Adoptees from around the country come to Eugene, Oregon to celebrate the 80th birthday of Dr. David Kim
by Susan Soonkeum Cox, Vice President of Policy and External Affairs
Saturday, September 22, 2011. Approximately 300 people gathered in Eugene to celebrate the 80th birthday of Dr. David H. Kim. Many of the guests were first generation adoptees coming from around the country. Some call themselves the “first wavers,” indicating they were the first wave of children who came to the U.S. to their adoptive families.
I first met David Kim in Korea when I was 4 years old. He remembers that I was a little girl with a round face, sad eyes and hair that had been dyed coal black to make me look more Korean. My hair was in the process of growing out, and David recalls that the grow-outs “looked like there was a saucer on [my] head.”
I knew David before I knew my mother and father. It was David who helped to fill in the blanks of my history that began in Korea, a history that was unknown to me. When I was growing up, I saw David a number of times, and his warm and generous personality was always a comfort to me.
One of the most important blessings of my years at Holt has been to work with David, a wonderful teacher, mentor and friend. His vision and commitment are contagious, and it’s an honor to follow as he has led through adversity, challenges and victories on behalf of children.
Much of what I believe about adoption and advocacy I learned from David. I’ve listened to him talk with passion about the needs of children and our responsibility to respond – and to respond with urgency. I’ve often heard David say, “If children have to wait until adults and governments agree on what should be done, the children will have white whiskers. They can’t wait.”
David has pioneered motherland tours, heritage camps and the commitment to acknowledge the importance of culture and heritage for adoptees. He was a powerful and forceful advocate during the drafting of the Hague Convention on adoption, teaching that the life-long issues of adoption should be considered a priority.
I am not alone in my regard for David Kim. Over the years, he has personally touched the lives of many of us. For those adoptees who have not had the good fortune to know David personally, you should know that your life has been graced by his life, by his efforts on your behalf. In a small way, we are all a legacy to the devotion and compassion of this extraordinary man.
Happy Birthday, David Kim.