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United States v. Wong Kim Ark

United States v. Wong Kim Ark

By Fanny Wong, New York

In October 1895, Wong Kim Ark was lucky he didn’t get sick and die on his ten-week journey on the steamship Coptic from China to San Francisco. The third-class hold was crowded and poorly ventilated. He was eager to return to his small apartment on Sacramento Street in the city he loved. He missed everything about his city—San Francisco, even its fog.

At age 22, Wong had already visited China several times. So when he arrived at the dock, he was shocked to find out that he would not be allowed to land. How could the Collector of Customs, Mr. John Wise, not allow him to land? True, this man was known to be against Chinese immigration. But Wong’s identification paper was in good order. He even had three white residents vouch he was born in the city and was a good resident.

Wise had detained Wong on the grounds that he was not an U.S. citizen. And, Wong became a prisoner on the ship.

Wong Kim Ark, courtesy of the National Archives

Wong was born in San Francisco in 1873 to parents of Chinese descent. Around 1881, the parents had returned to China after a 20-year stay in San Francisco. However, Wong had chosen to stay in the United States, and now he found himself in a dire situation after another trip to China.

Fortunately, an aid association, The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, was ready to help him. Its lawyers argued that his rights as a citizen were being violated. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1868, stated, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside…”

The U.S. Solicitor General, Mr. Holmes Conrad, disagreed and appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court. He argued that Wong’s parents were subjects of the emperor of China and by extension Wong was also the subject of the emperor.

When the case was argued in 1897, the Supreme Court justices were, Stephen Field, John Harland, Horace Gray, Melville Fuller, David Brewer, Henry Brown and Rufus Peckham. The justices debated whether American citizenship should be based on the principle of “right of blood” (jus sanguinis) or “right of the soil” (jus soli). The Supreme Court did not agree with the Solicitor General and ruled in favor of Wong. Justice Horace Gray wrote the opinion on behalf of a 6-2 majority. The court established the concept of jus soli—the citizenship of children born in the United States to non-citizens.

The cloud over his citizenship had disappeared forever!

Wong’s landmark case set a very important precedent. It remains today the definitive interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s birthright provision. It affects all the children born to legal and illegal immigrant parents. It is reasonable to say that Wong never expected his case to have such long lasting and important consequence. Immigrants may not know his name, but they certainly know the rights of their children born in the United States.

—By Fanny Wong, Chinese American author and long-time contributor to Skipping Stones, New York.

Notes
1868: The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified.
1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act signed by President Arthur. It restricted entry and immigration of Chinese labor, both skilled and unskilled, into the United States.

The Goal

The Goal

By Annie Laura Smith, Alabama.

Greg sat on the driveway of his home and rolled his papers for delivery on Monday afternoon. He pulled a rubber band neatly around each rolled paper and tossed it.

The shouts of his friends playing soccer in the schoolyard across the street caught his attention. He watched his neighbor, John, kick the ball into the goal as excited shouts came from his teammates.

Greg sighed and looked wistfully at the group. How he would love to be able to play soccer, too. But he had to deliver newspapers every afternoon, as well as before church on Sunday mornings. There just wasn’t enough time for playing soccer and doing his homework.

After filling his canvas bag with the rolled papers, Greg hoisted the heavy load on to the handlebars of his bicycle. As he pedaled down Willow Lane toward his paper route on Brookdale, he glanced back at the soccer game. The boys continued to play at a furious pace.

He eyed the Lambert’s yard warily as he approached the gate to throw their paper. Their Golden Retriever, Max, seemed to have a strong dislike for him. Greg tossed the paper on the porch and pedaled rapidly toward the next house.

Max bounded out of the Lambert’s driveway, barking furiously. He ran along side of Greg’s bicycle for the next block and continued barking. The dog stopped following him and quit barking only when Greg crossed the street.

His parents’ friend, Mrs. Morrison, was watering her flowers and gave Greg a friendly wave as he passed her house. Greg slowed his bike to be sure the paper landed in the proper spot at Mr. Adams’ house. When it missed the doormat, Greg stopped, got off his bike, and threw the paper directly in the center of the mat.

Mr. Adams opened the front door. “Well, young man, I’m glad you’ve finally learned how to deliver a paper properly,” he said.

Greg swallowed hard and said, “Yes, sir.”

