Korean American Leaders Briefing Part 1

Uploaded by whitehouse on 21.06.2012

Gautam Raghavan: It is, first of all, let me just say it is an honor to be
here today and it's an honor to have all of you with us.
My name is Gautam Raghavan.
I work here in the White House Office of Public Engagement as a
liaison to the AAPI community.
And I believe this is a first.
So thank you for being here.
And please give yourselves a round of applause.
So I just wanted to say a few words of hello and
welcome you here.
The Office of Public Engagement, our job is basically to be the
front door to the White House and to engage communities all
across America in the work of the federal government and the
work of the White House.
So we're basically here to hear from you and to engage you in
the work that we're doing and to form a partnership
moving forward.
So this is, like I said, this is a first,
but it's the first of a series of conversations that we hope to
have with all of you all across the country in the time to come.
So thank you for being here.
A few just quick housekeeping items.
First, we just want to make sure you all know that we're live.
So if you go to WhiteHouse.gov/live
you will see a streaming video of this.
So if you get a chance to blog or tweet,
and Chris will tell you more about that part,
please make sure you let people know that they can watch this
briefing live at WhiteHouse.gov/live,
and then we'll have archived video available later on in
case someone missed the briefing but wanted to participate.
I also wanted to thank a few people.
First of all, I obviously want to thank CKA for partnering with
us to make this happen.
We're very excited to work with all of you.
Some friends in the audience and really appreciate all the
work that you guys did to make this happen.
I also want to introduce you to a few people who I think are all
out there.
Jason Tengco and Eddie Lee from the White House
Initiative and AAPIs.
Wave, guys.
Two of the initiative interns, Vincent Janie who probably
helped you get down here.
And I also want to introduce you to -- again,
I think they are all busy running around,
so say hi to them later -- Katie Miller and Ryan Koh,
two of our interns here at the White House who have been
helping with this event as well.
Finally, two more additional pieces of housekeeping.
One is I want to make sure you got a copy of the President's
letter greeting on the occasion of Korean American Day so we
have some copies out there for you.
And second, as you walked in, you should have gotten a copy
of this document here.
And this is, we're calling it our engagement survey and we'd
love for you to fill this out and to leave it with
us before you leave.
And what we need you to do is all of you come from all
across the country, and what we want is your help reaching out
to key community leaders, stakeholders, thought leaders,
and engage them in the work that we're doing.
So we know that each of you represents hundreds of people
who can't be here today and so we want to be able
to engage them.
And so if you could help us out.
Even if you just circle a few states and leave us a few names
in the back of the document, we would really appreciate
your help.
And it will help us stay in touch with you and engage you
in the work that we're doing.
So with that I will turn it over to Michael who is
right here, please.
Michael Yang: Thank you, Gautam.
(foreign language)
Good morning.
My name is Michael Yang.
I am the Chairman of the Board of CKA,
the Council of Korean Americans.
On behalf of everyone at CKA, I would like to welcome all of you
to this very historic, the very first White House Briefing among
the Korean American leaders in this country.
I know that many of you came from far away places so I really
appreciate you taking the time from your busy schedule to
attend this very important event.
I would also like to thank the President Barack Obama and
Gautam, and all the staff in the White House as well as the
Office of Public Engagement that is hosting this very first and
historic event for the Korean American community.
So really appreciate it.
CKA is a new organization.
It's a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of Korean
American leaders from different sectors.
And our mission is to engage, to have a dialogue with many
different branches of the government to have,
to have a voice in the democratic process and to
support the Korean Americans in all walks of American life.
It's very exciting because since the first treaty between the
United States and Korea was signed in 1882,
that was about 130 years ago, U.S. and
Korea has become a strong partner in the cause of freedom
and democracy around the world.
And it is becoming more important as time goes along in
this day of war against terror and a lot of other dynamics in
this global world.
Korean immigrants came to this country for the first time in
1903 to work at the Hawiian Sugar Plantation, as you know.
But most of the Korean immigrants came to this country
after the Korean War during the last 60 years.
And I think many of us here came to America in the last 60 years.
And there are some 1.7 million of us in this country.
