By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Each year, there are certain people who have been recognized for the extraordinary things they have done for Asians and Asian Americans. This list showcases this year’s individuals.
10. This year, President Obama nominated Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Two years ago, Nguyen became the first Vietnamese American woman to serve as a federal judge. Obama called Nguyen a trailblazer, displaying an outstanding commitment to public service throughout her career. From fleeing Vietnam as a refugee living in a U.S. tent city to becoming a powerful justice fighter, Nguyen has surely come far to achieve success.
9. In another Obama-related achievement, the president nominated Dr. Arun Majumdar to the key energy post last month. Majumdar currently heads the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which invests in “out-of-the-box” energy technologies. Previously, he was the associate laboratory director for Energy and Environment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
8. Amy Chua definitely made a name for herself earlier this year after publishing her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” The book’s first claim to fame was when an excerpt was published in a Wall Street Journal article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” The WSJ article that highlighted Chua’s child-rearing philosophies generated both positive and negative feedback. Readers interpreted the book in different ways. Some thought it was satire, others thought it was an example of extreme parenting advice, and others praised it. Producers associated with the Joy Luck Club have stated that Chua’s work “absolutely has potential” for a movie. So by the end of next year, there may even be a “Tiger Mom” movie.
7. Jeremy Yamaguchi is California’s youngest mayor. The 22-year-old is the recently-elected mayor of Placentia. He was first elected to the city council when he was 19, after he finished his undergraduate degree at Cal State Fullerton. He is the youngest mayor to serve in Orange County in more than 20 years, and he may be the youngest mayor in the state. While in office, he hopes to establish office hours as well as free times that he will be at city hall to address residents’ concerns and questions. He also wants to revive the city’s youth council to let young people’s opinions be heard on city issues.
According to the city website, Yamaguchi plans to get a master’s degree in public administration and ultimately go to law school.
6. On July 26, Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Goodwin Liu to a seat on the Supreme Court of California, succeeding the only Democrat on the court, Associate Justice Carlos R. Moreno. Liu was sworn in on Sept. 1. He attended public schools in Sacramento before earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford University, a master’s degree from Oxford University, and a law degree from Yale Law School. Liu was formerly nominated by President Obama to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but his nomination was withdrawn amid significant opposition from the U.S. Senate Republicans.
5. In October, the U.S. Congress issued regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the result of efforts from Asian Americans around the country. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion act banned most Chinese immigrants from the United States and denied them citizenship. The resolution, SR201, was sponsored by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and passed unanimously by vote. The resolution expresses regret for 60 years of legislation targeting Chinese people for physical and political exclusion during a tumultuous and race-charged era in American history.
4. Listed as one of last year’s amazing achievers, Gary Locke makes the list again this year by being confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to China in July. The Senate unanimously confirmed the outgoing commerce secretary and former Washington governor as ambassador to China. Locke is the first Chinese American to be appointed to this position. He replaced Republican Jon Huntsman, who left the position to enter the 2012 presidential race. Since his arrival in Beijing, Locke’s low-key, unassuming personality has won over the Chinese, making him a surprising star after he received criticism for being too Americanized for the role. Along the same lines, Sung Kim has also been confirmed to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea. President Obama nominated Kim and, despite a stall due to concerns over U.S. policy toward North Korea, the Senate unanimously consented to Kim’s nomination.
3. Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas came clean about his status as an undocumented immigrant earlier this summer. His confession is detailed in a New York Times Magazine essay, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” Vargas first arrived in the United States in 1993. He was 12. He has been quoted as saying, “I’m an American, I just don’t have the right papers.” He is the founder of Define American, a nonprofit organization that seeks to change the conversation on immigration reform.
2. Following her release from house arrest, Burmese opposition politician and General Secretary of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi continues to make positive changes.
Throughout 2011, discussions were held between Suu Kyi and the Burmese government, leading to a number of official gestures to meet her demands. As a result, around one- tenth of Burma’s political prisoners were released in October. In November, Suu Kyi also spoke with President Obama, by which it was agreed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would visit Burma.
1. People around the world joined efforts to raise funds for the Japanese earthquake/tsunami relief.
The March 11 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku resulted in a major tsunami that brought destruction along the coastline and resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and ruined entire towns.
The quake was a magnitude 9.0, with the epicenter approximately 43 miles east of Oshika Peninsula. It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit the country.
Several Asian American organizations held relief benefit concerts around the country. Nonprofit organizations, such as The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and UNICEF, coordinated efforts to help those affected by the disaster. In one particularly heartening instance, a mystery donor in Japan left a bag containing 10 million yen ($131,000) in a restroom with a note saying it should be used to help a tsunami-hit area. (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at email@example.com.