Oral History Interview with Ruth Asmundson
Interview Finding Guide for Oral History of Ruth Asmundson
Born in barrio – father from Pangasinan – grandparents from Ilocos – born during war September 21, 1944 – Marshall Law – schooling and education – mother and father eloped – siblings – strict Chinese family – Japanese occupation and hiding soldiers – rewarded for helping American soldiers
Always reading and always daydreaming – sibling dynamics of caretaking – going to school early – wanted to be a doctor – mother’s role in the barrio – mother had a doctor role in the community – spelling contest – teachers put Ruth in charge of her class – cleaned the streets – locked Mr. Manuel and Ms. Filia (sp?) in a room – still visits Mrs. Manuel in the Philippines
Valedictorian of her sixth grade class – high school life – became TA – student representative and vouched for high school – had no boyfriend and planned to only study – met Dr. Adamson and his wife – became their protégé – take opportunities – nerves with public speaking
Believing in being a good teacher – analogy for chemistry that resonates – reluctant with Fulbright scholarship opportunity – interview for the Fulbright scholarship – Fulbright orientation in Hawaii – nerves about conversing with others – Master’s in Pennsylvania – applying to schools for PhD
Deciding which school to go to for PhD – decided to go to Davis – experiencing arriving to Davis – finding her roommate – grounding herself in agricultural chemistry – Secretary of International Student Club – dance binasuan and met Mr. Asmundson – close neighbors with Mr. Asmundson’s mother – dated Mr. Asmundson – the talk about kids and question of marriage
Finishing her PhD – had to return to the Philippines – taught at her alma mater with professorship – Marshall Law – realized she wanted to get married too – Mr. Asmundson visited and asked for permission to marry Ruth – both worked to get Fulbright restriction waived – married and moved, but never unpacked – cultural differences – stay at home mom and working dad deal – four kids in five years – shrinking world
Membership chair of University of Pharmaceuticals – duties as she was Mayor of Davis – how she aimed to improve the city – questions that she keeps in mind to make decisions – PTA President – “Citizen of the Year Award” – find the roots of problems, no Band-Aids – school board – mediating and conversing through conflicts – teaching her daughters to have confidence
She is understanding of situations – how she directs meetings as Mayor – how she navigates herself through aggressive situations – establishing certain market areas in Davis – husband is a lawyer – not having enough money – pushing kids to study hard and go to any school they want – daughters attended Dartmouth
40-year marriage trial – husband’s incorporation – 401k – lowering tax bracket – husband’s incorporation – daughters attend San Diego and UC Davis – they cannot get married until they finish college – Ruth raised six children – her children were very respectful – being on the school board and prioritizing the children always – communication with the teachers, students, and many – feeling confident in herself, her decisions and her abilities – prays while walking – aims to engage the audience and to wake them up – being available and accessible to staff and council members – what it is like running as a candidate – how she presents herself unphased by others
Ruth tries to give Sue (sp?) advice – discrimination in her work and life – Sacramento Council group meeting with many other mayors – buying clothes from Asian because it fits her – Sue (sp?) complains about everything and is high maintenance – making and keeping structure for things to run efficiently – Irena studied economics and wanted to go to Stanford
Lessons learned and takeaways – trip to Washington D.C. analogy – losing weight – her daughters’ goals – Irena studied math – wanted to attend Stanford and get a fellowship – rugby black eye injury and broken nose – worked for the U.S. council of economic advisors
Traveling for career – conversing with foreign dignitaries – convincing Ruth to run for API member at large – other candidates speeches were boring – Ruth wore campaign shirt and was memorable – being a realistic leader
Conference for all mayors, everyone was boring – aims to inspire kids – likes of deadlines – writing a chapter as someone in politics – sitting and talking a lot to family – many stories – helping her second daughter with homwork
Talks about her daughters’ families – all Z names – house furniture and pictures – Zander and the traffic lights
Picnic Day lemonade stand for a cause – Zander is a hassler – speaks to community development class – mentors diverse group of women – contacting her for more with email – daughter and her husband is a lawyer – Ruth’s husband was Justice Kennedy’s classmate and coworker – Sigrid interned for Govenor Wilson – she also interned at justice department in Washington D.C. – Sigrid’s schooling – Peace Corp and left to AfricaIrena worked in IMF and Afghanistan – taught and stayed in Fairfield
Irena worked in IMF and Afghanistan – taught and stayed in Fairfield – sisters take care of the youngest – the two boys’ careers – Jonas is into music – trying to find people for the boys to marry – Ruth is flexible for speaking at the Symposium – four Filipinos when Ruth came to Davis – their pathways and an update on their current lives – pig drawing and meanings – having to leave to speak at a delegation
Filipino American Farmworker Oral History Project
Oral History Interview
September 14, 2018
By Katrina Asuncion
Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies
UC Davis Asian American Studies Department
[Session 1, September 14, 2018]
[Begin Audio File]
ASUNCION: I have some questions, but open to however this goes. The first ones are mostly preliminary, so where and when were you born?
ASMUNDSON: I was born in a barrio in the Philippines, north of Manila, the Isabela province. Isabella is one of the three provinces in Cagayan Valley. I don’t know if you know about the Philippines. You were born here [in the United States] right?
ASUNCION: I was born here, yes.
ASMUNDSON: Right, that’s right. But Cagayan Valley is the northern part in the Cordillera mountain. It’s about three-hundred miles north of Manila.
ASUNCION: Okay. My dad is from Pangasinan.
ASMUNDSON: Does he speak Ilocano?
ASMUNDSON: He is Pangasinan. So [in] my place, they speak Ibanag. This is the dialect in the town. But I come from the barrio and you are Ilocano. I used to speak Ibanag, but I’ve forgotten about it. But Ilocano… my grandparents came from Ilocos and my mom was born in Isabela, so we speak Ilocano. My dad was born in China, so I’m half Chinese, half Filipino. And I was born during the war, 1944. My birthday is September 21, 1944. That date is memorable because when I went back to the Philippines after my Ph.D, I was teaching at the university, and Marshall Law was declared on my birthday that first time I got back.
ASUNCION: Oh my gosh.
ASMUNDSON: [Laughs] Yeah, it was scary.
ASUNCION: Were you there for a while during Marshall Law?
ASMUNDSON: Well, we can talk about that, but that’s part of my story too.
ASUNCION: Oh, okay. We can probably get into that later. So the next question was, where were your parents born? Which you already touched on that.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, my mom was born in the Philippines and my dad was born in China.
ASUNCION: Okay. Where did you grow up?
ASMUNDSON: I grew up in that barrio in Isabela. It’s a big barrio actually. And in the Philippines, I don’t know if you know the way it’s set up, we have the barrio and then we have the town which is kind of like a satellite. There are several barrios that make up the town, the nearest [inaudible]. And then the town proper is where the mayor, the government. The barrios, they have [leaders] like captains, but then, the town proper, it’s just like here [in the United States] we have cities, and then the county, and then we have the state. And there we have barrios, the towns or cities, and then we have the provinces. All the provinces compose the Philippines. I grew up in the barrio and all the barrios have elementary schools. And then when we go to high school, we go to the town proper. The town proper has the high school. And then in our place, there are colleges too, but a lot of the students go to Manila because that’s where all the universities are. I grew up in that barrio. I got my elementary schooling there. Then, I went to town and it was a four-year high school. See, in the Philippines, it’s grade 1 to 6, in the barrio anyway. They don’t have kindergarten because the kids go to school later, about six [in age]. I was four and a half, but that’s another story. [Laughs] Then, I went to the high school. Actually, it’s public school. The high school I went to, we didn’t really have any high school buildings. Our high school is a warehouse that used to be at the back of our house that the school district was renting. During summer, which it was mostly summer anyway in the Philippines, it’s just so hot because it’s just corrugated. [Laughs] Corrugated. [inaudible] the siding. Because there we didn’t know any difference, we just took it. During the war, I was born, like I said my father was born in China. And when he was eight years old, he was adopted by his uncle, his father’s oldest brother.
ASMUNDSON: The uncle who adopted him had five children and he took all the children to the Philippines. So, my father went with him, with his now adoptive father. My dad grew up in the Philippines from eight to [inaudible]. Then, when he was eighteen, he met my mom, a Filipino. My mom was fourteen, well thirteen when they met. My dad was seventeen. They eloped when they were fourteen and eighteen because he was still…yeah. And my grandmother didn’t like my father who was Chinese. [Laughs] So they eloped and got married. And my mom, who was an only child, had her first baby when she was fifteen. I have three older sisters, and then I’m number four, then I have two brothers, two younger brothers. So my dad and my mom had six children. When they had six children, my dad died. He was thirty-two and my mom was twenty-six. Now the siblings of my father, who are Chinese, they wanted the children to be raised Chinese because in our home, my mom actually learned how to speak Chinese. We were like a Chinese family, so the spoken language at home was Chinese, but we speak Ilocano also. Then, my uncles told my mom that she had to marry one of their cousins. Otherwise, they would take the children away from her because they [my mother’s family] were very poor. My uncles wanted the children to be Chinese. So, my mom married my uncle, who is Chinese, a cousin of my dad and they had two more children, so the total six children.
ASUNCION: Oh, wow.
ASMUNDSON: Right. But then my uncle, he was our uncle, he was very, very strict. He wanted all the children to go to Chinese school and the Chinese school is in the town proper. In order to go to school, we finished elementary school up to sixth grade, when we go to town proper to go to Chinese school, we have to start all over again from first grade on. But like I said, during the war when I was born, my mom and my dad, my real dad, they were hiding American soldiers during the Japanese occupation. It was very dangerous because if the Japanese find out anybody collaborating with the Americans, American soldiers, they would be killed. They [the Japanese] were very vicious, they have those bayonets and they’d throw the person and then just spear. And one of my uncles was caught. And what they did to him, they wanted him to drink these gallons, big cans of water, so his stomach [becomes] bloated. And then they would jump on his stomach. They were very vicious. And luckily my parents were not caught because what they did, my father’s business was buying and selling tobaccos. They had these big bales of tobacco and in our warehouse, we have stacks and stacks of tobacco bales, but in the middle, it was hollow, so that’s where they hid the American soldiers. After the war, the American soldiers left, but before they left, they asked my mom what she wanted. And she said, “I want you to send me books, magazines and newspapers.” In our house, there were six children and we have a two-story house. Very simple. Actually, there were four bedrooms, but we only used two bedrooms for the six children and my grandmother was living with us. So, we had a library. We had libraries in our house. In her [my mom’s] library, she had chemistry books, medicine books, all kinds of technical books. She only got to sixth grade, but she was well-read, and she spoke very good English.
ASMUNDSON: She was always reading. Because she only got to sixth-grade, she wanted the children to learn, to be educated. And I was reading all those things, I would see the magazines. And we only had, I remember, we only had two furniture, two chairs and a table. I used to look at all those magazines, American magazines, I would see how beautiful [it is] there. I used to dream I would like to have a house, a beautiful house like that. We had these two chairs, every day. We had a wooden floor, so I would polish the floor, I would clean, and I would rearrange the chairs and the tables. And I would have a flower vase, I’m making it [like my dream]. I’m always cleaning the house because I was always dreaming about having a beautiful house. Then, my mother insisted, the girls, the children, know their alphabet by three years old, and by four we were reading. And we were getting all these comics of our favorite, Superman. And so, we were reading English already. In the Philippines, usually, especially in the barrio, the oldest [child] takes care of young, the second one. And the second takes care of the third. The third takes care of the fourth. My third sister was taking care of me because I am number four. She was a second grader and she would take me to school and I was four and a half. And I was reading already. So she would put me in the first grade class because the teacher there was my aunt. And my last name is Uy, two letters. We were always seated alphabetical. And I was seated at the back and, of course, because I was only four and a half, I was the shortest. I could barely sit [in] front, but I always want to participate because I was reading already, and my classmates were not reading yet. And so I would go home, and I would tell my mom, “Mom, when I get married, I will marry a tall guy with a long name that begins with ‘A’.” [Laughs] Because I wanted me and my children to stay in front being “A,” right? That was my dream. I always say that the two things that I remember, two goals. One is, I wanted to become a doctor, a medical doctor because there was no doctor in our barrio. My mom who was a sixth-grader, she was kind of the doctor because of all of these medical books. And when people get sick there, they would come to her and she would sterilize her syringe and she would inject them with penicillin. It’s scary, I keep thinking about that, but she was always so meticulous. She would sterilize everything, everything clean [inaudible]. [Laughs] We are still alive. [Laughs] She was their doctor, she was the doctor they would come [to]. And it’s so funny because she was also the veterinarian one time because of all the farmers there. Somebody came. One of the carabao, a carabao is a water buffalo, was having a baby and the calf was kind of a breech. No, it was a horse, it was a horse. And it was breech, meaning the legs are [coming out first] instead of the head, a breech birth. So they called her because the horse was dying. She went there and she inserted her hand and turned the calf so that the head will come out [first]. So that’s what she did. [Laughs] She did everything. She was just something. So anyway, we always achieved to be educated. Now, my step-father, after they got married, my step-father and I were always fighting, arguing because he was very strict and then he wanted the kids to go to Chinese school. And I refused because nobody has been to college in my family. And I was reading, and I felt that the only way to get out of that poverty was to be educated. So, I studied, I studied, and actually I kind of always the ring-leader in my class, I was always the top. The teachers were my friends. I have more teacher friends than regular classmates. So I studied and I was always at the top of the class. And I was also a matchmaker. I guess I was kind of a naughty kid because I remember when I was in second grade and our barrio, we usually have spelling competition or declamation competition with the other barrios, especially during fiestas, so there are all these competitions. And I was always the one being sent to compete.
