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Monday, December 11
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In Print: On News Stands Now

OLD FASHIONED IMMIGRANT ETHICS

by Tumbleweed Smith

I had some outstanding students while teaching broadcast production at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa. One of them is Jerry Liu, who came to the US from Taiwan in 1981. "I came here to learn English and journalism," says Jerry. "Texas has the cheapest college tuitions in the United States. I picked UTPB because it was a small school in the middle of West Texas. I thought it would be the best place to learn English."

Jerry was popular. The broadcasting students had a party one night in Jerry's modest trailer home located in student housing, the cheapest living accommodations on campus. Jerry was the perfect host, offering Chinese snacks and teaching Chinese games. Several times Jerry invited me to have lunch in his sparsely furnished trailer. It was always the same: squid, cabbage and onions. We drank water.

Jerry worked part time as a waiter at Red Lobster. He put on a show for his customers. He would slide up the table, act silly and give them excellent service. He got big tips and saved most of them. He is a big believer in saving money. Since he has a good heart and a sympathetic ear, he was an easy touch. A female student convinced Jerry she had an emergency and needed a few thousand dollars. Jerry loaned her the money, expecting her to pay him back like she said she would. She never did.

After graduating from UTPB, Jerry earned a PhD in journalism from UT in Austin. His dissertation was on perhaps the most obscure area of journalism: semiotics, how signs communicate meanings and ideas. In the meantime he was working to get his parents, two brothers and a sister to the US. Jerry found out that journalism doesn't pay very much, so he managed a couple of restaurants for awhile, then went to work for the government's Immigration and Naturalization Service. Occasionally Jerry would visit us. He said on the rifle range he could blast a cantaloupe to pieces from 400 yards. He could do 100 pushups. He stayed in great physical shape.

When Jerry got married to his beautiful wife Regina, we went to his wedding in Dallas. The reception was an elaborate affair held in an upscale hotel that had a fine Italian restaurant. A mariachi band from El Paso provided the entertainment.

Jerry lives in the Washington, DC area and will have his house paid for in a few months. He has saved nearly half a million dollars. Some of that will pay for college tuition for his two daughters, Christina and Angelina. He jokingly says he could loan money to the government. I told him it might not be a good thing to do. He has trouble understanding why the government is broke. "I don't spend money I don't have and always save money for a rainy day," he says. "It's just common sense." He never buys coffee and has one car. Jerry hopes to retire in Texas and pay cash for a five-bedroom home with a swimming pool in the back yard. I'm sure he'll do it.

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