“Making a Place for Friendship” by Harvey Hacker – San Francisco – August 19, 2020

Billy and Harvey met for lunch in San Francisco
Harvey Hacker
Wrapping up active practice of architecture begun 1969 in San Francisco following study at Harvard after high school in LA, now working to improve both his piano playing and his cooking.


As an architect, I am concerned that friendship flower in a suitable setting can do no better than to offer you the some thoughts from Thoreau’s Walden, which I happened to be re-reading when Billy posed the question: ” How about writing about What is Friendly Architecture ? “

I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up. It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain. I have had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once un­der my roof, and yet we often parted without being aware that we had come very near to one another.

One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a house, the difficulty of getting to a sufficient distance from my guest when we began to utter the big thoughts in big words. You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port. The bullet of your thought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into its last and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it may plow out again through the side of his head. Also, our sentences wanted room to unfold and form their columns in the interval.  Individuals, like nations, must have suitable broad and natural boundaries, even a considerable neutral ground, between them. I have found it a singular luxury to talk across the pond to a companion on the opposite side. In my house we were so near that we could not begin to hear, – we could not speak low enough to be heard; as when you throw two stones into calm water so near that they break each other’s undulations. If we are merely loquacious and loud talkers, then we can afford to stand very near together, check by jowl, and feel each other’s breath; but if we speak reservedly and thoughtfully, we want to be farther apart, that all animal heat and moisture may have a chance to evaporate If ,we would enjoy the most intimate society with that in each of us which is without, or above, being spoken to, we must not only be silent, but only so far apart bodily that we cannot possibly hear each other’s voice in any case. Referred to this standard, speech is for the convenience of those who are hard of hearing; but there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout. As the conversation began to assume a loftier and grander tone, we gradually shoved our chairs farther apart till they touched the wall in opposite corners, and then commonly there was not room enough.

My “best” room, however, my withdrawing room, always ready for company, on whose carpet the sun rarely fell, was the pine wood behind my house. Thither in summer days, when distinguished guests came, I took them, and a priceless domestic swept the floor and dusted the furniture and kept the things in order.

If one guest came he sometimes partook of my frugal meal, and it was no interruption to conversation to be stirring a hasty-pudding, or watching the rising and maturing of a loaf of bread in the ashes, in the meanwhile. But if twenty came and sat in my house there was nothing said about dinner, though there might be bread enough for two, more than if eating were a forsaken habit; but we naturally practiced abstinence; and this was never felt to be an offence against hospitality, but the most proper and considerate course. The waste and decay of physical life, which so often needs repair, seemed miraculously retarded in such a case, and the vital vigor stood its ground. I could entertain thus a thousand as well as twenty; and if any ever went away disappointed or hungry from my house when they found me at home, they may depend upon it that I sympathized with them at least.


Billy’s Comments: Harvey is a jolly witty friend. As an Architect, he is full of sympathy, as well as empathy – very creative and imaginative. Conversing with Harvey is a treat always.


“Do You Know What Kind of Friend You Are ?” by Mike Sterling – August 2020

Mike Sterling – An excellent Wine Maker in Sonoma Valley, California

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines friend as “a person who you know well and who you like a lot, but who is usually not a member of your family

But look at the way we use it. 

“I added her as a friend on Facebook but I hardly know her”

Trump: “I am friends with Kim Jong Un”

“America is great friends with Britain”

“Dogs are man’s best friend”

“I am not a friend of Turkish food”

“You’d better watch it, friend”

“He was hit by friendly fire”

“The police is every law-abiding person’s friend”

It’s even possible that friends or friendship can have different meanings at different ages. In childhood – it’s about sharing and playing. In adolescence, we begin to focus on shared values, loyalty and common interests. And in adulthood, it’s more about companionship, affection, and emotional support

What about all these other categories of friendship?

Blood brothers

Boston Marriage


Casual relationship

Cross-sex friendship

Female bonding



Friend of a friend

Imaginary friend

Kalyana-mittata (spiritual friendship)

Male bonding

Platonic love

Social connection


The word must be significant. Looks at these great synonyms listed on slangpedia.

Dawg, chum, bestie, amigo, mate, homeboy, homie, BFF, BFFL, BFBFF, fool, chica, Chiquita, sis, ace, buddy, pal, butty, bud, hebro, bruv, blad, broseph, brother from another mother, brohan, brotato chip, my boy, my man, nizzle, b, g, cuz, cuddy, Kemosabe, goombah, weeble, star, bedren, cheesemuffin, bitch, beau, boo, booski, cutty, bull, china plate, chap, chuck, droog, duke, dun, ese, FOAF, roll dog, habib, thick, pana, compita, pisan, boet, pard, mucker, whody, tight, comrade, compadre, woe, damie, nooka, doobhead 

Perhaps – the etymology (from wiktionary) will help…..

From Middle Englishfrendfreend, from Old Englishfrēond (“friend, relative, lover”, literally “loving[-one]”), from Proto-Germanic *frijōndz(“lover, friend”), from Proto-Indo-European *preyH- (“to like, love”), equivalent to free +‎ -nd. Cognate with Saterland FrisianFrüünd(“friend”), West Frisian freon, froen, freondinne (“friend”), Dutch vriend (“friend”), Low GermanFrundFründ (“friend, relative”), German Freund (“friend”), Danish frænde(“kinsman”), Swedish frände (“kinsman, relative”), Icelandic frændi (“kinsman”), Gothic 𐍆𐍂𐌹𐌾𐍉𐌽𐌳𐍃 (frijōnds, “friend”). 

