Deep Roots: Recognizing The Value Of Culture with William Poy Lee

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William Poy Lee's family comes from a small village in China where they lived for a thousand years before immigrating to San Francisco. Poy Lee was born in San Francisco and grew up in its Chinatown. Were it not for his mother, he may have become lost between cultures and places. Poy Lee describes how he found his identity in his ancestral past, and how his discovery of a culture's values and traditions offer wisdom and insight to his adopted country at the present time. He recognizes and honors his mother's part in guiding him to this discovery. His experience gives us insight into the immigration experience and demonstrates the power of living universal values. Poy Lee's Toisanese mother made eight promises to her mother before coming to the United States. The first seven were related to culture and family, but the eighth shaped her life and her son's. Poy Lee says, "It is the Eighth Promise to live with compassion toward all that I think of as the ever-living promise. The one for all of one's days." (hosted by Michael Toms)


William Poy Lee graduated with a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley and completed his Juris Doctor from Hastings College of Law, University of California. He has been a licensed California attorney since 1979 and has enjoyed a career in international banking.

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Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Why visiting your ancestral homeland can be so impactful
  • How another culture's values and traditions can benefit modern America
  • Why globalization could have a bigger impact on national security than immigration
  • What ancient Chinese practice could help us resolve personal disputes better than litigation
  • Why knowing stories of individual immigrants is relevant to the majority of Americans
Host: Michael Toms           Interview Date: 6/28/2007           Program Number: 3207