Drawing blood from his own arm, the father resolved to save his children from starvation and dehydration at sea. He dribbled it into their mouths, all to deliver them from a bleak promise of poverty and repression.
That's how Phu Nguyen describes his and his sister's escape from Vietnam. It was 1981, and Nguyen, only 3 at the time, had set sail with his family.
After one month at sea, the death of nine children aboard their boat, and eight months in a Hong Kong refugee camp, the Nguyens finally arrived in America. His parents had only $2 in their pockets when they came to Orange County, Nguyen says, and today they have a multi-state corporation and one of the nicest homes in Huntington Beach.
That quintessential immigrant story inspired Nguyen, now 33, to improve the lives of people in Vietnam and in America, he says. He's running as a Democrat for the California State Assembly seat representing Costa Mesa, Westminster, Garden Grove and surrounding areas.