You Like the Soupe, Soupe and Speeche, Speeche

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
December 14, 2007


A while back in the 1970s, a friend told me the story I am about to share with you here. I can’t remember which one of my friends it was, but some where in my subconscious mind, the name Kronyan Weefur, keeps popping up. Kronyan was known in our cycles for telling interesting and funning stories, and Soupe, Soupe is one of those stories he might told us during our AWINA days. This story is about a Korean scholar and three Ivy League professors who were attending an award luncheon held in honor of the Korean American scholar who had made substantial discoveries and contributions to the study of Microbiology. Because of his contributions in this area of study, his peers selected him for the recognition.

This version of this story is mine, and I call it: “You Like the Soupe, Soupe and Speeche, Speeche?” And for the purpose of telling this story, I will refer to the Korean scholar as Dr. D. W. S. Park.

This particular event was held at an Ivy League institution in Massachusetts, at which Who’s Who in the scientific community were in attendance. The Korean scholar in whose honor the event was being held, shared table with the three Ivy League professors. They were from Harvard, Yale and Cornell Universities.

These Ivy League professors were not aware that Dr. Park, the gentleman who sat at the table with them was the guest of honor. Dr. Park’s undivided attention was on the notes he was reading. The notes were his acceptance speech; they were written in Korean. The three professors, too, were engaged in a serious discussion among themselves. They did not acknowledge the presence of Dr. Park.

Thirty minutes into the program, soup, tea and crackers were served. After they got through drinking the soup, tea and eating the crackers, one of the Ivy League professors who had observed Dr. Park drinking the soup tried to engage him in a conversation. The Ivy League professor had assumed that due to Dr. Park’s Oriental features, he may not be that fluent in the English Language. Therefore, he proceeded to ask him the question in broken English: “You like the soupe, soupe?” The question he asked Dr. Park was asked with a condescending attitude, and at best - a putdown.

Dr. Park realizing the putdown attitude of the Ivy League professor, he nodded his head in the affirmative without uttering a word, which amounted to, “I like the soup”. In other words, he lived up to their expectation (the assumption that he could not speak proper English).

Forty-five minutes after the “Soupe, Soupe” incident, the Master of Ceremony (MC) requested the attention of the audience by saying – “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your undivided attention?” He then asked another gentleman seated on the platform who proceeded with the introduction of the guest of honor. The gentleman called out the various awards and honors that Dr. Park, whose full name is - Dan Won Sun-Park had received over the years, including the Congressional Medal of Honor for Bravery for his service in Vietnam. Right after, the MC asked the audience to stand in order to welcome the guest of honor to the stage.

Dr. Park did not get up immediately when his name was called. He waited for a while, and when he noticed that everyone in the hall were on their feet, he politely got up from his seat, bowed his head and made his way to the podium to receive his honors. The audience applauded for a while. One could image what was going through the minds of the Ivy League professors – surprised, shocked, speechless, etc. when Dr. Park stood up to make his way to the podium.

However, when Dr. Park got through giving his acceptance speech, he went back to his seat. When he got to his seat, everyone at the table, including the three Ivy League professors congratulated him. After everyone got through congratulating him, he turned to the three Ivy League professors – said to them, “May I ask the three of you a question?” Together, they responded; ”You are certainly welcome.” Dr. Park looked them in the eyes and popped the question: “Did you enjoy my Speeche, Speeche?” They responded with apologies for their negative attitudes towards him. But it was too late; the damage had already been committed.

In view of the above, one has to be very careful in his/her evaluation and interaction with people he/she comes in contact with, because looks can be deceiving. Remember, a book cannot be judged by its cover! I think most Liberians can relate to, and benefit from this story.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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