Justice Kennard has been a member of the California Supreme Court since 1989. Last October, on U.S. Citizenship Day, she delivered the welcoming address to 25 new Americans from 18 countries at a swearing-in ceremony on Angel Island. She noted, "Like you, I have come from a very distant shore. I was born in Java of Chinese, Indonesian and Dutch parents. My father died during World War II when I was one. At age ten, my mother and I moved to the jungles of Dutch New Guinea and when I was 14, my mother moved us to Holland for my education. My dream of education in Holland was shattered just before my 16th birthday when due to illness I lost my right leg. So when I was 16 years and 2 months, I became a very young secretary. At age twenty I came to the U.S. and six and a half years later, grabbed the chance to go to college. I [realized] I would have to do four years of college in three, and would work part time 20 hours a week...
"I never felt America owed me anything - I always felt indebted to this country for letting me in. America gave me a chance to get an education when I was well beyond normal school age. America taught me to believe in the American dream and America gave me a chance to succeed beyond all odds. This is why I've always carried on this special love affair with America...The United States is the anchor of what we call the Free World. And while the Free World is an imperfect world, it is far better than anything else...as millions of migrants attempting to join America from other parts of the globe will testify."
Andrew Ly and his family left Vietnam in 1978 to seek a better way to make a living. He was 24 when he left Vietnam, and was successful in his fourth attempt to leave the country, spending six nights and seven days on the ocean on a very small boat. The family had to trade all of their personal property including their home for the opportunity to escape the country. In the U.S., Andrew attended City College of SF and graduated from SF State University with a degree in financial accounting, and decided to work with his family to build a business. They started in 1984 with a small coffee shop on Balboa Street which had daily sales of about $300, and gradually opened up more shops and purchased real estate. In the 1990s they started supplying area hotels with baked goods to serve at their restaurants, their products became available at Costco and local groceries, and today they have hundreds of employees and annual sales of $300 million across the U.S. and even Canada, Mexico, and Asia.
Andrew is on the board of directors of the Asian Pacific Fund and the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association. These organizations provide funding for the Asian community and also mobilize it to become more involved in community affairs and to vote. "I try to be active because I am an immigrant and I know of these issues. So we tried to make sure that we raise funds to help these people, to make sure that [they] have some kind of help to send their children to better schools or at least to school to get educated. So that's how I try to get involved in the community. If you do something for yourself, those things will die with you. And if you do things for others, those things will remain in the world."
Jewish Family and Children's Services traces its roots to the Eureka Benevolent Society, the oldest charitable organization west of the Mississippi River. It was founded in 1850 by thirteen men, including Levi Strauss, and originally was dedicated to serve widows and orphans during the Gold Rush period. Over the years, it has helped thousands of immigrants, including Russian Jews from 1896 to 1918, Jews escaping the Holocaust (many of both of these groups came through Angel Island), and now including immigrants and refugees from throughout the world including the Soviet Union, Africa, and Asia. JFCS worked with community leaders in the 1970s to start what is now the Southeast Asian Community Center.
Today, JFCS serves over 65,000 individuals a year, from Santa Clara County in the south to Sonoma County in the north, with its headquarters in San Francisco. It offers more than forty programs and services, serving all ages - from babies seeking adoption to seniors through several different programs and who live in their assisted living complex, the Rhoda Goldman Plaza. Through its Holocaust Center, it also provides educational and research services including programs to educate youth and the general public.
May and Sinclair Louie have been stalwarts of the Chinatown community for many years. Sinclair's father, Louie Fong Hock, was a merchant and had a retail store selling art objects on Grant Avenue in San Francisco Chinatown. He traveled back and forth from China, and brought his nine-year old son Sinclair to stay in 1931. Sinclair returned to China with his dad several years later, but when he returned to the US he had to come as a paper son because children of merchants could only enter the U.S. one time. He was able to get papers for a Louie relative of approximately the same age. Sinclair graduated from Lowell High School and served in the US Army, including at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe. In 1947, Sinclair went to Hong Kong, where he met and married his wife May, and they returned to San Francisco in 1948.
The Louies built and expanded new gift shops, at one time owning seven different stores in Chinatown and employing many local residents. They encountered racial discrimination when they tried to buy a house in the exclusive Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco, persevering so they could live there and living in the same house for over forty years. They have been active philanthropic leaders in Chinatown for many years, providing a crucial lead gift for the Chinatown YMCA, whose programs Sinclair had participated in growing up, and expansion of communications of Chinese for Affirmative Action's civil rights agenda.
While the new generation of TV viewers might know Kristi Yamaguchi as the winner of Season 6 of Dancing with the Stars with her partner Mark Ballas, many Americans remember the thrill of seeing Kristi win a gold medal in figure skating at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France. Kristi was born in Hayward and grew up in the Bay Area. She began skating at age six, and since retiring from competitive skating has kept very busy as a renaissance woman - a commentator, children's book author, actress, and philanthropist through her Always Dream Foundation, dedicated to inspiring and embracing the hopes and dreams of children.
Kristi's involvement in the PBS Series Faces of America is of particular note to Angel Island supporters. She was one of many well-known guests including Stephen Colbert, Eva Longoria, and Yo-Yo Ma whose family histories were explored by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and his team. She learned about her grandfather George Doi, a decorated army officer in World War II, and her pioneer grandfather, Tatsuichi Yamaguchi, who originally settled in Hawaii. Kristi told AIISF that the series "helped me identify and feel a stronger connection to my ancestors, especially my paternal grandfather who I've never met. I appreciate every day the fortitude and sacrifice and faith that the generations before me had which ultimately paved the way for the opportunities afforded to me."