By Sam ChoSpecial to Northwest Asian Weekly
Editor’s note: This is an edited version of remarks made by Seattle Port Commissioner Sam Cho on Jan. 7 as he was sworn into office. Cho is the only person of color on the commission and in his remarks, touched on reports of Iranian Americans being detained at the U.S. border.
I’ve come to realize that there is a reason why when we have good news, we feel the need to share it with everyone. It’s not just because Facebook makes it so easy, but because our experiences are collectively enhanced when they are shared with one another.
So I want to thank everyone who have come here today to share and enhance this experience.
In the late 80s, a young unsuspecting couple from South Korea immigrated to the United States through the Port of Seattle. And just a little over 30 years later, within a single generation, their son was just sworn in as a Commissioner at the Port of Seattle.
That couple is obviously my parents. My mom who just administered my oath in Korean. And my dad who is here with us as well.
You know, by nature of running for the Port Commission, I’ve had to go to just about every corner of King County and meet with voters from all walks of life.
And one of the things I’ve come to appreciate is that we are very fortunate to be living in a county that is so prosperous and diverse.
But in that same realization, I also recognized that my being here is complete happenstance.
I’m here because I happened to be born to parents who had the courage to leave their home to seek a better life for me and my brother.
I happen to grow up in a safe neighborhood with good schools.
In other words, I was dealt a pretty good hand.
I don’t want to make my remarks today political, but I feel compelled to mention that as I’m sure many of you have heard over the weekend, there were reports of Iranian Americans being detained for long periods of time by the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol) near the Canadian border.
These days, I’m forced to wonder if my parents tried to immigrate to this country today, would they be stopped at that border?
What if it was North Korea instead of Iran?
If they immigrated today, would they find the same success?
Would I have been dealt the same hand? Would a future me be standing here?
Now, I know that I’m relatively young, but I’ve been in enough important rooms to know that at the core of every conflict are differences.
Differences in policy.
Differences in priorities.
Sometimes differences in values.
But I also know that it’s okay to have differences. Over the next four years, I have no doubt that I will have differences with colleagues and stakeholders and that’s OK.
But I’m reminded of a speech that John F. Kennedy once gave at my alma mater — American University — in which he said, “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
I ran for this office because I see in the Port, an institution that serves as the gateway to the Pacific Northwest, the single largest economic engine that can create opportunities for families regardless of the hand that they are dealt.
An institution that has an outsized role in tackling climate change and ending human trafficking.
And so I hope that in the next four years, we can work towards solving some of our greatest challenges and creating a Port of Seattle that is not just a safe place, but one that embraces and continues to celebrate diversity.