December 27, 2022

Growing up, I was very close to my great-grandmother, a relationship transcending generations. Once when she was traveling home to Japan to visit her sister, she asked me what gift I wanted. At that time, the material conditions in Taiwan were still very difficult. Toys for children were quite a luxury. Seeing NBA basketball games and British teddy bears on television, I was always envious. As a primary school student, I asked for a basketball and a fluffy teddy bear.

Two weeks later, she returned with an NBA basketball in her hand, I jumped up happily, accepting the basketball and asked, “What about the teddy bear?” My great-grandmother slowly took one out from her luggage. It was not the fluffy teddy bear I had imagined, it looked like a rag doll bear sewn by hand. I childishly said, “This is not what I asked for. I don’t want it.” At the time I did not know that my great-grandmother and her sister had spent some of their precious time together stitching and stuffing that little bear with a great deal of tender care. I am sure her feelings were hurt, but she never mentioned it, and I never saw that rag doll bear again. 

Many years later, when my father moved his medical practice to Japan, he built a simple home for my great-grandmother in his backyard. I had moved to the United States to study and work, but would travel to Japan to see her whenever I had an opportunity. I cherished those visits with her because she always found ways to show me how much she cared. In the summer of 1991, at the end of one such visit, I was preparing to head to the airport for an early morning flight when my 91-year-old great-grandmother hurriedly rushed from her house, stuffing a bag of boiled eggs into my hand, perhaps the only things she had to share, telling me that I need to eat well and pay attention to my health. I tried not to let others see the tear in my eyes. 

That was the last time I saw her. She passed away when the cherry blossoms bloomed the following year. More than 30 years later, I still miss her. Even now, when faced with challenges, I pray silently that she will help me through the difficulties. I also hope that she understood my ignorance when I was young and had forgiven the 10-year-old boy who had hurt her and my great-aunt who had lovingly made the rag doll bear by hand so many years ago.

As an adult, I came to understand that the most beautiful teddy bear is one woven with love. Our lives and relationships are worth more than the things that we own or can afford. Our lives are enriched by things that matter, a handmade gift, mom’s cooking whose main ingredient is love, the opportunity to dwell in a conversation with someone who cares about you. 

In many ways IEEE is our professional home that offers handmade gifts to us by a previous generation of our family of technologists. As we strive together to advance technology for the benefit of humanity, many spending a little time in gratitude for this wonderful professional association. It has been my privilege throughout my career to know and work with many brilliant and inspiring engineers and technologists – men and women who strive to apply their technical talents for a greater good. Every day, we have the opportunity to engage in efforts to change our world for the better and to drive improvements in quality of life and economic prosperity. My membership in IEEE has fostered this sense of purpose and my desire to be connected to something bigger, as I imagine it has for all of our members.

For our students and young professionals, IEEE can offer this same opportunity to follow your heart, to pursue your chosen profession, to build the career you want, and to give back to our global community. It is your professional home always there that cares about you for your entire career.

IEEE has been my professional home for over 38 years. I treasure the experiences, the camaraderie, and the opportunities for career and personal growth that I have received through my membership. I hope you too treasure and nurture a lifelong relationship with IEEE, the professional home for the engineering and technology community worldwide. 

Until now, the most beautiful teddy bear is that rag doll bear forever in my heart.

Dr. K.J. Ray Liu is 2022 IEEE President and CEO. He has served IEEE in numerous capacities, including as  IEEE Vice President, Technical Activities in 2019, Division IX Director of IEEE Board of Directors 2016-2017, and the President of IEEE Signal Processing Society (2012-13), in which he has also served as Vice President – Publications from 2006-2008 and a member on the Board of Governors. He was the Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Signal Processing Magazine  from 2003- 2005.


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