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The Greatest Success Story

Updated on July 11, 2019
jackclee lm profile image

Before retiring, Jack worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.


The America I know is the greatest success story the world has ever seen. In 5000 years of recorded history, no other civilization has done so well in such a short period of time. Not that we were perfect, but compared to all other nations past and present, we are by far the best. The question comes down to how? How did we do it?

- Feb. 2019

updated July 2019


This article is written from my personal perspective, as a first generation immigrant. It is an observation and clearly biased. However, never the less, it is one perspective as valid as any other perspective. What makes my article unique is that it is based on fact and not emotions. You can argue with my interpretation of the facts but not the facts themselves.

Before I begin. It may help to define what is considered success. Success is one of those concept that is fluid. It depends on what you value. If you value wealth, then success is obviously getting or accumulating more money. If you value health, success may be living a long life span. If you value power, success may be elected to high office in government. If you value faith and religion, success may be spreading your message to as many people as possible. If you value family, success may be defined by how large and close are your family relationships.

Success for a country or a civilization is defined by how well the people of that country is doing in terms of standard of living, GDP, freedom, and mobility, equality and social safety net, peace and security, justice.

Also, the measure of success is based on comparison to others. By definition. If one is a success, it must mean there are others who are less successful.

I will use my own journey to document my experience and later expound on the bigger picture.

My Success Story - A Personal Journey

I am a first generation immigrant. My father immigrated here in 1956 to attend graduate school. My mother and brother and I stayed behind in Taiwan for four and half years. After my father graduated with a Master degree in engineering, he was lucky enough to get a job in NYC and worked and saved and waited for our immigration application to work through the system.

In 1961, when JFK was elected president, one of the positive thing he did was to increase the quota for immigrants from Asia. We were among the benefactors of that policy. We arrived at JFK airport, in the winter of 1961. It was the first time I saw snow in my 10 years. It was an exciting time with many new experiences...learning a new language and culture and making new friends and attending public school in Queens. Coming here from the island of Taiwan, it was quite a culture shock.

Back then, in 1961 Queens, Jackson Heights, there were only a handful of Chinese in our neighborhood. You can count them on the fingers of one hand.

We had to assimilate pretty quickly. The teachers at our school were very helpful. They gave us special remedial help in English. For the first 6 months or so, I was taken aside for an hour a day to learn English. The rest of the day was attending class along with all other students. There was another immigrant in my class from Cuba. We became fairly close since we sat next to each other and we had similar backgrounds being immigrants of another country. The teachers were so accepting and welcoming. We were treated as special and with every opportunity, given the chance to share our culture and customs. In the short period of one or two years, I was fully assimilated.

What also helped me personally was the fact I was good at math. On Taiwan, the education system was more advanced in the area of math. I had already learned 6th grade math while I was still attending 4th grade. This gave me an advantage over my classmates and compensated for my poor english skills.

I went on to attend middle school and then Newtown HS where I became a pre-engineering student. I knew early on exactly what I wanted to do with my life. This was rare in my class. Most had no idea what they wanted as a career. That was perfectly fine.

Personal Journey Continued...1969-2019, Spanning 50 Years

Over the next 50 years, I went to CCNY, a free public higher education Institution at the time. It was known as the poor man‘s Harvard. I was on the Varsity Fencing team and competed among some of the top people in this sport. Graduating with an engineering degree, I had the pick of jobs on the table.

I went to work for IBM, an international Fortune 100 company. I was fortunate to actually have two careers at IBM. One in the Communications Division of IBM where I designed one of the first microprocessors of that period. Later, I transferred to the Research Division and started a new career in advanced digital imaging. Attending school at night, I achieved a degree in Computer Science at NYU.

I helped develop advanced imaging systems used worldwide by museums and libraries. Over the years, I have several US patents and published numerous technical papers and gave lectures in conferences around the world.

After leaving IBM, I worked at a non-profit organization called Jawonio. It is one of the largest employer in Rockland County and they help people with disability to lead an active and independent life. I was happy to give back and it gave me great satisfaction knowing I was making a difference in the lives of these workers.

