Asian American and Pacific Islanders represent a large group of people with incredible stories that add to the beautiful fabric of the United States, the guest speaker said at the annual Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month program May 16.
Sandy Hoa Dang, executive director of the Vietnam Education Foundation, shared her experience of living in Hanoi, Vietnam, in refugee camps in rural China and Hong Kong, and finally coming to America at age 13.
“I longed for the day that I could come to a place where I can call home, because I felt I was homeless through most of the years,” Dang told Naval Support Activity employees.
After graduating from Duke University, Dang said she wanted to find a way to give back and help make America a better place for future generations.
“I was able to start a nonprofit organization (Asian American Leadership, Empowerment and Development) to provide after school programs, mentoring, leadership and also family support service to help children, because I know that with help they can achieve what I was able to achieve,” said Dang.
She was appointed by former President Barack Obama to serve on the Vietnam Education Foundation in 2011. She became the VEF executive director in 2014.
“I was honored because I was able to use my background, language and culture skills for the two countries that I love, the country of my birth, which is Vietnam, and the country that had helped me become who I am today,” said Dang. “My life story is part of the bigger story of Asian Americans here in this country.”
The theme for this year’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is “Unite Our Voices by Speaking Together,” which encourages AAPIs to overcome misconceptions and stereotypes about the AAPI community, according to the Federal Asian Pacific American Council website.
Navy Capt. Cody Hodges, NAVSUP WSS director of contracting, reflected on the contributions of the AAPI community during his opening remarks.
“We are truly celebrating the rich and diverse cultures of more than 56 ethnic groups and more than 100 languages of the Asian and Pacific Islander populations who live in the United States and its territories,” said Hodges. “From philosophy to architecture, to cuisine and cutting edge technological advances, to a proud legacy of service in the Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force, it is not hard to see how Asian and Pacific Island Americans have helped to shape our history and culture and philosophy.”
Concluding the ceremony, Dang encouraged the audience to share their own unique culture and background with their coworkers.
“At DLA, I know that you have such a diverse group of people who are here and that helps connect you to all different parts of the world,” Dang said. “Share your story with each other because it is a part of who we are.”
The event was sponsored by the DLA Troop Support Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Office and the NAVSUP Weapons Systems Support Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee.
Visit the websites below for more information on AAPI heritage: