Nine Chinese Americans get medals
Updated: 2014-05-11 22:31
By Amy He (China Daily USA)
Nine Chinese Americans from across the US were awarded the 2014 Ellis Island Medal of Honor over the weekend for their contributions to diversifying their communities.
The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) presented the awards in the Great Hall on Ellis Island. Among the 100 recipients, the Chinese-American awardees were Yuesai Kan, Gary Sze Kong, Steven Wong, Diana Xing Wu Gao, David P.J. Hung, Charles Ta-Peng Chang, Edwin Chang, Kin Lam, and Charles Zhang.
"Each of these honorees represents traits that I admire in great Americans," said Nasser Kazeminy, chairman of the NECO. "The vision of a better world for all; the tenacity to overcome great adversity; the leadership and imagination to blaze their own trail, and most importantly, they have the humility and self-reflection to appreciate the amazing opportunities America has given them.
"They inspire me," he said. "And we honor them so they can inspire others as well."
Edwin Chang, director of neurosurgery at Staten Island University Hospital, said he felt honored to receive the award. "I feel undeserving," he said. "I didn’t know exactly what this all meant, but once I read up on it I was thrilled."
Chang, a first generation Chinese American, came to the US to make a living "out of practically nothing", he said, and now works extensively with the Chinese community.
Gary Sze Kong, owner of Kong's MGT Inc, said he felt "strange" when he found out he was going to receive the award. Many people are often nominated, he said, so he didn’t expect he would actually win. "I believe so many people are much smarter than me, so I didn’t think I would win!" said Kong, who is also a legal consultant for the Fujian Consolidated Benevolent Association USA in New York.
In a speech delivered during the ceremony, Yuesai Kan, an Emmy-winning television host, said that her achievements in life are due to what she "learned here in this country as an immigrant.
"In America I am free to dream and do whatever I set my mind to. Our achievements are only limited by our imaginations," Kan said. "Here, everything is possible. I have learned the importance of honesty and integrity in a culture that encourages openness." Kan hosted a television series called "One World" that aired on CCTV in China.
Charles Ta-Peng Chang, founder of Topline Products, said that receiving the award was "unthinkable, something that as an immigrant, you always dream of, and now that you’ve done it, it feels like you’ve gotten recognition".
In addition to nine Chinese-American recipients, awards were given to two Korean Americans, one Vietnamese American and one Japanese American.
Among the other recipients at this year’s ceremony were former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, fashion designer Elie Tahari, and Department of State senior advisor David Thorne.
The Ellis Island medals are given to 100 individuals each year since the award’s inception in 1986. Former recipients include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Rosa Parks, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Muhammad Ali. More than 1,800 American citizens have been awarded the medal.
The US Senate and House of Representatives recognize the Ellis Island Medals of Honor and recipients each year are listed in the Congressional Record.