An apt column

Thank you for publishing an outstanding column by Liana Wang (“WANG: Gratitude debt,” Oct. 30), which affords such a realistic and generous life perspective combined with an obviously inborn wisdom and humility. Her observations relating to the accident of her having been born here, her parents and teachers, but also the people “most of whom we don’t even know or think about” — how refreshing! Thank you, Ms. Wang.

I was reminded of similar sentiments offered by millionaire Jason Ford on the PBS News Hour this past April:

“We can blow up the myth that I’m a self-made success…. If my ancestors had not been white, it is almost certain that I wouldn’t be where I am today. My grandfather would have found it nearly impossible to climb to the top of the corporate ladder like he did…. As a result, my parents likely wouldn’t have bought the house they did…. And two generations ago, lending discrimination would have made it similarly impossible for Nana to buy that land that ended up funding my business…. The best astronaut in the world can’t fly to the moon unless someone gives them the rocket.”

While approaching “success” from slightly different viewpoints, both Ms. Wang and Mr. Ford remind us of just how little we can justly attribute to our own selves in analyzing our advantaged destinies. And Ms. Wang takes it a step further, crediting not only her own back story, but “our often parasitic relationship with the American poor,” and thus the “moral requirement that we owe as a result of what we have taken.”

While I doubt that Yale can take much of the credit for Ms. Wang’s superbly crafted sentiments, it is wonderful knowing she is there.

Marshall Portnoy ’66