Understand where you came from to know where you’re going, Vong Mouanoutoua advised new Fresno Pacific University graduates.
“Find out your original story, otherwise you are lost,” the Clovis City Councilmember told a commencement crowd of around 6,000 people May 7, 2022, at Selland Arena in downtown Fresno. “Tell that story over and over again. All these stories are special.”
Some 714 students were eligible to participate in graduation: 310 from bachelor’s degree completion programs, 244 from graduate programs (including Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary); and 160 from traditional undergraduate programs.
Mouanoutoua’s story has both danger and joy. Coming to the United States as a child in 1976, he was one of over 150,000 Hmong refugees who fled Laos after the “Secret War,” in which Hmong people put themselves in danger to support the U.S. Though a third of Hmong people died in the war, those who fled did not despair, Mouanoutoua said. “Our people chose freedom, our people chose life.”
And life is what the Hmong found in the U.S.
“This is the only place where your story gets woven into the American story,” he said.
While his family started poor in their new home, they did not stay that way.
“My father said, ‘If you’re poor on the outside you’re only poor until you get a good job. If you’re poor on the inside, you’ll be poor your entire life,” Mouanoutoua said.
Today Mouanoutoua is director of external relations & project development at Community Medical Centers and a lecturer at Fresno State University. Elected to the Clovis City Council in 2017, he has also been involved with the Clovis Planning Commission, the Foundation at Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, Central Valley Children’s Services Network, Clovis Unified School District Southeast Asian Conference, Boys and Girls Club and many more agencies. After studying at UCLA, he obtained his Juris Doctorate degree from San Joaquin College of Law.
Mouanoutoua and his wife, Jane, have five children.
One faculty member, four graduates and one Fresno church received awards at commencement:
- Ken Cheung, professor of chemistry, received the Nickel Excellence in Teaching Award (NETA).
- Juliet Anastasia Hardy, Callen Dale Moon and Chole Alexa Sharp all received Academic Awards for perfect 4.0 grade point averages.
- Veronica Mendez Garcia received the Harold Haak Award.
- Westside Church of God, Pastor Paul Binion, received the Seminary Service Award.
This ceremony was the last for FPU President Joseph Jones, Ph.D., who is retiring. André Stephens, Ph.D., will assume his position July 1, 2022.
More on commencement and related topics:
- Watch commencement at https://youtu.be/DeEuu9fpKv8
- Student honors fresno.edu/article/05/03/2022/fresno-pacific-university-honors-top-students-spring-events
- Golden Grads fresno.edu/article/05/09/2022/classes-1970-72-gather-spring-fpu-commencement-golden-grad-honors
- Teacher Credential Celebration fresno.edu/article/05/09/2022/words-linda-hoff-launch-226-new-teachers-fpu-credential-celebration
Fresno Pacific University is California’s Central Valley’s only accredited Christian university, connecting every student’s untapped potential with unlimited opportunity for professional, personal and ethical growth. Nonprofit and independent, FPU offers more than 100 areas of study to about 4,000 traditional undergraduate, adult degree completion, graduate and seminary students at the main campus in Southeast Fresno and throughout the Valley at regional campuses in North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and Merced as well as online.