And many of us had made significant strides and
contributions to all different aspects of the American society
and yet we as a minority group have not had a voice in the
national stage.
And we want to develop presence and develop relationships so
that we could be engaged and have our voice be heard and
participate in this overall process.
Ronald Reagan said, and I quote, "democracy is not
a spectator sport."
And President Barack Obama, during his commencement address
at Barnard College last month, said that,
"don't just get involved.
Fight for your seat at the table.
Better yet, fight for your seat at the head of the table."
And, therefore, we want to develop ways,
build relationships and engage in a dialogue so that our voice
can be heard in the national stage and support each other
and work together to advance this country and our community.
So we have a very exciting day today.
We have some of the most distinguished leaders in
the White House.
I really appreciate Chris Lu who is the Assistant to the
President here today.
And Chris Kang who is in charge of the judicial appointments at
the White House here today.
And Harold Koh from the State Department will be here today.
And we have many other distinguished speakers speaking
at different panels on issues of importance to the Korean
American community.
Topics ranging from U.S. Korean relations;
small business; immigration.
A number of other topics that would be of interest.
So I would encourage you to participate in this discussion,
ask questions, voice your opinions,
so that we could be a this democratic process to make
our community stronger and build stronger America for the future
so that our future generation could benefit from the work that
we do to build this a great country.
So I would like to just thank President Obama and the leaders
in the White House for hosting this event again.
And I look forward to meeting all of you at the reception
following this briefing at the Indian Treaty Room.
And I would just like to say that God bless all of you and
God bless Korea and God bless America.
Thank you.
Gautam Raghavan: All right.
Well, I will now turn it over to a dear friend and
a CKA board member, Betsy Kim.
Betty Kim: Good morning, everyone.
It is fantastic to look out and see a sea of Korean American
faces here at the White House.
Really, really exciting.
Thank you so much for coming.
And so I'm going to, I have the distinct honor of introducing
our first speaker, Chris Lu.
But I just want to emphasize again, you know,
Chris will speak but he also has built in time
to take your questions.
So as he does his remarks please don't be shy and think
about some questions.
I think we have some microphones so that, you know,
we can have full participation throughout the day.
So, anyway, it's my honor to introduce Chris Lu.
As the Cabinet Secretary at the White House,
Chris is President Obama's primary liaison to federal
agencies playing a critical role in coordinating policy
and communicating between the White House and the rest of the
federal government.
Chris also serves as Co-chair of the White House Initiative on
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Chris actually is one of the longest serving advisors
to the President.
He was tapped by Obama to be his Legislative Director when Obama
was first elected to the Senate in 2004.
During the 2008 Presidential election then Senator Obama
asked Chris to plan for a possible
presidential transition.
So, you know, not surprisingly that Chris was chosen for this
very, you know, important role.
Chris worked behind the scenes for six months in this capacity.
And the day after election day he was named Executive Director
of the Obama-Biden Transition Project which has been
recognized as one of the best run presidential transitions.
So that's kind of a little bit about his formal background.
I was actually introduced to Chris in 2008 by my good friend
Mark Keem who is here.
And I just want to mention Mark is actually the first Asian
American and first Korean American delegate elected
to the Virginia assembly.
So I just wanted to mention that.
I've had the privilege of working with Chris in many
capacities since I first met him in 2008.
I very much admire, you know, all of the usual things you
admire about, you know, people in his position: His leadership,
his knowledge, and grasp of issues and policies.
But I have to say that what I most admire about Chris is his
integrity and the fact that he genuinely cares about the Asian
American and Pacific Islander community.
You know, he is Chinese and I'm Korean.
And we're Korean here.
But I know that they has that same sense of his roots and the
commitment to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community
as a whole.
This commitment has been demonstrated repeatedly since
2008, as he has, you know, met with many different AAPI groups
both formally and informally and has advocated on our behalf.
And more recently that commitment was demonstrated
when he agreed to co-chair the White House Initiative on Asian
American and Pacific Islanders.
Without further ado, it gives me great pleasure
to present Chris Lu.
Chris Lu: Thank you, Betsy, for that kind introduction.
And I may apologize -- well, I will,
apologize in advance that I may not be able to take questions
because we have a daily call that I do for all of the
agencies at 9:30.
