An 11-year-old Vietnamese refugee whose essay about the Statue of Liberty was heard by millions of television viewers was honored Sunday by an Orange County Vietnamese group.
Hue Cao of Honolulu, who was honored at a ceremony at the Anaheim Hilton by the Vietnamese-American Scholarship Foundation as a role model for other Vietnamese youths, also was given a teddy bear version of Miss Liberty--complete with flowing robe and seven-pointed crown.
Foundation official Kim T. Le of Mission Viejo said that Cao represents the Vietnamese family's ideal of stressing education in the home.
Cao's essay on what the statue meant to her was read as part of the statue's recent centennial celebration during the Fourth of July in New York.
Her words stirred nationalistic pride when she wrote about her family's escape from Vietnam after the "cruel" Communists "took away our freedom."
"Worst of all," her winning essay said, "they could kill anyone."
Since June 29, she has been on a whirlwind tour of the United States from California to New York to Washington and then Orange County.
"But I'm just an ordinary person. I'm still the same kid I was in Honolulu," she said.
She is the youngest of a family with seven children who fled Vietnam and came to the United States in 1979. She is not the only celebrity in her family.
Her mother, Lien Ma, was chosen by Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi to represent the state at mass naturalization ceremonies during Liberty Weekend.
Of her mother's influence, Cao wrote:
"Every time we saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty, my mother would tell us that she is America.
"After we arrived in America, we promised our mother to love, to care and protect the Statue of Liberty."