Happy Fourth of July (and a belated Happy Canada Day)

I hope that everybody enjoys their holiday weekend, and to our friends in Canada a belated Happy Canada Day on July 1st (signifies Canada’s birthday).

Below is a letter that’s been circulated internally, written by one of our colleagues in Unigen Pharmaceuticals. It’s a really touching perspective on life in America and the reminder of how precious our freedom is. Carmen, thanks for taking the time to share your personal story and some wisdom along with it.

The letter, in full form, is below.

Hello. My name is Carmen Hertel. I am currently working as a Research Associate with Unigen Pharmaceuticals in Lacey, WA.

Did you grow up in this area? I didn’t. If you did, I am guessing that there may be a smaller number of people in this category compared to the group of people who grew up elsewhere. All of this is based on my own observations gathered from coming in to our building almost every day for the past year-and-a-half.

As you know, July 4th is Independence Day here in the USA. To me, one of the top on the list of ‘reasons for celebration’ is that of Freedom. This word is not the easiest to define as it can cover a rather broad spectrum and also can be interpreted as the person wants. Nevertheless, for me to attempt to define a word that encompasses so much, it seems easier to for me to share a small excerpt of life without freedom.

Allow me to take you to my home many years ago in the Philippines:

There were several demonstrations recently. Students and police clashes were everywhere. It was tear gas and bullets versus Molotov bombs. Students and other demonstrators were shot—one right outside our house gate. That night, in the middle of the newscast, the TV screen display became all static. My parents were over at the farm –on an island southwest of Manila. Lola (a term for grandmother) put all the kids to bed. I was in the same room as she was and I couldn’t sleep. The gun fire and screams were too disturbing. By midnight, everything turned silent. But I could hear something so I snuck out to the gate. Peeking between the slots of the hinges, I could see military tanks moving along the road and then one stopped right about my house. In my pajamas, covered by the dark of night, I hid behind the garden wall. Then I heard people banging on my next-door neighbor’s gate yelling “Open Up!” I could hear the maid running down the foyer and the Chinese master and his wife talking in rapid Cantonese. There was a 12 ft tall wall between our garden patio and the neighbor’s area and I climbed the wall to watch. The military men said they needed to look inside the house and do an inspection. Quickly but quietly, I went to wake my siblings. My oldest brother was in college, so he would take charge if the men came to our place. Sure enough, our house was searched next – more like ransacked. All of our belongings were thrown and scattered to the floor. Various items were taken. By the time they left, our house was in total chaos—furniture, clothes and personal items were strewn all around. The next day, radios were all static and so were the TVs. There was no newspaper. That day, Martial law was declared. My Uncle, a University professor and an advocate of democracy was taken to prison. A friend of the family was imprisoned in a small square of a cell, so small that she could not even stand. A lot of secret meetings happened with the knowledge that we had to run for our very lives should the military come to disperse the gathering. No person could openly criticize the government.

Though times have changed and freedom is now again enjoyed in my home country, the time that it was curtailed haunts my memory.

This being said, I imagine there may be other people here within our family of companies who have gone through more difficult times than my story above depicts. Although I am humbled at this prospect, for me to even narrate this story for you does not minimize the fear I had as my family and I were subjected to this lack of freedom. Subsequent to this, I have become so ‘American’ – I know that I have the freedom that I can complain if I believe something is not right. I also believe that this freedom to complain can be taken too far at times. If we stop and think about it, some of the things we complain about are trivial in comparison to things that really matter.

So I ask you – do you appreciate the freedom we enjoy here in the USA? I think almost everybody does. I would encourage everyone that you don’t stop at just enjoying or appreciating your freedom. Be an advocate for freedom—help those that are helpless and cannot or have a hard time fighting for their own freedom – the poor; the elderly; the homeless; the infirm. Live by the golden rule and encourage others to do the same. Be compassionate and teach compassion to your family and friends. I believe we should fight to protect others while we are strong and when we weaken, someone else will fight to protect us. Most of us are aware that we are being protected right now by our own soldiers. In return, I pray for these brave men and women; I pray for ourselves; and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Have a wonderful 4th! God Bless America!

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