This photo was taken by Sarah Ha a few seconds before I had a chance to shake POTUS' hand. My DC buddy Christine Minji Chang (actor and director of Kollaboration) and I anticipated his arrival in the program so we hustled to the very front of the room, Asian squatting against the press barrier.
For a hot second I thought I should say or do something wacky to get his attention then I was like, "Um there are snipers stationed overhead in this ballroom and an anxious secret service bro two feet from me. I don't want to become a security incident."
The first thing that came to my mind when I heard I was one of the #WHChamps in art and storytelling was, "Wait..there are so many other people who should be recognized." Then I thought, "Welp. This is a nice honor and good publicity so I'll take it." I wasn't even thinking about inviting my family until fellow honoree and dear friend Taz Ahmed told me her whole family was flying out.
Why didn't I think to invite them?
Honestly, I've lived in such an independent way in the English language and American culture away from my family in both my personal and professional life I've been very compartmentalized. After showing my parents that I had good grades during school years, there was little validation I sought in my life from them other than staying healthy, fed and making enough money to contribute to their needs. I was the youngest of three, most Americanized and now a comedian. I have gotten used to navigating American culture on my own and through support and resources outside of my family.
But this award was from "The White House" - something that clearly communicated "importance" to my immigrant parents. It's the most American of validations that says to them this thing I've been doing has been of value. That this isn't just some detour I'm taking along my real life journey. That perhaps this career change from politics was worth something. For that. I am thankful.
And I am thankful my brother was able to take time off of work to accompany my parents to fly to DC just to attend this two hour event. It ended up being exactly what needed to happen.
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HUNTER COLLEGE > WHITE HOUSE > #DARTMOUTH
// no. 3 // 5.5.16