I am currently retired and doing some volunteer work at our local County Archives and also helping at a volunteer board member of the CCNY Asian Alumni group.

Being associated with museums, libraries and archives, my interest was also in history and preservation. The marriage between that and imaging was a natural fit. The advances made in digital imaging technology have changed the whole world of archiving and preservation and accessibility. I was there from the start and help created this digital revolution. I am proud of our accomplishments.

The American Experience - A Success Story

The success of America can be traced back 200 years to our founding as a nation. It was a group of enlightened men, that took a chance to start a revolution and won independence from England, They came up with a new system of government that is unlike anything that existed before. The idea of democracy and rule by the people for the people...

The main concept of freedom and liberty and equality of opportunity is new. The idea that all men are created equal is new. The idea of a government answering to the people, a republic, where the people vote for a representative government to rule over them by consent.

Combined this with a commerce clause where the government is there only to maintain fairness and be a watchdog over wrong doings. This stimulates the economy to new heights. It encorages innovation and increase productivity.

Undoubtedly, there were growing pains, with labor laws and anti monopoly laws and all kinds of necessary regulations...

The end result is a success beyond our imagination.

The America of the 20th century saw a country that won two world wars, and a cold war with Communist USSR. We saved humanity from Nazism and totalitarism. We were the only super power at the end of the 20th century.

We landed the first man on the moon and invented the internet. We hold the most number of Patents and we earn the most number of Olympic medals and Nobel prizes.

Our standard of living is the highest in the world compared to all other nations. We are the policeman of the world by de facto. We have the greatest military for war and peace and for disaster relief.

We are the most generous of all nations. We provide economic assistance to a host of nations around the world. Our charities, both private and religious, provide assistance to the third world nations across the globe.

These riches and success did not come organically. What do I mean by that? It is our specific form of government and commerce that created this growth in wealth.

Why no other nations, with their government of communism, and socialism and dictatorships and kings have done as well? The answer is right in front of us. It is individual freedom to choose. That is the secret sauce.


My story is one of millions. It is not unique. If it was, there would be no point to my article. I was at the right place and the right time and took advantage of the opportunity afforded me as did many others.

The real success story is America itself. Without our country and the people that made up America, the melting pot, none of it would be possible.

I chose not to mention about race. The reason is it was not a big part of my experience. My race did not hinder or help in my career or private life. The interesting question is would I have achieved a similar result if my dad had chosen to go to Europe or Japan or Russia? back in 1956.

Interesting enough, there is some data point. Recently, I reconnected with one of our fencing alumni. He was a few years ahead of us and had done well. He was also Asian. He related to me as a side story about his family roots. He came from a wealthy family. His grandfather was a war lord of some kind in China. His grandfather had three sons. He decided to send them away to get a Western education. He chose a different country for each of them. One went to Russia, One went to France and one came to America. I am guessing this was in the 1920s. He told me the results. His uncles that went to Russia and France all had terrible fate. Only his father, the one that came to America was a success. Which also lead to his success. They were not wealthy but middle class. Afterall he went to CCNY. He had a long career in law enforcement and is now retired and enjoying his retirement being a snow bird. He travels between NY and Florida. This is only one isolated incident but it confirms for me the goodness of America.

Personally, I had cousins that stayed in Taiwan and some that came to the US and others went to Australia. All are doing fine in their own way. By enlarge, the ones that came to the US, including my brother have done the best.

America is at a crossroad. In a time when the country seems to be evenly divided. We are being pulled in two opposite directions. It is good to remind us our history and our roots. America is the greatest success story. We are the envy of the world.


The fact I have to write an article to sell America tells me how far we have fallen as a nation. This information should be common knowledge and taught in our public schools. Yet, we have students that have no idea the goodness of our country. There are foreigners dying to come here to pursue the American dream while many that are born here take it for granted and even knock our country for not being great...

A recent poll of millennials found 50% of them prefer socialism as a form of government.

A sad commentary on America in 2019 which I hope to change with this article. I welcome any comment and suggestions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jack Lee


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