First Person Immigrant Stories
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Stanford Chiou

Stanford Chiou, Filipino, American

“...that’s what America is. Out of many, one.”
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They could make their own choices here without them being judged by everyone around them.

Stanford: My full name is Stanford Yu Chiou.

Interviewer:  When did you first come to America?

Stanford: Just before I turned 4, yeah just before I turned 4. I remember celebrating my fourth birthday a couple months after I moved here permanently.

Interviewer: Where did you come here from?

Stanford: I was born in the Philippines and I was raised there for my infancy by my grandparents and my uncles and aunts until I was less of a handful.

Interviewer: Well what was the thing that brought you to America?

Stanford: Well, it was my parents who had immigrated to the US first to study and to work. And you know how they talked about anchor babies? I'm kind of the opposite of that - I'm I guess I'm a sail baby, because instead of having me born here they decided that it made more sense for me to be born in the Philippines where I had grandparents and uncles and aunts whereas here was just two of them. So, just in terms of you know having you know pairs of hands to take care of a small child that made more sense they did that with my sister too.

Interviewer: So you have a sister?

Stanford:  I do have a sister, yes.

Interviewer: And where do you live now?

Stanford: I live in New Jersey.

Interviewer: How would you define the word American?

Stanford: Americans are the people who decide who they want to be.

Interviewer: Is there a specific memory or moment where you found yourself proud to call yourself American?

Stanford: You know I remember very - when I was small I remember there was some sort of centennial, some sort of, actually it was some sort of immigration Centennial. And it really did emphasize - “E pluribus unum,” - out of many, one. And that's on every coin - you know every coin in your wallet or purse - that's what America is. Out of many, one.

Interviewer: What is one thing that you took from your family, your ancestors from the Philippines that you've applied to your life here in America?

Stanford: To be frank that's kind of a difficult question because when you're an immigrant one of the big tensions is what was there verses who you are here. And actually navigating that tension has been a very big part of my life. When I visit my mom's side of the family in the Philippines  I have to shift gears. And the value of that is that it reminds me that I can't take things for granted. The assumptions that I navigate the world with doesn’t always apply, and there are going to be many times and many places where I need to suspend those assumptions - that might not be a tradition, but that's something that being an immigrant has given me.

Interviewer: What are some of those assumptions?

Stanford: The Philippines can be a lot more hierarchical. The way I put it is this - in the Philippines, because my mom's family is from there in the Philippines I will always have a place. The other side of that is that I always have to know my place and that's the thing about America. And that's something that I think my parents they came here to study and to work, they came here for opportunity. But I think that freedom of not having to know your place - that was something that they grew to appreciate, that they could make their own choices here without them being judged by everyone around them.