With the invitation of Taiwan Eden Society Foundation, Dr. Young-Woo Kang arrived in Taiwan to share his experiences through two seminars held on May 22 and May 23. Using education as the theme, the seminar provides parents knowledge on how to develop their child’s fullest potential, helps those with disabilities to walk out from their shadows and to live a healthy life. Through sharing his life experiences in overcoming his physical disability and in raising two sons, Dr. Young-Woo Kang realized “how to live” to reach our ideals and ultimate goals on May 23 in Taipei County government building.
Introduction of Dr. Kang
Dr. Young-Woo Kang is an influential and well-respected professional educator. Even though he is blind and disabled, he has received the Asian American Society Outstanding Contribution and Achievement Award in 2001. His determination to turn weaknesses into assets throughout his life has help forge significant improvements in the lives of the people with disabilities throughout the world. Dr. Kang also raised his two sons to receive PhDs. He was the first blind person to receive PhD in Korea, and he has published many books that were widely read and very well-received. Not only was he invited by many Korean and overseas churches, schools, and societal organizations to speak, he was nominated by President Bush to be the chairman of the United States National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency which makes recommendations to the President and Congress on issues affecting 54 million Americans with disabilities, and the senate has passed the nomination in 2001.
Changing attitudes can change your life
Using the example of educating his two sons, Dr. Kang emphasized the importance of an affective education. “When my older son was three years old, he prayed wishing that his dad can see, so his dad can teach him how to ride a bicycle, play baseball….in his heart, he has a very pessimistic outlook towards those with disabilities. He treated people with disabilities as useless. He felt that his dad cannot do this, nor do that. Anyways, he cannot do anything.”
Dr. Kang was determined to change his son’s viewpoint towards the disabled, because he does not want his son to grow up thinking that his dad’s disability is something to be ashamed of.
“Because I wanted to change his viewpoint, so I told him that even though Dad cannot see, but there are things that I am better at than those that can see. For example, Mom cannot read anymore once the light is closed, and she cannot read the bible to you, but Dad can.”
After saying this, Dr. Kang’s son’s thoughts changed, for his son started seeing that there are some things that his father does better than others. Ten years later, when the older son was about to take the Harvard entrance exam, he picked the topic “The Most Unforgettible Thing in His Life.” Dr. Kang said, “My son wrote about the story of how his father read a picture book to him.” He wrote, “Even though my father cannot see, but he has a pair of eyes that can see the future and life. It is not I who lead him because I can see, but rather it is my dad who lead my life even though he cannot see. I learned how to use my dad’s viewpoint to view the world, so I am grateful to have a father who is blind.”
Dr. Kang’s son was accepted by Harvard University. The registration office contacted Dr. Kang saying that he will be proud of his son. In actuality, there are many students who had higher scores than his son, but they were not accepted, because Harvard University grades upon a standard not solely based on IQ or academic grades; they like people with a clear direction and positive attitudes and perspectives. As a result, Dr. Kang’s son was accepted.
Faith helped him find the meaning of his life.
In middle school, Dr. Kang lost his eye sight in a sports injury. Within the first four year after he lost his eye sight, he lost three relatives. He lost his father, mother, and sister. He said, “I have lost the meaning to continue living.” In the hospital, he has thought about committing suicide, because he does not have any hope in living. He felt he is the failure of life.
But faith has become his greatest source of strength. Dr. Kang said, “Faith plays a very important part of finding out the meaning of life. When I was 17-years-old, I started attending a middle school for the blind. At that time, I self-pitied a lot, but I found the meaning of life through faith. I thought that even though I am living very sadly, I will glorify God after 10 to 20 years.”
Thus, he set a life goal of 30 years, and he told himself that no matter what kind of obstacle or difficulties he may experience, he will work hard to reach that goal. Afterwards, he started to write books, and these books are published in different languages. The United States President was touched by the books that he wrote, so he invited Dr. Kang to speak at the White House. Later, he became a very famous public speaker and author.
Dr. Kang encouraged everyone, “I hope everyone can find the meaning of their lives. Our lives are very precious. If everyone believes that when you seek, then your life will change. After we set the goals in our lives, even when there are times of despair and difficulties, and times where we want to give up, we must find that source of strength. And that source of strength comes from faith. In faith, there is nothing impossible.”
In conclusion, Dr. Kang stated three points for the seminar:
1. To change everyone’s mindset and attitude.
2. To have clear goals and dreams.
3. Never, never, never give up.