Ambassador Sichan Siv, The American Dream in First Person

Posted by on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 in Blog

Meeting on January 12, 2016, Recorded by Allison Allen

President Harold Ingersoll called the meeting to order. Kay Klotz led the pledges and Past President Gaines Bagby gave our invocation of the day. Phil Owens led us in saying The Four Way Test. Joe Breeland greeted each member and guest as they arrived and Rich Fikani introduced the guests and visitors.

Karen Waryas and Tillery Castillo provided information about the upcoming Membership Soiree on January 19 from 6:00-8:00 at the Headliners Club; followed by Joe Breeland announcing advertisement spots in the weekly newsletter were available. Contact either him or Jennifer for more information or about pricing.

Jeanne Arnold gave an update about the upcoming Camp Enterprise weekend (student orientation will be on January 23 with Camp Enterprise happening February 19-21). Volunteers and counselors are needed! Please contact Jeanne if you’re able to help out!

Bob Bowman was our Member Spotlight volunteer. In the spirit of “Six Degrees of Separation From Kevin Bacon”, Bob let us know he was only three degrees away from Sigmund Freud!

President Harold made several announcements, including:

  • The Downtown Austin Breakfast Cluster Meeting is tomorrow morning; and the Early Act First Knight Knighting Ceremonies at Pecan Springs Elementary and Dawson Elementary will be held on Friday
  • Join Club members on Saturday, January 30th to help put together food packets in support of the Stop Hunger Now event sponsored by our Club. Volunteers are needed during the hours of 8am to noon (even for just an hour or two!) at Tarrytown United Methodist Church. If you’d like to volunteer please let Mary Reynolds know or go to to sign up.
  • Last, Anita Motloch has been transferred from St. David’s to Brookdale (4401 Spicewood Springs). Visitors are encouraged any time, although she’s in therapy Monday-Saturday from 8:30-3:00. Also Don Grillo is at home recovering from surgery.

Michael Portman reminded us about Rotary International Foundation’s Sustaining Members (those who contribute $100 or more a year to The Rotary Foundation) and spoke to us about RI’s recurring giving program called Rotary Direct. We then heard from Pat Beckham, Jim Bryce and Julie Benkoski during the Thank Goodness Basket.

Past President Ladd Pattillo introduced our speaker, Ambassador Sichan Siv, who was the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, serving from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. Ambassador Siv told his remarkable story detailing his escape from the Killing Fields of Cambodia to emigrating to the US to eventually serve under Presidents Reagan, H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He told us he was a naturalized Texan before he was a U.S. citizen.

The Ambassador was born in Cambodia to middle class parents. When he was 9 years old, his father died, sinking the family to a subsistence level and leaving his mother to support the family selling lotus leaves and produce. Despite these hardships, she always emphasized education and encouraged him to always have hope of better things.

About this time, China was experiencing the Cultural Revolution accompanied by the purging of intellectuals and others associated with the previous government. Unfortunately, this revolution spread to Cambodia in the form of the Khmer Rouge. This regime engaged in ethnic cleansing which most of us know was responsible for the deaths of millions of Cambodians in what were known as ‘the Killing Fields’.

The Ambassador’s family was caught up in this and his mother feared for his life. She took away his glasses (the Khmer Rouge targeted people with glasses as intellectuals, therefore enemies to be eliminated), gave him a bag of rice and urged him to make for the Thailand border.  Story continues on page 6.

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