When Tony Bui was 6 years old, he spent three days in prison for trying to escape Vietnam.
He and his mother were discovered hiding as they waited for a boat to pick them up.
His mother, Chan Bui, was sentenced to six months. Tony, the baby of the family, stayed with his older sister while his mother was in prison.
His other siblings had already left for America, and their father had died during an earlier escape attempt, while Bui’s mother was pregnant with Tony.
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Bui, 33, can kind of laugh about it, now. Live has improved dramatically.
He and his mother eventually emigrated from Vietnam legally in 1991. He lives in Wichita and is a Farmers Insurance agent.
His mother lives with him. Five of his six brothers and sisters live nearby, and they get together at least weekly.
He attended Wichita State University and earned a degree in business. He has worked in several jobs, including with his uncle, an insurance agent in Orange County, Calif.
He became a citizen in 2005. Bui returned to Wichita in 2009 and in 2010 started up his own agency.
“I like to interact with people, help them with their insurance,” he said. “I like being my own boss. You control your own destiny. The harder you work, the more success you reap.”
A good portion of his business comes from Asians from various nations living in Wichita, he said.
“I can relate to them even if we’re not from the same country,” he said. “I am familiar with their desire for a better future.”
He doesn’t hold a grudge against his native country. He considers himself half Vietnamese and half American and still observes his home culture’s generous notions of hospitality.
And he’s been back to Vietnam four times.
“I hope one day for Vietnam to be a democracy, with more freedom,” he said.