That’s no help. The word and its meaning have not changed since it became a word.

To really understand friendship maybe we should go back into history – way back. Friendship never had a better friend than Aristotle. He believed that friendship is clearly necessary and good, but that people disagree on its precise nature. 

Friendship, he wrote, consists of a mutual feeling of goodwill between two people.

Aristotle said there are three kinds of friendship. 

The first is friendship based on utility, where both people get some benefit from each other. 

The second is friendship based on pleasure, where both people are drawn to the other’s wit, good looks, or other pleasant qualities. 

The third is friendship based on goodness, where both people admire the other’s goodness and help one another strive for goodness.

The first two kinds of friendship are only accidental, because, he says, in these cases friends are motivated by their own utility and pleasure, not by anything essential to the nature of the friend. These kinds of friendship don’t endure because one’s needs and pleasures are likely to change over time. 

Goodness is an enduring quality, so friendships based on goodness tend to be long lasting. This friendship also includes the other two, as good friends are useful to one another and please one another. Such friendship is rare and takes time to develop, but it is the best, right? Bad people can be friends too. But only for reasons of pleasure or utility. Only good people can be friends for the benefit of each other.

You can read more about what Aristotle said about friendship here: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.8.viii.html

This all reminded me of the Randy Newman song made famous in “Toy Story.”If you’d like to sing along here’s a link to the music https://youtu.be/DNZUKm0ApEM

You’ve got a friend in me

You’ve got a friend in me

When the road looks rough ahead

And you’re miles and miles

From your nice warm bed

You just remember what your old pal said

Boy, you’ve got a friend in me

Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me

You’ve got a friend in me

You’ve got a friend in me

If you’ve got troubles, I’ve got ’em too

There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you

We stick together and can see it through

Cause you’ve got a friend in me

Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me

Some other folks might be

A little bit smarter than I am

Bigger and stronger too,…maybe

But none of them will ever love you

The way I do, it’s me and you, boy

And as the years go by

Our friendship will never die

You’re gonna see it’s our destiny

You’ve got a friend in me

You’ve got a friend in me

Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me

I think Aristotle would have liked “Toy Story.”


Hands Across the Water (with a nod to Paul and Linda McCartney) * By James Luce – August 2020

James Luce
Yale, ’66, Psychology; Office of Special Investigations (USAF), criminal investigator and counter-intelligence officer, 1967-71; trial attorney, 1974-2002; resident of Spain, 2003-present; versed in history, science, and comparative religion; author of Chasing Davis: An Atheist’s Guide to Morality Using Logic and Science

Friendship is such a sticky, tricky topic
Because people are basically misanthropic.
“What?”, you say. “That can’t be true…
We all have friends and so do you…
You must be stupid or just plain myopic.”

Well, I reply, if I am, can you please explain to me
All the global hatred, racism, and child abuse I see?
What about homophobia, Christian Crusades, and pogroms?
Lynchings, stonings, wars, murders, and jihadist bombs,
Torture, corruption, starvation, genocide, and misogyny?

Think of all the thousands of people you’ve met.
Most of them weren’t friendship material I’ll bet.
Aren’t most people you’ve known basically jerks?
Selfish, mean, intolerant, with other such quirks?
Even your friends have caused you pain and regret.

“Well”, you reply, “All you say may possibly be true.
But most of my friends have stuck with me like glue.
Through thick and thin, through storm and strife.
Some of them for most of my long and troubled life.
When the going got tough they always came through.”

That’s all very nice, but have any of them stabbed you in the back?
Kicked you when you were down and given you a sharp whack?
“Sure some have. Nobody’s perfect. We’re all of us fallible.
That doesn’t mean that my friendships aren’t valuable…
And there’s always the pleasure of giving the bastards some payback.”

That comment brings us back to the beginning of this discussion.
If we can’t “befriend our neighbor”, how then an Arab or a Russian?
How can conflicting religions, cultures, and nations get along
With all those anthems blaring a different, discordant song?
It’s like Debussy meets Bach played with only instruments of percussion.

Perhaps we can find an answer to these questions by looking at the law.
Perhaps we will find an ancient genetic and venerable cultural flaw.
Why, for instance, do holy writs and criminal codes all prohibit murder?
Why the story of Cain and Abel where a farmer kills a herder?
Perhaps because we’re natural predators who live by tooth and claw?

Why is it necessary to legislatively prohibit discrimination based
On creed, color, gender, gender preference, origin, disability, and race?
Is it perhaps because invidious discrimination is just, like murder, normal?
Is being empathetic, trusting, and caring both wimpy and abnormal?
Is the world in such a mess ‘cause we humans long ago fell from grace?
Fortunately, we don’t have to look for any explanation divine.
Our bad behaviors were formed eons ago in a murky primordial brine.
Only relatively recently have we evolved our big brain
Capable of dreaming, analyzing, caring, and feeling other’s pain.
We need time for our new butterfly wings to dry a bit in the sunshine.

It takes two to fight, two to hate, and two to live in peace
Fighting’s easy, hatred’s a cinch, but friendship takes elbow grease
If someone tramples on your rights, it’s okay to fight back, I suppose,
But please always remember that your rights end at the tip of my nose,
And that tolerance too is needed if the fighting’s ever going to cease.

