Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ACA Detroit High School Scholarship Awards Dinner Keynote EXCERPT

from last week's keynote (to be published in ACA Detroit Newsletter)
Association of Chinese Americans Detroit (OCA chapter) High School Scholarship Awards Dinner Keynote EXCERPT
Chinese Community Center, Madison Heights, MI
December 9, 2012
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

“This is an interesting moment to be coming of age as an Asian American. We are post-Tiger Mother, post-Jeremy Lin, post-Gangnam Style. We are supposed to be post-racial too by now, but the news coming in from college campuses around the country clearly suggest otherwise. We are still struggling with issues of bullying, violence, stereotypes, and media representation. At the same time, America is both fascinated and terrified of the possibilities that are China, Korea, India, Pakistan.

As young Asian Americans, you stand at the confluence of history and family and cultures. In addition to all your school and work and extracurricular activities, you are in the process of shaping your identity and cultivating your character in the midst of many contradictory influences. Anything is possible, but it takes courage and intention.

So as you prepare to leave home and begin this next phase of your journey, it is important to know who you are, remember the communities from where you come, and dare to think big/think global for both work and yourself. Then you will have the tools to go anywhere you want, and the courage to create something new….

Your task now is not simply to graduate and go to a good college and give your Tiger Parents something to brag about in the Asian Parenting Olympics.

Your task is also to start thinking about how you are going to cultivate your character and shape your identity beyond school, beyond work.…

So do not be afraid to dream! To live life! To fall in love! To create something new! Poised as we are between different cultures, we have rich resources that uniquely color everything we do, from our relationships to our research, our politics to our art. I think the key is that we all need to learn how to think and how to dream. Do not let society or your parents or fear make you limit yourself. Figure out how things work. Learn to think outside the box. Dare to take chances, get messy. Think hard. What kind of person do I want to be?

We laugh about it, but think about the three most prominent Asian and Asian American narratives of the moment—Tiger Mother, Jeremy Lin, Gangnam Style—and what they show us. Hard work and excellence are an important part of the equation, but so are passion and character and luck and creativity. And community. Your challenges are our challenges. Your successes are our successes. We are all in this together.”

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