He finished his route and quickly pedaled home. John met him in the Anderson’s driveway, bouncing his soccer ball.

“Hi, Greg. We sure miss you on our team. Wish it was the good old days when you were our goalie.”

Greg shook his head. “I just can’t do that now.”

“Why don’t you give up your paper route,” his friend said. “Then you’ll have time.”

Greg just shook his head again as his mother called to him.

“Boys, I have some freshly baked oatmeal cookies. How about a snack?”

John quickly followed Greg into the kitchen.

“Boy, your Mom’s a great cook!” John said as he downed his third cookie. “Let’s kick the ball around for a while,” he suggested as he finished his glass of milk. “You can be the goalie.”

The boys played soccer in Greg’s backyard until almost dark when Mrs. Anderson called to them that Greg’s dinner was ready.

Greg said goodbye to John and went to his room. As he cleaned up for dinner, he thought about his paper route. It had been necessary after his father suddenly lost his job. Greg saw his parents struggling to meet their bills. His mother had to go to work while his father looked for another job. Greg knew there must be some small way he could help, too. His friend Mark had a paper route, and Greg decided that he could get a paper route to help his parents.

“But, Greg, that won’t leave you enough time for sports and your homework too,” his mother had said.

“That’s OK, Mom,” Greg had told her. “The paper route will be fun!”

The paper route had not always been fun though. Especially, on the days when Max chased him barking for blocks. Or when Mr. Adams fussed at him for not throwing the paper on his front doormat every day. And he had not fully understood what it would be like not to be able to play soccer regularly with his friends. But the money he earned really had helped his family.

***

On Tuesday Greg stopped at the soccer field before he began his paper deliveries. John and his other friends were just beginning a game. John called to him, “Hey, Greg. Come play a quick game with us.”

Just as Greg started to say no, the soccer ball went out of play and rolled to a stop by his feet. He picked it up and tossed it back to Tim who was playing goalie.

Tim caught it and stepped aside. “I have to go home, Greg,” he said. “Here—the goal’s all yours.”

Greg took the ball from Tim and stood in front of the goal. He kicked the soccer ball to the waiting players and the thrill of playing soccer was back.

His friend John took the ball down field and scored a goal. They continued with the game until their team was ahead 3-0.

Greg didn’t realize how much time had gone by until he looked at his watch at the end of the third goal. It was almost 6:00 O’clock! His papers were all supposed to be delivered by 5:30.

He threw the ball to John and said, “I’ve got to go now.”

John caught the ball and said, “OK. I’ll see you later.”

When Greg got home, he found the canvas bag on his bike was empty, and his mother’s car was gone. Surely, Mom didn’t deliver my papers, he thought.

His mother drove into their driveway as he put his bike into the garage. She got out of the car and said, “Greg, just as I got home from work today, several of your subscribers called about not getting their papers. What happened?” She sat down on the porch steps as she spoke.

“I stopped by to see the guys playing soccer, Mom. I only meant to play for a little while.”

“Greg, I’m sorry you had to get a paper route and miss playing soccer, but it’s really helping us right now.”

Greg lowered his eyes and nodded his head.

“Dad will find work soon,” his mother said. “You’ll be able to resume your sports activities before very long.” She reached over and patted him on the arm. “And you’ll be the best goalie on Willow Lane again soon, too,” she said with a smile.

He looked up at his Mother whose weariness showed in spite of her smile. He realized that he had let his parents, and his subscribers down. All of them were counting on him.

“Thanks, Mom for delivering my papers,” Greg said. “You won’t have to do it again.”

His goal now would be to let his parents and his subscribers know they could depend on him. The soccer goal could wait until his Dad got another job. Greg hoped especially for his parents’ sake that it would be soon.

—Annie Laura Smith, M. Ed., Alabama. Annie was a Learning Skills Specialist at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has published numerous novels and nonfiction books.

Mona Lisa Memories

Mona Lisa Memories

By Katacha Díaz, Oregon

During my childhood years of growing up in Peru, as the first-born grandchild in the family, I spent a great deal of time with my loving and nurturing paternal grandparents. Papapa and Mamama patiently indulged me with clever age-appropriate answers to my many questions. I was intrigued by my grandparents’ art collection—serene landscapes and stormy seascapes kept me entertained, but I was most fascinated by the formal portraits of our family members and predecessors. Little did I realize we had such illustrious relatives in our family tree, for the family to commission portraits from popular artists of the time.