So depending on how long I go we may be able to take
a question or two.
So thank you all for being here.
It was great to see so many of you last night,
Michael Yang and team.
You guys do a ridiculously great party, so,
thank you for having me.
I would like to thank Betsy for that very kind introduction.
She is a fierce advocate as all of you know for the AAPI
community and she played a critical role in rallying
support in the community for then Senator Obama 2008.
And we are lucky to have her passion and her experience
working on our behalf at the Department of Labor.
So let's just give Betsy another round of applause.
I'm going to keep my comments brief.
As I said, I'm hitting up against 9:30,
but I'm also more importantly the first of many people you
will hear from today all of whom are much smarter than me,
including my former law school classmate Marisa Chun who is
in the first row.
I know Chris Kang will be speaking with all of you.
And so these are just old, good, friends.
I shouldn't say old because it makes us seem old.
But just folks that we have known for a very,
very long time and who have been great supporters of mine
and more importantly, great supporters of the President.
As Betsy mentioned, I wear two different hats
at the White House.
My day job is helping the President manage the departments
and agencies.
And my night and weekend job is Co-chairing the White House 10
Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Both of these jobs have the same primary mission which is
to ensure that the federal government is working as
efficiently and as effectively for our customers,
all of you the American people.
And to do that it's critical for us to get out and hear from
folks as to the problems they're facing and how they want the
federal government to help them.
It's the kind of the face-to-face dialogue that
Michael just talked about that CKA is engaging in.
That's why over the past two and a half, three years,
the hard working staff and commissioners t the Initiative
have gone to more than 50 different cities
around the country.
They have talked to 25,000 different people really engaging
and talking to people who previously didn't have a
voice in government.
And this face-to-face dialogue, as good as it is,
is only part of the way that we're engaging with
the community.
We have a great Facebook page.
We've got a website White House.gov/AAPI.
And, of course, we have Twitter.
And I laugh about Twitter because about six months
ago I spoke to a group of AAPI young people.
And my staff had given me all these talking points about what
Twitter was.
I literally had no idea what I was saying at the time.
And after six months, I am just the biggest
follower/convert to Twitter.
So let me say this, you can follow me on twitter
at ChrisLu44, I have to make my shameless plug.
But more importantly for both, folks in the audience and folks
watching on the live stream, if you want to tweet about today's
function, we are going to be using the #CKAWH. CKAWH.
So Council of Korean Americans White House
is what it stands for.
I always get nervous giving out hashtags like that because what
I find is that half the people are tweeting about all the
mistakes I've made.
And the other people, the other half are, like,
arguing back and forth.
So if you want to tweet, you know, things about me,
maybe you just want to wait until after I finish.
One of the reasons we want to hear from all of you is that we
know that in Washington we don't have a monopoly on good ideas,
and during these challenging times we need to hear from
everyone about the ways that the federal government
can better serve you.
And that's why we're crisscrossing the country
talking to all of you.
But we're not just talking, we're not just listening,
we're actually doing things.
Let me just give you a couple of examples of what we've done over
the last couple of years.
During the 2010 oil spill, the Initiative helped marshal
federal resources to help Vietnamese fishermen and
shrimpers who were struggling with the
loss of their livelihoods.
We launched the first ever initiative to examine the risks
to workers at nail salons which if you know from a state like
California the vast majority of them are Asian Americans.
We've helped provide greater financial support to colleges
and universities that serve the AAPI community.
We've educated our community about the benefits of the
President's new health care law.
We've focused the attention on bullying of AAPI students.
We've also brought together leaders from the philanthropic
community for the first-ever gathering to examine better
ways that foundations can help serve our community.
And we've also tasked federal agencies to do a better job of
disaggregating their data so that we not only look at AAPIs
as a whole, but we start looking at how different
subgroups are faring.
I could go on and on.
I'm proud of what we've accomplished over the
past three years.
But I know that we have much more to do.
And the primary mission of the Initiative,
the primary mission of what President Obama has tasked
us to do, is really to focus on the economy.
As all of you know, we are still recovering from the greatest
downturn since the Great Depression.
