By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Every year, there is no shortage of amazing feats accomplished by Asian Americans around the country. Aside from all the bad things that happened in 2016, these individuals took it to another level and achieved greatness. This list highlights 10 of those amazing accomplishments.
10. For the third year in a row, the Scripps National Spelling Bee awarded two co-champions, 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar and 11-year-old Nihar Janga. After dueling back and forth for 22 rounds, both winners aced their final word. In addition, Janga became the youngest winner in the competition’s 91-year history.
9. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed a
bill to eliminate the words “Oriental” and “Negro” from the federal law. Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) sponsored the bill, which was passed unanimously in the House and Senate. The words were replaced with “Asian Americans” and “African Americans,” respectively. In addition, other terms that were affected by the law include “Spanish-speaking,” which became “Hispanic”; “Indian,” which became “Native American”; and “Eskimo” and “Aleut,” which became “Alaska Natives.”
8. Disney featured its first-ever Polynesian princess in the animated film “Moana,” which has been at the top of the box office for several weeks. The film also hit new records for the film company. Moana has helped Disney bring in nearly $2.5 billion in North America, the most grossed by a studio in North America. Also with “Moana,” Disney has taken in $4 billion overseas, a first and another milestone for the entertainment company.
7. Hmong American poet Mai Der Vang won the American Academy of Poets’ 2016 Walt Whitman Award for her collection, “Afterland.” The collection of poems to be published next year was inspired by the Hmong refugee experience and the “secret war” in Laos during the Vietnam War era. Vang received a $5,000 cash prize and a six-week residency in Umbria, Italy.
6. Indian American Aziz Ansari and Taiwanese American Alan Yang won Emmy Awards for their Netflix show Master of None in the Writing in a Comedy Series category.
5. Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, won the
coveted Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in April. The book is a “story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.” Nguyen, who is a professor of English and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, was also awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 2016, and Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in 2015.
4. President Barack Obama awarded artist Maya Lin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her career achievements, including her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala.
3. On June 13, Ali Ewoldt became the first Asian American actress to star in the lead role of Christine in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera. Ewoldt is of Filipino descent and has performed as Princess Jasmine in Disneyland prior to playing Cosette in Broadway’s Les Miserables in 2006.
2. This was a historic year for politics as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump appointed three women of color to his cabinet. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was appointed to be the country’s ambassador to the United Nations. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao was appointed to be the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Seema Verma, president and founder of SVC, Inc., was appointed to be the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
1. On Election Day this year, a record number (14) of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were voted to Congress.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris will be the first Indian American woman and second Black female senator to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Illinois elected its second-ever female Asian American and first Thai American senator, Tammy Duckworth.
Harris and Duckworth join Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, who was the first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012.
Seattle’s own Pramila Jayapal became the first Indian American woman elected to the House of Representatives.
Stephanie Murphy is the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress. She represents the 7th District of Florida.
Entrepreneur Ro Khanna beat his opponent and eight-time incumbent Mike Honda for a spot in California’s Santa Clara County.
Raja Krishnamoorthi will replace Tammy Duckworth’s spot in the House of Representatives for the 8th District seat in Illinois.
Colleen Hanabusa returns to Congress to represent Hawaii’s District 1, replacing the late Mark Takei, who passed away from cancer.
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Rep. Judy Chu (D-Los Angeles County), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Santa Monica), Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside County), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Rep.
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento County) were also re-elected to their Congressional seats.
Nina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.