ASMUNDSON: I remember in second grade, we had a spelling contest, and the two finalists were myself and the top girl in the town proper. Of course, the judges were all from the town. We were competing, and so the last word was “constitution.” Well we’re second graders, so what they did was they would show us a paper and then we saw the word. So just to show it and then you read it. And then they’d hide it and then you spell it. And so the last word was “constitution,” but every time they showed me, they just pretended. They showed it, it was always upside down. But because I was reading very well already, the girl didn’t spell “constitution,” I did, so I won. [Laughs] The town people were so angry, well because they’re the Ibanag and we’re the Ilocano, they kind of look down also on the Ilocano. So, they always look down on us, the barrio people. So that was in second grade, and then in the third grade, they started sending me. I memorized poems and we do declamation and things like that. I remember in third grade, again I was kind of the head of the kids, I always organize them and there [in school] we didn’t have any janitors, right? And usually in a class there are fifty students. My teacher was Mr. Manuel, a guy, he would arrange for me to organize the cleaning crew. And there are fifty [students], there are five [school] days [a week], so I would organize per group every day, there are ten kids. Ten, ten, ten. Of course, I would have a bulletin board, put there who has the cleanest room and all those things, then he [Mr. Manuel] would give some reward. Of course, everybody didn’t want to mess up because they were afraid that when it’s their turn, they didn’t want any mess up, so it’s always clean. My teacher was always asking me to do things and I remember a time, too. So we cleaned our classroom, so I said, “Let’s go clean the streets” because, again, there are no cleaning. So we would go and pick up trash in the street. And then there was an orchard, a very nice orchard, somebody owned an orchard and the fruits were always falling, and they [the owners] couldn’t pick up all of the fruits, so I talked to the owner, and I said, because usually all of the leaves are falling, “if we come and clean the leaves, sweep the leaves, can we pick some fruits?” And they said “sure.” So I called some of my friends and said, “Do you want some fruits?” So we would go, at recess, we would go there and clean the orchard. And we had all these fruits. That’s what I was always trying to organize. So then my teacher likes me very much, he was a third grade teacher. And the sixth grade teacher was a very pretty woman, she was single. And my teacher [Mr. Manuel] was single too. And I knew that he liked her. [Laughs] So after class, after I was cleaning everything, making sure everything’s clean, and he was still there. And so then I went out, and I saw that she was still there, Mrs. Manuel or Ms. Filia (sp?). And so I went to her and I said, “Ma’am, Mr. Manuel needs some help could you come and help him.” So she came and as soon as she went to the room, I locked the door and I ran home! [Laughs] And I hid in the closet because I knew that my teacher will report to my mom. [Laughs] Well, they got married.
ASUNCION: Wow. [Laughs]
ASMUNDSON: They got married, they had kids and one of their daughters is actually in Canada now. But he [Mr. Manuel] died, he passed away, but she’s still there so every time I go, and they’re with her neighbors, Mrs. Manuel, every time I go home, we laugh about it. [Laughs]
ASMUNDSON: Because we remember. But I was kind of very naughty, but the teachers were my friends?
ASMUNDSON: I finished sixth grade, I graduated valedictorian. So I went to the town and then the girl that I competed in second grade was also there. We became friends, actually, but her mother, she didn’t like me because she wanted her daughter to shine. And I was always gregarious, I was always talking to people, and even the town’s people every time. I used to have very long hair and I would walk from our place, our dormitory, well, the house we were staying, to school and I would pass by the stores and they would always ask me to stop so they can see my hair because I was always [Laughs] doing my hair in different things [styles]. They [the people of the stores] like me, but, the mother was very upset with me. So we were competing again and of course I was better than her daughter. And so when she was a sophomore, then she took her daughter away because I was always at the top. So from then on, the teachers were all my friends. Like I said, I had more teacher friends than classmates. I became TA to all my teachers. So they would correct my test paper and then I would correct all the other papers. And then whenever they wanted, the provisional government, to ask for money or we were trying to get a new high school, give us a big high school place. And I would go, I was the student representative and then because we didn't have any high school in my barrio--I can say, "You know you should also build a high school at the barrio." And I was just talking. Because I just talk about the town, I would talk about my barrio. And I found out, when I came back from the United States, I went there, and we have a high school. And I said, "Oh wow we have a high school!" And they said, "Well, thanks to you, we were able to get this." Apparently, it was because I was always lobbying for a high school there. But anyways, I graduated. So I was in high school and I became the president of freshman class, president of the sophomore class, and then I was student body president. And actually I organized all the proms, the junior prom and the senior prom. And actually, senior prom, I had mobs (sp?) during. I had to organize them. [Laughs] But I never dated, I didn't have any boyfriend because I knew I was going to study, I'm going to study. So I never even went, I never went to a single birthday party.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, and also because my step-father was very strict. He didn't want me to. And that's one of the things that he and I argued a lot because he's Chinese. And the Chinese in the Philippines, especially in the barrio, because they're kind of middle class. In a way, they're not, even if they're poor, they think that they're better than the Filipinos. And he would look down on the Filipinos and I always say, "I'm Filipino." That why I never learned Chinese, even though, Chinese was spoken at home was because when they talk to me in Chinese, I would speak to them in Filipino. I refused to learn. It was stupid, but you know... [Laughs] But just to show them that I always act Filipino. So anyway, I wanted to go to medical school and then when I was a senior I was graduating and my mom said, "You know, we can't afford for you to go to medical school." And besides my step-father said, "No, I'll never support you to go college. Just get married." He kept saying to my older sisters, "Just get married." So then they go to high school, they went to Chinese school, but for me I graduated and so then my mom said, "We can't afford medical school, so why don't you just go learn chemistry?" So I said, "Okay." There [in the Philippines], you follow what your parents say. And so, I said, "Okay." But I didn't have chemistry in high school. So what I did was, I applied to Adamson University which was the top in chemistry then. Adamson in Manila. And I only applied to one [school]. I was very blessed, I was very lucky that I was accepted. And because I was graduating valedictorian, they gave me scholarship. That's how I got there because, otherwise, my step-father wasn't supporting me and it was in Manila. And luckily, also, my oldest sister, now, was living in Manila. She was married and she was raising so many kids, but I stayed with her. And my two older sisters also came. They found out that I could go to the university, and they didn't go to high school. So what they did was, they would work during the day and they would go to school at night.
ASMUNDSON: So that's what they did. And they supported me. Then, after that, they went to college because I was going to college. So they supported themselves, but they helped me. So I didn't help. Now, I'm helping. I help their children. I send 7 nieces and nephews to college.
ASMUNDSON: While I was in college, I would also sell peanuts, underwear. I was always selling some things to my classmates. I ended up having more money than anybody. So when we go shopping, they would borrow money from me and I would charge them interest.
ASMUNDSON: So I was a business person.
ASMUNDSON: And then I was also very active in a lot of extracurricular activities, like the Honors Society. I was chair and I was the treasurer of the United Nations Student Association of the Philippines and all these different organizations. And like I said, I didn't have any boyfriend, I didn't go dancing, I don't sing. I was just studying, studying. But I have a lot of friends, and I even started a sorority, a chemistry sorority. So at the beginning of the school year, because I was an officer, then we would have this, I don't know if you have that here, the officers, you have a swearing in. And the Filipinos, they usually have at any event, there is a dinner/dance, right? So we would have a dinner/dance for the induction of officers. It's called Induction of Officers. And because I didn't have any boyfriend, I didn't dance. So I ended up always sitting with the speaker, the guest speaker. And most of the time, it was the president of the university, Dr. Adamson and his wife were there. So I would talk to them and he became my mentor and I became their protégé. So I was very close to them for four years and he was very good to me. So then, I finished college and I did very well. And so then, after graduation, the next day I went to him and I said, "Dr. Adamson, Mr. President, I am done. You have a job for me?" And he said, "Yeah." Because my mom always said, "Ask and you shall receive." Because if you don't ask, you don't get. If you ask, 50 percent chance yes, 50 percent no, right? It's okay. So he gave me a job at this laboratory. I was working there during the summer and then towards the end of summer, when school was going to start, he came to me and he said, "Do you want to teach?" And I said, "Yes." Because for me, any opportunity comes, I always say "yes" and I'll think about it later. Then, when school started, I realized, I'm going to teach. And I was 19, I graduated early. So I was 19 years old, and some of the students were older than me. And I just finished, so I said, "Oh my gosh!" I could barely walk, I panicked, I was traumatized. So I was going to the room [classroom], and before I went in, I lean on the wall and I said my prayer because I always pray. I said my prayer and then it was like, epiphany. It was like God was telling me, "Ruth, you finished. You know more than they do. Just go in there and teach them what you know. They don't know whether you're telling them the facts or not." [Laughs] So I said, "You're right, you know?" So I went in, and you know what? I've never been nervous again. You ask me to speak, and I don't. Because I always feel that when somebody asks me to speak, as a guest speaker or whatever, they want to hear from me something that they don't know right? And what I'm telling you [Asuncion], you don't know whether what I'm telling you is correct or wrong, right?
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, I'm the only one who knows that. So I've never been nervous. So I always tell kids, whenever I'm talking to them. That's how like when I was mayor or when I was on the school board, parents would say, they complain, complain. And I said, "Why don't you come public comments, tell us." "Oh, I'm not a public speaker, I get nervous," they said. "Well, are you nervous now, talking to me?" And they said, "No." So I said, "When you're there, just look at me like you're talking to me and then tell us what you want." And so after that I would ask, "Were you nervous?" and "No." So that's how I invited people to come and speak to public comments.
ASMUNDSON: I still kind of get anxious sometimes, I have to prepare, but I could also talk extemporaneously. But I always psych myself, like "I know what I'm talking about." And so then, I was teaching. I was a very good teacher, I believe because in my class, I have students who are not enrolled in my class at the door listening to my lecture because whenever I teach I try to make sure the students understand what I'm talking about, so I would give them analogy that resonates with them so they listen better. In chemistry, I would be talking about ionic bonding and covalent bonding. You know those things right?
ASMUNDSON: So I would talk about the periodic table and I said, “So then the elements on this side, and the elements on the far end, and you combine them, there is a strong attraction because there is a lot of heat that is generated and in the middle, there's also attraction, but it's not as strong as the elements combined here. So I would say, it's just like a handsome guy and beautiful girl, they see each other, they like each other, they get married and the bond's very strong because there's a very strong attraction." And then I said, "in the middle, when a girl meets a girl, they like each other, and they become very good friends, or a guy." That was before lesbian and gay. [Laughs] That was a hot topic. Because there, you don't talk about sex, right?
ASMUNDSON: So I talk about -- I'm very open about those kind of things. And so the kids understand what I was talking about. So now I'm teaching, and my favorite professor in physics and chemistry, she was a graduate at the University of the Philippines. This is a state university, the government university. And my university was a Catholic school, well before that, it's not a Catholic school, but it was a private school. And so my professor who graduated from UP was a Fulbright scholar. Got her PhD from Columbia in New York. And now we become friends, so we were always talking. And she said, "Ruth, why don't you apply for Fulbright scholarship?" And nobody's ever gotten in from Adamson or private schools anyway. So I said, "Oh, I'll never get it." And she said, "Ruth, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you apply and you get in, it's great. If not, it's a good experience." And I said, "You're right." So I applied, and I invited a lot of my friends who graduated with me to apply because I know that I was better than a lot of them, so there will be less [inaudible].
ASMUNDSON: So I was always kind of strategizing, you know I've been thinking. We all applied and so then we went to the director of admissions to get our transcript and the guy said, "Oh, you'll never get it." Said, "Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained." He said, "You'll never get it" because his son who graduated the year before, he was a summa cum laude or magna cum laude in chemical engineering and apparently, he applied, and he didn't get it. I said, "Well, you know, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If we get it, it's great. If not, it's a good experience." We applied and so then we went to the U.S. Embassy for the final interview. And I keep psyching myself, "Well, it's for me, it's for me." Not "the die has been cast." [Laughs] [inaudible] And so I wasn't nervous. I wasn't nervous at all because if I get it, it's great. If not, that's fine. And so then, the chair of the panel, there were five members of the panel, the chair was from Australia, and then this guy from New Zealand, then Canada, U.S. and Filipino. And so the chair came, and then we went in, and he said, "I'm Dr. 'so-and-so' from Australia" so I said, "Oh, are you from the Outback?" And they all laughed because it's just like, "Are you from the Boondocks?" [Laughs] Well that's all I knew because I love romance books and that's all I remember from Australia, Outback. So then, he started talking about geography of Australia. [Laughs] So then, the guy from New Zealand said, "I'm Dr. 'so-and-so' from New Zealand" and I said, "Oh, are you from Christchurch [pronounces differently]” [Laughs] And so he corrected how pronounced “Christchurch.”
ASMUNDSON: And so he talk also about New Zealand. And then I asked a question when the guy from Canada and U.S. said. You know, I didn't know very much, but I was just curious.
