A GIANT WITH DAMAGED WINGS ------K. John Wei’s American Dream
As a legendary achiever, in the past 30 years he has successfully played three colorful roles in American society. In Carolina Power & Light Company and IBM Corporation, he was a senior programmer. In R.D. International Inc., he was transformed to be a real estate company's president. In the oversea Chinese American community in North Carolina, he is widely known and has been given cordial nicknames like "Old Guardian," "Chinese mayor," "Non-official representative of American-Chinese", "Messenger of the Chinese Community." He is Mr. John Wei.
January 19, 2008, Mr. Wei hosted an honorable party in a Cardinal Country Club banquet in downtown Raleigh to celebrate a "Five happy events come once” celebration. That was to celebrate the wedding for his son, the birth of his first grandson, he and his wife’s 33rd wedding anniversary, his retirement, and the 2008 Chinese New Year Festival. More than 160 guests were invited and happily celebrated this event. The presence of important figures made this event more like a grand ceremony. They are North Carolina Congressman David Price with his wife Lisa; North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge; North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and her husband Bill; North Carolina State Senator Harris Blake and his wife; North Carolina House Representative Jennifer Weiss; Former North Carolina Governor Easley’s uncle Joe Zaytoun to represent Easley; North Carolina Community College President Martin Lancaster; Congressman Brad Miller’s representative Gail Eluwa; Former President Clinton's Treasury Dept. Deputy Assistant Secretary Bill Chou. John’s mother, parents-in-law, brothers and sisters along with his daughter-in-law’s parents were also there to celebrate.
January 10, 2009, John attended North Carolina's new governor Beverly Perdue's inauguration ceremony in Raleigh, N. C. On January 20th 2009, he and his wife Shue were in the United States President Obama’s Inauguration as VIP visitors through Congressman David Price’s invitation. As one of the few Chinese American faces at the presidential inauguration ceremony, as well as the North Carolina gubernatorial celebration, he carries much pride and honor but also feels more responsibility.
Achievement after Misery and Tragedy:
John was born and grew up in a poor family in Taiwan. This is a seven-member family. As a worker in the Taiwan Sugar company, his father could only earn a meager salary. His mother earned a little income by sewing and mending clothes for other people. With his father’s small salary and his mother’s little income, the family lived a poor and hard life. During his childhood, he was hungry and starving almost everyday. In such a difficult circumstance and in spite of some health problems, John still achieved an excellent score on his high school entrance exam and was sent to Taipei’s best high school, Chieg-Guo High School.
During childhood, John dreamed of becoming a scientist, but a catastrophic accident changed his dreams and his life. At age 20, when he was doing laboratory work, a sudden chemical explosion happened and he was severely injured. His hands still have obvious defects, both of his eardrums were broken and only the auditory nerves are still intact. When talking to him, you need to speak loudly. His eye cornea was also broken and he needs special glasses to help his vision. Both of his hands were also severely injured. Only two fingers were left on his left hand and his right hand also lost one finger. Even now, we can still see obvious suture marks on his wrist. This is why we call him a “Giant with damaged wings".
After a period of suffering and desperation, he recovered with an indomitable fortitude. He decided to find his new place in life and switched to study Mathematics after Science. In 1971, John Wei graduated from National Taiwan Normal University with a Bachelor degree in Mathematics. He then taught math at a middle-high school and a college for seven years. John and his wife Shue also taught private classes at night. Gradually, Teacher Wei’s reputation began to spread and parents were eager to send their children to his class. Over thirty years later, some former students still remember him and keep in touch with their former teacher.
In 1978, John and his wife Shue (who graduated from National Taiwan Normal University with a Bachelor degree in Physics), along with his young sister Leesha, were all admitted and granted full Teaching Assistant Fellowships by the Graduate School of Pennsylvania State University. In 1980, John and his wife, with outstanding achievement levels, completed their master degree study in Mathematics and Computer science.