For friendship to thrive at home or across the sea
We need an abundance of trust, affection, and empathy.
These three are new tools in our behavioral toolbox.
Without all three friendship crashes then sinks on stormy metaphoric rocks.
Be better than a mensch; better than human; try to be more than you can be.




Auntie Yihua and My Mother – Cousins by Blood, Friends by Choice – by Joy Zhang – August 2020

May Li Zhang and Yihua Li Tu

I remember a saying from a while back: “Cousins are different beautiful flowers in the same garden”. I think the saying adequately describes Auntie Yi Hua and my mother May.

Auntie Yi Hua and my mother May are cousins from two branches in the big Lee/Li forest that has many trees. They are of the same age, although my mother is four months older, which gives her the privilege of claiming the “big sister” title. They are both the oldest siblings in their nuclear families. They both received an education from missionary schools in their youth: Auntie Yi Hua from St. John’s and my mother from St. Mary’s. They both went on to have successful professional careers. Auntie Yi Hua was a translator and interpreter for the influential and powerful Chinese news authority in Beijing while my mother was an architect for a major design firm, and later with one of the most prominent developers in Shanghai.

They both are kind, people-oriented and sociable. They travel in similar circles and share same groups of friends and acquaintances. Naturally in their retirements, they tend to get together a lot with their mutual friends. Some of those friends are also relatives, whether close or extended. In recent years, they can often be found at the same dining tables during Auntie Yi Hua’s frequent and lengthy visits to Shanghai. When not physically in Shanghai, Auntie Yi Hua would make regular phone calls from the U.S.A. to chat with and check up on my mother to make sure she is fine. My mother, on the other hand, would resort to her “pony express” method of communication by corresponding with Auntie Yi Hua with letter writing from Shanghai. Regardless of the method, they would make sure to let the other know that they are in each other’s thoughts.

May and Yihua surrounded by family members

They both care about their ancestral heritage and are committed to serve the Lee/Li family. Whenever there were extended family functions, they were actively involved front and center. So when the local authorities of their hometown Ning Bo were building a memorial hall and a family museum for the Lee/Li family, the Lee/Li commemorative monument and the Lee/Li Music Hall at Ning Bo University, they were there to contribute whichever way they could. Being a natural leader, Auntie Yi Hua was even more instrumental in overseeing several projects to their fruition. Almost 30 years ago, Auntie Yi Hua’s mother, “Grandma #5” as many youngsters would dearly and respectfully call her, at the ripe age of 87 started to be in charge of the updating and addition to the Lee/Li genealogy book. It was a monumental task!  The original genealogy book was written in 1936. By 1991, Grandma #5 felt that many decades had gone by and new generations had been born. It was time to re-edit the genealogy book and update the information to reflect the changes. As she embarked on this remarkable endeavor, Auntie Yi Hua, my mother along with other younger relatives, offered assistance to alleviate her work load. The newly completed genealogy book is now in the hands of many Lee/Li family members, and is considered the most important document of the extended family.

Grandma #5 was a lovely and cultured lady. She was gentle, even tempered, determined and wise. She was my mother’s favorite aunt-in-law. As a child, I used to visit Grandma #5 with my mother. I can still visualize her suite on the top floor of a typical Shanghai style house. There was a wooden door at the top of the stairs before the last few flights leading up to her suite. The decor of her room was simple but elegant. She had traditional Chinese furniture throughout her suite. The walls were decorated with calligraphy and paintings from her own hands. She always seemed to be so happy to see my mother. From her warm reception, I suspected that my mother was perhaps one of her favorite nieces. At the time, Auntie Yi Hua was working in Beijing.

Later on, Grandma #5 moved to a different apartment. By then Auntie Yi Hua and her family had gone to the U.S.A. My mother’s visits to Grandma #5 continued and became more frequent as Grandma #5 got on years. During my mother’s visits, the two ladies would talk about the TV programs Grandma #5 had just watched, especially Beijing Opera. Grandma #5 would show my mother her calligraphy and demonstrate her know-how in traditional Chinese arts. She would ask about the wellbeing of some relatives she had not seen for a long time. On one occasion, my mother and another cousin of hers, Auntie Ming Fen, visited Grandma #5 at the same time. The two ladies in their 70s were discussing the stock market. They made it sound quite convoluted. Suddenly, Grandma #5, who was in her 90s, asked them a simple question about what they were talking about. The two younger ladies were dumbfounded. They could not come up with an answer. I was chuckling inside: Grandma #5 still had her wits about her!  Sometimes, my mother would bring treats to Grandma #5 knowing they were what she loved to eat. Grandma #5 would announce to other guests that “all of the most tasty and yummy food were brought to me by May”. Those visits carried on as Grandma #5 lived her peaceful life till she reached 106 years of age.

When Auntie Yi Hua and her family were in Beijing, my father, too, was working in Beijing. On weekends, my father and another cousin of Auntie Yi Hua, Auntie Elaine, would sometimes go the Auntie Yi Hua’s house for Sunday dinners. I could only imagine the lively conversations and occasional heated debates that might have occurred during those meals. For Auntie Yi Hua being a translator and interpreter at the International News Department where she had direct contact with foreign reporters and correspondents, she was the most valuable source of information on current affairs in an era when there was hardly any real news available to the masses. Yet, politics permeated every corner and affected every facet of ordinary people’s lives. Auntie Yi Hua’s husband, Uncle Harry, a mining engineer by trade, was very precise and insightful in analyzing the political landscape of the day. My father, an urban planner working in a branch of the Science Academy, was leading an idle career in an age of non-existing urban development. With the same token, he was also very much interested in political and policy issues. I suspect that many exchanges around their dining table might be of this nature or about identical themes.