ASMUNDSON: So we were all laughing like we were friends now. So halfway, they said to the chair, "Oh, we better ask the interview questions." So then they told the chair, "Why don't you ask your question?" The chair has been asking this question and velocity to all, and nobody's answered so far, the answer. And so it was about N (sp?) velocity and I didn't know the answer really. But then I keep thinking, "Why would he ask a complicated question in an interview? And why would the answer be five? What's the significance of five? Why would it be ten? What's the significance of ten?" So I said, "Well, of course, it's zero!" Like—[Laughs]—Like I knew! And they said, "You got it!"
ASMUNDSON: Now, they think I'm brilliant because I was the first one to answer it right. And so then, we were all very happy. And so then, they asked me other questions, of course. I answered quite a bit, but I [inaudible] answer all of them, but now they know I'm brilliant. So two weeks later, I got letter, I got the scholarship. And so then, I was twenty-one. And so then, we had our orientation, all the Fulbrights around the world, we had our orientation in University of Hawaii for a month. And learned about American culture, about the expectations, about American life. And I was always following the director. And I would be asking him questions about how to behave, how to fit, and so I said, "Mr. Richard, you know, when I go to an event, how do I present myself, so they think that I know, I know what I'm doing, or that I belong?" And he said, "Oh, don't worry Ruth, the Americans like to talk about themselves. So, just listen and then ask a question that resonates with them and then they'll go on and on and on and on, and then ask another question and they'll go on and on and on. And then after that, they think that you're a good conversationalist." [Laughs]
ASMUNDSON: And ask me a question, I go on and on -- I said, "I'm not American though."
ASMUNDSON: So then I went to my first event, and when I went to Pennsylvania, I went to first event. And nobody was coming to me, and I was kind of anxious and said, "Don't they like me? Maybe they think that I'm not good and I'm Asian." I was kind of thinking. And so then I said, "Well, I'll just go around and introduce myself. If they think I'm this crazy Asian, that's okay." [Laughs] So I went and introduced myself. I found out, everybody was waiting. So from then on, whenever I go to a function, my husband and I, we go to a function, he would go that way and I would go that way, and we just go around, introduce ourselves. And so then, when you do that, they remember you, right? They remember you because they were, "Oh yeah" [reminiscent of conversing with you]. And then they start talking. So I was in Pennsylvania. I got my master there.
ASMUNDSON: And that was for my Fulbright. And then I wanted to go for a PhD. And so I asked Fulbright if I could continue. And they said, "Okay." So I applied. It was so cold in Pennsylvania, I saw my first snow, November 18, 1966. And I was passing by the dormitory, and all these florisis (sp?) coming down. And I told my friend, I said, "Oh look! They're having a pillow fight." She said, "No, that's snow!"
ASMUNDSON: So anyway, it was so cold! So I wanted to go for my PhD, so I said, "Okay, I will go to Florida, Hawaii or California." So I applied to a lot of the universities in those states because I felt like, well maybe at least one of them will accept me. Well then, I was fortunate that I got all these acceptance. So in California, I applied to UCLA, Berkeley, and UC Davis. I didn't know anything about Davis. And so then I said, "where would I go?" UCLA, when I was coming from the Philippines to Pennsylvania, I stopped by LA. In that time, the smog was terrible and my allergy was bad, so I said, "No, I'm not going to go there."
ASMUNDSON: So that was 1968, so then I said, “Well, should I go to Berkeley or not?” Well, 1968, it was the height of the radical movement in Berkeley, so I said, “No, I don’t want to go there.”
ASMUNDSON: So by default, I came to UC Davis. I didn't know anything about Davis, but one of my professors just came from San Francisco and ACS, American Chemical Society Conference and he has a friend in Davis. So he said, "Oh, you should go to Davis, they have beautiful, brand new dormitories!" [Laughs] That was it. So I came to Davis, I came August 8, 1966. And it was so hot. And one of the committee member picked me up at the airport and said, "It's only twenty minutes to Davis. And so we were riding and I said--because twenty minutes in the Philippines, right? Twenty minutes, you only go a block because of the traffic [Laughs]-- I said, "I thought you said twenty minutes." And said, "Yeah!" And everything was so hot and brown, so I said, "Oh gosh,"-- and flat--I said, "It's so flat and brown." So I said, "Oh, that's not brown, that's golden." And so then I came and I was saying, "Oh my gosh..." And the street then, the main street was G street. And a friend of mine, my roommate, who became my roommate, was also coming from San Francisco. And so she took the Greyhound, the same day, she took the Greyhound and got to Davis and the driver said, "Davis," so she got down, then she went on the phone, payphone, called a taxi, then said, "I'd like a ride." So the taxi came and the taxi driver said, "Where to, lady?" And she said, "Please take me downtown." Said, "Lady, you're in downtown Davis."
ASMUNDSON: So she went to the SISS office and I went there until we met. We met there and we were sitting there all these foreign students sitting at the services for international students and scholars. So we were sitting and I said, "Are you Filipino?" She said, "Yes." So I said, "Where are you staying?" She said, "Oh, I don't know. I just got here." I said, "Oh, me too, I got here. Do you want to be roommates?" And she said, "Yes." So I said, "Hi, I'm Ruth."
ASMUNDSON: And so we became roommates before we knew each other's names. [Laughs]
ASUNCION: Both agreed already.
ASMUNDSON: That's right. And so, we became good friends. She's in Brazil. And so now I was in chemistry and she was in food science. So I was thinking... Well, Fulbright said, they give me stipend, but they said if I get a stipend higher than what they [Fulbright] give, then I should get it, but I'm still Fulbright, and they still provide my transportation, my insurance and all those things. And they take care of my immigration, my student visa. Then I was looking for a professor, and I found Dr. Feeney (sp?) whose research was in biochemistry and enzymes and he has all the money, but his office, or his lab was at the food science. So I guess that's why my degree is in agriculture of chemistry. I don't have anything to do with agriculture, I don't have anything to do with food science, it's only chemistry, but it's okay. So anyway, I was very active and we had the international student club. I don't know if they still have it or not, but what we did then was we would have a week orientation of new foreign students and at the end of the orientation, there's the dinner. And then at the end of dinner, there's the entertainment. So the third year, I help arrange the dinners and at third year, I was the secretary of the club, I was in charge of entertainment and I couldn't get anybody to do anything, so I ended up dancing a Filipino dance, binasuan. I don't know if you know if binasuan.
ASUNCION: Yeah, I did it before, it’s fun!
ASMUNDSON: Right, yes, yes. And so then, I dance binasuan. Well, it so happened that the newly elected mayor came to give the welcome speech. So then he saw me dance, he said he was enchanted with my dance. He wanted to meet me and we met and then we talked and then he called me to ask me for a date. And I said yes because when I saw this guy coming, I said, "6' 2", good looking, Asmundson, with a long name that begins with 'A,' this is the guy I've been looking for since first grade." [Laughs] Remember my goal?
ASMUNDSON: So he came, and then we went out. Well, he didn't have any girlfriend because he is now in politics, and usually in politics, you're in a glass wall, right? And so he didn't want to have a scandal or anything like that, so he didn't have any girlfriend.
ASMUNDSON: My roommate and I were living next door to my mother-in-law. We were renting a room there and she was so nice, she was always bringing us cookies, or fruits. And she would invite us over for dinner, and she would say, “Oh, the big man is coming too,” but he never came. So I never met him while I was living next door to his mother—
ASUNCION: Oh, wow.
ASMUNDSON: —because he knew that his mother was always looking for a girlfriend for him. And he said, "Mom, I can't come to all these dinners for your foreign student friends." So I never met him. So my mother-in-law and I were friends before I met him.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah. So anyway, the next day, there was this rumor when we went out. There was this rumor that the mayor was marrying a Filipina. [Laughs] We had a very good conversation because he was a Republican and I am a Democrat. So we argue about everything, and I guess he liked me because he could really argue and I was intimidated by him, but he said the first time, he was always trying to be devil's advocate so I would say something. And then people would kind of argue with him, but when he got elected, he would say something, and then they write it down, so he had to be very careful with what he said.
ASMUNDSON: After that, he asked me for another date. It's so funny because now, we were living in an apartment and I had three roommates, it was very international. I had a Korean, who's a Chinese-Korean, who grew up in Korea and was Chinese, and then we had a Japanese who grew up in Mexico, and you should see this Japanese girl speaking Spanish. And then I was Chinese from the Philippines, and the other one, she's Filipino, but we laughed that she's Filipino, but she's British because every week she'd have a new boyfriend all English men.
ASMUNDSON: So we have this joke because every time the phone rang, we said, "Oh, the mayor is calling for a date." There was even before we met, and they would say, the phone rings and I said, "Oh, that's the mayor! Is that for me?" And so he called me, and so when he called me, my roommate answered the phone and then said, "Ruth, somebody's calling, he's very nice voice, I think it's a long distance,"he was calling from Sacramento, "It's long distance." And I said, "Oh, okay," so I answered. So then, we talked and he was asking me for a date again. And the first time he was asking for a date, so then after a hang out, they all said, "Who was that? Oh, the mayor."
ASMUNDSON: I said, "No! Who's that? Not the mayor!" They didn't believe me because we always [inaudible] the mayor. I went to the second date, and he grew up in Davis, and he said, "I want to show you my city." He always called Davis, "my city." And he took me out to the town, to the water waste treatment, to the landfill, [Laughs]... Very romantic right? But he was very proud because those were his projects when he was the mayor. So we went out, and then he asked me for another date. And so the third date was a free Christmas party of the Fire Department, and they held it in Sacramento. So then, we went and the emcee was kind of funny, he said, "Oh, we have a very 'something else' mayor in Davis." He [the emcee] said, "He comes to all these dinners for free dinner and then he brings a different date all the time." [Laughs] He [Mayor Asmundson] said, "Don't believe him!" We came back after the party at midnight. So you know the levee there (sp?) by the Yolo Causeway, where they put all the rocks?
ASUNCION: Yes, yes.
ASMUNDSON: Right. He had a very nice sporty BMW, a white one. We went there, and he parked at the levee at midnight. And then, here comes this police officer because it was very dark. He had one hand on his gun and a flashlight, and he came in like, "Oh, Mayor Asmundson, I'm sorry!" [Laughs] Well, we were talking about children, so he said, "You know, I really want ten children." Then said, "Oh, I only want two." So he said, "How about six?" Said, "No, I only want two." So he said, "How about four?" I said, "Okay." So I said, "Are you asking me to marry you?"
ASMUNDSON: And he said, "Yes!" So, we joke about who asked who.
ASMUNDSON: We're going to get married. So we dated for two years because I was still finishing my PhD. And then when was finishing up my PhD, when I was almost finished, I told him, "I'm sorry, I have to go back to the Philippines because I'm a Fulbright. And I have to stay there for two years before I can come back." And he didn't want us to get separated, so I said, I can't marry you after all. Besides I was twenty-eight, and I was young and idealistic. I wanted to go back to the Philippines and change the world. So he said, "Well, I guess it wasn't meant to be, but can we be friends and write each other." So I said, "Sure." So we were writing and so I went back in June and I started teaching at my alma mater. And a month later, it's also a Catholic university because the owner sold it to the Catholic congregation because there, at that time, the Philippines government was trying to nationalize a lot of the corporations owned by foreigners. They can only own forty percent, so the [inaudible] console to the Philippines who started this, Dr. Adamson started this university, sold it to the congregation of Mary, to CM (sp?), Saint Vincent de Paul. So now the president there, Father Montañanan (sp?), is also a very good friend of mine, so before I went, I wrote him, I said, "Father, I'm coming, do you have a job for me?" "So, just come, we'll give you a job." So he gave me a professorship right away, and then a month later, the chair of the graduate school in chemistry retired. Father Montañanan(sp?) said to me, "Do you want the job?" And I said, "Sure." So I was the chair of the graduate school of chemistry at twenty-eight. Again, all these, like I said, opportunities, I always say yes and then do the best I can. That was July, and then September, the Marshall Law was declared, so it was scary. It was scary. And then also, the professors of the women and men, they were all married. And I thought I was a career person, I was really a career person and I didn't think about getting married, but then I saw them and they were happy, they had children, so I kept thinking, "Yeah, I want to get married too, I want to have a family, I want to have children." So, I was kind of looking at Filipino husband. But then I was comparing everybody – [Laughs] – To my former fiancé. So then, in November after the Marshall law. Marshall law was still on. November, he visited his brother in New Zealand, so he called me and he said, "Hey, I'm in the neighborhood!" Neighborhood. – Can I come visit you?” I said sure. So then he came to Manila in November. So then he came and then my mom had a dinner, a family dinner for him. Well, when I was dating him, I told my mom, that I’m dating this American. She said, “Oh no. I don’t want you getting married to an American. He’s going to divorce you.” So my mom was against my getting married to an American. So he came to the Philippines. When we had this dinner, he asked my mom if he could talk to her, so they went the room and my mom was sitting down and he knelt in front of her, held her hand, and – I didn't know about this, my mom told me later – held her hand and said, "I'd like to ask for your blessing to marry your daughter.”