My Mamama and Papapa on their Return Voyage from Europe, 1953

Recently I spent time organizing my own family memorabilia, collected over the years, and found myself transported back in time to childhood days at my grandparents’ sprawling house in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima, Peru (see below). The family had gathered at Sunday luncheon to celebrate my grandparents’ return home from Paris. Papapa had served four years as Peru’s ambassador to France.

The Author as a child at her Grandparents home in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. 1948.

This particular day is etched in my memory. Papapa stood beside me while I gazed wide-eyed at the painting of a smiling beautiful young woman. “Is she another of our famous relatives, I asked him?” Papapa shook his head and smiled. “This is a copy of the world famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa. Mamama and I saw the original painted on wood, at the Louvre Museum in France. We found our oil-on-canvas copy at an art gallery, during an evening stroll along the Ponte Vecchio in Florence (Italy).”

“Mona Lisa” Replica. Illustration by Daemion Lee. Oregon.

Papapa and Mamama showed me photo albums and art books collected during their European travels. These were filled with photographs of renowned paintings and illustrations with captions, along with artist biographies and exhibition notes. I learned the difference between an original piece of art and a reproduction, like the one in my grandparents’ house. Later, we stood by the floor globe in Papapa’s study and charted the voyage of the replica Mona Lisa. Our Mona Lisa had traveled inside a wooden crate from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Panama Canal to reach Peru!

Growing up in the exotic land of the Incas, I was impressed by my grandparents’ eclectic art and stamp collections, the leather-bound books, and encyclopedias lining the walls of the library where my grandfather spent hours reading and writing. Mamama and Papapa’s home opened a whole new world to explore and study during my sleep-over adventures. Five decades ago, following in my grandparents’ footsteps, I visited la bella Firenze, walking across the beloved 16th century Ponte Vecchio, peering into the windows of the art galleries, goldsmith shops, and souvenir sellers. And I imagined Papapa and Mamama enjoying a romantic afternoon stroll along the picturesque bridge, the only one in Florence that was spared from destruction during the Second World War. I was transported back in time and reconnecting with my dear Papapa and Mamama missing their presence in my life.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy. Illustration by Daemion Lee, Oregon.

All these years later, I am grateful for my childhood memories of Peru, and the way that a painting or a photograph can keep my grandparents in my life, even today. In my kitchen I keep a watercolor painting of sunflowers in a Tuscan (Italy) field, which I found along the Ponte Vecchio. It keeps the memories alive and is good for my soul. Who could ask for more?”

Katacha Díaz is a Peruvian American writer and author. Wanderlust and love of travel have taken her all over the world to gather material for her stories. She has been published in many outlets, including in several issues of Skipping Stones. Katacha lives in the Pacific Northwest, near the mouth of the Columbia River, USA. 

We’re Getting Hotter by the Year!

A Happy New Year to all our readers, contributors, subscribers, and supporters, both here and abroad!

Photo of the Emigrant Peak, seen from Paradise Valley, Montana

Emigrant Peak, seen from Paradise Valley, Montana. Photo by Paul Dix.

Did you read that 2023 was the hottest year for as long as human beings have been on the planet? According to research 2023 was the HOTTEST year in at least the last 100,000 years! Don’t get confused just because there are a few regional cold spells—like the upcoming Deep Freeze in much of North America later this week and the recent Arctic Blasts in Scandinavia and Northern Europe!

Common Dreams and other news media reported (on January 9, 2024) that global average temperature in the year 2023 was 14.98°C—that’s 0.17°C warmer than 2016 (the previous warmest year), 0.60°C warmer than the 1991-2020 average, and 1.48°C warmer than the 1850-1900 (pre-industrial) level, according to the scientists at the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. And, the prediction is that this year, 2024, will be warmer than 2023! Why do scientists predict more of the same in 2024?