Auntie Yi Hua and Uncle Harry have two daughters, Da (Large) Beijing and Xiao (Small) Beijing. As far as my recollection could reach, before I even met Auntie Yi Hua I had heard about Da Beijing and Xiao Beijing. Whenever I did not want to study hard or behaved poorly, my father, Shao Liang, would tell me stories of what top notch students and all round children Da and Xiao Beijing were. They were good at all academic subjects as well as sports. Even though they were quite a few years younger than me, I developed a well deserved inferiority complex which lasted until one day when I knocked on their door during a summer break. Da Beijing answered the door. Her parents were not at home, she said. At that time, I had already graduated from university and was working as an editor. Da Beijing was still in high school, I believe. To a 22 year old, the teenage Da Beijing looked very young. Then out walked Xiao Beijing. She looked even younger. I think it was at that moment that I overcame my inferiority complex although they have remained little role models I could never measure up to. They were, nevertheless, cute and adorable.

A couple of days ago, in search of materials for writing this article, I asked my mother if there was something she could tell me about Auntie Yi Hua during her years in Beijing. Immediately, my mother recalled a visit to Auntie Yi Hua’s home during which she played cards with Da and Xiao Beijing. Uncle Harry sent Da Beijing out to buy noodles with clear instructions. They had very strict upbringing during their formative years. My mother, on the other hand, took a laissez faire approach towards me. If I must name one big difference between Auntie Yi Hua and my mother, this has to be it.

When my grandparents were still alive, and before the Cultural Revolution, our two families had members visiting one another frequently, spending many hours together. The friendship between Auntie Yi Hua and my mother, however, has been cultivated in baby steps and over time. Like a well aged wine, it has been growing stronger as time goes on. It has culminated in the later part of their lives. They are cousins by blood but friends by choice. It is a beautiful friendship between two cousins with beautiful spirit!  

Joy Zhang and her mother, May

 By May’s daughter, Joy August 12, 2020


Relative, Mentor, & Friend, S.Y. WANG, Continues To Inspire Me by Billy Lee – August 2020

S.Y. or Shao-Yu Wang

S.Y. Wang is another one of my Li/Lee Family relatives. His mother was a Li/Lee married into this Wang family.  S.Y. is seven years my senior. thus a Big Brother and Mentor to me.  More than that , I truly consider him a Valued Friend.  When I was Young ( in my 30s) he provided me Encouragement, Sound Advice, and warm sense of Caring. Today ( I am now 88 and he 95 ), he still provides me, Feeling of Connectedness, Instant Responses to all my requests, and the Same Sense of Caring.

To me, the most remarkable traits in his character are his Intelligence, Compassion, and Trust Worthiness. “ A Man who generally prefers just few well-chosen words with thoughtful followup actions” is how I would describe him.  A recent example is when I wrote to him and asked if he will be willing to share his thoughts on my Friendship & Friendshipolgy website https://MingSingLee.com. He instantly replied that it’s difficult for him to write essays these days but I may use the attached Chinese Calligraphy a professor friend wrote for him, to guide and inspire the younger generations.

The Chinese Calligraphy S.Y. sent me :

这句话出自《关尹子•三极》:“利害心愈 明,则亲不睦;贤愚心愈明,则友不交;是非心愈明,则事不成;好丑心愈明,则物不契。是以圣人浑之。”

Translated into English :

If one is overly concerned about personal benefits vs. losses, one will not be able to relate harmoniously with one’s family.

If one over emphasizes kindness and smartness, one will find it difficult to make friends.

If one worries too much about being Correct and Perfect, the less one will be able to achieve.

If one cares too much about Looking Good, the harder it is to be in true harmony with things.

Because of this the sages advised Nothing Extreme. ( Confucius’ Middle Way philosophy )


The calligraphy is remarkable and the words are meaningful. I asked S.Y. to also provide me a short vita and a photograph so that with a more comprehensive package I can introduce him and his message to interested readers of this website. You can clearly see how his achievements indeed
validate what I see as his significant traits : Intelligence, Compassion, and Trust Worthiness.
These are qualities we all truly appreciate in a Valued Friend.


My 2c onFriendship – Shared Values – by Rich Hogan – August 2020

Rich Hogan

“Rich is a Silicon Valley based author, IT infrastructure architect, software developer and home gardener who escaped the east coast and is married to Billy’s niece, Yu Meng.  Rich and Yu have three awesome mixed ancestry daughters.”

Dear Uncle Billy,

            After many years of our conversations about how to build lasting connections of friendship among people of different cultures and views, I am happy to contribute some of my own thoughts in writing.  I agree with Tsing that the definition of friendship you seek is important.  In my view, friendship can overcome many differences and challenges but true friendship can only sit atop a foundation of strong mutual trust and mutual respect for each other’s core values and aspirations.