ASMUNDSON: And my mom was so surprised that she [inaudible] [Laughs] So then he asked me to marry him again and I said, "Yes! Take me away!" [Laughs] So then he applied for a visa for me, he came back to the United States, he applied for a visa for me, and then the U.S. Embassy called me. So I went there for interview and the consul said, "You know Ruth, you're a full-bred scholar, you are a full-bred scholar, and that you have to stay here for two years, so you cannot go back to the United States yet." And I said, "Yes, I know." So he said, "I'm sorry, I can't give you a visa." So I called him [her Fiancée], I said, "I'm sorry, I can't marry you after all. I can't get a visa." But you know, when he applied, we talked, that was November, and we planned on getting married in the Philippines in May the following year. And now, I didn't get a visa so we couldn't get married.
ASMUNDSON: And so then later, a month later, he called and he said, "You know I was reading the information about the Fulbright and it says here that a waiver is granted if the two countries waive the two-year residency, so why don't you work with the Philippine government and I'll work with the U.S. government." And I said okay. So he worked with his congressman. And I went to the archbishop of Manila. I asked to lobby for a waiver, so he wrote a letter to the secretary of foreign affairs, and then the secretary of foreign affairs in the Philippines wrote a letter to the Philippine ambassador in Washington D.C., and then the ambassador wrote a letter to the state department, and then a month later I was called at the embassy and it was the same consul. He had a paper and he said, "So, how did you get this?" And I said, "What's that?" So he gave it to me and he said, "Ruth, we granted waiver of congressional interest." And I said, "Well, I guess my fiance has got political connections." [Laughs] We were going to get married, but then he couldn't go to the Philippines anymore because he had a big case in Santa Barbara, he was a lawyer in a big case. And so he couldn't go outside to come here [the Philippines]. I came August 8, 1973. And the fiance visits for three months which meant that it would expire October 8, 1973. I came and he asked me, "When do you want to get married?" And you know we dated for two years, but there were still a lot of cultural differences. I said, "Well, let's talk about it." I kept putting it off, putting it off. And then finally, I said, "Okay, let's get married October 6th. Two days before it expires. [Laughs] So we got married October and I didn't have any relatives except my sister who was here already, so the two of us. But like I said, there were still a lot of cultural differences and even after we got married, I did not unpack, I had my suitcase in the closet for six months, then I got pregnant, so I had to unpack, but we were married for thirty years and it was great. It was a good marriage and I think the reason for that is I told him, "Okay, you work hard and I stay home and raise our children, our four daughters that we agreed." The best of Filipino and the best of American. And so, he said, "Okay." And I said, "I'm going to be in charge of the kids." That was our agreement. I was twenty-nine when we got married and we agreed to have four, so I said, I have to have these kids before I'm thirty-five. So I had four kids in five years. [inaudible] So the first and second girls, about thirteen months apart. It was hard. So the first five years, I was just always with the kids, and then I was always very kind of outgoing, but I was always just with the kids and the only adult I was talking to was my husband and my mother-in-law. And I felt like my world was shrinking. When I talk, my English was getting terrible. It was bad. And then, even my Filipino was getting bad. And so, finally, luckily a friend of my mother-in-law stopped by and she said she was going to be the incoming president of University of Pharmaceuticals.
ASMUNDSON: And so she came and she said, "Ruth, could you be my membership chair?" Said, "Yes!" So I became a membership chair of University of Pharmaceuticals, which is an organization that started in 1913. And you started with faculty wives and so I became membership chair and I was very good because I have now this PhD and everything is kind of regional research, so whenever there is a problem, I don't do "Band-aid" I just kind of look at what's the root of the problem. So I [inaudible] And I think even though I did not use my chemistry, it's my education, my PhD education that really made me – because I always feel like [inaudible] education to make a better life for you and your family and the world – I always dealt with things the way I look at problems is differently. So when I was mayor actually, then I always ask questions to the staff, and they say, "I knew you going to ask that" because my questions would be different from the other council member. And then I always ask about fiscal analysis and so then they said, "Oh, I know you're going to ask this," so I keep asking this every time we have an agenda item, "Why don't you put the analysis?" because you know I'm going to ask this. So I had to revise our agenda, the way we did agenda. There were even ordinances. There was a 1941 ordinance that prohibited the city to hire Japanese. And the ordinance was still there until 2010. And so, we had to repeal it. I did a lot of kind of housekeeping because the Davis, the council there was no growth which means they didn't want to build, but the growth in Davis actually was supposed to be 1.8%, it was growing 6%. It was growing faster than Woodland because what happened was the city council they make ordinances. Well the city council, because they didn't like growth, they didn't not discuss anything about growth, but the policies are there already. So of course the staff has to follow the policy. They were just putting their blind. And so we were growing very fast. And so when I was mayor, I would, for example, have youth – children – and senior citizens, if there's a conflict there, what comes first? So you have to talk about that. You don't just give all this policy, and then it's always controversial or scandal or whatever because you have to have a long discussion about "okay, we're doing favor first, or what's priority? The children? Or senior citizen?" And so, I did a lot of cleanup when I was mayor. So anyways, now, we're married and because I have all these children, I got involved with so many – I was PTA president the same year actually, a elementary school and a junior high school I was PTA president the same year and vice president of IOs (sp?), there was a year when I was president of three organizations – and so in 1989, I was given the "Citizen of the Year Award" because I have all these organizations, and it's funny because the University of Pharmaceuticals, I had all these – I became membership chair, the different committees – and so when I became president, they had this box of all the duties and responsibilities. It was [inaudible], so I collated them and I put guidelines there, what all these different committees are, after I think, they revise it, I think, but all these years, I was president, 1984. And they've been using that guideline until they revised recently. Because, I always do that, I try to see. Because if there's a problem, they just don't do band-aids, because the problem keeps recurring, so you have to fix it at the root of the problem. And so that's why I always kind of push things. So then, because I was very involved in this, and there was a vacancy in the school board because one of the school board ran for city council and won. So the school board appointed a replacement and the finalists were myself, Jorge Carrio (sp?) who was a administrative judge, Stanford graduate, law school, and so he has a very high education.
ASMUNDSON: So we were the two finalists and so we were at the school board meeting for them to decide and the Hispanic, this Hispanic, Rick Gonzalez (sp?), who was kind of the leader of the Hispanic group, he brought all the Hispanics there to the board meeting, filled the board meeting, and then, the board appointed me. And so Rick got so angry, he went to the podium and said, "You school board, you missed your chance of appointing a person of color!" And so everyone look at me. [Laughs] So after the meeting, I went to him and said, "Rick, can we have lunch tomorrow and explain to me why you think Jorge should be appointed because he's a person of color and I'm not?" And I do that because whenever there is a problem, I confront with the problem because usually we Asian, we try to go around you try to tell somebody somebody and before it gets to the person, it's a different story, right? But somehow I don't know, I've always confronted the issue directly and so I had lunch with Rick and I said, "Rick, can you explain to me why you think I'm not a person of color?" And he said, "Well, actually Ruth, they should have appointed Jorge because there are more Hispanics in Davis than Filipino. And I said, "Rick listen to yourself, if you think, if that's your logic, then they should have appointed a White because there are 72% White in Davis." And he said, "You're right." So we've been friends ever then.
ASMUNDSON: And so that's always how I – like one time, there was the university and the city were kind of at its lowest because they were fighting, but I was having meeting with the Former chancellor of Vanderhoff (sp?) every month, talk about the city and the university, so we became very good friends, and we would have lunch at Cafe Vernardo (sp?). So that one day that we had lunch, there was this guy at the corner, he was just looking at me, he was very angry. So then after our breakfast, I went out, he followed me and he said, "So, you're now in the pocket of the university. They're paying your breakfast now!" And I said, "No, I paid my own breakfast." Because when I was an elected, I had a notebook and I wrote down everything when I meet with constituents, even just a can of coke, I write it down, and so I said, "No! I paid for my breakfast, look." And he said, "Oh, thank you for showing it to me." I said, "No, thank you, I'm glad that you told me, if you didn't confront me, you would have been going around telling everybody that I'm in the pocket of the university." So now, he respected me, and then one time, also, during our council meeting, and one of the guys came and said, "Do you feel intimidated because you're a woman?" And I said, "No. When I'm here, I'm the mayor. I don't think of myself as a woman. I don't think of myself as an ethnic." And Ted [inaudible] Catholic [inaudible] and I said, "If you think of me as a woman, I'm just as good as the man." And there were three men and two women in the council, so Ted said, "Actually, she's better than us. We call her a Mother Superior." [Laughs] Because we are both Catholic. Because sometimes, Ted would get angry and he would say, "Oh shit." And we are on live TV and I said, "Ted, that's unacceptable." Because when we are there, we should present ourselves, we are the role model. If we're like that, we're saying those bad words there, then it's like it's alright for people to do that. That's unacceptable. And so, he said, "Well, actually, she's better than us." And that's how I always feel. If you look at me as an ethnic, I'm just as good at the white. If you look at me as a woman, I'm just as good as the guy. And so that's what I tell my kids. I have four daughters. And that's why sometimes they're overconfident. They sometimes intimidate guys. And then when I go to a party, I go, I don't shy away, I always feel like I belong. I always go around and meet people, and I always feel like everybody's my friend and I treat them as my friend. If they don't like me, I have no control of that.
ASMUNDSON: When I'm walking and I say "good morning" to you, and you don't say "good morning" to me, it's okay for me because I can't control you to say "good morning" to me. Because sometimes, you say, "Oh, that person, didn't even say "goodbye" or she didn't even say "good morning" to me. For me it's okay, it's okay because I always feel like the only person I'm in control of is myself. Even my kids, I tell them, do this and that, it's up to them, I can't control them whether they do it, they might not do it. And I would be angry, but it's up to them. So I always feel that the only person I'm in control of is myself. And so I talk about it, and I'm always talking. When I was raising my kids, and whenever I say "no," I explain why. I never told them, "No because I'm your mother." I never said that. I always tell them, "No because..." I have to explain why I'm saying – and they appreciate that. And so whenever they came and talked to me, and I don't give in and I explain, so then they accept it. It's better. And the way I look at things is, when I was mayor – because I'm the same level as them, I have one vote – but because I'm the mayor, I have more power in a way because I do the agenda and I'm always talking to the city manage and we put the agenda together and he would make recommendation what we would do. And so the way I would do it is like my children when we have curfew, or bedtime. The way I would tell them is, "Do you want to go to bed at seven or eight?"
ASMUNDSON: Eight! Because that's when I want them to go to bed. [Laughs] So, you do it the way that you ask them, like what the choice to go to bed, right? So now, it's eight o'clock they would go, but had I said "Seven or eight?" then we had this conflict, we would be arguing right? So I would force a question. So when I was mayor, I would ask questions such that I direct it in a way, the way that I – "what do you think of this, should we do this or not?" When I was making at the beginning, they would think that I was kind of wishy-washy because the paper would always kind of get a report or article before the meeting, but I never tell them how I would vote, but I would say, sometimes, "Oh, you know, based on what I know right now, I'm inclined on this side." But then, during the meeting, because that's when we decide things, and I hear more from people, then I vote the other way, and people thought I was wishy-washy. So when I found that out, the way I would do it usually before I vote, and I'm thinking, I'm thinking aloud. So I said, "I really like this because then I'd put the pros," and then "But, I like this too because...I think." So I'm having a hard time deciding if it's a dilemma for me. But I think this has more merit because, so I'm voting on this because. So the first time, one time, one guy came and spoke at public comment, and I voted against what he wanted. And he said, "Ruth, I didn't like your vote, but I respect your vote." Because he understand why I was voting for it. Because he understood what I was saying. So that's why I was a very popular mayor. I was able to accomplish quite a bit. I brought in Target. People were so angry with me when I [inaudible] said, "Oh she just ruined Davis." But then, everybody wanted Trader Joe's. But Trader Joe's didn't want to come. So I called them, so then they came and looked, and we were trying to put them with Target because we had space there, what they wanted is there, but that time, at the same place, we had this radiology club, a clinic, and the doctor just spent one million just to calibrate their equipment, so of course they didn't want to leave. And they own it. So then Trader Joe's wanted to stay there, so what I did, I called a meeting at Trader Joe's, usually staff they [inaudible], but I was always involved because when you're the mayor, you talk to them. You know, they come.
ASMUNDSON: So I called Trader Joe's and the staff, the developer, the owner, the landlord, we had a meeting, so I said to the landlord and the developer, "Can you pay for the transfer?" Because if we have Trader Joe's there, it will be a big anchor, it will be more livable. It's a more upscale shopping center, people will come. So you will be getting more profit from here. So they did. So they move the doctors and the doctors agreed for the move. And so Trader Joe's came. And so that's how I usually do. I feel like I try to find a solution. One of my council members, she was always kind of a downer, she voted no in everything. And we were talking about it and one time, about something, and she said, "Ruth, why are you always so optimistic?" Because she would make – "oh yeah, we can do it this way, this way, this way." And she said, "Why are you always so optimistic?" I said, "Well, all these ideas are good, you just have to find a way how to do it." And she said, "Well, I guess I'm just a pessimistic person." For me, after I got out of the barrio, and I wanted to get out because it's a poor place there, and so, everything that I got, that I received in my life, after I got out, I feel like they are kind of a blessing, they are a bonus. And so when you have a gift, you have a bonus, a blessing, you appreciate it, right? Because it's a blessing, it's a [inaudible]. So I always look at them as a very positive thing. And I have so many passionate things [inaudible] I get so [inaudible] with a lot of things. People ask me to be involved and I see the benefit and so then I say "Yes." And so sometimes, I'm just so overwhelmed because I'm in so many organizations. [Laughs] So, luckily, my bedtime is 2:30. My husband was a lawyer and I was the office manager of his office, but I didn't go to the office, I only went on Saturdays, and he would bring the books at night. I did all the tax return and all these things. And I did his billings and things like that and the kids would go to bed at eight o'clock. And after eight o'clock, I did all my laundry and I made all my kids' clothings because my husband, being a solo practitioner, we didn't have any medical insurance, we didn't have any retirement, and we wanted our kids to go to any school they want. And I told them, "You study very hard, you go to any school you want." And so we were saving every penny we have. Life was hard in the beginning, but we survived, and the kids, they were able to go to school without having a loan. And we save every penny we can. Then the thing is, my oldest daughter went to Dartmouth. And my second daughter when to MIT. And because they're thirteen months apart, they were in college at the same time. So I was paying $60,000 a year and tuition fees alone.
