I was born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, right before the start of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. I lived with my parents and two younger brothers in government-owned mud floored row-house style housing with seven other families.
We occupied just two small rooms and used an outdoor kitchen that my dad built himself. There was no indoor plumbing or heating. Our eight families in the building shared one water pump and one outdoor bathroom.
Life then was very difficult for us. Although my uneducated parents worked six days a week in a state factory, we still relied on food rationing. Because my parents were ordinary workers, our family was allowed only minimum amounts of rice, meat, sugar, etc.
When I turned 6 years old, I was so excited to go to a school that my parents had to bribe me with a movie ticket to keep me at home an extra year to babysit my youngest brother. My parents could not afford the state factory’s childcare cost.
I started attending school at 7 years old. After 5 years of school indoctrination during the Cultural Revolution—writing conforming diaries, memorizing Mao’s quotations, chanting “Long Live Chairman Mao” and “Long Live the CCP,” reciting political slogans, singing “Red” songs—I truly believed Mao was a God, our supreme leader, and the Communist Party saved China. I was also taught to believe all bad people should be eliminated.
Mao’s death in 1976 left me lost and without hope. At the age of 14 I had hope because the colleges were reopened and I dreamed someday I would go to the best university. At 17, I chose Fudan University in Shanghai to study law, with an ambition to transform China from a society ruled by men to a society ruled by law.
At Fudan, I was disheartened to learn that the law I was studying was based on the Soviet Union model: “Law is a tool used by the ruling class to rule the masses.” I thought laws were supposed to provide justice! Once again, I did not know what to believe in and what to live for. Fortunately I made friends with foreign students and could learn from them what the world was like outside of China.
Then, an American exchange student showed me a pocket-sized “Declaration of Independence.” Even with my limited English skills, I could understand these words: “We hold these truths to be self–evident…” I had never heard those beautiful words before. The light bulbs came on.
I was only taught about rights in a collective sense, never knowing that individual rights are a gift to me from nature’s God. In class, I started using those words and concepts when I argued with my professors, and later when I had fights with my Communist Party Committee bosses after becoming a faculty member of the Fudan law school.
My mind was opened and my eyes were shining bright. I could not go back to my old way of thinking and living under CCP dictatorship. I had a new dream: I wanted to go to America, where people have individual rights that cannot be taken away by their government or by any other group.
I eventually made it to America in 1988 as a graduate student at the University of Texas with nothing but a few clothes and mementos. Even though I spoke very poor English, all the people in Texas were very welcoming and kind to me. The staff in our graduate school donated clothing and household items to me, and my classmates helped me to study class notes and learn English. My neighbors would say “Howdy” to me and offer to take me shopping.
Since then, I have enjoyed living in this great country: got my graduate degree, got married, raised three children, started my own business, searched for truth, learned more about my new country and its founding principles, got rid of my indoctrination from China, became a naturalized U.S. citizen, got involved at my local community including my children’s charter school, testified before the Colorado House and Senate, and ran for two offices. In the past three years, I have been traveling the country to share my personal stories and educate our youth about the truth of Communism.
I am so very blessed in America. Today, I continue to manage my business that I started, and relish every day the freedom, independence, and prosperity I found in America. I love my new country and travel frequently throughout the United States to share the story of my American Dream. I want to preserve and defend America as the “Shining City on the Hill” for my children, for my fellow citizens and for all lovers of liberty in the world.
Lily Tang Williams, was born and grew up in Sichuan province, China; is a law school graduate and former faculty member of Fudan University Law School; was a corporate executive in Hong Kong and Denver; is a self-employed entrepreneur, educator, and professional speaker; and currently lives in New Hampshire with her husband.
This essay was entered in The Epoch Times “Why I Love America” contest.