Non-Profit Leader Appointed to President’s APA Council

Diem Ly October 6, 2010 Comments Off on Non-Profit Leader Appointed to President’s APA Council

President Obama recently appointed 18 individuals from across the country, representing different Asian ethnicities, professional backgrounds, and regions, to join the president’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, re-activating a council first established during the tail end of President Bill Clinton’s administration and ordered re-activated in October 2009.

Hyeok Kim, member of the President’s Commission on APA Affairs.

The appointed few will serve as representatives of the APA community and vocalize its needs directly to the heads of state including the president and federal agencies. The expectation from Commission members is to shape or enact policy changes for the benefit of the community. Only one person from the Northwest was selected, someone who already serves as a community representative and is familiar with discussing tough topics with politicians.

Hyeok Kim is the executive director of InterIm CDA, a Seattle Chinatown/International District community development association that works to preserve and revitalize Seattle’s C/ID and which advocates on behalf of low- and moderate-wage residents and small businesses. President Obama appointed her to the commission, joining distinguished members such as Amardeep Singh and Admiral John B. Nathman.

The Commission will serve as a critical link between federal agencies and the API communities to bridge the gap between government agency policies and real needs. For example, at the end of September, Commission members joined together for the first time in Washington D.C., and met with President Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan. With education reform the latest hot topic right now, commission members spoke with the official directly about the diversity of the API population and its educational disparities. “It’s that kind of interface that is important,” said Kim.

Being the executive director of a local, community organization is tough enough. Why would someone who wears multiple hats and faces challenges on numerous fronts want to take on national issues, too? For Kim, “it was important for me to offer a younger perspective,” she said. “There’s a generational change happening in the community and it was important to me that someone from the Seattle region is represented in the commission.”

Kim also felt that it’s crucial to have the community development perspective in the White House. She considers that perspective a holistic approach to raising the capacity to communities.

From 1999 to 2008, Kim worked for the Washington State Legislature, first as a Legislative Assistant to State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and then as a policy analyst for the House Democratic Caucus researching and analyzing child welfare, human services, and affordable housing issues. She has also worked as a lobbyist for children’s causes.

So what does it mean to be on the Commission?

“There’s a symbolic importance for this commission,” said Kim. “It’s not just a geographical or ethnic mix, but people representing different professional sectors – you have business people, judges, attorneys, community-based organizations – that’s important in the diversity of our community. Not to mention generational diversity.”

How can 18 people represent 16 million diverse APIs?

“You can’t but that’s not going to stop us from trying to,” said Kim. “We’re going to wear a generation hat, a geographical hat, an ethnic identity hat, a professional hat. If we miss something, people ought to tell us.”

As the sole commissioner from the Northwest, Kim will also represent the region in her new national role.

“There are things that are unique to the NW region, but there are things that are universal to our wider API community,” said Kim. “In Seattle, we have the Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese Chamber of Commerces and each of those have relationships in parts of Asia. Is the government helping as much as it can to leverage those relationships? Is there something unique to the Northwest that can help in that connection?” Then, Kim expressed, there are organizations like the International Community Health Services (ICHS) that serve in issues that impact APIs across the board.

“I’m a big cheerleader for the Northwest area,” said Kim. “Compared to other communities in the country, Seattle is special, at least to me.”

The Commission is scheduled for two face-to-face meetings per year and considering regional meetings in-between. Commission member terms expire two years from the executive order to establish it; in this case, October 2011.

Kim believes her new role starts first with a fundamental respect for existing communities.

“These communities bring tremendous assets to wider America and I hope to bring that to the political discourse,” said Kim. “How can the federal government be better partners with our communities? There’s a tremendous need. This is one that I will elevate in my role.”

President Barack Obama announced his appointment of the following individuals to the President’s Advisory Council on Asian Pacific American Affairs:

  • Sefa Aina, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Debra T. Cabrera, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Kamuela J. N. Enos, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Frances Eneski Francis, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Farooq Kathwari, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Hyeok Kim, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Ramey Ko, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Rozita Villanueva Lee, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Sunil Puri, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Amardeep Singh, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Unmi Song, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Dilawar A. Syed, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Khampha Thephavong, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Doua Thor, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Hector L. Vargas, Jr., Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Hines Ward, Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Admiral John B. Nathman, USN (Ret), Member, Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy
  • Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, USMC (Ret), Member, Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy

President Obama said, “Our nation will be well-served by the skill and dedication these men and women bring to their new roles. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

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