ASUNCION: Oh my gosh.
ASMUNDSON: And then, plus board and lodging plus they have to come, so life was very, very hard. And my lawyer, he's this big lawyer, and he was in his prime earning power, but of course, because he was now in the high tax bracket, [inaudible] I would do tax return April 15th. I would be so miserable because all the money I've been saving is going to taxes. And my husband used to be, "Oh, I'm so patriotic." [Laughs] I finally told him, we have to save some money, we have to have some retirement, and he was a corporation lawyer, and he kept saying, "Oh, I should get incorporated, I should get incorporated." But he never got incorporated. So one time, November 28, 1979, he brought a book, he says, "Why not incorporate?" So I read that book that night, it was thick book until three o'clock that morning, then I woke him up, I said – we're both Catholic.
ASMUNDSON: And we agreed to have a 40-year trial marriage. And after 40 years, we're going to reevaluate. And then I told him, I'm Catholic, I don't believe in divorce, but if worse comes to worse, I'll be the first one to leave. Anyway, I woke him up and I discussed it. I said, "I want you to get incorporated by the end of the year. If you don't, I'm going to leave you." So the next day, he got incorporated. And because of that, there was this – the 401K is very new – so we were able to take advantage of that and so he could now put 50% of his salary in there for retirement and then the corporation will – massive 50% – so now instead of the high bracket, we are in the middle, so we are saving also. Life has become better because now we could breathe better, now we have some retirement money. And then we invested it ourselves and we were all doing this. Then, my third daughter, she was going to San Diego, but my daughters, when they were seniors in high school, they would take classes at UC Davis, so they were considered freshmen already at UC Davis. My third daughter went to San Diego, and she was there for a month, then she came back because she and the youngest, my fourth daughter, they were very, very close, and she was worried to have her sister by herself with her parents, so she came home. Now of course, the fourth one couldn't leave because her sister stayed, so she had to stay, so the two of them stayed. And I told them they can't get married until they finish college. Because I have a PhD and my husband has a law degree from Harvard –
ASMUNDSON: – They thought they had to finish grad school before they got married. [Laughs] So they all went to grad school. That's how I got into politics. When I was on the school board, parents trusted me. Actually, I raised six children because four daughters and then my third daughter, she and her husband died very early, they died two years apart. They had two boys, so I raised the two boys the same age as my children. One went to the University of Arizona and one went to Minnesota college. They are all doing well. So I was raising all these children, and people and friends were in awe because the best of Filipino and the best of American. And my children were very respectful, they called my friends, Mr. and Mrs. And my friends would say, "Oh, just call me [inaudible]." "No, my mom won't allow it." And being the Filipino, when we're at parties and "okay, you go, you do this." And so then, my friends were always saying, I wish, you would raise my children. So when I was on the school board, I always felt that, now, all the children, the 9,000 children, are my children. So whenever I made a decision, I made it based on what I think is best for them. So the parents knew that. One time, we were doing the mathlan (sp?) and I was against it because not all of the teachers know how to teach math. And the teachers, the Davis teachers associated, they even wrote a letter to the editor saying, "Please lobby Ruth to approve this." And so it passed 3-2, but I said, "Okay it passed, so I would like an evaluation at the end of the year to see how we're doing. And then I want an evaluation at the second year." After one year, we had an evaluation, there were problems. Then we had another evaluation the second year, there were lots of problems. So the board cancelled it. From then, parents trusted my judgement. Because before we had textbooks, it's usually displayed in this school district, and parents are supposed to be able to look at it and teacher and we all need to go. And I would go and read. I would sit there and read the book. And the staff said, "You're the first one to come and read." Because I always felt that whenever I make a decision, I make a decision that is good for what I may. And I'm responsible for my boat because now I'm the top. Because once I voted, nobody's correcting it now.
ASMUNDSON: But if it's staff, for example, the teacher approve it, then there's still the principle, that will kind of see whether it's working or not, and it's not working, then there's the superintendent check-in, then the school board, that's the end, that's the top of the line. So whatever I voted, it has to be the best I get, the best that will be for the kids. And so I always made sure, that whenever I voted, I talk to the students because they're the ones that beneficiary of my vote. I also talk to teachers how is it, I talk to the principal, all my votes, I have to talk to these people. I don't vote expediently, I always made sure. And the thing is, before I go to the meeting, I always say my prayer, for God to guide me. And usually, when I was mayor, my house was only about five minutes, so I walked to the city council chamber. And while I'm walking, I'm saying my prayer. I always feel good about my vote, but there were three times that I kind of feel uneasy about my vote. And I could say, "Why? What happened?" I found out that I was at the city hall the whole day so I didn't have time to pray because I usually pray when I'm walking. So from then on, I always made sure I pray because I believe in prayer. And I always say to my husband, "Honey, okay, you sing to me. Sit next to me. Guide me." So I'm always saying prayer. I talk, I mentor. I feel very good because a lot of the council members, they call me, staff calls me. They're very free to call me because I always tell them, "I'm free, I'm available and accessible." And then, they're like, they're my friends. The first time I went there, the first time I got elected, I went to city hall and they felt like they were all intimidated. I was there checking on them. And I said, "No, no. I'm here to learn, so I need your help." And so we became friends, actually, they called me. And then whenever I'd go there, we're always kind of talking. And when I was mayor, usually I talk to the staff who would be giving a report. I don't vote expediently, I always made sure. And the thing is, before I go to the meeting, I always say my prayer, for God to guide me. And usually, when I was mayor, my house was only about five minutes, so I walked to the city council chamber. And while I'm walking, I'm saying my prayer. I always feel good about my vote, but there were three times that I kind of feel uneasy about my vote. And I could say, "Why? What happened?" I found out that I was at the city hall the whole day so I didn't have time to pray because I usually pray when I'm walking. So from then on, I always made sure I pray because I believe in prayer. And I always say to my husband, "Honey, okay, you sing to me. Sit next to me. Guide me." So I'm always saying prayer. I talk, I mentor. I feel very good because a lot of the council members, they call me, staff calls me. They're very free to call me because I always tell them, "I'm free, I'm available and accessible." And then, they're like, they're my friends. The first time I went there, the first time I got elected, I went to city hall and they felt like they were all intimidated. I was there checking on them. And I said, "No, no. I'm here to learn, so I need your help." And so we became friends, actually, they called me. And then whenever I'd go there, we're always kind of talking. And when I was mayor, usually I talk to the staff who would be giving a report. Because when they give a report, sometimes, they would go on and on and on. We would talk about the process and I said, "Okay, now when you're giving your report and I do this, it means 'cut it short.'" [Laughs] So we have this signal, right? We work very well together. And then whenever, people come and talk, they come, before I go to the meeting, I'd look at myself in the mirror, and look at whether I put on my poker face. I can do it, I can do like 'that' or I can shake my head or I can smile because people kind of looking at this signal whether I'm approving, denying or what. I had this poke face, but whenever they're talking to me I look at them like that. Then, I took notes, so one time, one guy said, "I really appreciate Ruth because she's listening to me, and then she's taking notes." From then on, even my [inaudible] one council member, she would be doodling, when she was doodling, she was drawing. She wasn't really writing anything. [Laughs] Whenever I do things, I do it because it's like I'm competing with myself actually. I feel like I need to do the best I can with this. And so when I'm running for city council, or when I'm running for position, and usually there's lots of candidates, right, and I love competing because I always feel like "I'm running for city council, I'm not running against anybody." That's how I always felt. One time, when I was running for reelection for a city, for school board, there were only three candidates, and one guy was always hitting me during our forum, he was always kind of putting me down, putting me down. But I never responded to him, I would just talk about my goals and what I would be doing and what we should be doing, how we were going to do. I feel very blessed and honored that people respect me. And usually when I walk around, they said, "Oh, I wish that you were still the mayor." And one time, a friend, one of my nemesis, the one, and somebody asked another council member who finished, and said, "So, what do you think of Ruth and Sue? (sp?)"
ASMUNDSON: And Ted said, "Well, it's like this, when I'm walking in the street, and one time, Ruth is on the other side, I said, 'Hi, Ruth!' And then I go down the side to meet her, but if Sue (sp?) is walking this way, I go on the other side –" because there are a lot of council members who she was with didn't run for reelection because she was very, I know now she just says no to everything and if you don't agree with her, she just gets upset. One time, I was telling her, and nobody supports her, so I told her, "Sue (sp?) you know you are very bright, so when you're talking, try to convince us to vote with you. What you need to do is separate the shorter goal and the long-term goal, but what you're doing is you're combining them and we can't catch up with you and so we're confused. So you tell us about this, and later about these things." And she said, “Well, that’s how I am! I talk straight, unlike you, it's your Asian thing!" And I said, "Sue (sp?)!" Because her perception of Asian is we go around, or we don't do, and I said, "That's not acceptable." That's a nasty thing to say.
ASMUNDSON: She said, "What did I say?" So you know people ask me, 'have you felt discriminated?' And I said, 'Well, when I am feeling that I am being discriminated, I feel that it's my responsibility to educate the other person.' Because my husband, he would say something that he didn't think anything of it and even my children would say, "Dad, that's unacceptable." And he would say, "What did I say?" He didn't even know, he didn't even think that he was saying something that was kind of not nice. I always felt that it's a two-way. There are people who are just nasty, but I always come to the decision that that person doesn't know what that person is saying, so it's now my responsibility to educate that person that that is unacceptable, to make that person aware because I am basing it from my husband. So we were always saying, "That's not acceptable." Then he'd say, "What did I say?" So then, we tell him what is it. I think people in Davis and even other, they don't think of me really as – when they look at me, they see me as an ethnic, but when they're talking to me, they're talking to me as a person. One time, we had this group of the sake (sp?) of Sacramento Council of government, and there are twenty-six mayors there, or council members, and 6 counties. So we have meetings once a month, and whenever I go, I always say hello to them, I always talk to them on a personal bases. And the mayor from Marysville, we were always seated next to each other. And I always have very nice outfits because I shop in Shanghai, Manila, and Bangkok. I don't shop here because I'm wide and I'm short, so American clothes don't fit me, but I buy in Asia. I always have this beautiful blazer and things like that. And the guy said, "I always look forward to seeing you because you are always having all this [inaudible] [Laughs] and they're always saying, when I don't see them, they said, "Hi, Ruth!" Because when I see them, I always say hello to them, so one time, usually all girls who don't have meeting, so that time, we needed to meet in August, so I said, "I'm sorry, I'm going to the Philippines in August, so can I send my alternate?" And the mayor from Roseville said, "Is your alternate the witch?" Because it's always Sue (sp?) [inaudible] she always wears the hat and long dress and she's so nasty to everybody. And so always, "Is it the witch? Never mind, don't send her!" [Laughs] So they know. And it's funny because one time, I had a meeting in Sacramento, so I told her (Sue (sp?)), "Do you want to go with me?" And so, "Yeah, I want to go." Then, I said, "Okay, I'll pick you up." So I had a Camry, the same as her, she had a Camry, so I pick her up, and she complain how uncomfortable, my Camry, my car is because she sits on her feet, like this.
ASMUNDSON: And I said, "Well, put your feet down." And then the next time, she always calls me, "Ruth, can you pick me up?" She never drove. Then the coordinator of the meeting, she's from Davis, she said, "Ruth, you shouldn't have invited her" because from then on, she always went. [Laughs] Yes, so then the mayor in Woodland, too, "Can take us?" We would have function and especially Chris Cabaldon, he is mayor of West Sac. He's Filipino and he's always say, "Ruth, can you tell your colleague to buy her own wine. Because there, she [Sue (sp?)] would ask them to buy her wine, she always said two glasses of wine and she would ask them to buy her wine. That's why they always said, "Ruth, can you tell your colleague –" [Laughs] Yes, but it was a very rewarding experience for me. I work very hard, Filipinos, we work very hard. Whatever I say, like for example, I said, "We start at six o'clock. I start at six o'clock." The first time she was late, but I had three council members there, so I started. She was so angry with me that I didn't wait for her. I said, "Well, if I have three council members, I start." So from then on, she always come. Because I always felt like an orchestra, you start at the same time and you end at the same time, you can miss notes in the middle, it doesn't matter, it's a good orchestra. It doesn't matter, right? So that's how I always feel like because I time my agenda, and people are there waiting for an agenda., but if you keep getting people to talk longer, then the meeting will go longer, which still a bit longer, but if you have a time, then you cut them off and I said, "Okay, this is what you're talking about." Because it's unfair for the others who just wait at the end. Just wait and wait. There are people who were upset because I told them public comment is three minutes. And sometimes, when you're talking, three minutes seems very short, so you just go on and on. But sometimes, I have ten people, or one time, I had a hundred people line up to speak. If I gave them three minutes each, that's one hundred people, that's three thousand minutes, and they will be gone up to 3:30 in the morning. So if you all gave them three minutes, then you just go on and on and on. So when I say three minutes, so the first time, that I did that, it was a teacher, at a school district. I said, at three minutes, I said, "Thank you, Debbie." She went on and on. So I turn off the microphone, she was so upset. And so then the next one, but after the meeting she came to me, "Ruth, I'm glad that you stopped me because if you were not able to stop me, you would have lost control because then the other people will just go on and on." So when I stop the microphone at three minutes, then the other one when I said thank you. And they stop.