This process was like a butterfly’s metamorphosis for John. He didn’t learn English until he was 31. Due to the accidental injury to his eardrums, his hearing in Chinese was not even clear, let alone an entirely different new language. His use of computers was slower than ordinary people, because of the loss of several fingers. During his master degree study, he was also hospitalized due to stomach bleeding caused by an ulcer. His Daughter grew up around their computer table. Despite all these difficulties, he and his wife completed their master degree studies in two years, both with an “A” for almost every course.
After graduating from the Pennsylvania State University, John and his wife moved to Columbia, South Carolina and worked in a software development company PMIS as programmers. This entry into the electronic computer industry was to start his career as a programmer for 30 years. In 1982, John and his whole family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and he joined in Carolina Power & Light Company as a programmer. In 1984, he joined IBM as a Systems Engineer for oversea service and later returned to Carolina Power & Light Company. From 1996, he worked in the Office of State Personnel of the North Carolina state government for more than 10 years.
Pride for his family:
Mr. John Wei’s family can be called an "IBM family" and also a traditional Chinese family. His wife Shue worked as a programmer and project leader in IBM for 25 years. John also worked for IBM. Their daughter (Shiny) is currently a Senior Manager at IBM and their son (Addi) is currently an IBM marketing expert. His wife Shue likes Beijing Opera and Mahjong, and has personally founded the North Carolina Triangle Beijing Opera Society. His son likes Chinese culture and Chinese martial arts and has devoted much time to studying it. He has also inherited his father's social skills.
John's father, Mr. Gong-yi Wei, was descended from Hunan Yanling Hakkas. As a 15-year-old soldier, he took part in World War II to fight with the Japanese invaders. He was injured by numerous bullets. After the defeat of Japan, he went back to his hometown and soon rejoined the Chinese Nationalist Army as an alternative soldier for his brother. In 1945, John’s father moved to Taiwan as a member of Nationalist Army which oversaw the surrender of Japan in Taiwan.
The scenes of his father walking him to elementary school everyday and other beautiful memories of family life are still fresh in John’s memory. Even when John was a graduate student in Pennsylvania State University, his father still repeatedly encouraged him to study hard. “The trees want to calm down, but the wind does not stop; The sons want to feed back, but the parents are gone." Whenever John Wei remembers his father, he is always full of tears. He wrote a poem named “miss” to commemorate his father:
My Family Father,
Though hard and poor,
You loved your original land along the Yan-Ling river;
Through winds and rains,
You were forced to cross the sea and settled in Taiwan;
To respect your ancient ancestors,
You use their words and stories,
To restrain your own behavior;
To teach your children,
To preserve the Chinese culture and tradition;
As you always said,
Full of pride and glory,
We have more than five thousand years of history;
Meandered or rushed,
We Chinese has gradually flowed to today,
And will keep flowing forward forever;
In memorial days,
With deeper emotions,
I miss you and our unseen ancestors;
Sweetly and Happlily,
I always recall your teachings and carings,
And will do the same to my own children as you did to us.
Success as a business man:
Due to his wife Shue’s overseas assignment by IBM, John resigned from Carolina Power & Light Company and joined IBM China in 1984. He and his wife worked in Beijing for almost two years, with a monthly income and living allowance of 1000 times that of the average mainland person. By 1987 John had accumulated a substantial sum of money. After he came back from China, he returned to Carolina Power & Light Company. With the money he accumulated, he set up a real estate company, “R.D. Realty”, as an investment tool and entered the real estate business as his side job. Since then he has been working on it for more than 20 years.
Since its inception, the company has trained a large number of real estate elite agents and brokers in the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, area making a tremendous contribution to the growth of Chinese American real estate activity. After 22 years, his realty firm has incorporated to become “R.D. International, Inc”.
Thanks to John Wei’s smart mind, sensitive feeling and excellent judgment, R.D. International, Inc., has seen steady development. During the past 20 plus years, it has created hundreds of millions of dollars in total sales for North Carolina Triangle area customers. It now has more than ten highly experienced real estate agents.
He also invested much in Wall Street. When the 2008 Wall Street financial crisis swept the world, when most investors were losing more than 40%, John took a far-sighted approach and sold part of his United States real estate and all of his stocks after his retirement in May 2008. Wall Street’s financial crisis was escaped by only a few astute investors like him.
