In Honor of the Fourth of July
I was privileged to be the mentor judge for Nho Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American judge in the country. He is a living hero.
A Living Hero
In college, he protested the South Vietnam military dictatorship and led a student democratic movement. He risked his life to establish freedom and representative government.
He was elected to the Congress of South Vietnam, where he became one of its leader. Congress elected him to be a Justice on the Supreme Court.
As the Communist North Vietnamese army moved into South Vietnam, Nho Nguyen became a prime target. Instead of saving himself, he worked tirelessly to help others flee the country. He barely escaped and was airlifted to a U.S. Navy carrier.
He ended up in a refugee camp at Camp Pendleton Marine Base. He went from being a distinguished national leader to working as a handy man’s assistant and janitor to support his family. At night, he attended college and then law school. He worked very hard, and excelled at everything, and was appointed judge.
His First Jury Trial: Stage Fright and Tears of Disappointment
Judge Nguyen was very nervous about presiding over his first jury trial. He had a case of stage fright. He was worried about his accent. He was afraid that he might make mistakes and look like a fool in front of the large audience.
I gave him advice, and a pep talk.
During his first break, I met Judge Nguyen in the back hallway. He had tears in his eyes. I thought that the stress had overwhelmed him.
Instead, he said, “I can’t believe how many people are trying to get out of jury service. Don’t they know what they have?”
I walked away with tears in my eyes. Sometimes, we Americans need to be reminded about “what we have.”