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Visiting the Rose Garden at the White House for the Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2024 Celebration

I was honored this month to be invited to represent our Central Florida community at the White House to celebrate May as Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month.

It was surreal – staring at the vibrant pink roses of the White House Rose Garden while actress Lucy Liu, Vice President Kamala Harris (who is also our nation’s first Vice President of AANHPI descent), and President Joe Biden spoke on the contributions of the AANHPI community to the fabric and story of America while also sharing their visions for America in the months and years to come.

Some special guests I met included:
* Cristeta Pasia Comerford the first Asian American and Filipina American to serve as White House Executive Chef including for both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations since 2005.
* Christine Ha, my idol, of Master Chef (@theblindcook)
* Hudson Yang of Fresh off the Boat (which was set in 1990s Orlando)
* Willi Xu, US Navy JAG and White House Social Aide

My parents left Vietnam as boat refugees in the 1980s to seek a better life for their future children, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and hearts full of dreams. Never in their wildest dreams did they ever imagine that one day their son would be invited to the White House.

Life wasn’t perfect growing up – what is? – but I am reminded that our journey would not have been possible without so many who helped us along the way – the Lutheran Church and other families in America who sponsored them, the teachers who helped our family adjust to life in America and taught me in public school as my parents worked third shift at the assembly lines at the local factory, and later on starting a local Asian market in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Whether it is a little boy or girl here in Orlando or Kissimmee or Gaza or Sudan, every child deserves to dream and play and live in safety.

Hopefully, we can lend our voices and strength to them all again and lead with love and compassion instead of fear and hate. This too is the story of the American dream and real strength of America. We know that when we come together, anything is possible.





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