Author and poet: Bryan Thao Worra

*** Bryan is an amazing writer, poet, and playwright!  He is a Laotian American Writer who has been featured in countless magazine.  He even has a book of poetry published called, On the Other Side of the Eye.  Read on to find out his perspective on education.  Maybe some of you will aspire to be a writer someday.  I am also posting an example of his work as well as his reflection below. You can visit him on myspace at: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=206092788.

One of the pressing challenges for Laotian American youth today is the decision to go to college, and to see it as a valuable part of their life experiences.

Often it is easy to be tempted to go directly to work, to work in a factory and raise a family. If that’s your passion and your life’s calling, and if you think this will make you happy, you can do this. History has demonstrated time and time again that Laotian Americans can work as well as anyone else and not pursue a college education.

But history has also shown that Laotian Americans who value college and seek education for themselves also find great happiness and both immediate and long-term success, too. There aren’t any major studies yet that have focused specifically on the attitudes and the experience of Laotian Americans with college education, especially the years after, but most who have attended college and graduated will tell you they feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

For the larger mainstream community, a college education, even just a little, almost ensures that they will make more money over their lifetime than those who do not. Let’s be clear: this is not a guarantee. But the statistics favor it.

As a Laotian American writer, I approach the subject philosophically. I don’t equate education with good character. It’s possible to have a degree and still do things that aren’t positive in our society. It’s possible to skip college and still be a very nice person. And I believe that people should be free to decide what it is that they want for themselves. You can’t force a person to choose to get an education if they don’t want it.

A young person has to want to see how much they can challenge their minds and their souls. If they are not interested in this, one of the most interesting of questions of life, then that is their right.

As Laotians, as a society, we will not gain anything by haranguing someone into seeing how smart they can be.

But, I will also say, much of my success today comes from a love of the pursuit of knowledge and true learning. For me, it was not about getting grades or chasing money, it was about learning those things I could use throughout my whole life, and even some things I’ve yet to find a use for. Both the good and the bad. Curiosity and an explorer’s spirit are treasures to cultivate within every human soul.

There are some very famous college dropouts. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers. William Hanna of Hanna Barbera Cartoons. Albert Einstein, inventor Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers who invented the airplane and Henry Ford who invented the automobile all were high school dropouts. The writer Maya Angelou, film director Quentin Tarantino and actor Tom Hanks were all also dropouts.

No one will dispute their accomplishments. And as Laotian Americans we should never let ourselves believe our fellow Laotians are incapable of adding great things to our community without a degree.

However, in the course of Laotian American history we are at a unique age and time when it is possible for us to freely choose any path in life we want, without anyone trying to stop us or tell us we can’t reach for our dreams.

A good college can help many Laotian Americans and make an amazing difference in your life, exposing you to amazing knowledge and opportunities you will never forget, new friends and ideas that will help you and our community.

Education is not meant to be entertaining. It is meant to be a challenge. It is one that a generation of Laotian Americans has already accepted for itself. Some of us succeeded. Many did not. But that does not make the challenge any less interesting or rewarding for those of you who accept the challenge when your time comes.

Poem by Bryan

With an open eye, an open mind and a curious and compassionate heart, you will be amazed at the doors that can open for you!

On A Stairway In Luang Prabang

Step as you will through life,

A thousand ways, a thousand places.

Carry a home in your heart

Or spend years seeking the door

Where your soul will always smile.

Do you ease the way for others,

Or just yourself?

Do you climb great mountains

Just to leave them unchanged?

One day, the heights of holy Phu Si

Will lay as soft valleys.

We, only memories.

But our children’s children?

Will they, too, have reason to smile,

Like those dreaming strangers

Who finished their stairs for us?

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