"I am fortunate, and I don’t easily perish." –Golden Leaf

“I was a leaf at the mercy of the wind. The wind carried me from one remote part of the world to another. It blew me through turbulence and catastrophic weather. It took me to a Khmer Rouge labor camp and lingered for an eternity. It dehydrated me and nearly starved me to death. I helplessly watched the most devilish mother of all winds ruthlessly crush my tree into lifeless pulp. Like an almighty Olympian god, when the wind wanted to toy with me, it blew me through minefields, rockets, and bullets. While two million leaves disintegrated, I persevered. Through an extraordinary journey, I discovered myself. I am fortunate, and I don’t easily perish. I was a golden leaf. Against all odds, I survived, laid down roots, and became a tree.”

-Kilong Ung

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Golden Leaf Book Signing

Kilong Ung is the author of “Golden Leaf: A Khmer Rouge Genocide Survivor” and founder of the Golden Leaf Education Foundation—a non-profit that builds schools for children in need. His life is an inspirational story about the experiences of a Cambodian genocide survivor, a boy who spent over four years as a slave laborer under the tyrannical Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot, who killed nearly two million Cambodian civilians between 1975 and 1979. Over fifty of his relatives including his parents, grand-parents and sister were killed; some were brutally murdered and others were starved to death. For four years, he worked at a handful of slave camps, thirteen hours a day, every day, digging, plowing, clearing wood, and farming rice. Many died each and every day. Against all odds, he survived by living on a diet of two tablespoons of rice with water twice a day supplemented by eating snakes, rats, bats, bees, mice, caterpillars, roots, and leaves.

In 1979, he escaped into Thailand with his sister Sivheng Ung. He was sent to San Diego and then moved to Portland in February of 1980. He learned English in high school, graduated from Cleveland High School, Reed College and obtained his Masters Degree in Applied Statistics from Bowling Green State University. He currently works as an online banking software engineer at Fiserv. He was also a computer language adjunct instructor at Portland Community College.

In 2006 he became a proud member of the Rotary Club of Portland. In 2007, he was knighted into the fellowship of the Royal Rosarians—the official Goodwill Ambassadors for the City of Portland—and was given the honorable title “Sir Knight”. He has served on the Board of the Rotary Club of Portland, Royal Rosarians Council, Oregon Council on Civil Rights, Executive Board of the Cascade Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Board of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, plus others.

In 2010, he was selected as a Wordstock author. In 2011, he appeared on Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior Season 3 as an expert in the Saddam Hussein vs. Pol Pot episode. His radio interviews include OPB Radio (Think Out Loud), KBOO, and Voice of America.

In 2012, among James Cereghino, Donald Mitchell, Harvey Platt, and Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny), he was honored as a recipient of the Commerce/Cleveland High School Distinguished Alumni Award. (A short list of past distinguished award recipients include Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and Pulitzer Prize Winner Anne Reifenberg.)

Also in 2012, the Association of The United States Army recognized him as an exceptional American.

For his incredible survival of the Khmer Rouge genocide, he was selected by the Volcanoes professional baseball team (Class A affiliate of the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants) to be honored and saluted alongside the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Services in front of 4,500 baseball fans on July 4, 2012 at the Salem-Kaiser Volcanoes Stadium.

He is married (to high school sweetheart) and has two children. His hobbies include golf, ballroom dancing, and social networking. His passion encompasses writing, public speaking, fundraising, and serving others.

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