ASUNCION: They knew.
ASMUNDSON: Yes, yes. So it has some pros and cons, but I've always felt that at the beginning – and ending, middle, you're kind of more relaxed – I think, the first one, you have to set your standard and kind of train people, and then they follow. That's why when I have Filipinos, we used to have potlucks, we start a little bit early, like two o'clock, and we rotate, then sometimes they come at 12:30 and so they don't come at eleven, but whenever I was hosting, they come at 11:30 because they know I'm on time. I just went out and I don't know what else you want me to talk about, but I have a lot of stories. My mom used to say, "Oh, be careful, this is a never-ending story" because I have a lot of stories about my kids too. When I talk to young people, I tell about my stories, I tell them they can pick all the little nuggets of wisdom that I've experienced. And hopefully they can look at it, they don't have to follow, but at least they would think about and see whether it will have an impact on them.
ASMUNDSON: I always talk about those little lessons learned, those takeaways, whenever I'm talking. I always talk about those little lessons learned, those takeaways, whenever I'm talking. One of them, I have several, I have about seven, one is "have goals" because my goal was to become a doctor, well I'm a doctor, I have a PhD, well it's not medical [Laughs] and then I wanted to marry a tall guy with a long name that begins with "A" right? And I got that because, when you're young, you have these goals and you have dreams, you forget about it, but I think once you kind of – at the back of your mind, still there, lingering there – and you kind of follow the thing, and eventually it will come. It will come if you have those goals. It's just, I always talk about the analogy here is like I want to go to Washington D.C. right? So then, I'm driving and then I got to Utah and I have a flat tire. And it's snowing or something like that, and I said, "Oh, I don't think I want to go." If you don't have this goal, to go to Washington D.C., so you'll say, "Oh, I'm going to go back." But if you have a goal going to Washington D.C., you have this flat tire, you change it because you still have to go and you overcome this obstacle, it's not as bad fixing these things, because you have this bigger goal of going to Washington D.C., but if you do not have that goal, then that flat tire, it's snowing, you'll say, "Oh, this is so hard, I don’t want to go." This picture of mine here, that was in 2007. I lost fifty pound in that. I gained, I gained again. I decided to lose weight. I didn't realize I could do it. So January, I said – 2007 – I'm gonna lose fifty pounds. And so the first day, it was so hard, I was so hungry. I was so hungry, so I kept thinking. I didn't know whether I can do this. Then, I kept going, towards the end of the day, I did one day. And so then the next day, I was hungry again and I said, [inaudible]. I said, "Well, I did one day, and I kept telling myself, "Ruth, if you stop now, you' – because I gave myself ninety days – "if you stop now, in ninety days, you'll still be fat." And so I got to third day, I was still kind of debating whether or not I can go on, but then I keep saying, "Ruth, you're on your third day, if you stop now, in ninety days, you'll still be fat." And guess what, it was less than ninety days.
ASMUNDSON: It was less than ninety days I lost fifty pounds.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah. I did. So I found out that I had that determination, I have to keep talking to myself. And I did it. And so, that how me and that's [inaudible] because I was always competing to myself. So, I have to talk to myself and because, like I said, I'm the only one in control of myself. And when I talk to kids. that's what I talk about, the takeaway. The goals. You have to have goals. And then the second one is "ask and you shall receive" that's in our bible, right? And the one story – and I always told my kids – ask and you shall receive. And a big example of that is, my second daughter – so she went to MIT – and she went, her oldest sister went to Dartmouth, and I told them, that they have to finish in four years. If they go beyond that, they have to pay their own way. And so, the oldest one decided to have two majors: mechanical engineering and Asian and Women's studies. Women's studies because she went to Dartmouth and before it was a man's college. And when she got there, there were still a lot of male chauvinists. And because she has a lot of confidence, I always tell them, you're just as good as the guys, and so she decided to double major in Women's studies, and she and her friends started a sorority, women's studies sorority. Now the second one, she was always competing with herself, with her sister, and luckily, surely there were two. So she went to MIT, and she had AP credit and Alinia had thirty-five, so they finished in four years, but Irena –
ASMUNDSON: Well, my standard was they have to finish calculus in high school. And then, Alinia she took calculus when she was a junior. Then, she took another calculus at the university when she was a senior, and so that's why she was now a freshman at UC Davis. And so Irena did the same thing, and she said, "Okay mom, this is the last time you're going to push me to take math." I said, "Okay." After a week, she came home, she said, "Mom, don't say anything, but I'm going to major in math and I'm going to MIT." But I said, "MIT?" And she hasn't applied, yet, and luckily she got there. She finished her math in two years. And so I said, "That's great" because I'm paying $30,000 a year, "That's great, we can save money." She said, "Mom, but you promised me four years. She said she wanted economics. She has to have two degrees, so she took up economics. Well, she wanted to go for a PhD, so she applied to five universities, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford. Four of those gave her six year fellowship, except Stanford. She said, "Mom, can you pay for the first year, I'm sure they'll give me a fellowship the second year." So I said, "How much?" "$40,000." "Never mind." So she said, "Okay, that's okay, I'll go and ask them." So a month before graduation, she played rugby. She play crew the first two years and rugby the last two years, she's only 5'2", so the last month, her team went to Paris to play rugby. So one Sunday morning, three o'clock in the morning, the phone rang and she said, "Mom, don't worry if [inaudible], don't worry you'll worry," right? She said, "I'm calling from a hospital in Paris, I had an accident, I broke my nose, and I have black eye –"
ASUNCION: Oh my god.
ASMUNDSON: "–and I'm coming home next week." So she came and two weeks, she was like she was wearing glasses. And then she went to Stanford and talked to the chair of the economics department and some professors, and so they were looking at her apparently, they wouldn't ask what happened, so she explained what happened to her, to her black eye. So she was asking them, "I really would like to come to Stanford, I have fellowship at these universities, but I want to come to Stanford, so could you please give me money." And so then they said, "Okay, we'll look into our finances and we'll let you know." So she went back to MIT, three days later, she called them and she said, "Hi, I'm Irena Asmundson, I'm calling to see whether you've found some money for me." Said, "Oh, we're still looking, we'll let you know when we found money." And she said, "I'm the girl with the black eye." They said, "Oh yeah, we have money for you!" They didn't remember her name, they remembered her eye. They were impressed with her interview. So she went to Stanford, had she not, they gave her fellowship, if she didn't go and ask them, then she wouldn't have gotten it, right? So I always say, 'ask and you shall receive' for 50% chance yes, 50% no, but if you don't ask, 100% no. Then, she went to Stanford. She's always pushing. The second year, she was looking for a professor major advisor, so she found this guy, but then he was appointed by President Bush to the federal reserve, so he left. So she had to find another one. So she found this woman, and then she was appointed by President Bush to the White House to the council of economic advisors. And so Irena said, "Well, congratulations, I wish that I could do something like that." And the professor said, "Actually, you can because they usually get one graduate student. So why don't I recommend you?" So she recommended Irena, so the professor didn't actually go to the White House, she went to the international monetary funds, instead, but Irena went to the White House, she was twenty-two, twenty-three, and she went there and her salary was $40,000. And so she took a year off, she went there, she started on Monday, Tuesday she called me, "Mom, the government is sending me to China to the summit to represent the U.S. government."
ASMUNDSON: And I said, "Why is the U.S. government spending money on somebody like you who doesn't know anything?" She said, "Mom, I know a lot." [Laughs] So she went to China to represent the U.S. government, then she came back, and then the following week, they were sending her to Paris for a week. And then the following month, they were sending her to Madrid for a week. Well, 9/11 happened, and so they cancelled all travels, but they were still having conferences in Washington D.C. so she would go to the conference and at the reception, she was twenty-two, twenty-three, and they thought she was an intern, and so she would be talking to people. And then at the dinner, she would sit down with them, and she sat next to the Prime Minister of India and they'd talk about NGO and he said to her, "When you're finished, come and work for me in India." Then she talked to the President of Chile, all these high government – foreign dignitaries. So then after a year, she went back to Stanford and she was trying to write papers, [inaudible] because she wanted to become a professor. So when she was graduating, she applied to universities. And Georgetown University was the first one to accept her, but then the IMF, International Monetary Funds, called her and wanted to fly her to Washington D.C. and interview her. So she flew there, they paid for everything, they interviewed her and offered her a job. So I said, "You take it because if you work for the IMF, in four years, you still want to go into teaching, they give you either associate professorship, or professorship, but if you start at bottom, it takes seven years to have a tenure." So she went there, and she had a great time. Actually, the first year she was assigned the Asian Pacific desk, so she went to Bangkok, then Malaysia, and Brunei. So I told her Brunei, "Hey, why don't you look for a sultan for a husband?" And she said, "Mom, do you want me to be a part of a harem?" [Laughs] But she had a good time. So anyway, as a new [inaudible] the other one is like my professor said, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." So guess what, just try it. And the other one is 'take risks.' Take every opportunity you get. And then the other one is 'be different in a good way' so that they'll remember you. People remember me because – like one example is, so i was on the school board, and I found out, my passion is curriculum, that this local school board really doesn't determine the curriculum, it's the state. So I got involved with the state. And then, I also got involved on the national level. So the second year, I joined, I went to the state conferences and I joined the delegate assembly and then the delegate assemblies, they do the policies, right? And Leland Yi Hu (sp?) was the, I don't know if you remember him, he was a senator from San Francisco, but he was school board from San Francisco when I met him. He was the board of directors of California's school board association, they are 19th and all of them are directors from the regions except for member at large API, member at large Black, member at large Hispanic, and one [inaudible]. Counties. And these four members, that have to run and get elected by the whole delegate assembly, there are over 400. And then Leland (sp?) said, "Ruth, why don't you? I'm stepping down as the API member at large, why don't you run?" So I said, "Okay." That was just my second year. And there were eighteen who applied for the position. And the Asian, especially the Chinese, all the Asians, their names are all hard to pronounce, they're hard to remember. And a lot of the Asians, they're not Asian-American, they're immigrant. So we all have accents, right? [Laughs] We had our three-minute campaign speeches at one o'clock after a big luncheon.
ASMUNDSON: So we all have accents, right? [Laughs] We had our three-minute campaign speeches at one o'clock after a big luncheon. So then one o'clock, we're going to have our speeches, and I was number eleven. The candidates were talking about their school district and their budget. Everyone said, it was very boring and then also you can't understand them. So everybody, I could see everybody is falling asleep because it was a big luncheon and it was boring speeches. So when I got there, and my name is Ruth Asmundson, so it's easy to remember, right? So I got there, and I introduced myself and I said, "I'm Ruth Asmundson." And I started unbuttoning my blazer, they thought I was nervous, and so at the end of my three-minute speech, and I said, "Vote for Ruth Asmundson!" And I had my campaign t-shirt, that said, "Vote for Ruth Asmundson" [Laughs] and everybody laughed, everybody woke up. And everybody remembered my name. The other candidates, they tried to emulate it, but, of course, they couldn't wing-it (sp?). After the speeches, I was in the elevator, it was packed, said, "Ruth, I voted for you!" And they all said, "I voted for you." Well staff said, they've never seen it, 95% voted for me.
ASMUNDSON: Because I was the only one there, they remembered the name and [inaudible.] So I was with them for nine years. I was a member at large director and the directors, they liked me because we Filipinas are all into gift, like pasalubong and things like that. Every summer, I'd make jams, jellies, and I make all these things. So I give each one of them, so they always, at the end, they feel entitled, "Where's my jelly?" [Laughs] But they all love me. And I give them, not because I want them to like me, but because I'm always very generous. And so everybody loved me. The state department, Delane (sp?), when she was the sprinten (sp?) of public instructions, she had two task force. Tax force of math and the other one, language. So I was appointed in the math, and there are fifteen members, half of them are teachers, half are professors, and I was the only school board member, and so I was always in the middle because, math is very polarized, the professors want more rigorous, more challenging, so that the students going to college, they don't have to do remedial. But then the teachers said, the students can't do much rigorous. So there's always this fight, so I said, "Well, why don't we balance it?" I understood what both the sides, that we have to have challenging, but also have to be realistic, pragmatic. We coined the word "balance-in." We have to balance in a basic skills, they have to know how to add, problem solving, they have to do problem solving and they have to understanding. And so those are the three things that they have to learn, that they have to provide basic. They have to do basic, they have to do problem solving and conceptual understanding. And so, they like and every time they ask for a board representation, I was assigned because I am a woman, I'm a scientist, and I'm ethnic. The quota is I fulfill three, three slots. [Laughs] I was in several, one time I was in five state committees.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, in math and science. And I enjoyed it, so that's why I know a lot. And so I would report to the CSBA about what we have done. And the school board members, they were not in favor of what I was recommending. And I kept saying, "What was the point of my representing them if they don't like what I'm telling them?" And so we were always having this discussion, but then I get calls from school board members from Monterey, from all over the state. And I said, "How did you get my name?" They said, "Oh, our regional representative told us to call you." So actually, even though they didn't agree with me, they thought that I knew what I was talking about, and so I knew a lot of people all over the state. When I was mayor, we would go out to conferences and I would go – and like one time in Sacramento, it was Steve Wesley (sp?) who was the treasurer then.
