Dr. Jim Yong Kim defied the odds and became the first Asian American to head the World Bank. Despite his achievements as a physician, global health expert, and president of Dartmouth College, Kim faced a challenging run against two other candidates, one from Nigeria and one from Colombia. He also faced opposition from member countries who objected to the job going to a U.S. national.
So if Kim can do it, why can’t we? Of course, not all of us are jumping to head the World Bank, but for Kim, an Asian American and immigrant, to achieve such a position goes to show that immigrants can obtain success on a global level. The real barriers may come from ourselves.
Over the years, we’ve gotten used to rhetoric that discusses the marginalization, challenges, and limitations some of us may face as immigrants. But is ‘the glass ceiling’ an outdated term in this global economy?
Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, and came to the United States at the age of five. He studied at Brown University and went on to earn doctorate degrees at Harvard University. His diverse experience in education as the head of Dartmouth College, and as a world health expert working with HIV/AIDS and helping citizens in Lima suffering from tuberculosis, made him a sure-fire nominee for the World Bank position. Kim’s work with social issues and the poor is atypical of the kind of work that Asian Americans have been taught to pursue, which are often fields where a higher salary is the primary incentive. Kim was not afraid to get involved in global issues, to engage with people of different cultures, and to handle large-scale challenges. His background did not become an excuse to focus on only on certain issues and people, while shying away from others. A global outlook can give us a greater platform to speak up and be successful.
Regardless of the goals we aim to pursue, making excuses or focusing too greatly on the challenges ahead may prevent us from getting involved. This inaction stagnates our lives and also our communities. Even if we’re not seeking to head the World Bank, we should follow Kim’s lead to be involved in global issues, keep up with current events, and embrace many causes and communities. As individuals, we can be strengthened and benefitted by stepping out of our comfort zone, and making connections with those outside our immediate communities ― as Kim was when he was nominated by President Obama for the position.
Identifying as global citizens means that our own communities can be stronger and our opportunities more plentiful. (end)