And that's why it's important for us to continue to look for
ways to create greater opportunity,
to create greater jobs, not only in the Asian American
community, but in all communities as well.
Let me just take a few minutes to tell you a little bit about
what the President's economic record is.
Under the President's leadership we've taken significant strides
forward from an economic standpoint.
Over the past 27 months we've created 4.3 million jobs.
4.3 million jobs.
We've had 11 straight quarters of economic growth.
American manufacturing is creating jobs for the first
time since the 1990s.
The American auto industry is coming back.
In fact, all three American auto companies posted a
profit last year.
The first time that's happened since 2004.
To help all families but to help specifically AAPI families we
have provided tax breaks to 7 1/2 million Asian
and American families.
To help the 1 1/2 million AAPI small business owners,
we have passed 18 tax cuts.
Eighteen tax cuts.
But creating jobs, as all of you know,
is important to economic security.
But there is another thing that we've done to strengthen the
security of our community and that is to pass a landmark
health care law.
The law that the President signed into law in 2010
provides insurance to 30 million Americans,
but just as importantly provides greater protection to the
hundreds of millions of Americans who already have
health insurance in country.
And even as the new health care law is getting phased in,
Americans are already reaping the benefits from that law.
Let me just give you a couple of examples and specifically
how they affect our community.
The new health care law eliminates lifetime limits
on coverage for 105 million Americans including 5 1/2
million Asian Americans.
Last year the new law provided 54 million Americans,
including 2.7 million AAPIs with free preventive service.
That could be a colon cancer screening, a flu shot,
a mammogram.
The law allows young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on
their parents' health insurance.
Because of this change, an additional 2.5 million people
between the ages of 19 and 25 are now covered by their
parents' health insurance.
And for our community, the Asian American community, 97,
000 young people now have health insurance because of
this provision.
So we've done a lot, but there's a lot more that we need to do.
Now, the President realizes, as you also realize,
that we're in an election year and it's hard to get things done
during an election year, but the President firmly believes that
we can't afford to wait until next year to take more action
to fix our economy.
And that's why he has been traveling around the country
with a to-do list.
And as he says, the to-do list is small, it's simple,
it fits on a post-it note, actually.
It's the kind of note that you might give to your husband or
wife of some tasks that they need to take care of.
And here's what's on the post-it note: First,
we need to provide tax incentives to companies
to bring jobs back to the United States.
Second, we need to allow homeowners to refinance their
mortgages at lower rates which will save families
thousands of dollars.
Third, we need to provide greater tax relief to small
businesses so that they can hire more workers and so that they
can increase wages.
Fourth, we need to extend tax credits to provide greater
incentives for manufacturing in the clean energy world.
And finally, we need to create a job corps for veterans returning
from Iraq and Afghanistan so that they can help work as cops
and firefighters and help serve their communities.
Now, as I list all five of these,
you are probably thinking to yourself, wow!
These are kind of common sense ideas.
I really don't get why these things are taking so long.
And that's, I think, the frustrating thing.
These are ideas that have all had bipartisan support.
And in any other political climate these would have
gotten passed.
That's why the President is dedicated to crisscrossing the
country, talking to the American people about the importance of
these ideas.
And just to give you an example today the President is in Las
Vegas, he is talking about college affordability,
about the steps that he's taken to help more kids,
including more kids in our community, go to college.
So I hope you will take a moment to learn more about these ideas.
You can find out more about them on our website WhiteHouse.gov.
And I hope if you decide that you like these ideas that you'll
give your support to these ideas and figure out ways to help us
get these ideas passed.
So with all of that, I see our next speaker here,
and let me just thank all of you again for being here.
I know you all have incredibly busy schedules.
I took a moment just to look through the list of speakers
here and you all, I have a list of attendees,
and you all represent a very august cross section
of the community.
You've traveled from places near and far to be here.
So I know it is no small task to spend a morning with us.
But I hope you enjoy your day.
I hope you remain engaged in what we are doing here
in the White House.
And I hope you'll reach out to us with your best ideas.
Thank you, very much.
I see everybody else looking at their watch.
All right, I'm going to risk this,
and I will take one question if anybody has a question.
White House Staff: We have mics.