            Shared values are an essential requirement for true friendship.  Individuals or entities holding values and aspirations that are a direct threat to your own fundamental principals, life and goals can never be a true friend.  In our own conversations, the Confucian idea of a middle way – a ‘Switzerland’ approach to conflict is often suggested.  Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who favored a “middle way” in appeasing the Third Reich, taught one of the great lessons of the 20th century.   Chamberlain’s naiveté resulted in the bombing of his country and his removal from office so Winston Churchill could face the reality of irreconcilable differences with pure evil.  There is no middle way available when values and aspirations are in total conflict.

            So what can be done?  To overcome these challenges and forge friendship, it must start with two parties willing to be vulnerable to each other by directly surfacing and talking through real differences in values and visions for the future and how they might be reconciled if possible.  At one point the global adoption of the Internet offered the best hope for allowing these essential frank conversations among people.   Unfortunately, totalitarian regimes from Iran to the People’s Republic of China started building walls and tools of repression to prevent the open communication from happening.  Sadly, we now see President Trump attempting to copy and push some of the same harmful policies here in the United States in attempting to “ban” Tik-Tok and WeChat. 

The first obvious step to improve opportunities to talk is a greatly increased supply of freely available Virtual Private Networks and Proxies that will allow people to circumvent their governments’ barriers.  Some governments like the PRC may view these conversations as “criminal behavior”.  Throughout history from Jesus to John Lewis or MLK and beyond – sometimes the best place for a person to be “good” is in jail…

Hope this fits for the content you want,



Billy’s Comments : Rich is a very dear nephew-in-law. We are always honest and forthright with each other. I think we share most core values, but I personally do not like to absolutely define others when we do not totally understand their hardships.


Friendship through the Generations – My U.S. Army Roommates: Delbert Shouse and Roland Jary – by Bob Chen – August 2020

Bob Chen– Billy’s FF Brother

I pass through my garage everyday because I use the back door to enter my house. Every time I pass through my two-car garage, I think of my two very unforgettable U.S. Army roommates, Del Shouse and Roland Jary. We lived in a garage that was converted into an “apartment”, in Wahiawa, HI, near Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where we were stationed in 1961. The apartment had a small kitchen, one bath, three beds and one telephone. By good fortune, we selected each other as roommates. Little did I know that this friendship would span decades, across wide geographies, and extend to the next generation of the Shouse and Jary families.

Del and Roland are the best of America, in the military or the private sector: top- notch professionals, men of sterling character, devoted family men, and who raised wonderful children. I have been blessed by winning the lottery of life by having these two life-long friends.

We were U.S. Army First Lieutenants in the 25th Infantry “Tropical Lighting” Division, on our first assignment as platoon leaders, each responsible for about 36 men. Del was a cavalry scout officer, Roland was a combat engineer, and I was a weapons platoon leader. We were all airborne paratroopers and Distinguished Military Graduates of our respective R.O.T.C. programs. Del and Roland were also Rangers. We all loved our jobs and we loved our troops. In my experience, the U.S. military is the closest institution we have for a true meritocracy and the exemplary example of an equal opportunity organization.

Del, as the “first among equals”, assigned us household chores to clean up, Roland was the handyman (plumber, electrician), and I was responsible for managing the relationship with the owner and paying the shared bills. All our tasks were undertaken instinctively, voluntarily and verbally. What an admirable model for a business or non-profit partnership today!

This bliss was a short-lived 18 months. I received orders to report to Tokyo as the Comptroller & Chief of the U.S. Army Element of the U.S. Armed Forces Radio & TV Network, (“Far East Network” or “FEN”). FEN broadcasted news, sports and entertainment all over Japan and was also popular among the Japanese public. FEN was a tri-service organization: the Commanding Officer was an Air Force Lt. Colonel, the Executive Officer was a Navy Lt. Commander, and the Army representative was a Captain (I was a First Lieutenant at that time), but they wanted to fill the slot with an MBA because the Army provided the financial man. This was an assignment from heaven.

Shortly after I left Hawaii, Del received orders to receive advanced military training and Roland received orders to Vietnam. We saw each other again 17 years later, when I stayed at Del & Genell’s home in Virginia and Roland’s home in Fort Worth. By then, Roland resigned his commission and returned to civilian life and I met his young children.

Del continued his military career and served two tours in Vietnam. In Vietnam, Del led a team to rescue a rifle company (about 160 men), who suffered severe casualties and was trapped by the enemy. Del was awarded the Silver Star Medal, the third highest award for personal valor in combat. We knew that Del was destined for great military greatness. But he was also a great humanitarian.

Roland was a filial son. He cared for his mom, who had Alzheimer’s and he carried her to the bathroom several times a day and raised two wonderful young children as a single dad. A mutual friend from our church, who was Roland’s high school classmate, affirmed Roland’s strong devotion to his family.

Genell and Jody

Fast forward to August 2019. I received an invitation from Del’s wife, Genell, to attend the burial service of Colonel Del Shouse, at Arlington National Cemetery. Roland passed away four years earlier, so I asked Genell if Roland’s daughter, Janiece, and her daughter, Gracie and son, Matt, now adults, could attend to represent Roland. Janiece came from Los Angeles with her daughter and Matt, a former U.S. Army Signal officer, came from Austin to honor Del. Janiece and Matt remembered me from childhood. How awesome is that!

