The Top 10 Outstanding Asian American Achievements of 2012

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

Each year, certain people are recognized for the extraordinary things that they have accomplished in the Asian American communities. Here are 10 of those people from 2012.

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Gordon Hirabayashi

1. Along with 12 other people, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Gordon Hirabayashi last April. Born and raised in Seattle, Hirabayashi was known for openly defying the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

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2. The Japanese National Museum celebrated the official launch of its Remembrance Project, a communal website commemorating the Japanese American experience during WWII last February. The launch came 70 years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, stripping thousands of Japanese Americans of their civil liberties. According to the museum’s website, the project features stories about those affected by the events surrounding the Japanese American World War II experience. Through written tributes submitted by individuals, families, and friends, this evolving three-year project will allow the museum to present these first-person stories to younger and more diverse audiences and will continue to make these stories accessible to future generations.

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Mazie Hirono

3. Last November, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D–Hawaii) made history and became Hawaii’s first female Senator, by defeating former Gov. Linda Lingle. Many believed that her victory was key to shifting power dynamics in Congress. Not only will Hirono be the first elected female Senator from Hawaii, but she will also be the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate, the first U.S. Senator born in Japan, and the nation’s first Buddhist Senator.

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Bob Santos

4. “Uncle” Bob Santos received the Banaag award from the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, as part of the country’s “Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas” program. The Banaag Award, Tagalog for “bright light,” is conferred on Filipino individuals for their contributions that have significantly advanced the cause of overseas Filipino communities. Santos became involved with Seattle’s civil rights movement in the 1960s and served as the executive director of Inter*Im from 1972 to 1989. He served as regional director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1994. His trip to the Philippines was the first time for the Seattle-born Santos.

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Daniel Inouye

5. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D–Hawaii), the first ever Japanese American to serve in Congress and second-longest serving U.S. senator in history, passed away this December, leaving behind a legacy that spans decades. Inouye served in World War II as part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team, earning a Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, and several other honors. He served in Congress for 49 years, first as Hawaii’s at-large representative and then as one of its senators. A Democrat, he works across the aisle, forming the moderate Gang of 14. When he remarried in 2008, then Sen. Ted Stevens (R–Alaska) served as his best man.

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Jim Yong Kim

6. Jim Yong Kim was named president of the World Bank. Formerly president of Dartmouth College, Kim succeeded Robert Zoellick as his five-year term ended last June. President Obama nominated Kim to the position for his global development experience. Hailing from South Korea, Kim is the second World Bank president to be born outside of the United States.

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Grace Meng

7. In other November 2012 election news, Grace Meng became New York’s first Asian American in Congress. At 37, she defeated Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran in her historic win to become New York’s 6th congressional district Congresswoman. According to unofficial results, Meng received 68 percent of the vote. Her father Jimmy Meng became the first Asian American to be elected to the legislature in New York state history in 2004.

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Tri Ta

8. Last November, Tri Ta became the first Vietnamese American mayor of Westminster, the largest Vietnamese district outside of Vietnam. Westminster also is the first city in the nation to have a Vietnamese American majority on the City Council. Ta was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and moved to the United States with his family in 1992 when he was 19.

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Miranda Du

9. Miranda Du became a U.S. District Judge for the District Court for the District of Nevada a few months after President Obama submitted his nomination. Du replaced Roger L. Hunt to become the first Asian American to serve as an Article III judge in Nevada and the second Vietnamese American to become a federal judge. According to the Democrats website, almost 6 percent of President Obama’s confirmed judges have been AAPI, compared to just 1 percent for Presidents Bush and Clinton.

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Snigdha Nandipati

10. Snigdha Nandipati, a 15-year-old eighth-grader at Francis Parker School in La Jolla, Calif., won the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee. Nandipati correctly spelled “guetapens,” a French-derived word that means an ambush, snare, or trap. Her grandparents flew all the way from Hyderabad in southeastern India to witness her prized moment. Nandipati took home the trophy and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. (end)

Nina Huang can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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