If you have a question, please raise your hand,
they will come to you, and please identify yourself.
Chris Lu: And it makes it easy doing that.
Yes, there's one right back there.
Hyepin Im: Good morning.
My name is Hyepin Im, President of Korean Churches
for Community Development.
You mentioned one of the top priorities for the President
is about creating jobs and opportunities and the FTA
agreement just passed this past year.
And one of the things that has not happened that needs
to happen, and I'd like to bring it to your attention,
is the fact that in the other FT agreements with Chile,
Singapore, Australia, there are usually so many visas that are
set aside that allows for free flow of, I guess, human capital,
labor to be able to go back and forth.
And I know that there is an 85,000
global allocation and about 51,000
is set aside through some other vehicle for Chinese
and Indians.
And every year about 3,000 Koreans are able to use that
allocation but that's not enough.
We need about 10 to 20,000 slots.
And I know that originally that was supposed to be part of the
agreement and some mix-ups happened and so we are really
asking that to be your attention.
For every job supposedly an additional 2.5 jobs are created.
And there is a great need particularly for Korean American
business owners.
Usually many of them can benefit from those additional
visa allocations.
And so I wanted to see if that is on your radar screen.
If not, what are some ways to help make that happen?
Chris Lu: Thank you for that great question.
It's certainly on our radar.
And I appreciate your mentioning the Free Trade Agreement.
That is really a singular accomplishment of this
Administration and it is going to do a lot to create jobs both
here and in Korea so thank you for mentioning that.
You know, the broader issue raised regards
our immigration policies.
And one of the messages that I want to get across to all of you
is that immigration is not just a Latino issue;
it is an Asian American issue as well.
And whether it is the high-skilled issue that
you have raised or the folks that are here undocumented in
this country, the President is committed to comprehensive
immigration reform.
What the President has said is that, you know what?
We are in a difficult battle with other countries for the
global economy of the 21st century and we can't afford to
leave anyone on the sidelines.
It can't be the high school kids who arrived here undocumented
with their parents; it can't be the folks that have come here to
attend graduate school in the United States and go back to
start businesses in their own countries;
it can't be the high-skilled laborer who can't even come
into this country.
We want to make the United States an attractive place
to do business, an attractive place to work,
and that requires a global approach.
And since I've been with the President for seven
and a half years, he's been calling for comprehensive
immigration reform.
And if you all believe like he believes then I hope you will
support us in that effort.
So with that I see our next speaker Chris Kang here and I
will turn it over to Chris or whoever else -- oh, Yul.
Thank you, very much.
Yul Kwon: I don't want to disappoint you guys,
I'm not Chris Kang.
Good morning. My name is Yul Kwon.
And I am one of the founders of CKA and currently serve as one
of the vice chairs along with Esther Lee.
It's my pleasure to introduce our next speaker who arguably
occupies one of the most sensitive and influential
positions within the Administration.
As you all know, Presidents serve a maximum of eight years
in office, but Article 3 federal judges serve for life.
So perhaps more than anything else,
a president's legacy is defined by the people he or she puts on
the federal bench.
And in this Administration, I'm proud to say that the person
who's responsible for overseeing the nomination and confirmation
of federal judges is one of our own.
Christopher Kang is Special Assistant to Obama and Senior
Counsel to the President in charge of the selection,
vetting and confirmation of the President's
judicial nominees.
From 2009 to 2011, he was Special Assistant to the
President for Legislative Affairs and led the legislative
outreach and strategy in the confirmation of Supreme Court
Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.
The Senate's successful effort to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell,
and the reduction of the sentencing disparity between
crack and powder cocaine offenses.
Mr. Kang also worked for Assistant U.S.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois for seven
years running the floor operations of Durbin's whip
office and serving as Senate Judiciary Committee counsel.
Mr. Kang earned his J.D. from the Duke University School of
Law and his B.A. from the University of Chicago.
And in 2011 he was recognized by the National Law Journal as one
of the top 40 minority lawyers under the age of 40.
Please give a warm welcome to Chris Kang.
Chris Kang: Thank you, Yul, for that entirely too kind introduction.
Thank you to CKA for hosting this event.