Del was buried with full military honors. Over 50 soldiers: color guard, riflemen to render the 21- gun salute, band, and horse-drawn hearse to honor one man. About another 50 family and friends came to honor Del. I met Del’s former commanding officer, Major General (Retired) Steve Nichols and a West Point graduate, who told me that Del, was the “best officer he has ever known”. I am gratified that Del retired after 30 years of service to live another 31 years in peace, before succumbing to the cancer he contracted in Vietnam through Agent Orange.

Del lives on through his son, Jody Shouse, the eldest son of Del and Genell. He is a U.S. Army Lt. Colonel and the military aide to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. As a combat veteran, he was selected to serve in the elite Old Guard, where he presided over 400 funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Jody said that his hardest job was to present the flag to his mom. Jody is now attending the National War College, is on the promotion list to full Colonel and will be the Commander of the Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) in Alaska. Jody’s career trajectory suggests that he is on track to be a general. Jody is an ultra marathoner and routinely runs 50-100 miles at a crack.

Character is Destiny: Del and Roland, you have demonstrated, by your actions and example, how we should live.  I have been privileged to be your friend and battle buddy.


Bob Chen is an investment banker and the founder of Raffles Capital Group Inc, a cross-border corporate financial advisory firm.  He was a Captain in the US Army, served as an infantry platoon leader and Comptroller & Chief of the US Army Element of the US Armed Forces Radio & TV Network. Bob is a member of the investment committee of JICUF Endowment Inc.


Rambling Ideas on Friendship by Tsing Yuan – August 2020

Tsing Yuan and Billy’s Wife, Lucille, are Cousins

Dear Bill,
The following are some rambling ideas from the top of my head:
In terms of personal relationships, friends are to be distinguished from acquaintances, relatives, and lovers.  Acquaintances are relations that tend to be superficial, of brief duration,and characterized by long interruptions.  Relatives are relationships based on birth.  Lovers are relationships based on romance, sex, and idealized images.
In my view ‘true friendship’ is different from the three above categories in being the toughest relationship in the world.  I list several requirements to be “true friends”:

  1.  The friends have to be somewhat equal in wealth and social status; otherwise, one of the two may wish to exploit or take advantage of the other for gain (at least in the mind of the other);
  2.  To be true friends, the two (or three, or four) need to be intellectually equal as well as sharing common interests; otherwise, one of them will be bored and/or contemptuous of the other;
  3.  True friends should have frequent meetings and/or consultations; otherwise problems arise without the other(s) knowing and misunderstanding and suspicions develop;
  4.  To be friends, preferably age differences should be minimal, as physical stamina as well past experiences can and do block mutual understanding; 
  5.  From the above requirements, it follows that friends need to treat each other as equals, not as superior and inferior in a hierarchical order.

Friendship among countries share some common contours with friendship among people, but also exhibit differences: 

  1.  Countries under dictators like to be friends of other dictatorships as they share authoritarian values; similarly democracies like to be friends with democracies;    
  2.  Countries can be friends even if they don’t share common values if they share common enemies (democratic Britain and France were friends with autocratic Russia against Germany before WWI, U.S. and PRC against the Soviet Union, 1972-1991) – in other words, my enemy’s enemy is my friend.
  3. Countries can be friends if they need defensive or financial support, i.e. Japan, South Korea, Israel need the support of U.S.A., but here the “friendship” is actually more of a dependency as the relationship is not equal;
  4. Friends among countries are very rare in history.   More often than not, they are based on self-interest, never altruism.  In personal terms, “true friends” among people can be altruistic and in a test, can be self-sacrificing.    I think this is the key difference between ‘friends’ among people versus ‘friends’ among countries: the occurrence of self-sacrifice in true friendship!     

These are the ideas floating in my mind after reading your request.  I hope this is helpful!.


Tsing Yuan –  Born in Peiping (now Beijing) right after the Japanese attack of the city in 1937, and experienced all the trauma of being a child refugee in China’s interior from Japanese bombs  until V-J Day.  Came to the U.S. in 1949 with parents and lived in D.C., Palo Alto, and Cambridge.  Attended Harvard College, George Washington University, and the University  of Pennsylvania, where he received Ph.D. in History in 1969.  Taught History at Swarthmore College, 1966-72 and Wright State University, 1972-99, serving a term as Chair of the  History Department and took the status of Professor Emeritus in 1999.  Had publications on the Moslem Rebellion in Xinjiang, 1862-76, Economic changes in late Ming-early  Qing China in a book and in articles (book by Yale University Press, articles in the journal “Ming Studies,” Japanese role in Tsingtao during World War I, Chinese ceramics trade in  Southeast Asia, Chinese diaspora in Latin America, etc.  Life Member of the American Historical Association and the Association for Asian Studies since 1970’s.  Recipient of fellowships  from Harvard Fairbank Center, American Council of Learned Societies, American Philosophical Society, and National Endowment for the Humanities.   Taught and gave talks at    Ohio State, Oberlin, Beijing Normal University, Nankai University, and several other institutions in the PRC, the Academia Sinica and Central (Chung-yang) University in Taiwan,  the University of Hong Kong, Sophia University in Tokyo, National Seoul University, University of Singapore, Leiden University, and Oslo University.   Since retirement, I have taken extensive travels in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central Eurasia such as Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. 


Walking with Aristotle: The Role of Friendship in the Time of the Novel Corona Virus Pandemic by Barbara Bundy, PhD

Dr. Bundy with 2 of her 3 Grandchildren

Barbara Bundy is a retired university professor of comparative literature and administrator who lives in Asheville, NC.. She retired after 43 years as a university professor and administrator in higher education.

