Oral Histories

Interview of Debra Boudreaux

Immigrant from Taiwan. CEO of Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and executive vice president of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation USA.
Many Branches, One Root: Buddhist Traditions in the Los Angeles Area
Asian American History
Biographical Note:
Immigrant from Taiwan. CEO of Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and executive vice president of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation USA.
Cline, Alex
Boudreaux, Debra
Persons Present:
Boudreaux and Cline
Place Conducted:
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation in San Dimas, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, series coordinator, UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research; musician; member, Order of Interbeing, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism, ordained 2009 by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Boudreaux was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content. The corrections were then entered into the text by the Center for Oral History Research staff. Boudreaux also provided the curriculum vitae.
4.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Many Branches, One Root series traces the histories and practices of a range of Buddhist traditions and communities in the greater Los Angeles area. Beginning in the early twentieth century, a succession of Buddhist traditions have put down roots in Los Angeles, each one providing spiritual support and a sense of community for the tradition’s immigrant population. By the late twentieth century many of those traditions had extended their reach beyond their original ethnic base to include an American-born, often largely Anglo, constituency. The series seeks to document the ethnic and immigrant roots of these traditions, as well as the changes that have resulted as traditions have accommodated to an American context. Series participants included monks, nuns, and lay people from Buddhist traditions from Japan, China, Tibet, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam and a mixture of immigrants and American-born practitioners.
Family background and early life in Taoyuan, Taiwan— Family opens grocery store— Early education— Going to college in Taipei— Moving into journalism— Insecurity in San Francisco— Continuing journalism education at University of Missouri, Columbia— Exposure to American culture— Job at Chinese Daily News in Monterey Park, California— Getting green card— Marrying husband in 1993— Volunteer work at Arcadia Methodist Hospital— Racial tension in Monterey Park— Introduction to Tzu Chi through mother— Early volunteer work for Tzu Chi— Opening of Tzu Chi Free Clinic in 1993— Current teaching and council responsibilities through Tzu Chi.
Compassion driving Boudreaux’s volunteer work— Using Master Cheng Yen’s “Jing Si Aphorisms” to guide volunteer work— Studying Master Cheng Yen’s teachings— First meeting Master Cheng Yen— Daily application of Master’s teachings— Adjusting to Tzu Chi culture— Tzu Chi’s relief efforts and interfaith dialogue— Current state of Buddhism in the United States— Joining Tzu Chi’s full-time staff in 2004— Large Chinese portion of Tzu Chi volunteers— Taiwanese nuns in Hualien, Taiwan— Receiving commission from Master Cheng Yen in 1994— Present concerns and future goals for Tzu Chi.
Meanings of Chinese birth names and dharma names— Current position as Tzu Chi vice-president— Structure of Tzu Chi volunteer program— Tzu Chi’s various programs and missions— The organization’s longtime environmental work— Tzu Chi products from recycled plastic bottles— Funding challenges and U.S. outreach— Boudreaux’s gratitude for Tzu Chi and Master Cheng Yen— Current state of Tzu Chi and its impact on American Buddhism.