ASMUNDSON: There was this conference of all the mayors. We were all seated in round tables, and then he wanted everybody to introduce themselves, so the first three tables introduced themselves and, of course, they talk about their cities, right? About what they are doing, how much their population, all those things. Well, it's boring because everybody has the same thing right? And I'm on the third table, and I stand up and I said, "I'm Ruth Asmundson, the mayor of the city of Davis." And I stopped and everybody looked at me right? Now, at least they're waiting for me and I said, "And I'm single and available!"
ASMUNDSON: Because my husband died and I'm already saying I'm single. [Inaudible] so then everybody laughed and Steve Wesley (sp?) said, "Okay, I'll look for a husband for you." But now, because the first two, everybody is so quiet, after I said that, then everybody said something about themselves, about their family, about their children. We are all now together. And they remember me. So that's why I am saying, kind of, be different in a good way, so that they'll remember you in a good way. So that's what I [inaudible] I tell about my experiences. And the other one is 'take risks and opportunities.' And then, the other one is, don't fix things with a Band-Aid, look at the root of the problem and solve the problem there. And... Can't remember, how many do I have now?
ASUNCION: There might've been six, I think?
ASMUNDSON: Six. Right. Yes, exactly, probably. Yeah. There are only three mayors in Davis, that have been mayor twice, consecutive, and I was one of them. One is Senator Wo (sp?) and the other one is John Rosenberg and I'm the third. Had I run again which everybody wanted me to run, I would have gotten the highest vote again. I would have been the first to have three consecutive one, but the problem is because of Sue (sp?) who was always kind of hating on me. The far in my bell is gone, so when the far in your gut is gone, the adrenaline is not working anymore, you're not enjoying it anymore. So get out. Get out. And it's good to get out at the height of what you're doing. Then people appreciate you, rather than you run again and you lost. Yeah and so then, they kind of look at you differently, so you have to know. So that's seven, I think, right?
ASUNCION: I think so.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, so those are the takeaways that I give kids. I try to inspire the kids because as I said, I grew up in a poor barrio. If I could do it, it's like – this one in here, I showed this to Robyn. This is a book on leadership with the Filipino women that work. And my chapter here is "Barefoot in the Barrio to American Madame Mayor." In 2007, the Filipino women that were [inaudible] started in debases in San Francisco, there are lots of very accomplished Filipina in the United States, so in 2007, they started recognizing hundred most influential Filipina in the United States. And I was fortunate to be one of them, 2007. And the goal in that is that, each of the hundred has to mentor a young Filipina, so by the end of five years, we'll double it. At the end of five years, then Filipino women is [inaudible]. We need to look outward. We need to identify hundred most influential women in the world, so we started doing that. I was one, in 2014, I was one of them. And so in 2014, they decided to write a book and leadership. And I got all this email, when I was mayor, I get 80-100 emails a day. And I try to respond to them within four to eight hours. Sometimes, even just kind of acknowledging, "Thank you for your email." They know that I read their email. Because if you don't respond, then "did she get my email, did he get my email?" So it's just a courtesy. Anyways, I get so many emails.
ASMUNDSON: Marylee (sp?) who is spearheading this, I saw her in Manila in February, and she said, "Ruth, can you do it?" And I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah I'll do it." And I thought she was because we have this summit every year and she was always asking me to be the speaker this year. And so then, I got back and then I said, she was talking about the book, they wanted to identify thirty-five of the thousand awardees to write about their leadership, about their life. Then, the deadline for abstract was December, and it was February. And I'm into deadlines because I go to the Philippines and people are always asking me what I think of deadlines. And I said, "Well, that's why you have deadline because if you let the deadline to push, then they keep pushing you, pushing you." So you have to be strict with your deadline. "Marylee (sp?), I'm sorry. The deadline has been passed and I'm sorry I can't do it because I have something about deadline." And so she said, "Okay, well, May, the goal is to have the book by June." So, by May, they emailed me, said, "Ruth, can you write it. Can you write your chapter, because they need to add somebody in politics. And not too many are in politics." So I said, "Okay." So I had two weeks to write my chapter. And so I did. They included it in here and it's funny because I wrote it and I've been thinking about writing something and I know that I have done a lot, but once I wrote it, I was actually very impressed. I was impressed with myself how I was all these things. One of these days, I'm going to write, even everybody's telling me about writing it, my leadership, my parenting, and all those things. Because you know, I always feel that this is how I did it. And if it resonates with them, then more power to them, they will do it. I know I would be very happy to do that, but it's just sort of guidelines. It's like I have rules, I raised six kids, so I had rules and we always eat at six o'clock, and there are four words that they cannot use at home like "stupid," "damn," and all those things. And hope when their friends come, and one time their friends were there and said, "Oh, you're so stupid. Oh! I'm so sorry Ms. Asmundson." [Laughs] So they know my rules because I feel that they are my kids too. So I'm always telling them about – and I'm very, very inferable because I felt communication is key. I enjoyed talking to them about things. If you want, I can send you a copy of mine.
ASUNCION: I would love to read that.
ASMUNDSON: I'll send you a copy of that. Life is good and if you have more questions, sometimes I just need to sit down and kind of, put everything – it's funny because when somebody says something, then I have a story about that. And people are always, when we go to church, we have this hospital, even father ray the priest, they come to my table because every time we talk about it, I have a story and they like my story and the way I tell my story. It's so funny because I stay with my niece in Manila and she has three kids and when they were teenagers, I always stayed with them. When I was a teenager when I go there, they would sit with me and they just ask questions and so we would be sitting the whole day. One day, Bairon (sp?) their brother, they are two sisters and one brother, Bairon (sp?) came running down the stairs, and he was in a hurry to go meet his friends and he said, "Auntie Ruth, what do you think of this?" And he was just kind of running around, and Kaira (sp?), his sister said, "Bairon (sp?), you have to sit down when you ask a question to Auntie Ruth because it takes her two hours to answer your question."
ASMUNDSON: Because I have all these stories, even my kids. So my husband was a lawyer and I was a scientist, so when they come for their homework, they ask me for science and math, and then in literature, they would ask my husband. So, Irena, my second daughter again, she was taking chemistry. She was talking about balancing this equation, so she came to me and said, "Mom, I'm have hard time balancing this equation."
ASMUNDSON: Then I started why this one is reacting to this and I went on and on instead of just telling her how to balance it. I went on about the properties of all these chemicals, it took me about thirty minutes to explain to her, and she said, "Never mind." So from then on, they always did it before they would come to me because [Laughs], but then when they ask something that they really want, so they sit down with me, and we just talk and it was just like story telling. Yeah. What was great about my daughters, we're very close. And we talk about, we're very open, and now they are taking care of me, somebody is paying my bills, somebody is [inaudible]. Everybody has something to do and they always say, they always are grateful that we were able to send them to college without getting loans that they don't have to worry about that. We are very close and we meet here every Friday night for family dinner.
ASUNCION: Oh wow.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, and there's fifteen, sixteen of us because the oldest one is married – she has two kids, the oldest one is ten and Zhane (sp?) is eight – and Sigrid, the youngest one, is married – she has three, Zach is eight, same as Zhane (sp?), and then, Zoey who is six, and Zander who just turned four – and they're all Z's because I'm into "A," I want A, so I named my oldest daughter, Alinia which is the two grandmothers' Aleen (sp?) and Virginia, so we combined them, Alinia. So she said, "When I get married, I will have children, starting from the 'Z'" going down the alphabet. So her oldest is Zypher (sp?), then the second one, Zhane (sp?), she couldn't find a 'Y' name that she likes, so it was Zhane (sp?), well Sigrid always liked the name Zachariah, so she named he oldest Zach. Now, they are 'Z,' but Zach. Well, Zoey came, well she had to have a 'Z' because if the three has 'Z's' then she has to have a 'Z.' And Zander, it was a no brainer, it was a 'Z,' so they're the, what we call them, the odd 'Z's' and the even 'Z's' because the odd Z's, Sigrid, has the odd 'Z' there because the odd is [child] one and three. Alinia has the odd 'Z' because her son is number one and her daughter is number three according to the five one. And then Zach's number two so, they're the evens. Then there are four of them, and the oldest and the youngest are both married. So, Alinia is an engineer, her husband is a computer engineer, he works for the university. And Sigrid is a lawyer, she married a lawyer, so I told Irena. Irena is the economist, she's actually the chief economist for California. Yes, she used to work for IMF and then she came on sabbatical at work for the state and then they offered her a permanent job so she took the permanent job, so she's now the Chief Economist. So she's the economist, so I said, "Irena, are you going to marry an economist, she said, "No mom, they're boring." So [inaudible] the third one, junior high school, eighth grade science teacher in Fairfield, and she said, "No mom, they don't have money." So that's why they're not married. [Laughs] Yeah, so yeah and they said that they really don't want to get married because they have five nieces and nephews that they just adore. So we have dinner here and this is a two bedroom, and this is the first furniture that I have in here. And so, that one, that's my coffee table, but that's actually a bench because it's smaller. See, my house was a six bedroom, and so I moved to a two-bedroom and it was so hard because I had forty-five year accumulation of stuff. And I had to get rid of a lot of them, but pictures are important to me, so what I did was I had the wall painted red and I have the shells put, so they're not hanged, they're just there, so I can recycle, kind of rotate them.
ASMUNDSON: It's all family pictures.
ASMUNDSON: And yeah. And we have it every Friday night.
ASUNCION: That's really nice.
ASMUNDSON: And the grandkids actually, Zander is actually the one who as much as possible, if I allowed, he would sleep here every night, but he sleeps in here every other night.
ASUNCION: Oh wow.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah. He is 99% height. So he's very tall for his age, and he's very articulate. So, he's usually with me and he's still in his car seat, so we go out, I take him to church because he's with me, take him to church, take him to preschool, so when we're going to church, where there are the traffic light, so it's red, so we said, "Hello, Mr. Red, we're in a hurry, please send Mr. Green right away." So green light comes on, and he would say, "Hello, Mr Green, see you later!" [Laughs] We always say that.
ASUNCION: That's so cute.
ASMUNDSON: He says that and he said, "Hello, Mr. Green, see you later, so last Thursday I took him to preschool and we went on A street, we said the same thing, and then when it turned green, and he said, "Hello, Mr. Green, see you later." So we proceeded. Then, I went on A street and his preschool is on Anderson, so we have an A street, and then we turn to Anderson, well it was red, so I stop, and so then, there was no cars, so I turned right and he said, "But Lola! I saw Mr. Red, and Mr. Green didn't come yet and you were not supposed to do that!"
ASMUNDSON: And I did not even realize it. I said, "Oh." So I explained to him, that turning right, it's okay and red, if there's no car coming, but he was paying attention. [Laughs]
ASMUNDSON: He has all these things that I should write down all these things because when he was a little kid, he was always talking about – so he sleeps with me every other night – so Friday night, he slept with me and his mother picked him up on Saturday, and before he left he said, "Lola, can I sleep here again tonight?" And I said, "Well, you know, your mommy's missing you, so you should sleep with your mommy tonight." And he said, "Okay." They went home, then they were coming back to Davis that afternoon, and he said, "Mommy, can I sleep at Lola's tonight?" She said, "Well, I don't know whether Lola will let you because you know you've been sleeping there every other night and she needs a rest." "Oh, but can you bring a pajama, just in case she says yes." [Laughs]
ASUNCION: That's so cute.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, but she is always – and it's funny, his vocabulary is very – so I have the chest up there that I put my shoes or some things there, and they usually come here and they play hide and seek. So then, he discovered it, so he would go inside and so then, one time, his brother sat on it and he kept saying, "Zach! Zach!" So, Zach got him out. And he said, "Lola, I nearly suffocated!" [Laughs] Sometimes his vocabulary is – well because when they were little, we talked to them straight, we don't talk baby talk. And somehow when, they're two years old, they always say, "why, why, why?" And Zypher (sp?), the oldest one, when he started saying "Why, why, why?" So one time we went to University Village for pizza, and we were waiting, it was November, and they have that fire pit outside. Irena and he were looking at the fire pit and so then, he said, "Oh, there's so much smoke! I don't like the smoke, I don't like the smell." And so then, Irena said, "Yeah, you know, it's really polluting the air, and so that's why we're so worried about climate change." So she started talking about climate change and he was looking at her, "You're right!" [Laughs] So then, we went home, and usually in my house, we have steps in the front porch and we all like to sit there and say "hello" to everybody. And it was getting dark and then the mosquitoes were coming. So then, Alinia said, "Okay, Zypher, you better come in, it's getting dark." He said, "Why?"
