Tom Lee '91: Perpetual Foreigner?

Updated: Oct 1, 2021


Stanford is uniquely positioned to deliver a practical understanding of Asian-American perspectives and history to leaders in government, education, the private sector, and

even globally. Better knowledge leads to better decisions potentially impacting millions of people. Our endowment helps unlock this potential.


Our initiative is a personal passion because I see in my teenage kids and their generation a unique window of opportunity to advance diversity and cross-cultural understanding far beyond what I had to grow up with. I am reminded that we have much work to do to pave a better path for our kids and future generations. Even in the last few months I personally experienced two incidents resulting from my race which not only were symptomatic of the “perpetual foreigner” perception directed towards many Asian-Americans, but even threatened my physical safety. No one of any race should be made to feel that way in 2021.


Why the misbehavior? Isolation and ignorance. If someone grows up never truly knowing a person of a different race and relies solely on social media, popular culture, and biased press as substitutes, the result is predictable.


Stanford is a highly-respected brand and institution among educators and leaders across all disciplines. My greatest desire for our initiative is to see that power applied to meaningfully help insure our own generation is the last saddled with widespread ignorance of this simple truth - Asian-Americans are truly “American”, proved by a rich history and common cause with Americans of all races, creeds and cultures.