By Andrew Kim
Northwest Asian Weekly
Last year was a banner year for Asian and Asian Americans, who pushed forth advancements in technology, science, art, academia, and politics. One even went to space.
Here are our top 10 events of note:
11. Two spelling bee champs tie
Vanya Shivashankar, 13, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, became co-winners of the 2015 Scripps Spelling Bee. In the past five decades, there have been only two ties. Shivashankar, who likes to act and play piano, correctly spelled ‘scherenschnitte’ and Venkatachalam, who likes basketball and rap music, correctly spelled ‘nunatak.’
10. Fresh faces elected to House
Ted Lieu (D–Calif.) and Mark Takai (D–Hawaii) were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015. Lieu is from Taiwan, graduated from Stanford, and holds the rank of colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves. Takai is a former All-American swimmer and is currently a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army.
9. Lunar New Year official in NYC
Led by several community activists and local politicians, New York City decided June 2015 to observe the 2016 Lunar New Year as an official school holiday. Supporters have called this change a teachable moment for students to learn about other cultures and to allow them to celebrate an important holiday without missing school.
8. UC Professors release scholarly book on model minority myth and stereotypes
Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, two professors of sociology at the University of California, published a scholarly book titled “The Asian American Achievement Paradox.” This book explores the Asian ‘model minority’ stereotype and was one of many newsworthy items which shaped the growing discussion of Asian Americans and stereotypes in 2015.
7. Composer Pulitzer finalist for blending grief, exhilaration
Lei Liang was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for music for composing “Xiaoxiang,” a concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra. Liang was inspired by a widow’s wail and blended the curious sensations of grief and exhilaration in his concerto.
6. Taiwanese American astronaut launches into space
Kjell Lindgren became the 11th Asian American to make it to space. He was launched to the International Space Station July 22, 2015 and returned to Earth Dec. 11, 2015. He was born in Taiwan, earned several master’s degrees and a doctorate in medicine before becoming a NASA astronaut in 2007.
5. Business matchmaking company raises $400 million
In 2015, Naval Ravikant’s AngelList raised $400 million in funding from the China Science and Merchants Investment Group. AngelList brings together start-up investors — angel investors — and fledging companies. Ravikant founded AngelList in 2010, in addition to co-founding several other companies. He is also an active angel investor, having invested in companies such as Twitter and Uber.
4. Civil rights attorney awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
Minoru Yasui was posthumously awarded a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Yasui was a Japanese American lawyer who fought for human and civil rights his entire career, including cases against the Japanese internment laws. He also held several leadership positions within the Japanese American Citizens League.
3. Doctors awarded Nobel for achievements in medicines
William Campbell (American), Satoshi Omura (Japanese), and Tu Youyou (Chinese) won the 2015 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine. Campbell and Omura formulated a drug that radically reduces the frequency of parasitic diseases, and Tu formulated a drug that has significantly reduced malaria death rates.
2. Japanese conductor honored by Kennedy Center
Seiji Ozawa, known for conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years, was a 2015 recipient for the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, celebrating those in the arts. The awards gala was broadcasted Dec. 29, 2015 on CBS. Ozawa is a Japanese American pianist born in Shenyang, China. Other honorees were George Lucas, Carole King, Rita Moreno, and Cicely Tyson.
1. Pacific Rim countries enter into trade agreement
The Trans–Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among Pacific Rim countries, was agreed to on Oct. 5, 2015. The agreement aims to lower trade barriers, promote economic growth, transparency, and good governance, as well as enhanced labor and environmental protections. It was fairly controversial due to the secrecy of the negotiations — it took over seven years to negotiate. (end)
Andrew Kim can be reached at email@example.com.