In 1975, when the U.S. left Vietnam and Saigon fell, the world watched in horror as desperate families fled in rickety, dangerous boats. Yet the crowded vessels were the families' best hope for survival and, perhaps, a new life for their children. Today, it's clear that, due to their hard work and successes since, that hope was fulfilled for many. Vinh Chung, the youngest in a family of 10, was crowded and starving with 73 other refugees aboard a small boat for six days until rescued; today he and his siblings have among them six doctorates and five masters degrees from prestigious institutions. Chantal VanKlompenberg's parents had to leave school after third grade, but she and her 5 siblings have all graduated and built successful careers and families. David Duong's parents worked for years at factory jobs, but today he's a doctor. Chinh Chu sold books door-to-door to help pay for college; now he's a billionaire business manager and an active philanthropist, recently providing aid to Vietnamese flood victims.
More generally, many of the nation’s 2.1 million Vietnamese immigrants started small businesses or took demanding work in factories or the shrimp industry -- but their offspring sought higher education and careers in business and technology. Vietnamese Americans tend to value family, Vietnamese culture, and faith; 40 percent are Buddhist and 30 percent Catholic. They live in greatest numbers in large cities in the states of California, Texas, Washington and Louisiana.