She was president of Dominican University of San Rafael and taught on the faculties of the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz and at the University of San Francisco, where she was the founding executive director of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies.


Hats off to my long-time esteemed friend from The 1990 Institute, Billy Ming Sing Lee, for the creative work he has done on friendship and “friendshipology” and for establishing this website as a public forum for the continuing exchange of ideas about the intercultural role of friendship.

I believe passionately that there is a critical role that friendship and friendships can play in helping us navigate the current crisis environment of the global Covid-19 pandemic.  Friendship also can play an important role in building solidarity for the international movement for racial justice inspired this spring by the tragic death of George Floyd, due to police brutality, thanks to the leadership shown by the Black Lives Matter movement in seeking racial justice for Floyd and other Blacks killed as a result of racism in our society.  

So how does friendship figure as a healing force in our current climate of deep distrust in institutions, especially government?   Many of our institutions have failed us, and we perceive them as the problem rather than the solution to the challenges facing us right now.  We are clearly in need of “a new friend” to trust as we rebuild and reimagine our institutions for the future.

It is heartbreaking to me to see a lack of commitment in so many of my fellow humans right now to protect others and themselves from Covid, which happens whenever an individual chooses not to wear a face mask in public.  This single act bespeaks a lack of trust in the common good, the global commons, and the public square. We are definitely witnessing a decline in publicspiritedness and seem to lack the willingness to see someone “other” than ourselves as…well, as friend.  To be sure, the geopolitical trends of populism, nationalism, and isolationism that have been sweeping the globe the past several years do not favor trust and cooperation among countries or individuals.

Enter our old friend Aristotle, great teacher and scholar of years past in Greek antiquity.  Friendship as described by Aristotle offers us a bridge to restore the global commons and the public good and to create a more just interracial and intercultural community that is sustainable in the future.  He believed that the best type of friendship is disinterested, i.e., not for personal gain, and is based on moral and ethical values; the truest form of friendship, he said, is a function of “virtuous” human character put into practice.  This type of friendship, unlike other types, is not based on transactional values and is not transient in nature. Friendship, Aristotle argues, enables one person to relate to an ”other” as if the other were familiar and a part of one’s own self.

Let us walk with Aristotle in the present time, viewing the challenge to contain the worst pandemic in our lifetimes and to reckon with the dark side of our American past. Perhaps he can be of help in our effort to reckon with racial and other forms of systemic injustice that have  continued to disadvantage Blacks and other minorities since before the Civil War and also since slavery was legally abolished at the close of the Civil War.

One reason Covid-19 is spreading out of control in the US at this time (almost five million cases at this writing and almost 160,000 deaths) is that individuals are not pulling together to practice the health safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control, namely the simple act of wearing a protective face mask in public; social distancing; and repeated washing of hands with a disinfectant. Some people have resorted to violence when asked by businesses, e.g., to wear a mask when they enter a store, or an airplane, or asked by others who share the public space to wear a mask to protect against the transmission of Covid.

A few words about the crisis environment in which we find ourselves in August 2020 as the number of cases of Covid-19 continues to escalate worldwide to dangerous proportions since it first was transmitted in the US in January 2020.  In the US alone over four million cases have been identified through testing, with the count soon approaching five million and with a staggering 157 thousand deaths to date.  The US has the highest number of cases of Covid-19 in the world while we constitute only four per cent of the world’s population.

We desperately need to practice the “as if” philosophy of Aristotle in our current situation so that we can take the actions sorely needed to unite rather than further divide people and cultures in this time of the coronavirus.  Only such unity will help us to stem the tide of this and future pandemics, to stop environmental degradation, and to find friendly solutions to enable us to sustain and steward ou environment for future generations; and to find solutions to the systemic racism that currently divides us and privileges white people over people of color.

With empathy for the “other” that friendship cultivates, perhaps we can move beyond the current pandemic to support one other in reimagining many of the destructive attitudes and practices that have led to the current brokenness of our world as a cooperating organism.  Today’s environment is unlike anything we have ever experienced since the 1918 Spanish flu and the Black Death of the fourteenth century that killed some 25 million people. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic we are also experiencing a collapsing economy and massive unemployment, which is causing evictions and homelessness; and already thousands are suffering from food insecurity.  Moreover, we face the greatest climate crisis of our lifetimes in the ensuing years and do not have a plan in the US for addressing this crisis because the current administration in Washington is anti-science, anti-environment and isolationist and has severed US engagement in many of the US-led multilateral institutions that contributed to building a prosperous liberal post World War II order that benefited so many in the day when. 

The national (and now international) protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic death from police brutality of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis have inspired the most diverse movement in American history in support of racial justice for Blacks and other people of color, all of whom have for too long been the victims of systemic racism. The BLM movement is a force for unifying us and unlike the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which I participated in, this time not only Blacks and whites are working together but also Asian Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and others.  This is a profound moment of reckoning with our racist past as a slave-owning nation, the reckoning that never fully happened following the equal rights legislation enacted after the Civil War and even with the Voting Rights Act passed under President Lyndon Johnson.