ASMUNDSON: She said, "Well, now it's going to be nighttime." "Why?" So Alinia, his mom, said, "During the day, it's bright, but at night, it's dark, but on the other side of the earth, it's day time to them like at night time here. In the Philippines it's the other side. And it's day time there." And "why?" Then his mother kept talking about how the earth is turning around, and what the effect of the sun and the moon is. Said, "You're correct." But they [the children] listen, they listen. They're just cute.
ASUNCION: That's really cute.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, they are cute. And Zander – so Picnic Day, they decided to sell lemonade and a dollar a cup, and this is fresh lemonade from our tree, from their tree also. And so the four older ones were sitting in front, and somebody made a lemonade stand for them. So there's the four of them sitting there. and Zander is the one kind of hassling people. He kept saying, "Come and buy lemonade! Come and buy lemonade!" And sometimes, they give fifty cents, and sometimes they give five dollars. So then Sheila (sp?), they just arrive, they just moved the day before, they were from Arizona, they just moved to one of the condos. And looking around and some there said, "Come and buy lemonade!" He was talking about the lemonade. And Sheila (sp?) said, "Oh, I live here, and I left my money upstairs." And Zander said, "Go get it, I'll follow you."
ASMUNDSON: And she said, "Oh, I'll go later. I'll go get it later and I'll come down later." Said, "No, go get it now!" So he was hassling Sheila (sp?). I tend to look out, and Sheila (sp?) said, "Ruth, can I borrow money from you?" [Laughs] They sold $35 worth and they were raising money for the Crisis Nursery.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, and well he said, "We're raising this for –" he was telling them what they were raising, so that's why people were giving more money. He was a hassler, was cute. So, do you want to meet some more or –?
ASUNCION: Yeah. I think –
ASMUNDSON: And you have questions, you already have to ask me questions because sometimes I forget.
ASUNCION: No, we covered a lot of good things that I wanted to go over just you telling your story. Most of the questions were "when you first arrived here," "how you got involved in politics," so I think we covered a lot of those bases.
ASUNCION: Professor Rodriguez wanted me to ask you about juggling familial responsibilities with your mayoral position, but I think we even talked about that just in the mix of it all. I would love to meet again, if you have your campaign [inaudible]. I'll go through and transcribe all of this, are there any more points that you would like to talk a bit more about?
ASMUNDSON: There's this community development class in a team. The instructor, usually he ask me every year to go and speak at the class and I talk about politics and about registration, about things like that. They always enjoy it. So then some of them, they call me and I mentored a lot of students actually. I was mentoring one Filipina, and then I mentor a Vietnamese. And then I mentor – I had several Indian women students. So I was mentoring a lot of women, there were boys too, and they said, "Could you mentor us also?" If you want to talk some more and not just this one, and just talk about things, I'm seventy-four so I have all this experience, so life is good. So anytime, you have my phone number and like I said, email is best because then I usually do my email at night and I would be happy to answer.
ASUNCION: I would love that, I'm graduating in the fall, my plans after, I'm hoping I can go to law school and I'm going to get into immigration law.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ASUNCION: A lot of the things you were talking about intersect with my interests, so this was really great.
ASMUNDSON: Right, that's right. Know how to apply, something, I love lawyers, you know when I came, actually my neighbors were all law students so we were all friends, so I've always been exposed. I just love, I don't know I'm just so attracted to lawyers, my husband was a lawyer. Then my daughter is a lawyer and her husband is a lawyer, so my husband was actually a classmate of Justice Kennedy.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, and they worked together actually in Sacramento. One time when they had the reunion at Harvard and Sigrid was thinking of going to law school, so then she and her dad went to the aranian (sp?) and met with the tonic (sp?) and the inn (sp?). Yeah.
ASUNCION: That's so cool.
ASMUNDSON: It's funny because when they were working, they were good friends, right? So then, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court, and so Vigfus, my husband, sent him a congratulatory letter. And the letter now is very different, very carefully worded. [Laughs] Yeah. If you want to talk, you know my daughter is Sigrid, she's my youngest. And when she was in high school, she actually interned, she hasn't graduated yet, but she was able to intern at the governor's office, with Governor Wilson.
ASMUNDSON: Right. Usually, their interns are college students, university students, but she was able to do that, and they like her, so she was actually assistant to the appointment's secretary and she was actually doing all this calling. And so she actually had a lot of experience in that and because of that, then she decided to intern at the justice department in Washington D.C. and so she went there and she's kind of a social butterfly and so apparently, they were so many of them interning at the justice apartment, and every Friday, because of the high school, it was pajama day, so she would wear her pajama, and then nobody knew everybody, so when she got there, she started going around talking to all the interns. So then she started organizing this, they would have a social every Friday and so she had a wonderful experience at the justice department. That really kind of – and then, she had a study abroad program at Cambridge in England, so that kind of confirm her thing that she wanted to go into law school. So her undergraduate is actually political science and communications, so again the two. The third one is BioSci and classics. Well, she wanted to become a pediatrician, the third one, but that time I was so involved with math and I always cemented the fact that science students, science graduate students go into teaching in the public school, anyway in K-12. And so she was studying BioSci because she loves children, in high school, she already started coaching soccer, so "You love children, why don't you go into teaching instead?" So she said, "Okay, mom." So she went to teaching, she got her credentials from UC Davis.
ASMUNDSON: Right. So she just loves teaching. She went into the Peace Corp after graduation.
ASUNCION: Oh wow.
ASMUNDSON: So since she came back, she got a job at St. James, Catholic school, so she was there teaching for four years, and then she decided, that she loved Africa. So she took a year off and went to Somalia to help build schools. And there was this group from Boston, so she joined them, and she was in charge of their curriculum. They build this, and she was so happy because those kids that she started – Anderson Cooper had a program these twenty students from Africa who came and got scholarships to the United States to study. And there two that went to Harvard, two went to MIT, they went to Ivy Leagues–
ASMUNDSON: – and they are her students.
ASMUNDSON: Right, this, from this poor thing. So when they came – she still writes with them – and when they came, actually she went to see them in Boston. And then one Thanksgiving, they came to visit Davis, and so she just left, she was there for a year building this school. And at the same time, Irena was assigned, she was still IMF, she was assigned Afghanistan for two years, the hot country. And so for a year, I was praying very hard. [Laughs] But they were okay, so she was a BioSci and classics major and she just loves teaching, so she's always wanted to come and teach in Davis at the public school, so they offered her a job, but she started teaching, she went for St. James to Fairfield. And in Fairfield, they have all these kids who are very needy and they don't have very much parental guidance and also socioeconomic is lower than Davis, so, when she got offered a job to teach Davis, who she's always wanted to teach, and so she was struggling because then she realized, "Mom, I think I should stay there [Fairfield] because they need me there more than the kids did here [in Davis]. So she decided, right, to stay there, even though she has to commute thirty minutes everyday. So that shows how much – even though she doesn't have much money – all her sisters they have good paying jobs, so they kind of take care of her.
ASUNCION: And she's [inaudible].
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, that about, it's really her passion. She agonized about the kids how to do this, but they like her. So she said, she doesn't want to get married, she said she has a lot of kids. So that's of my kids. The two boys, the oldest one, went to Arizona, got his degree in business, so then he was working for a computer – he loves Apple, he loves working at an Apple computer store – after a few years, he decided to resign and his parents died and he's living in his parents' house and it's big and so he decided to stay home and fix the house so he can sell it. So he hasn't had job for five years, but he just moved to Natomas, and he's planning to apply to the state and hopefully, he can find a job. But the second one, the youngest one, who is actually the same age, who is actually two weeks older than my youngest daughter, the first one is actually nine months younger than my second one, so they're all the same age. So Jonas when to Carlton (sp?) and majored in music. He played five instruments and so he graduated, he finished four years also. He got a job at the Metropolitan Opera–
ASMUNDSON: –for two years. But he loved jazz, so he went to the Lincoln Center for two years. And then he decided he wanted to go to grad school, so he went to Harvard for grad school.
ASMUNDSON: Right. And then he finished there, and then he got a job at Washington D.C., the Music America – I didn't know there was such a thing – so he was there for two years, but he loved New York, so he went back to New York, so now, you know, he wanted to do consultancies. So he's a consultant, and he travels all over the states, talking to junior high school and high school districts, talking about music. Yeah, and he's not married, and the oldest, the older brother is not married or anything. And it's funny, we laugh about it because in my family, even in the Philippines, I talk to them, I ask them questions, I found out that the girls are kind of, they're the ones that ask their husbands to marry them, and the boys, was their wives that asked them to marry them because they're kind of shy. So the two boys, is, I keep telling them, "You want me to find you a Filipino wife?" [Laughs] So when I go to the Philippines in October, I make fun of him.
ASUNCION: You never know.
ASMUNDSON: That's right, they're doing very well actually.
ASUNCION: That's good to hear.
ASMUNDSON: So anyway, give me a call.
ASUNCION: Yeah, of course. I'll send you another email [inaudible] or whatever works best for you.
ASMUNDSON: I just got an email from Robyn asking me, she asked me if I would speak at the symposium, and I said, "Sure."
ASMUNDSON: So she asked me what I want, should I start or should I end this symposium, and I said, "Either way, I'm flexible, but if I have my preference, I would like to start because usually the first speaker usually sets the tone. And I think I'd like to do that.
ASUNCION: That'd be really good to see you there, I'm not sure if this is an open thing, she sent us invites to some of the events that she spearheads, but we’ll see.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so anyway, yeah. The we have now a Filipino group here.
ASMUNDSON: We have about eighty-three families. It's still a lot. Because Lee (sp?), Ms. Ann (sp?) and I, when I came here, there were all four of us Filipinos.
ASMUNDSON: And we are in the same, agricultural department, we started the same, we finished the same. And I went into politics, Mimi (sp?) went to work for the state in the health department and Delia (sp?) – my roommate – went to Brazil, married a guy from Columbia, went to University of Brazil, the University of Campinas. She is a world-renowned expert on carotenoid, food science and she just finished, she's a member of the International Academy of Food Science and Technology, and she is the first and she was the president for two years, she just finished. She was president 2014 to 2016. She was the first Filipina president of that academy.
ASMUNDSON: And with over 350,000 members. She's the second Asian president. And she travels all over the world as a speaker. She's very, very accomplished. And she has written a lot of papers and she has written textbooks, she has written reference book, and she's the most cited in food science, I think.
ASMUNDSON: Right? Right?
ASUNCION: Wow, that's really cool.
ASMUNDSON: And she just retired as professor there. And the fourth one is Bendalumon (sp?), she became a professor at Berkeley, we haven't heard. I haven't heard much about him, but he just retired too. But there are four of us. So Mimi and I stayed in Davis, she was married to an Indian guy, and I'm married to my husband. So we started all the Filipino group, mostly graduate student, so we formed the Pinoy group and a lot of them stayed here too. So our group is getting bigger and we have the second Saturday, Saturday, we have the Pinay breakfast.
ASMUNDSON: And sometimes, the husbands come and the core (sp?) is usually about fifteen to twenty. We have a big group now, but not everybody counts. But the core, we all count. And we call it, "Halaka." It's like medication, our therapy. And Marissa, who finished also agricultural chemistry, finished her PhD here, she's a professor at Sac City in chemistry, she's the entertainment because she usually researches everything. Last month, I hosted them here, they all wanted to come and see my condo, I had fifty, I was worried, "Where would I put them?" I thought I would put them [inaudible], but it fitted us. And even the two priests even came. And we laughed the whole time because Marissa, the entertainment was, so we would have American Movies, we translate the title into Filipino. And it was so funny. One was the Four Weddings and One General and the translation was – so we all guessed – but then she gives everybody a number and then read it in Filipino. And they don't know what that means. The translation was, "They got married, but they gonna die too."
ASMUNDSON: And then the step-mother, the translation was "gold-digger." [Laughs] It was just funny.
ASUNCION: It was funny.
ASMUNDSON: And so funny. And then another one was, she asked everybody to draw the pig, and so then, if you draw the pig, you gave them paper, if you draw it at the top, then you're an optimist, if you draw it at, you know, you're a pessimist, and in the middle, you're a realist.
ASMUNDSON: And then if the tail, if you have a long tail and it's crude, you have a kinky sex. [Laughs] It was just funny.
ASUNCION: I'm sorry to interrupt, but I just realized it's 5:15. So –
ASMUNDSON: I know! Oh, you have class?
ASUNCION: Oh no, I just want to make sure you make it to your event, 5:30?
ASMUNDSON: That's right, she's supposed to pick me up at 6:15.
ASUNCION: Oh, oh, it's at 6?
ASMUNDSON: Yeah, it's at the [inaudible].
ASUNCION: Oh, okay, that sounds nice.
ASMUNDSON: Oh my gosh.
ASUNCION: Maybe your ride is just running a little late. Thank you so much for meeting with me. It's a great experience.
ASMUNDSON: Yeah! So, I'm supposed to be talking to this delegation, twenty students delegation from Korea (sp?).
ASUNCION: Oh, today?
ASMUNDSON: Yeah today, and be there, I'm supposed to inspired them through the extension. [Laughs]
- Date Added
- October 30, 2018
- Filipino American Experiences Oral History Project
- Item Type
- Oral History
- Philippine National Day Association, Sacramento [Calif.], Union of Democratic Filipinos
- “Oral History Interview with Ruth Asmundson,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed June 7, 2023, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/470.