Although North Carolina’s house prices have fallen by 10% - 20%, and sales have been affected to a certain extent, R D International Inc. still commanded average sales of 300K – 400K and provided customers with “one-stop services for house sale or purchase”. His “small profits but quick turnover” strategy, and the implementation of brand strategy also helped a lot. John also sold homes in values of $700,000 or even more than one million dollars in 2008.
Contribution to the Oversea Chinese community:
John and his wife Shue managed their real estate company and also worked full time as programmers at Carolina Power & Light and IBM, respectively. Although these two jobs took each of them more than 15 hours per day, they actively participated in the overseas Chinese Community’s activity more than almost everybody else. They are indeed models of the overseas Chinese American and could be described as resourceful and willing to take an initiative whenever the situation called for it.
As for one of John’s contributions to Chinese American society, when members of the People’s Republic of China embassy, namely the Former Ambassador Li Daoyu, Ambassador Li Zhaoxing, Minister Yang Jiechi, Minister Liu Yi and other embassy officials, came to visit North Carolina, John always hosted them or arranged their meetings with N. C. elected officers. When former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, former Premier Zhu Rongji and Premier Wen Jiabao visited the United States, John was invited to Washington D. C. to have meetings and take pictures with them. The current Chinese Vice-President Xi Jingping and the current President of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee Jia Qinglin also met and hosted John in 1985, when they were vice mayor of Xiamen City and vice governor of Fujian Province, respectively. From these old photographs, we can see the leaders’ young and simple appearances at that time, as well as John’s photo as a young man. In 2005, when the Chinese Embassy Educational official, Minister Counselor Liu Chuan-sheng visited North Carolina, John accompanied her to meet with Secretary of the State Elaine Marshall. Later, Ms Liu Chuansheng praised John as “a rare sophisticated diplomatic person."
Born (1946) and raised in Taiwan, he did not forget his Taiwanese roots either. When Taiwanese officials came to visit North Carolina’s politicians, John also did his part to assist. In 1991, John helped North Carolina and Taiwan to become a pair of “Sister States”. In 1993, he led the Vice Mayor of Cary, and the President of Cary Chamber to establish a sister-city relationship with Hsinchu City, Taiwan. From these activities John earned the nickname, “Cary’s Chinese Mayor.”
In 1988, John was the Principal of Raleigh Chinese Language School and made the currently used RCLS song. In 1992, John served as the President of Triangle Area Chinese American Society (TACAS). During that time he led the first Chinese New Year's Eve party for people from both the mainland and Hong Kong and made the election for President of TACAS happened. This brought one of the most united moments for the Triangle area Chinese Americans. Since 1996, he has also served as one of the N. C. Representatives of the Chinese American Academic & Professional Association in Southeast U.S. (CAPASUS).
Since 1996, John has also been the board member of First Citizens Bank in Wake County and a member of Governors Board of North Carolina Rate Bureau. In 1990, he founded the NC Chinese American Business Association. In 2006, he co-founded the North Carolina Chinese Center. He also has a dream to pursue an Asian-American Commission in the state government of North Carolina, to enlist North Carolina Asian elites to make a greater contribution to the local community. His contributions to the US-China relationship and to the local Chinese and American community have been recognized and highly appraised.
John has been cooperating with both Republican and Democratic officials. Among them, Senator Jesse Helms, the former Chairman of the U.S. Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who passed away in July 2008, had been friends with John for more than 20 years. John paid his last respects at former Senator Helms funeral. Congressman David Price, who is the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Department of Homeland Security of the United States, has been John’s friend for 23 years. Congressman David Price failed in running for re-election in 1993. But 2 years later, with fund-raising and grass roots help from the Chinese American through John’s efforts, David Price won back his seat as a U. S. congressman. “A friend in need is a friend indeed. (Friends of adversity are true friends.)”. This is what David Price said to John. Congressman Bob Etheridge, another friend of John’s for 20 years, emotionally said at John’s five happy events party (1/19/2008):“We thank Mr. Wei for his contributions to the region. With his help, we have made this area a better place to live.”