The global oceans paint a better picture of what is happening in the climate world because the heat gets absorbed in ocean waters. A study published on January 11th in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences states that the upper 2,000 meters of the global ocean was estimated to have an additional 15 zettajoules of energy in 2023 compared to the 2022 amount. The Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates that the world’s economy requires about half a zettajoule of energy to run every year, that means, the oceans gained 30 times the annual energy needs of the world. Fifteen zettajoules would be enough to boil 2.3 billion Olympic-sized swimming pools of water . About 90 % of the energy produced by global fossil fuels use is stored in the world’s oceans. Therefore, the ocean is warming consistently, year over year to new record levels, due to this increase in ocean heat content. The resulting increased ocean water temperatures fuel the weather systems bringing intense heat waves, hurricanes, and big storms—high winds and dump heavy precipitations.

The Paris COP agreement was to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C over the pre-industrial levels. Obviously, most countries will not meet that target because we continue to depend greatly on the use of fossil fuels—coal, oil, natural gas (fracked gas).

Unfortunately, the recent COP 28 international conference (like most of the previous ones) was not much more than a hot air balloon, and the next one—COP 29 is likely to be no different. So disappointing! What can we expect when these climate conferences are dominated by oil producing countries and thousands of black gold lobbyists?

We need hundreds of thousands of nature educators, activists and nature protectors of all ages, like the late Rachel Carson (author and marine biologist, USA), Sir David Attenborough (of UK), Bill McKibben (Co-founder of 350.org, USA), Greta Thunberg (from Sweden), Ilyess El Korbi (from Ukraine, Morocco, and now Germany), Elizabeth Wathuti (of Kenya), Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (Native American from USA), Maria Reyes (of Mexico), Amma (from India), Tahsin Uddin (in Bangladesh) and Leah Namugerwa (of Uganda), people from all over the globe to wake us up from our slumber—to educate us and demand a change in the ways our industries, businesses, systems, people, and governments have been damaging and destroying the planet’s natural systems.

Won’t you become a change maker in your school, community, region or nation—wherever you are?

Presented by Arun N. Toké, editor. Based largely on several news reports published by Common Dreams (Jan. 9 and Jan. 11, 2024)

Perfect: A Seven Letter Word

Perfect: A Seven Letter Word

By Lila Ahitov, 15, California.

Perfect. Verb, “make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.” Adjective, “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be” (Oxford Dictionary).

Perfect! Such a small, seemingly insignificant word! Worthless even, words can’t cause any real harm, right? Perfect is just a way that you can describe something. Wow, the weather really is perfect for swimming today! I’m just going to study a little bit longer; I want perfect grades. It’s a nice word, it describes things that are really good. Perfect is inspiration, it’s a standard you can hold yourself to. Honestly, what could be bad about trying to be perfect? It’s no different than trying to succeed at something, or than just trying to lessen the amount of flaws overall.

I want to be perfect. I want the perfect body. So, what if that means waking up at 5am every morning and going for a run? It really is no big deal to skip breakfast every day, and sometimes even lunch. To restrict sugar and carbs, and anything that will stop me from looking perfect. I want the perfect grades. Exchanging many emails with each of my teachers can only benefit my grades. Staying up late memorizing flashcards and completing countless practice worksheets will only further my understanding of the material. I hope that my report card will reflect that I am being perfect.

I want to be the perfect friend. Of course, I can help you with the homework! You’re feeling sad, I’m sorry, tell me about it, maybe I can help. You’re bored? Come over! Or we can just FaceTime. You don’t need to know when I’m feeling down, that wouldn’t be very cool from the funny, loyal, therapist friend that I am. I will not share the burden of my thoughts, as that would not be something a perfect friend would do. Concealer can hide the eye bags that deepen after every late night and early morning. A practiced smile can cover up the nervous facial twitch that I’ve developed. It’s all worth it, so I can be perfect.

A bad grade, a failed test, a blemish on my skin. All flaws that can be fixed. The judgment from everyone else, surely that would stop once I have become perfect, right? A teacher yelled at me last week because I was talking to my friend. Which do I prioritize? Be the perfect friend, or be the perfect student? What if when I stop laughing at their jokes or contributing to the conversation, they don’t want me as their friend anymore? What if I do think of the cleverest, the most perfect response to my friend’s comment, and after I say it the teacher catches me? Is it worth the bad reputation with my teacher for the good one with my friends? Is it worth the possibility of my friends liking me less or talking to me less so that the teacher thinks that I am perfect? Is it possible to do both? Candy, offered to the class, and I always take a piece. I don’t think of the repercussions of this, until the guilt that drowns me later. And yet, I never fail to take it when it is presented to me.

