From left-right: Distinguished Speakers Hannah Kim, David Hinson, Jose Reyes, and Farook Sait
The seminar room was filled to the brim during yesterday’s 2016 International Leadership Foundation (ILF) Distinguished Speakers Reception. Four public service professionals across the business, law, healthcare, and political arenas shared their expertise within the lens of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) influence. Their career advice provided a range of learned and anecdotal guidance, insights that begged a call to action in identifying ways to address sensitive public issues in practical settings.
Highlights from the evening’s discussion included advice from David Hinson, former Political Appointee and National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), on a number of compelling professional philosophies. “Check your arrogance at the door,” said Hinson, “as you should never leave an encounter with someone where that person feels as if you’ve taken his dignity.” Hinson went on to encourage the Fellows to think broadly on their goals so as to provide themselves with enough financial independence that they would not feel beholden to undesirable professional commitments for the sake of just getting by.
Jose Reyes of the Office of Minority Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reminisced on his experience as a young son of immigrant parents. Reyes would leave class early to accompany his parents to doctors’ offices as their translator. Only later in life did he realize that his reality was different than that of his classmates, and went on to pursue opportunities to bridge the gap in health care access for minority populations.
Farook Sait, Conference Chair for the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, made clear the underrepresentation of AAPI community members in the public sector. He shared that, “it will take a lot of change (to keep improving the status of minority communities), when academic degrees don’t help you.”
Last night’s ILF Fellows also had the opportunity to hear from a 2009 ILF Fellowship Alumna, Hannah Kim, who notably spearheaded the historic passage of the “Korean War Veterans Recognition Act, U.S. Public Law 111-41,” which was signed by President Obama on July 27, 2009. Hannah urged the Fellows not to allow gender, race, or age define who they are as intelligent, resourceful, and skilled individuals. She dismissed the forced formality of ‘networking’ and encouraged the Fellows to build meaningful relationships amongst one another as well as with supervisors spanning several generations of expertise.
Although the evening was packed with advice on how to embark upon a professional growth trajectory, much of that advice also seemed transferrable as personal anecdotes. Hinson closed the session by advising, “Don’t lose your cool. The worst thing to do when you are faced with adversity is to allow that person to raise doubts in your own ability.”
It is with this last piece of advice that the 2016 ILF Fellows are encouraged to strive forward, take risks, and indulge in a summer of learning and impacting their community as well as future communities to come.
Written by Evelynn Bui, 2016 Program Manager