. And I was backpacking, because I was at the big firm and I had 10 days to just blow off steam and I, I went to Spain and and on the, you know, a pop popular route is, you know, you go to the southern tip of Spain, you take a ferry into Morocco. And I met my wife on the ferry gone to Morocco, which is, you know, very random, my family joke joke and they say, Oh, you have to go halfway around the world to meet you or to get a date, you know, which is probably what happened.
Fei Wu 1:06:31
Did you help her with her luggage?
Van Le 1:06:33
Well, I wanted to get a yes, I actually, I actually did help. Because I thought, wow, what’s two school aged children going to Morocco by themselves. And it turned out, they look like high school kids. But they were they were adults. And we didn’t really date anything. But we traveled together for several days, just as traveling companions. And then several years later, we started we decided to date but yeah, so that’s years later, years years later, years later, we just stayed in touch and so years later we for
Fei Wu 1:07:06
the Facebook Twitter. Yeah, ages. That’s right.
Van Le 1:07:09
We did have email so we did send email to each other this is 1996 97 So my email was still relatively email was was relatively new, but it was allowed us to communicate from you know, she was in Japan and I was here so yeah, that’s that’s how we we met
Fei Wu 1:07:28
both of your kids speak fluent. Japanese.
Van Le 1:07:32
Mostly Japanese, some Vietnamese it’s really hard. It’s an it’s an uphill battle trilingual. Yeah, yeah. So she, she really does a good job of, you know, teaching Japanese and so
Fei Wu 1:07:51
this is great. Thank you so much, Vaughn for your time. I
Van Le 1:07:53
know you know, thank you so much. No, this is this is a pleasure to you know, someone cares enough to you know, asked me questions about my life. So I really feel honored.
Fei Wu 1:08:04
Thank you so much and the feeling’s mutual.
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