A Duty to Family, Heritage and Country Ying Ying Yu has a maturity beyond her years. The 14-year-old immigrant from China believes she has a duty to honor the sacrifices made by her parents, her ancestors, her teachers and her homeland.
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A Duty to Family, Heritage and Country

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A Duty to Family, Heritage and Country

A Duty to Family, Heritage and Country

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in honor, faith, and service...

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe that a little outrage...

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in freedom of speech.

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe in empathy.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in truth.

Unidentified Woman #3: I believe in the ingredients of love.

Unidentified Man #4: This, I believe.


For our Monday series This I Believe, we have an essay sent to us by a young student. Her name is Ying Ying Yu. She came to America from China while in grade school. Now that he's a teenager, 14, she's grappling with what it means to be shaped by two cultures at once.

Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

Mr. JAY ALLISON (Curator, NPR's This I Believe): We have received thousands of essays from young people, many of them written for class assignments. Ying Ying Yu was studying Confucius in her eighth grade social studies class in Princeton, New Jersey, and her homework was to write about her personal philosophy for our series.

It is not surprising perhaps that her essay was selected for broadcast, because Ying Ying believes she's obliged to complete these tasks successfully. Here she is with her essay for This I Believe.

Ms. YING YING YU: I am a good child, obedient. I grew up in China, a country where education is the center of every child's life and a grade less than 85 percent is considered a failure.

Grades mean more to us than our mother's smile. I had homework during lunch, math and language classes two times a day. There were punishments for not paying attention. I was beaten with a ruler and I learned to do anything to get a good grade.

I believe in duty, but that belief comes with sacrifice. The achievements I make come with a cost.

I remember first grade, the red scarf flapping tantalizingly in the wind and wanting more than anything to be the first one to wear it. That symbol of responsibility, excellence, and loyalty. The first thing that flashed to mind when I put it on was how glad my family would be, how proud the motherland would be of the child it had borne, and how my accomplishments would look on a college application.

All my pride, love, self-esteem, they merge into duty. There have been times I wanted to throw away everything, but duty and obligation were always there to haunt me and to keep me strong. I always think my parents and grandparents brought me up, my country gave me shelter, my teachers spent so much time building my foundation just to have me throw it all away? No, I can't do that. I must repay all that they have done.

I must. I should. I have to.

All those little phrases govern my life and the lives of many of my classmates. We struggle on because duty reminds us that the waiting success is not just for us; it's for our families, our heritage and our country.

I used to want to be a gardener. I like working outdoors and the gritty feel of dirt was much more tangible than a bunch of flimsy words strung together. But I can never grow up to be a gardener. Everything I've done so far points to the direction of becoming a lawyer. It's a job my family wholeheartedly supports. There is no other choice for someone who's been brought up by such a strict system, someone who has ambition.

Here in America, there's almost a pressure to follow your dreams. I don't want any more dreams. Dreams are illusions. And it's too late for me to work towards another future, to let the foundations I've built go to ruins.

I believe in the power of duty to empower. Only duty will offer me something true, something worthy of my efforts and the support of my family and country. Duty can bring me to an achievement that is greater than I am.

Mr. ALLISON: Ying Ying Yu, with her essay for This I Believe.

In a note accompanying her essay, Ying Ying wrote, I was hesitant in writing because it meant opening up, dropping the mask that has always veiled my innermost self. But then I read the stories of so many others and they inspired and moved me. After that, writing was easy.

At our Web site, npr.org, you can read those essays and submit one of your own. We hope you will.

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

MONTAGNE: Next Monday on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, a This I Believe essay from professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. He believes in taking pride in what you do.

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