I think it's exciting to have an organization like that that can
pull folks like you from all over the country together to
have a briefing like this today and to learn more about what the
Obama Administration is doing.
And along those lines, of course,
thanks to all of you for being here.
I think that it's incredibly important for our community to
be more engaged civically.
And I think that the fact that all of you are here today says a
lot about how far our community is coming and what we hope to do
together moving forward.
As Yul said, one of the most important parts of
the President's legacy is his judicial nominations.
And one of the things that I do is I oversee the overall effort
to select judicial nominees, vet them for nomination and then see
them through the confirmation process.
Obviously the most important things that we look for in
terms of characteristics in our judicial nominees are
intelligence, integrity and judicial temperament.
But the other thing that the President has put a strong
emphasis on since his first days in office is diversity
and making sure that the judiciary reflects the nation
that it serves.
And along those lines we are very proud of the fact that 46%
of the President's judges are women and 38% are minorities.
This is, both of these rates are double the rate of President
Bush and 50% higher than President Clinton.
And our job is not just to have a great record for ourselves but
also to set the bar higher for the next person and the person
after that, so that you can't have double the rate of women
than President Obama has.
We're very proud of that.
Well, you could, perhaps technically --
-- end up with 96% women.
But that's the kind of thing 2 that we're looking for in terms
of the long-term.
And the reason why diversity is important is because having
judges who reflect our nation I think builds better credibility
for the judiciary, for the people who come before the court
to see somebody that looks like them and that reflects,
especially in the criminal justice system but also just
broadly helps increase the integrity of the overall system.
But also I can say that for our community,
both the Asian American community and the Korean
American community, in particular,
it's so important because it adds role models to
our community.
It adds role models for us broadly,
but also specifically in the legal profession.
One of the most -- one of the things that makes me happiest
when I interview judicial nominees and we talk about
why are you here today, why do you want to be a judge,
it's because they view that being a judge is the form of,
the highest form of public service they can do as a lawyer.
And that is absolutely true.
And I think that as a community, Asian Americans and Korean
Americans need to do a better job of fostering public service.
And so that I think having more role models as judges and
throughout the legal profession is incredibly important.
And I think that the President's nominees
help to serve that function.
It's particularly with Asian American judges the President
has had 150 judges confirmed and 7% have been Asian American.
For Presidents Bush and Clinton, there were only 1%.
And in fact I was just looking back at the numbers again today
and it turns out President Obama has appointed more Asian
American judges than Presidents Bush and Clinton combined in
their 16 years.
That is, that is the obviously something that we are incredibly
proud of.
When the President took office there were zero Asian Americans
on the Circuit Court which is the second highest court right
below the Supreme Court.
And only eight judges on the District Court.
There are now two Asian American judges on the Circuit Court,
including the first Asian American woman to serve on the
Circuit Court and 15 District Court judges.
So we've doubled the number of Asian Americans.
This includes from in history there have only been two Asian
American women federal judges.
President Obama has appointed six himself.
And so there is a lot of progress.
I could go through all of the firsts.
The first Chinese American woman,
the first Vietnamese judge, the first South Asian woman.
We've nominated the first Filipino judge.
But more than that I am sort of looking forward to the second
and the third.
I think we have a lot of work to do so that each nomination isn't
in and of itself historic.
We're very proud of the glass 2 ceilings that we're breaking but
honestly I would love to be able to break less of them.
And so along those lines in looking at Korean Americans it,
actually, the very first Asian American federal judge was a
Korean American.
In 1971, President Nixon appointed Judge Herbert Choy
from Hawaii to be the first Asian American judge,
he's the first judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,
and then actually he was the first Korean,
the first Korean American to ever be admitted to practice
law in the United States.
So Korean Americans have a great tradition of being first.
Unfortunately when he took senior status in 1984,
we went another -- do the math -- 26 years before we had
another Korean American judge.
I'm proud to say that President Obama has appointed Lucy Koh in
the Northern District of California.
She is the first Korean American woman to serve
as a federal judge.
And he has appointed John Lee in the Northern District of
Illinois in Chicago who is serving as now the second,
doubling the population of Korean American judges.
(laughter and applause)
And it is, it is very exciting.