I cannot possibly choose which things I want to be perfect all the time. My friendships, my face, my body, my grades, my reputation, my mental health, my social life, my ability to handle being alone. My anxiety that will not settle for anything less than perfect. Which to prioritize when they contradict each other? Do I choose my mental health over my friendships and my schoolwork? I would allow myself to sleep in from time to time, and to submit mediocre work on a couple of the dozens of assignments that I get a week. I would choose to spend my Saturday night watching a movie and eating pizza. If I take that road, then my grades, my social life, and my friendships will suffer. On the other hand, if I don’t sleep, I could be irritable and rude, and then my friendships and my relationship with my parents will be hampered, but I will have enough time to do my homework. I play an instrument, I’m in clubs, I’m on the cheer team, I hang out with my friends, I spend time with my family, but choosing to do one thing stops the others from being perfect. And yet, while I agonize over what to do and the consequences of each, perfect people seem to be able to choose the perfect option, every single time. I don’t try to be selfish with my choices, but it isn’t possible to think through everything that ought to happen for me to be perfect. I say that it’s all worth it. And that a simple, seven letter word cannot possibly affect me, or my life. I ponder on that thought, and hope that my answer will be considered perfect.

—Lila Ahitov, age 15, California.
Lila writes: “Since a young age, I have loved writing and reading. Whether it was reading the French children’s books that my Parisian mother put me to bed with, or attempting the lyrics of my dad’s favorite Turkish song from his childhood, I always noticed words. “Lila,” my name, means purple, night, and beauty, and much more that I have yet to learn. Growing up in America with European parents allowed me to dabble in languages other than English, French being the one that mostly stuck. Staying close with my family and friends, and growing my cultural knowledge are continuously important to me. I am filled with gratitude for the freedom of choice in my future, which I hope to include writing, travel, and law. Heavy emotions and thoughts can sometimes be a burden, and writing things, like my submission, helps me release it.”

My Happy Place

My Happy Place

By Keira Kelly, age 17, Missouri.

The all-consuming monster that is anxiety has ruled over my mind for my entire life. Growing up “shy” is cute, but staying a quiet, on-edge shell of a person loses its charm with age.

“Just take deep breaths, count to ten,” my mother would say.

“Calm down, it’s nothing to get worked up about,” my father would say.

“You can’t avoid everything that makes you a little anxious, Keira,” my teachers would say.

Nothing they said worked; anxiety comes as naturally to me as breathing, and no amount of deep breaths or mental perseverance could calm the storm once it decided to hit; those who say otherwise have never experienced such a dreadful feeling.

I started therapy in my freshman year of high school, due to my parents growing worried when I was getting too old for the “cute, shy little girl” routine. Dr. McBride was the first to understand that my anxiety was a real disorder, not just a little emotion I had to overcome. I was prescribed medicine, and she gave me a place to talk about my issues. She understood me, more than anyone else. She listened to what I had to say and validated my emotions, and understood.

Then, she offered a coping mechanism that worked for me.

“Find your happy place.”

What a cliché. Just like the deep breaths and counting to ten, I assumed this to be another useless measure that others thought helped with anxiety, yet held no merit. The extent of my anxiety tended to cause depressive episodes, so, originally, my “happy place” was only my bed, where I could curl away and hide from the real world. Warm, cozy blankets surrounding me seemed like absolute bliss, when, realistically, they sprung me deeper and deeper down a lonely spiral.

“No, Keira, find the place. The place where worry does not exist, where it is impossible to feel unsafe or insecure. That’s your happy place.”

It took some time to think it over, but I soon came to the revelation that I was capable of being happy outside of my bed; in fact, I could be even happier.

Ever since then, whenever I’ve gotten too stressed or worried or sickly anxious to cope with my everyday responsibilities, I take a moment to imagine myself in a field full of wildflowers, with birds chirping quiet songs in my ears, sunshine warming my skin, fresh flowers surrounding me. Around the field would always be a forest, which granted me a sense of safety, symbolizing that the unknown could surround me all it wanted, but I still had my beautiful space, one that belonged to me, and to me only.

West Boulder River Valley, with Absaroka Mountains in the Background, Montana. Photo by Paul Dix, Oregon.

The fictional safe haven I created in my imagination is represented by this image, which resonates deeply with me, granting an inherent sense of calm. I can imagine myself walking down the paved path, allowing my senses to absorb the beauty surrounding me, and the terrible monster inside of me dwindles.

