ICAS Special Contribution


Speech To
Korean American Scholarship Foundation

Matthew D. Lee

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422
Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic sketch & Links: Matthew D. Lee

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution of this paper with written permission to ICAS of Matthew D.Lee. The remarks were delivered at KASF Banquet, September 12, 2010. sjk]

Speech to

Korean American Scholarship Foundation

Matthew D. Lee

The 41st Scholarship Awards Banquet
Tysons Marriott
September 12, 2010

Thank you Dr. Chun, for that kind introduction.

Good evening. First and foremost, I would like to congratulate this yearís scholarship recipients. You have achieved what I believe will be only one of many accomplishments you will have in your professional careers.

I have this faith in you because in winning these scholarships and achieving certain excellence in your academic pursuits, you demonstrated four attributes critical to success: goal setting, patience, perseverance, and persistence. Goal setting, because you established a goal, something of value that you were willing to spend time and effort to achieve; patience, because you were willing to spend your time to achieve your goal rather than settling for lesser achievements with instant gratification; perseverance, because competing for any scholarship is a detailed process that can frustrate anyone who is anxious to get started on their career; and persistence, because you had stuck with your set goal until it was achieved.

I am sure that many of you have already established some career goals such as becoming an artist, scholar, doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, or educator. Whatever career goal you have set for yourself, I am confident that you will be successful.

This evening, I would like to challenge you to establish yet another career goal. A goal that is never ending and is often accomplished without accolade or fanfare Ė the goal of giving of yourself.

Everyone, at sometime in their life requires a little help. I know that I did.

When I came to the United States, I had little money, no college degree and no job. What I did have was patience, persistence, and the knowledge that with these attributes I could achieve any goal I set for myself. What I needed was advice as to what career would best suit my talents. This advice came from a relative of mine who suggested that I pursue a career in this new technology called computers. The computer field was new, growing, and was looking for people who were willing to work hard and innovate Ė attributes I had.

Becoming a computer professional was not a career path geared to instant gratification. I had to learn from the ground up. I had to have PATIENCE because I knew that I would not achieve my goal of being a successful computer professional until I learned what computers could do and how I could make computers do something useful.

I had to PERSEVERE in my computer science training. I took a junior programmer position with Control Data Corporation, one of the largest computer companies at the time. Shortly after I started at Control Data, I told my wife that she wasnít going to see me much as I was going to be working nights and weekends. I did not have to, but I wanted to, to prove that I could do things better, faster and more efficiently than any other people. As I did not have an advanced degree or an exceptional talent, only thing I could offer to overcome that was my hard work. Because I did that, I was able to establish a reputation and be recognized as someone people could go to get their problems solved. Because of that reputation, Westat reached out and recruited me in 1969. My hard work continued for a few more years at Westat, currently one of the largest research firms in the United States, but at the time a small, statistical research company that needed my computer skills. But I think it is worth noting that I have not had to work nights and weekends any more since 1972. I would say thatís a pretty good record.

Through PERSISTENCE I rose through the ranks at Westat, eventually becoming the Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the company. I was with Westat for 20 years before I decided it was time to pursue my long-term goal and start my own company. Allied Technology Group, Inc., my company, is now a successful, 500 person Information Technology and Engineering services company with offices across the United States. There is no magic to becoming successful. Once you set your goal, you have to stick with it, you have to work long and hard until the goal is achieved. You always have to have this mindset of "I am not going to take no for an answer." Donít take no for an answer.

In reflecting on my career, I realized that, while I worked hard to become a successful computer professional, at various points in my career people gave of themselves to give me a helping hand: Friends and relatives gave their counsel to enter the computer industry, and encouraged and supported my decision to start my own company; Control Data provided training that allowed me to expand my knowledge and capabilities; and my contemporaries shared their knowledge to help me learn computer technologies. I then made a decision to recognize the help I received by giving back.

