Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Mayor Sukhee Kang
I got to interview the mayor of Irvine, Mayor Sukhee Kang! He was first elected to the Irvine City Council in 2004 and then reelected in 2006. He is the first Korean-American to serve as a mayor of a major U.S. city. I chose to interview him because I live in Irvine and knew that our mayor was a Korean-American. I feel that he is a great role model and someone to look up to. Although he was born in Korea and came to America in his young adult years, he was still able to work his way up to where he is today. He is an inspiration not only to the Asians in America, but to everyone. The interview responses are paraphrased. I hope you enjoy and find some inspiration, because I sure got inspired.
1. How do you identify yourself?
As a Korean American, Asian American, but more so as a coalition builder. He felt as his job as a mayor was to bring everybody to the table. He is a mayor, a public figure and his job is to make Irvine a better community. He is a well rounded person and feels that his job is to look at the global point of view, the overall picture. Although he is technically in "ethnic terms", Korean American, Asian American, he felt that he can and needs to relate with everyone, no matter what race.
2. In America did you feel limited in any way because you are an Asian American? If so, how and how did you overcome those obstacles?
The limitation is up to the individual. He felt that although there are obstacles, ways to overcome them are by building self-confidence and by working harder than anyone else. This country gives ample opportunities. He did feel that he got treated differently, but respect came from how he presented himself. He feels that respect comes from outside, what you do.
3. Why did you decide to come to America?
His brother lived in San Francisco in 1962 and since the early days, as a youth, he thought about coming to America. He especially wanted to reunite with his brother. Due to coming to America without his other family members, it took a while because he had to finish some obligations. He finished his military duty and also finished college. He got married to his wife Joanne and at the age of 24 came to America.
4. What made you decide to enter public life?
He felt that everyone has an inspiration and his inspiration was the 1992 LA Riot. Watching tv about the LA Riot and learning more about what happened gave him an inspiration due to the lack of community power, that was what got him thinking. So when an opportunity came, he grabbed it and ran with it. He wanted to work behalf on the community. He feels political empowerment and exercising you rights, such as voting is important. In 2002 he had the opportunity to work with the mayor at the time, Ben and built relationships. He worked from the bottom up.
5. Do you feel more pressure to excel because you are a minority in a public position?
"Of course, as a first generation immigrant, I do have a handicap in some ways." He feels that his language isn't perfect so he had to read more and work harder. It's not what you do, but how you do it. He has an internal skill, engaging and connecting with people. He finds a vehicle with others to have a connection, and it's the delivery of the message that is important. Also the sincerity and genuineness is important. He thinks spiritual power is important, and being more sincere because people can respect that and see that. Connecting and adapting to different cultures is a way to communicate with others. Positive leadership and perceiving everything in a positive way is an important factor as well.
6. What future aspirations do you have after you finish your term as a mayor?
Running for reelection, but ultimately it is up to God. He thinks it is important to work hard and prepare himself. He tries not to put a goal, rather see himself grow to prepare himself for the next step. Opportunity will come naturally.
7. Do you have any advice for my generation of young Asian Americans?
A lot! Set goals high, maintain confidence, be proud of your heritage and always try your best. His advice were just simple things such as, maximize potential and identify your special skills. It is important to try to identify your special skills at an early age. Get involved in activities such as working with the community, that way you can find skill sets that you didn't know before. It is important to be a well rounded person and the early stages in life are critical.
That was what I got from the interview. I paraphrased it the best that I can. I hope you enjoyed and find inspirtation to achieve your goals!
I want to say thank you to Mayor Sukhee Kang and Michelle Grettenberg for meeting with me and helping me do this interview.