One day, I’d like to visit my happy place. I have yet to find it in the real world, so, in the meantime, I can continue to travel there in my mind, living amongst nature and forgetting the horrors of reality.

—Keira Kelly, age 17, Missouri. She adds: “My goal… is to become a published author, hopefully one day, of a fiction novel. What I enjoy most about writing is the artistic creativity available in carefully choosing and stringing together words to create a beautiful piece. I’ve adored writing ever since I was little, and I am ecstatic to explore how far I can reach with this passion. I wish to continue Creative Writing programs in college, and depending on my success rate, pursue a career as a full-time author. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to begin my journey.”

A S.T.E.M. Woman from India

A S.T.E.M. Woman from India

By Saroj Pathak, originally from India, now lives in California.

My 50 years of professional life have been a series of challenges, failures, triumphs, and also a few shattered glass ceilings. I would like to share my experiences and describe some of the twists and turns, and the choices I made.

I grew up in Indore, Central India. We were six siblings growing up in a middle-class family. In the 1960s, my high school, St. Raphael H.S., did not offer math major to girls! I was exceptional in Math and wanted to pursue my passion. My father talked to Mrs. Jagdale, who was the head of a small public school nearby. Mrs. Jagdale, an early Women’s Rights pioneer, said, “If our girls want to take math, we have to start math classes.”

Now retired, Saroj Pathak Recently Visited the Historic Site of Mandu, near the city of Indore, Madhya Pradesh (Autumn 2023)

So my sister and I moved to Mrs. Jagdale’s school. In the nurturing environment of this small school, I ranked third in the state’s high school board examinations, an exceptional achievement!

From 1965 to 1969, I attended S.G.S.I.T.S., the only engineering college in Indore (M.P.). There were only five female students in the entire college. We had to fight for a small private bathroom and a tiny women’s room. I excelled in my chosen field of Electronics and Electrical Engineering and held the first rank in all branches of engineering throughout the four years. I was like a sponge; I absorbed everything offered. There was so much to learn from all my professors.

As graduation approached, I started looking for options for further studies. My parents were liberal but still would not send their daughter away for higher education out of state. And, I didn’t have the audacity to argue.

Dr. Dasgupta, the head of the college, recognizing my potential, and created an opportunity for me to pursue higher education in collaboration with the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (I.I.T.) at Bombay (now, Mumbai), while working as a lecturer at G.S.I.T.S. in the Electronics Department. While satisfying my drive to excel, this enabled me to live at home. I taught for three years while completing my Master’s degree in Engineering in Control Systems from I.I.T. Although this experience was challenging, I wanted more.

I reached for a moonshot and applied for and was awarded a Rotary International Scholarship to study abroad. It was an easy decision to select University of California at Berkeley for further studies. I dared to dive head-on into the unknown, knowing only one person in America; a graduate student who had graduated from S.G.S.I.T.S. a few years ahead.

It was shocking for me to realize that I was the ONLY female student in the graduate school of electrical engineering, even at this prestigious university. The students and the professors were friendly and treated me with the utmost respect and kindness.

After graduating from U. C. Berkeley with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, I worked as a semiconductor design and development engineer at American Microsystems in the Silicon Valley of California. When I came in for the job interview, the manager and engineers were shocked to see a female candidate. Women engineers were rare.

The Silicon Valley was full of type-A men, hungry for fame and wealth. It was a norm to “pull all-nighters.” All the engineers were transplants from somewhere else, and without family obligations; we worked hard and played harder. We created a family regardless of skin color or gender. We were on an endorphin high from the success of our innovations.

From 1975 to 1983, I worked with a small group of engineers at Intel Corporation; that’s where we invented and produced the first ‘non-volatile’ memory chips. These were the first chips that retained data (information) after unplugging the power supply. This was revolutionary! We published international papers, had numerous patents, and enjoyed the glory of success. I was a manager by this time and always felt respected and valued. My opinions counted, and I had the center seat at the table.

In 1983, I was offered a job at a Startup company to set up a non-volatile product line. My initial response was NO. I had an eight-month-old son and a three-year-old daughter. I was unwilling to work long hours. Since the company’s CEO wouldn’t take NO for an answer, we negotiated. I agreed to join the company, understanding that I could go home at 5 p.m. every day. The company provided flexibility, and I used my professional judgment to balance work and family needs.