It's very exciting especially as a young Korean American lawyer
to help, to help increase these numbers.
I can't wait until we triple it with the next person.
But again, we have to, we have to do a better job of making
sure that our community continues to foster people
who are interested in public service.
People who are interested in becoming lawyers, judges,
sort of throughout the professions that all of
you are involved in.
But from my perspective this is sort of the best place for me to
make a difference to help our community and to help
the judiciary.
I think that having a diverse judiciary is incredibly
important both as, you know, it turns out that the judiciary is
in fact the third branch of government.
And I think that's sometimes overlooked.
But having people in these important positions in the
community and by virtue of the fact that there aren't very many
Asian American judges really in the nation,
I think that Lucy Koh and John Lee are incredible examples for
all of us and for all of our friends and children and
parents, or depending on how you look at it generationally,
to serve.
And so I just want to thank all of you.
I thank you for the opportunity to talk about the progress we've
made and to sort of challenge you to continue to help us to
make more progress because I think as impressive as the
numbers are and as incredibly proud of them as I am as an
Asian American and specifically as a Korean American,
I think we have a lot more work to do.
And so I welcome all of you in joining that effort.
And I think I've got time to take a couple of questions.
White House Staff: Thanks so much, Chris.
And so we'd like to ask you a couple of questions,
please be sensitive to Chris' timing and keep them short.
And the first question goes to Leezie.
Leezie Kim: Chris, thank you so much for coming here today.
And I--oh, sorry, I am not following instructions.
Thank you, Tina.
Hi, I'm Leezie Kim.
I'm a former member of the Administration and a board
member of CKA.
So thank you so much for coming, Chris, today.
You know, for most, I think for the vast majority of the Korean
American community the nominations process is really
quite a mystery.
So can you tell us from your insiders' perspective how do the
nominations really come up and rise up to your desk?
And what can organizations like this do to help that process?
Chris Kang: That's a great question.
By and large the recommendations for judicial nominees come from
two sources.
They come from senators and they come sort of through
the White House.
And so we will often work with senators.
As we get recommendations directly we will recommend
that senators look at nominees very carefully.
And we'll, certainly for the Circuit Court,
which is the court level under the Supreme Court,
we have greater latitude sort of pick people who we
think are good.
And so we will work with, we work with the National Asian
Pacific Bar Association very closely and I hope that we'll
be able to work with CKA as well.
To the extent you have any people who you think would be
suitable to be strong District or Circuit Court judges,
by all means, let me know.
Sometimes it depends on whether or not there are vacancies and
whether or not we're able to push people forward.
But what we found is the most difficult thing in the
President's initiative toward increasing the diversity of the
judiciary is getting enough diverse candidates to apply.
And I think part of that is that they're just not as -- I'll be
broadly stereotyped -- but they're not as often willing to
throw their names in the ring to say that I would make a good
federal judge, to have that sort of sense of self-awareness and
self-confidence to put themselves in.
And I think that that was the other place where all of you can
play an important role which is to encourage
other people to apply.
If you think somebody has the intelligence and the integrity
to be a good judge, tell them that and then tell me that so
that we are able to find these people and build a bench so that
we have options and that, you know,
not everybody that's recommended is going to make it but the more
people who are recommended at the front end the more people
are going to come out the back end.
So I think between working with your senators and working
directly with us through CKA and other organizations,
I think it's a tremendous opportunity.
Thanks for the question.
White House Staff: Next question?
John Clark: Hi, my name is John Clark.
I'm from Cresskill.
I'm Board of Ed. member.
This is more a theoretical question about the whole AAIP.
Does it do a disservice to different nationalities within
the larger broad spectrum of Asian American Pacific Islander
title so if someone from, let's say, South Asia gets a position,
then other minorities get excluded because they're someone
from the AAIP got nominated as a judicial nominee or something
like that?
Chris Kang: Yeah, I don't think it does.
And I think the best example of this perhaps is the Northern
District of Illinois in Chicago where my former boss,
Senator Dick Durbin, is in charge of the
recommendations there.
And you actually see he's nominated, he's recommended,
of the five District Court judges,
I think five that we've had in the Northern District of
Illinois, two were Asian American.
