After the fall of Saigon, Vietnamese refugees, who were able to escape the Communists, were sent to camps in the United States. A large number of refugees ended up settling in Northern Virginia. These refugees’ lives were to be forever changed. For example, the last Chief of Naval Operations in the South Vietnamese Navy before the fall the Saigon was no longer a military officer, but now a trainee at a Mexican food store.¹ This example is one of the many stories of the refugees who were unable to find work that correlated to their careers in Vietnam. It does not seem that college or any type of higher education would be on the mind of newly arrived refugees, but there is always an exception to the rule. This exception is the Dinh family.
The Dinh parents, both of whom had college degrees, set a standard for their children. They wanted all of their children to graduate college, which may explain why their children did. Thuc and Thanh Dinh worked tirelessly at low paying jobs, but were able to put all their children through college. When asked about their children going to college, Thanh Dinh said, “I never thought they wouldn’t go to college.”² This standard was created in Saigon, but also reinforced by American values and culture after the Dinhs came to the United States. Both Thuc and Thanh Dinh, who went to college in Vietnam, must have influenced their decision to send their kids to college too.³ American culture could have also played a role as well, because the Dinh parents would have wanted their children to not experience the same struggles they had to go through after coming to the United States. A college degree would help their children achieve that goal. This could explain why the Dinhs’ worked so hard, often taking double shifts. They may demand that their children go to college, but they also wanted their children to be able to climb the economic ladder unlike they were able to do.
- Andrew Friedman, Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 178.
- Marylou Tousignant, “A Family Succeeds by Degrees; All Six Children of Vietnamese Immigrants Graduate From U-Va,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1996, A01.