Playing for Life: Dr. Leanh Nguyen On The Journey to Asylum and Passion for Music
The national political discourse around immigration has grown more inward-looking and divisive across America and Europe; however, we must continue to think inclusively. Donald Trump recently made comments about the four Progressive Democratic Congresswomen known as ‘the squad’, telling them to go back to their countries of origin, despite three of the women being born in America and one of them having secured asylum in 1995. This divisive rhetoric has divided many across political lines, and we wanted to shed a light on the positive aspects of immigration and cultural diversity through the work of Dr. Leanh Nguyen. In her America Voice podcast, Dr. Nguyen is able to share her experiences and expertise. As an immigrant herself, she hopes to bring visibility to the stories of other refugees and immigrants who have made our society a more fulfilling and connected place. In this article, she explores diversity and inclusivity through an interview with musician Arthur Sodowsky, who emigrated from Russia after years of physical, verbal and emotional abuse.
Dr. Leanh Nguyen was born in war-torn Vietnam and escaped to Europe as a refugee of Communism. After the refugee camp followed by France, Leanh emigrated to the United States for her higher education. Bringing to her life’s work her lived experiences, Leanh has a multi-national and multi-lingual perspective that she brings to her viewers. In her podcast “On Living”, Leanh Nguyen interviewed Arthur Sodowsky, an electric bassist, composer and producer who immigrated to America from Russia.
As a Russian Jew, Arthur left his country at the age of 25 as he could no longer take the political, cultural and social abuse that surrounded him. Arthur Sodowsky came up against a lot of hatred and abuse for his ethnicity and decided to take refuge within the United States. He was verbally, physically and emotionally attacked during his time in Russia, and decided he could not live his life this way. One of the greatest calms he found in the middle of this storm was his love for music. When Arthur was growing up, he explained that music was all around him — it was then that he realized that he needed music to survive. This became a part of his transitioning refuge in America, as the only object he brought with him was his bass guitar.
Immigration in the United States
Dr. Leanh Nguyen explains that immigrant populations, like Arthur Sodowsky, keep the engine of growth moving forward, and are a tremendous force for innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States. More than half the billion-dollar companies in the US have been founded by an immigrant. Each of these, on average, create 760 new jobs. Diverse cultural perspectives also inspire creativity and drive innovation. Multiple voices, perspectives, and personalities bounce off of one another and can give rise to out-of-the-box thinking.
By drawing from a culturally diverse talent pool, companies benefit from hiring professionals with a broad range of skills that are not often accessible when local hiring. A broader skill base allows companies, organizations and groups to have the competitive advantage of adaptability. When it comes to music, in Arthur Sodowsky’s case, Dr. Leanh Nguyen explains that a mixing of a diverse range of musical tastes and influences have the potential to create an entirely new sound, approach or genre. These types of diverse collaborations have been seen within the diversification of blues, rap, hip hop and more.
It is harmful to paint all immigrants and the countries that they come from with the same brush. Generalizations disallow us from having conversations about the often complex, unique, and inspiring stories of individuals that make the United States the country it is. Dr. Leanh Nguyen explains that her dedication in this space has taken her from acute-care psychiatric wards, to community health clinics, to refugee camps and detention centers. It has welcomed into her private office patients from all over the world, of all means, faith, and sexuality.