Rising anti-Asian sentiments in 2021 made it more crucial than ever to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month and amplify the wins, contributions, struggles and immense diversity referenced in the AAPI acronym. We thoroughly enjoyed highlighting some of the members of the AAPI community working in diplomacy on social media, reading books from AAPI authors, and standing in solidarity with the AAPI community.
History and Relevance Today
The United States designated May as AAPI Heritage Month in 1992. May 7th, 1843 marked the first immigration of the Japanese to America and May 10th, 1969 marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad, making May important for recognizing AAPI heritage. The month pays tribute to this rich, vibrant, and diverse community and the many contributions they have made throughout America’s history. This year, a rise in hate crimes against the AAPI community has made recognition and allyship of growing importance.
How We Have Celebrated
Throughout the month of May, the San Diego Diplomacy Council celebrated Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by highlighting various local members of the AAPI community in San Diego who have made a major impact on global diplomacy. Among those recognized for their impact included Ambassador Sung Kim, Ambassador Michele Sison, and Gloria Steele.
Ambassador Sung Kim is a Korean American who has served as U.S. Ambassador to Korea and the Philippines. He currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia and is regarded for his intelligence, integrity, and consideration.
Ambassador Michele Sison is the first Filipino American to receive the title of Career Ambassador. She is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti and has previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Ambassador Sison has contributed vital diplomatic work to the U.S.
Gloria Steele, originally from the Philippines, has served as United States Agency for International Development Director from 2010 to 2015 and won the prestigious President’s Distinguished Executive Award twice. This year she was called out of retirement to serve as Acting Administrator of The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) until a permanent director could be confirmed. She has helped many through her incredible career and her work with USAID is highly regarded.
Highlighting One of the Diplomacy Councils’ Own
In addition to these wonderful leaders being recognized throughout the month of May, the San Diego Diplomacy Council would like to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of Board Director, Yen Tu.
Yen is one of ten siblings who came to the U.S. as refugees in 1978. Yen states, “As a refugee, I am so fortunate. Many people, most of them strangers, helped my family. It was very heartwarming and an amazing way to enter a new country… I love helping young people and connecting people. My passions lie within building community and making our city and world a better place. I’m more focused on economic needs because I’ve been there and know how it feels. Creating opportunities is my biggest passion. After all the generosity I’ve received, I want to give back.”
During her time at UC San Diego, Yen was a member of the University’s Commuter Council and volunteered at the Chinese New Year Fair in Del Mar and the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC). In her professional career, Yen is involved with many civic organizations and volunteers in many Asian-American organizations. Currently, she chairs the SDDC Board of Directors, Asian Business Association, is a member of the CA Board of Accountancy, and was San Diego County Water Authority’s board for sixteen years. Yen has also chaired and been on the committee of the Chinese New Year Fair for over 20 years.
Thank you for your contributions.
How can we continue to be allies to members of the AAPI Community?
Firstly, we can educate ourselves on the diverse history and cultures of Asian-American and Pacific Islander’s. Second, we can actively speak out against anti-Asian rhetoric. Additionally, we can participate in dialogue that uplifts the AAPI community.
The AAPI community has long been an integral part of San Diego, and we greatly value their contributions. The San Diego Diplomacy Council remains committed to bringing together diverse perspectives to address common global challenges and promoting peace and dialogue both at home and abroad.