To relate the current moment in history to my own youth growing up on the South side of Chicago in the 1940s and 50s and coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, society then was divided along hard and often hostile lines between Blacks and whites.  Racial tensions ran sky high due to systemic racism that disadvantaged Black communities, depriving them of equal opportunity for education, health care, competitive paying jobs, fair housing and often of a living environment free of dangerous chemicals that often caused  deaths among the Black community.  The schools were segregated in my lower middle class neighborhood so that I never had the opportunity to be friends with Blacks or any Minorities until I was in the tenth grade and was among the first group of teens to attend a brand new, experimental public high school, John Marshall Harlan High School.

At Harlan High I spent some remarkable years as we, a half Black and half white student body, were enrolled, and the friendships and activities in this amazing environment were ours to create.

I cannot express how my friendships with my Black friends at that time changed my young life and set my heart on fire to work for civil rights, knowing through my own friendships and experience that we were all as if Black, and we were all as if white, equal as friends and fellow human beings. There was only one thing left to do following that experience when I went to college and that was to work for civil rights and fight for equal justice for Blacks.  But in contrast to our moment for change right now, in the 60s we did not have the advantage of a truly diverse society with hands of many colors as we do today, and I find this difference of great encouragement for producing systemic change—an unexpected opportunity afforded us by an otherwise disastrous plague.

We are all in search of a better “new normal” that is more just for everyone and based more on spiritual values and friendship and less on the materialistic values that have in large part brought us to our current crisis point.  The novel coronavirus pandemic has stripped away our illusions about what really matters and given us the opportunity to evolve into higher beings with a deeper sense of the sacredness of  environmental justice, racial justice, and economic justice for all.

We are all friends and “as if” Black at this moment in history, just as all of us are “as if “ the hundreds and thousands of people who have unfortunately died from the novel coronavirus.   If Aristotle were walking with us today, would he wear a mask? Absolutely, for the common good first and for his own health safety second !


“Reflections on a Dream” by Mike Hsieh – August 2020

Son Mason, Daughter Karina, Mike and Tonia

I have a recurring dream… I am back in college and I go back to my dorm room to find complete strangers there. Where are my best friends Woody, Bill, Steve, Tom and Ed with whom I shared four wonderful years playing poker late into the night instead of studying for exams, debating politics over stale beer and pizza, road-tripping to an all-female college to DJ at dance parties? They are nowhere to be found.  

In my dream I am my age today (62) surrounded by other students in their late teens and early twenties. Why am I here? I had graduated over 40 years ago and I am back in school again? I’ve been there/done that. What is there for me to learn this time around? I feel lonely and lost, desperate to find someone whom I recognize, someone that I can call a friend.

At this point I typically wake up in a panic, followed by a wave of relief and joy with the realization that this is just a dream. Thank goodness my real life is filled with people whom I love and love me in return. I am not alone in this world to fend for myself without anyone to cover my back. I have a small circle of close friends with whom I can share my greatest joys, my deepest disappointments, my treasured hobbies and recreations. We have vacationed together every year for the past 35 years.

Nevertheless a few months will go by and I will have this dream again. My wife Tonia suggests that perhaps imbedded in this dream there is a lesson, something that I have not yet learned which is why it keeps coming back. I take her advice to heart and do some self-reflection.

Underpinning this dream is a deep-seated fear of losing what is the most valuable to me in my life, my dearest friends. I have always known that friendships can deteriorate over time with neglect. Therefore I make a special effort to stay in touch either physically, verbally or via text/email messages. Shared experiences are essential in maintaining the bonds of friendship.

So what would it take to break these bonds that have been forged over decades of friendship? The withholding of love, compassion or sacrifice due to selfishness or self-preservation.

I have been blessed with the good fortune of living in a rich country during a period of peace and prosperity with the benefits of a good education and rewarding career. My friends and I have never had to confront the challenges of poverty, ill health or debilitating misfortune. In one of my favorite movies The Big Chill, a chill always goes up my spine when the character Nick exclaims to his best friends from college:

“Wrong, a long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don’t know anything about me. It was easy back then. No one had a cushier berth than we did. It’s not surprising our friendship could survive that. It’s only out there in the real world that it gets tough.”

What if the real world that my friends and I had met was not the United States but a developing country in which we had to fight for precious resources to survive or to advance? How might we have behaved with one another then? Would we be able to lean on each other in times of desperation and suffering?

People who have been convicted, faced social ostracism or encountered crippling disabilities have said that during those difficult periods you find out who your true friends are. My close friendships have never been put to such tests and I hope they never will. However, the question remains: will I be there to assist my friends if it puts me and my family in jeopardy?

I would like to think so, but to be honest I don’t really know until I am actually in that situation. Perhaps not knowing is what haunts me which is the lesson behind this recurring dream. If I don’t know how I would behave as a friend in the face of danger and peril, then I need to experience what it feels like to be totally alone in the world. Feeling that pain of isolation will hopefully fill me with courage to act as the true friend that I would like to think I am.


 Michael is the Founder and President of Fung Capital, a venture capital firm investing in early-stage technology companies. He has been married to his best friend Tonia for 33 years and father to two wonderful children, Karina and Mason. Most recently Michael co-founded Roses in Concrete, a public charter school serving primarily students of color in East Oakland. He and his wife started Karma Pictures, a media company developing feature films telling Asian American stories. He served on non-profit boards such as Center for Asian American Media, Head Royce School, and Center for the Pacific Rim at USF. Michael has a B.A degree from Harvard College and an MBA degree from Harvard Business School.