One is Chinese and the other, as I mentioned,
is John Lee who is Korean American.
And so there really is -- there is not as much conflict in that
way in terms of different ethnic minorities.
I think that within the AAPI community I think that the more
names you have the better chance.
And again I would love to have four different Asian American
candidates to look at for one vacancy and then have to decide
which three, you know, specific ethnicities may
not win out that time.
I think more often than that, though,
you only have one choice.
And so I think that the more, the more candidates we have the
better to be more successful.
White House Staff: Next question?
John Bangh: Good morning, my name is John Bangh.
I am involved in a number of organizations in Northern New
Jersey, and recently we had a big problem in Jersey.
There was a Korean American gentleman Soh Guan who was
nominated for the Supreme Court in New Jersey.
For various reasons his nomination was knocked out.
And I think this had a tremendously discouraging
effect on the Korean American community.
And as you said, we need to encourage Korean American
lawyers to apply for judgeship.
And I know this also had a chilling effect because of the
way he was attacked when he -- during the nomination process,
that many lawyers that I have spoken to who had thought about
one day being a judge now say there is no way in heck they
are ever going to go through that process because of the
tremendous personal attacks that they had to go through,
particularly with their family history.
And so I encourage you, I'm glad to hear that we have a Korean
American judge from California and Illinois.
So if President Obama can maybe doing something about maybe
getting a Korean American judge from the Northeast --
-- if they can get somebody from New Jersey,
I think that would go a long way!
(laughter and applause)
Chris Kang: I assume you are going to give me your resumé
on my way out the door?
John Bangh: No, I am not interested.
I don't want to go through all that.
But it is, we have had a lot of problems lately with
the Korean community.
We've been trying to actually do a lot of political empowerment
just in mobilizing a lot of people just because they got
so angry about the process.
But I think this is something -- now,
I don't want to get into partisan politics here.
If anyone from Northeast knows exactly what is going on in New
Jersey with this whole process.
But I think this is an excellent opportunity for President Obama
and the Korean American community and everybody.
So this is something I hope you keep in the back of your mind.
Chris Kang: You know, and I appreciate that.
I don't know the specifics of that story.
But I will say that, broadly speaking,
the judicial confirmation process is broken on the
federal level.
The other reason why people don't apply is because they
don't want to go through a process that they view as
being overly political.
I don't think you see very many personal attacks on the federal
judiciary but you see a lot of distortion of people's record.
And you see just the long time, it took John Lee, I think,
five months to get a vote.
Sort of, it's a very long and drawn out process and a lot of
people don't want to go through that.
And I empathize with that.
But I think that honestly we have an
additional responsibility.
That if you have the ability to serve,
that it's not always a pretty process,
but I think we have an additional responsibility
as a community to take up that additional burden and to be able
to pave the way for others who are coming after us to make it
easier for the next person.
And so I would encourage people if anybody says I'd love to,
I'd love to put my name in but the process isn't great,
have them talk to me.
I'll be honest, the process isn't great.
But it's not as bad as you think.
And the rewards really are worth it.
I think that, I don't think there's anybody who has become
a federal judge that says, my God, I would have, you know,
if I had to do this all over again,
the confirmation process was so bad that I wouldn't do it again.
They would rather if the confirmation process wasn't so
bad but being a judge and being -- having the impact on society,
on government, on the American people is so great,
and then to be able to be a role model for so many people,
not just Asian Americans, not just minorities,
but just throughout the legal profession,
being a good judge is important.
And so I think all of us, frankly,
all of you who are here as leaders of the Korean American
community, you understand that there is an extra burden on you
being a leader.
And the same thing applies for people who might be interested
in running.
And so certainly the next time there is a vacancy in New Jersey
or anywhere in the North, Northeast or anywhere, again,
seriously, I am -- we are very open to taking names.
Maybe not have everybody e-mail me directly --
-- but go through CKA.
Go through other, you know, go through your local Asian bar
association and put, you know, let's work together to increase
the number of Korean Americans on the bench.
Nothing would make me happier.
White House Staff: All right. I think we're out of time.
Let's give Chris a big round of applause.
Chris Kang: Thanks so much.