Our Korean culture is deeply rooted in family ties. Your family is your support system; providing financial aid and serving as your social service network. These are admirable qualities and our families serve as a primary mechanism for giving back. But we are also part of the American culture, a culture that while promoting individual achievement, also recognizes that there are times when individuals need assistance; assistance that is beyond what can be provided by oneís family. In the United States, government agencies, religious organizations, private foundations, and individual donors serve as extensions to the support provided by oneís family. We, as Koreans, need to become a part of that system. We need to support others, Koreans and non-Koreans alike, and promote philanthropy as an extension of our blended cultural heritage.

You need to take away the idea that a measure of your future success is what you have done to help others.

Supporting The Korean American Scholarship Foundation is one way I have found to give back. The Foundation seeks to assist Korean American students in pursuit of academic and personal achievement, to encourage community and civic service, and to nurture the sense of pride and confidence in Korean culture, heritage and tradition. These are goals that I believe in and I feel need to be encouraged to help blend Korean and American cultures. When I see scholarship recipients succeed, I know that I am achieving my personal goals of giving back.

You need to be where I am today, standing before a group of young, intelligent, focused individuals as a supporter and nurturer of their achievement and ambition. How does this happen? Not by accident, but by patience, perseverance and persistence; Skills you have already demonstrated. These three words also describe how I have operated and how I have achieved the success I experience today.

While I am not going to deny that professional success has its advantages, that success has limitations in the overall satisfaction of my life. My family is financially secure. I can play golf as much as I wish. I can travel as I wish and experience different cultures and countries. I recently went to Bolivia for six weeks to fulfill a long time wish to learn Spanish. I enrolled in an intensive language course administered by Catholic Missionaries. But IT IS NOT ENOUGH.

I now realize that philanthropy and mentoring of others is just as rewarding as achieving personal wealth. Donít be greedy! Share with others. Share your time. Share your experience. Share your insight. Share your money.

It is a funny thing. Whenever I give, I receive much more. It is the giver who benefits the most. Whenever I give, I receive even more to give more the next time. It has been my personal experience. Giving is good business. We are merely a temporary custodian of our wealth. You canít take it with you. So why not share it while you are still around.

After all, everything is a gift from God, including our life. One of the principles of the Catholic social teaching is the universal destination of goods: God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone. This principle requires that the poor and the marginalized should be the focus of particular concern. Thus the preferential option for the poor is to be exercised. Saint Gregory the Great even declares: "What is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity."

I have discovered that actions of charity that I made for no other purpose than to help someone in need have at times helped me further down the line. Business relationships can develop from charitable actions. But donít mistake what I am saying. I am not promoting philanthropy as a business tool. Philanthropy should be done with the best of intentions. The intention to help others for no other reason but that you can.

Isabel Allende is a contributor to an NPR program called This I Believe. She was born in Peru and raised in Chile. When her uncle, Chilean President Salvador Allende was assassinated in 1973, she fled with her family to Venezuela. She has written more than a dozen novels, including The House of the Spirits. Her essay titled, "In Giving I Connect with Others" talks about the death of her daughter Paula and the realization Ms. Allende gained from that experience and the life of her child. I would like to paraphrase from her essay.

"Give, give, give Ė what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I donít give it away? Of having stories if I donít tell them to others? Of having wealth if I donít share it? ... In giving I connect with others, with the world and with the divine."

I wholeheartedly agree with what she has to say. We are created in the image and likeness of God. God is all about giving; our life, time, resources, forgiveness, compassion, hope and love. Thus we can be truly human when we imitate the divine through self-giving. Who we are is a gift from God and what we become is our gift to God.

My charge to you this evening is this:

Move forward in your goals, your dreams, your aspirations. Become more successful than you ever thought possible. And then, GIVE. Giving is good business. Giving is contagious. Find your own ways to give, but give. The more you do the more you will want to do. Giving is just good.

Thank you and Good night.

This page last updated October 24, 2010 jdb