When Fairfield, CT resident Anthony “Tony” Hwang looks at his family and his success, one word comes to mind – sacrifice.
Some know Tony Hwang, age 43, from his exterior: his successful career in real estate, a member of the Fairfield Rotary Club, on the board of directors for the Urban League and a member of the Fairfield RTM in District 2.
Behind these successes is a first generation American man of Chinese descent, a man who remembers his father leaving his family for a number of years, sending back money from the U.S., to make a “better life” for his mother, his two sisters and he.
“My father was struggling and sacrificing to make a living in the U.S., sending back money,” Hwang said. “As a child I never saw him. We held onto the fact that he was trying to make a better life. It takes courage to pick up and leave the family. He gave up his family for a number of years, a tremendous sacrifice.”
“I was three when he left,” he said. “Those are things that drive me, an appreciation that I was afforded a better way to succeed.”
Hwang, his mother and his two sisters arrived in the U.S. in the early 1970s.
“The best time of my youth was when I was reunited with family,” Hwang said. “We started in ESL classes. To this day my parents do not speak English well. My will lies in recognizing we had been given an opportunity to have a chance. I was willing to work hard, and the opportunity to achieve was always available in this country.
I still believe in the American dream.” Hwang truly feels he is a beneficiary of the American dream.
“In the Chinese language, America translates to ‘beautiful country,'” he said. “We live the American dream, and it did not come without a sacrifice. I believe in the American dream every single day.”
Hwang said he is inspired mostly by his parents. “My parents always gave me hope,” he said. “They sacrificed to give me a way. Every day, I am inspired by them.”
It is because of his parents, Hwang said, that he has a desire to give back to his community.
“When we first arrived, I saw it in my parents that it was not going to be easy, and you must work hard,” he said. “Commitment and hard work pay off in this country; it rewards people.”
Hwang’s belief in the American dream drives his desire to serve the community.
“The experiences of being a first generation American, watching first-hand the struggles and sacrifices of my parents to make a better life, it gives you a deeper appreciation that we are very lucky and we have a responsibility to give back either in the form of maintaining yourself as a good public figure,” Hwang said. “The first priority is that you provide for your family. My parents sacrificed for our family. You come away with the desire to give back, as I did in public service.”
Aside from his role in the RTM, Hwang said he supports Giant Steps and the Pilot House, both programs which provides support, education and services for parents and children impacted by autism.
Hwang said his being voted into the RTM three years ago is a reaffirmation of overcoming obstacles.
“I ran for first time three years ago,” Hwang said. “I was never into politics, yet I was the highest vote getter in the RTM. I was honored and proud of the fact that running for first time in political office, I was validated in the community with highest amount of votes from over 95 RTM candidates.
It was a reaffirmation of my beliefs in staying true to my values and working very hard.”
Hwang said his tremendous success in the real estate world, the strength of family support, and his ability to be elected into the RTM are a testament to overcoming challenging obstacles and succeeding through hard work and giving back through public service.
“People say why do you always have a smile?” Hwang said. “I am resilient. When people interact with me they see I am so happy. Happiness emanates from HOPE, an appreciation of what opportunity, what perseverance can give us all and that every child has an opportunity to be the best they can be.”
“My philosophy, because of my upbringing and the experiences I have gone through, is that I genuinely have hope that I can make a difference,” he said. “I have been fortunate.”
By Audrey Adade
Reprinted from “The Fairfield Minuteman” © Copyright 2008