Two years later, the room was packed with engineers from around the world when I presented a research paper on the First High-Speed Non-Volatile Memory at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). My children sat in the front row. By then, I was confident and assertive enough to invite my children without asking.

When a Vice President position opened up, I did not consider it because I knew it meant working very long hours, and I did not want to sacrifice time with my children. Later, when the children were older and busy with school activities, I accepted a position as Director of a multinational research and development group in a different company. Most often, I was the only woman in the room where the decisions were made. Yet I also attended most of the swim meets, music lessons, cross-country running events and other activities with my children.

After 45 years in business, I decided to follow my lifelong goal of helping the younger generation in STEM field. I am passionate about the accessibility of primary science education to all children. To that end, I have started a non-profit that teaches science fundamentals to children of all socioeconomic statuses. I mentor through Stanford Mentorship Connections and other non-profit organizations. I am also the president of a local Kiwanis club whose mission is the education and well-being of children.

Advice to My Younger Self:

* Enjoy the ride. The trailblazing path is littered with obstacles, but there is no greater joy than facing challenges and finding solutions.

* Discover your core values and be true to them. Define your goals on your terms. Do not let others decide who you should become. Sort through the clutter of cultural baggage and embrace that which gives you joy.

* Be like a river flowing constantly towards the ocean, soft and flexible, but always focused on the destination. Change directions, detour if necessary, or carve a new valley, but keep flowing towards your goal.

* Be confident. You are stronger than you feel, smarter than you think, and braver than you know. Use any fear as motivation to be successful. That fear will then turn into confidence.”

* Educate yourself and acquire indispensable skills.

* Take chances. Inventions are just a step away from failure. Become comfortable with failure and learn from it.

* Dare to shatter glass ceilings, even if that means cuts and bruises. The pain of cuts and bruises is the price you pay to help your daughters and granddaughters.

* Most importantly, find a mentor. Find several mentors. Surround yourself with your cheerleaders. Find inspiration from the life stories of the pioneers who paved the path before you. From mythological women to recent ones, our (Indian) history is full of women who advanced humanity through their ingenuity, courage, and persistence.

* Be a mentor. You are standing on the shoulders of giants. Later, you can offer your shoulders to those following you.

* Be ready to choose. Most successful people have made difficult choices to get there.

* Find a supportive spouse. Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In” and ex-CTO of Facebook, said, “The single most crucial decision you will make in your life is whom you marry, for this will determine the rest of your life.” She was talking to graduates of Harvard Law School.

* “Start the conversation before committing to marriage, not after.” Did you know that the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg credited her husband for her success?

In Conclusion, as a young adult in STEM fields, I would like you to be brave, explore, and take chances. Show up daily, sit at the table, and speak up in a firm, clear and compassionate voice. Act like the fate of humanity depends on you because it does.

—Saroj Pathak, originally from India, lives in California. She shared this advice with engineering students at her Alma mater in Indore, India, in November 2023.

Photo: Saroj in Indore, Nov. 2023.

Balance


Balance

“Girl Riding A Horse” by Aadya Agarwal, age 12, New Jersey.          

 

As the wind weaved through my black hair,
Flying in the golden sunshine,
A sudden gush of independence rushed at me.

On top of my slender caramel horse,
I measured north to south, east to west,
All painted with a rural landscape.

I was on top, on top of my mighty world,
I could have done anything!
Yet, riding along with my jovial spirits, I felt something.
A ball of fear knotting up in my stomach.

Freedom and Independence were new, they were fresh.
Alas, they did not come free!
In front of me, loomed a bridge,
A bridge between Protection and Freedom

While protection offers security,
It’s also a locked cage.
While freedom demands responsibility,
You are the person you choose to be.

And then there is a balance between the two.
As on my slender caramel horse,
I ride free, the gentle strap safely protecting me.

Aadya Agarwal, age 12, New Jersey. She writes: The inspiration for my poem came from a horseback riding adventure I went on while vacationing in India this past summer. The entire experience filled me with a range of emotions of independence, confidence, fear and anxiety and my attempt to balance it all in that moment. It was truly an experience that I will never forget and something that unraveled an important question about freedom and responsibility for me.”